For My Dad Who Has Parkinson’s, Diwali Was the Darkest Night

This Diwali, my father did not gorge on mithai or watch me light diyas, writes Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal.

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Lifestyle
3 min read
My ‘Anna’ didn’t have a real Diwali this year. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

From mildly enthusiastic about Diwali to asking questions about it in less than 3 days. That’s how long it took Anna to kind-of get into the groove of things.

At 9.30 pm on Sunday night, when he is normally asleep, he calls to tell me that we haven’t bought Diwali gifts for the service staff. I assure him that I have already bought gifts. He asks if it is enough – should we give money, etc. And we go to and fro on that till he says “Ok-amma. I leave it to you.”

Yes, Anna, leave it to me!

Before Diwali, Anna wanted to know why he’d been deprived of sweets! (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
Before Diwali, Anna wanted to know why he’d been deprived of sweets! (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Then on my Monday visit, he wants to know why he has been deprived of Diwali sweets. Deprive him! Could I even dare to deprive him of sweets? I tell him that Diwali is a couple of days away and that I will buy him mithai soon.

And finally, there are the crackers. Anna wants us to buy some crackers for “shastra” i.e. as a good omen. So I go buy some crackers even though the pollution levels are high and I don’t think we should. But shastra is shastra after all.

All of Diwali, My Father Gasped for Breath

We spent Diwali morning at the hospital with Anna. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
We spent Diwali morning at the hospital with Anna. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Then on November 9, Anna has a bad throat, is disoriented, spends all night coughing and doesn’t sleep till 5 am in the morning. I think it is the effect of the pollution.

It gets worse on November 10. He sleeps only at 6 am after coughing again all night. The attendant is worried about the intensity and length of the spells and his ability to breathe.

So on Diwali day, we are at the hospital at 9.30 am.

Anna is very mildly responsive, slurring, disoriented, and jerking his arms (something he does not do on his Parkinson’s medication).

It takes 5 hours to put him on a nebuliser, take a chest x-ray, run blood tests. There is no chest infection, no throat infection, no pneumonia.

Yet he is almost catatonic.

We bring him home with instructions to keep a close watch on him, give him steam inhalations and to bring him back to the hospital if he takes a turn for the worse.

He sleeps all afternoon.

No Real Diwali

In the evening when I go to light the diyas at his place, he is half-asleep but still ready to light the mandapa diyas and agarbatti. But alas, he is so weak he cannot strike the match hard enough against the matchbox to get it to fire up.

My father did not manage to gorge on mithai or watch me light diyas. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)
My father did not manage to gorge on mithai or watch me light diyas. (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

So I do that for him.

Eyes closed and with a weak smile he gives the staff their Diwali gifts. And then promptly falls asleep.

So no real Diwali for him.

No gorging on mithai. Given my father’s sweet tooth, telling him that he cannot eat mithai on Diwali is like telling James Bond that he has a license to kill but unfortunately must desist.

There is no watching me light diyas and candles.

No being wheeled around the colony to see houses lit up in colourful lights.

No enjoying the sight of anars and Vishnu chakras as they are lit up by his staff and neighbours and he watches in glee.

Diwali is a complete washout for him.

(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)

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