I am my own company


I am my own company
*K L Chowdhury

Image by Deepak Ganju

I am my own company,
my own friend and confidante.
Who has the time to sit by my side
and share a thought or two with me?
With my hearing handicap
who would like to shout into my ear,
a blessing or a blasphemy?

With my sight impaired
I would not even recognize people
except by their voices.
But, even voices have changed nowadays,
tinged as they are
with bitterness and bile.

With my unstable gait, I avoid moving out
lest I stumble and sustain a fall
or tread on others’ feet
and be taken for a demented or drunk.

I prefer to eat alone
even as I would love to join the family
for I have to be helped to the dining table,
and it is an effort to keep the hand steady
as I negotiate food from the plate to my mouth
as others watch curiously
the terrible mess I often make.

There are other demons too
that I have to wrestle with –
the pains and aches, the restless legs
the irritable bladder, the eerie posture,
the sleepless nights, the nightmares -
well, one could go on and on
for the list is endless, you know.

But it is the obstinate itch that distresses me most
making me scratch the whole day long
with little relief whatever
from allergy pills or moisturizing creams
that the doctors prescribe one after another.
When the itch is right in the back
where my hands do not reach,
the long armed backscratcher
is a real marvel, a blessing;
yet, a far cry
from the gentle scratch of a loving hand,
alas, now only a memory.

There are things going on in the house,
mundane stuff you would say,
a guest dropping by,
the maid washing the utensils,
the gardener tending the lawn,
a neighbor coming with a prasad,
a postman with the mail,
the grocer’s boy with the milk bags,
the kid next door retrieving his ball,
a chatterbox with a bagful of gossip,
and much else that I would like to share
but, sadly, passes me by,
for what more do they think of me
than an old hag, a non-entity?

I lay back in my bed,
wondering who is doing what
at that particular moment
for I would love to be a party
to the here and now of daily life
but, do I count,
does anyone care?

I keep count and record
of the phone calls from my daughters and sons
for I want to hear their voices,
and to know about their welfare
and about my grandchildren -
who is due for a degree,
who has changed a job,
who is delaying to get married,
who is late for an offspring,
even as I crave to fondle another grandchild!
I want to bless them all
in all they endeavor,
but, I wonder,
have they a thought or two to spare.

Yet, I cannot help being concerned
for they are my flesh and blood
and I worry about them a lot
even as I am gently reminded
that I have done my worrying bit
and I should now try to meditate,
chant mantras, sing hymns,
count beads and pray.

Yes, prayer used to be my strength,
my only purpose in life for long,
but the hymns and mantras
that used to be on my tongue
have given me a slip.
The rosaries, well,
not only have I have lost count,
my finger tips are too numb
and the mind too hazy
to perceive the thrill of rolling the beads.

I forget even the love songs
that I sang in duet with my spouse.
The vaakhs of Lalla, and Krishan leela,
that I would recite from memory
have proved liars and parted company;
when I need them most in my solitude.
I have lost the idea of God,
He suddenly seems so unearthly,
so false;
my belief in Him all my life,
was it only a magnificent delusion?

With all the pain and the medication
and the handicaps and the seclusion
I still have to live,
and lumber to the journey’s very end,
even as I would love to call it a day
and go to my final abode.

Alas, going there is neither a picnic,
nor like going to one’s matamal,
nor to the heaven of malyun
where one could just walk in anytime
and be received with open arms.
One cannot go there until summoned,
for, entry is by merit only,
no favors,
no seniority!
*Dr. K L Chowdhury Dr. K L Chowdhury retired as a Professor of Medicine, Medical College, Srinagar. Presently he is the Director of a charitable institution, Shriya Bhatt Mission Hospital and Research Center, Durga Nagar, Jammu.
He is a physician and neurologist, a medical researcher, poet, social activist. He writes on diverse subjects – medical, literary, social and political and has numerous research papers to his credit, his pioneering work being “The Health Trauma in a Displaced Population” which was presented at national and international conferences.
He has published three anthologies namely:
1- “Of Gods, Men and Militants”. Minerva Press (Pvt.) India -2000
2- “A Thousand-Petalled Garland and other Poems”. Writers Workshop Kolkata – 2003
3- “Enchanting world of Infants” Peacock Books, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors-2007
He was declared Shehjar's ' Kashmiri Person of the year ' for 2007.
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A masterpiece!! Your brilliant poet inside is at its best here! Matchless delivery of deep emotion!! Mubarak Mahra Chuw!!!
Added By J L Bhat
I have a lot of respect for you, Dr. Chowdhury and the excellent social work done by you. But am totally surprised as to how he could he written such a 'losers' view of old age.
Added By Ravinder Bhan
Respected Dr Chowdhuryes I have yet to read a more beautiful poem! Thank you and Shehjar for sharing it with us. God bless regards Alka
Added By alka sumbaly
as usual excellant poem. those of us who have elderly parents it hits home.
Added By surendar kilam
Dr Chaudary describes real pain and pathos of helpless and emaciated old age.His words are accurare.The gay abandon of matamal and absolute refuge of malun can have no equel words in English.We have to be proud of his intelect
Added By pushkar ganjoo
What a deep understanding and visualisation of old age. But this can happen even when you are young but ailing and helpless. While reading this poem, tears trickled down from my eyes. I have bookmarked this poem to remind me the reality of crude facts of life.
Added By Chandra Ganju