He woke up early in the morning. It was 4 am. The smell of heavy air filled his nose with an aroma of satisfaction. It is going to rain today. Ah! The blessed monsoons. He put on his fresh white dhoti after he took a shower. Rupa must have put this out for me. But it didn’t smell fresh. ‘Did you even wash it?. No answer. She likes to be quiet in the mornings, he thought. He did not own a clock, but he could always tell the time seeing the sky. He prided himself with that talent. He said a few words of prayer to the heaven and went out the door. The moment he stepped out, he remembered that he forgot to wear his spectacles. Old age can bring such troubles with it, he thought. Doctors said it was Alzheimer’s.
With a heavy heart, he walked for about two kilometers away from his home to get his boat ready. His fishing pole, an oar, a rope and few other requirements. He looked at the Ganga. She never looks old. She looks the same like she did ten years back when he came here for the first time. It reflected like a promise made to God that youth will never die. A pang of jealousy struck him. Youth was taken from him, just like his smile was. He looked at the water, crystal clear and saw his reflection and it stared right back at him. He looked at the other half of himself. Angered and annoyed, he threw the fishing pole into the water. The calmness of Ganga was disturbed. After a few hours, he managed to catch the big ones this time. His toothless smile reflected joy in his eyes. He could finally buy medicines for his ailing wife. He looked up in the sky and silently thanked Him for giving him a few more days in this earth. He knew that if health doesn’t not strike death on them, hunger will.
He looked around for a moment and pondered why he was here. He knew something was wrong but he didn’t know what. His blank eyes stretched out for an answer till he saw his fishes lying beside him inside the bowl. Alzheimer’s was toying with him, the winds said.
The fishes seemed oddly fat. Maybe they were bearing eggs. He was going to sell it off to the fat man who sits by the docks and collect the money in his little sack and will take a bus to the city to buy the expensive medicine that was prescribed to his wife three months ago. He took a last glimpse at his prized possessions once again. The fish seemed delicious. They breathed the water out of the bowl very slowly. Some rich man with a protruded belly will be lucky to have these fishes. Or maybe they will be served in a very big restaurant. People will congratulate the fisherman who was able to catch such a precious thing. ‘It’s not easy, you know, waking up and the struggles, the fear of drowning’, he said to himself.
Maybe the rich people will ask him to taste the Ruhi. He would coyly say no. Then he would humbly take a bite before he offers to his wife. She would like the fish so much. She would appreciate him. He imagined her smile, how she would light up if she sees this fish. He stared at the Ganga once again, whose grace haunted him. A wild wind blew against his face. He recalled her smile again. The monsoon winds felt like her smile. It has been so long he has seen her smiling. It was hard to make a choice. He stared at the calmness of Ganga. It was like the winds were pushing him to go back to his wife and present her with the fish and ask her to cook it. They could have their own lavish dinner and sleep with a satisfied belly full of joy. But her health? I cannot let her suffer anymore just for a night’s joy. The wind stroked his face again. Only this time, the winds carried little drops of love. It started raining. Monsoon has begun. He knew at that exact moment what to do. It rained on his wedding day. It almost flooded Kolkata for all he could remember. He could never forget that day when he first saw her forty years ago. She was just a girl. Nostalgia filled his ailing heart once again filled with love. He decided to take those fishes home. He head filled with the vivid images. Mostly of the times he remembered were those of her smile, her cries, and her laugh. Ah, her laugh. She hasn’t laughed for so many years. ‘I will make her laugh today’, he thought to himself. A few moments later, he reached home. He opened the door and only to find no one. He called for his wife,
‘Dekho ki enechi ajke’
No answer. There was no one home. He hurried to the kitchen. The kitchen looked dusty like no one has been there for months. He frantically searched for a big bowl to fill the fishes under water to keep them alive just for a few more moments. Rupa has gone for a bath maybe. He turned around and saw a painting with a garland on it. The garland of white flowers seemed old and dead. The woman in the painting, wearing an orange saree was his wife, Rupa. He recognized her by her smile in the photo. It has been sixteen years since his wife’s death, he recalled. The old man, realizing his mistake, sat heavily on the bed. The table had three other similar bowls with fishes inside them.
Alzheimer’s was toying with him, the winds said.