This week: The Nature of the Beast Edited by: Thankful Sonali Going CRAZY!
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|Dad and I won a one-night stay at a posh retirement facility (or assisted living center) on the outskirts of our city.|
The surrounds were beautiful. The staff was courteous and efficient. The food was good - tasty and wholesome. There were events being organised regularly.
And yet, there was a tangible undercurrent of ... (read on)
On Tuesday, Dad and I arrived for a twenty-four hour stay at a posh (and expensive!) retirement facility on the outskirts of our city. Dad had entered a photo contest and was one of three winners of this overnight stay.
The property comprises fifty studio-apartments and twenty-two one bedroom (with hall and kitchen) apartments. There is a dining hall, a library, a gym, a meditation hall, a spa, a swimming pool, a game-room, a temple, a movie theatre and a four-bed clinic with an ambulance, all on the property. Numerous courteous and efficient staff members include four full-time nurses, a doctor and a physiotherapist. Meals are cooked, laundry is taken care of, maintenance is done, festivals are celebrated, movies are screened ... it's quite luxurious.
And yet ...
What struck me most was the palpable air of loneliness that pervaded the place.
Don't get me wrong, there were no mopey faces. On the contrary, everyone was healthy, smiling, greeting us heartily.
A bit too heartily.
Physically, they were fine. I'm guessing intellectually, they were fine, too.
Dad and I arrived Tuesday late-afternoon. The first meal we had in the dining hall was dinner. When I had finished eating and went to the wash basin to wash my hands, I found an eighty-four year old lady following me there. Evidently, she wanted to talk, for a few minutes, in private. As I washed my hands, she asked which language I speak. When we had found a common language of communication (Hindi), she went on to ask if I'm new. Upon hearing I'm there only for a night, she went on to pour out her life story -- right there, at the wash-basins.
The next day, I was returning to my room after breakfast when a lady who was moving about with the help of a walker hailed me. We stood in the corridor and chatted. She was a doctor, had been head of a hospital for forty-five years. Her husband had passed away, her only daughter was abroad with a husband and daughter of her own, and she was here -- torn between staying in her home town and shifting to a new country to be with family. A few hours later, when a couple of my friends came along to visit and join us for a tour of the property, we met the same lady. "She had stationed herself there, where people come and go," my friend later noted. She was near the reception area, hoping to chat with those either entering or stepping out.
After Dad and I vacated our room on Wednesday evening, Dad was already in the hired car and I was getting our bags put in. Someone called out to me in the courtyard. It turned out to be a gentleman whose mother tongue is the same as ours (a big bonding factor, here in the land of many languages). He knew that I had Dad waiting in the car, but he wanted to speak to someone in his native language, and we were there, in the courtyard, for ten minutes. Apparently, he had seen our name on the guest list, realised there might be a connection (from our last name) and had been looking forward to meeting us. He was disappointed to have run into us only as we were leaving.
Lonely people, waiting around gleaming corners, under a vast skylight, for someone to waylay -- just to have a conversation.
As of now, I'm not actually planning to write a short story about our stay. But if I do, if this place and these people give me the backdrop for a plot, I do know that through all the amenities, through all the comforts and the apparent bonhomie, the underlying theme, the all-pervasive tone, will be that of ... Loneliness. A beast of such strength that no facade can offer solace.
Thanks for reading!
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