Thursday, April 21, 2016

Elephants Outside My Window!

After my mother died in Bangalore in 2011, my father Anna, moved for a few years to stay with my sister and brother. He spent a little over 2 years in Westboro, Massachusetts.  My brother, converted the ground floor study into a bedroom for Anna.

Photo Courtesy
The room has floor to ceiling windows that look on to a wide strip of lawn and flower beds before it merges with the original natural forest that was there before the house was built. The road is beyond the copse of trees. It is a beautiful room with lots of sunlight. In summer one can see flowers, green grass, and trees shaded a dull brown under bright green leaves. In winter we can see bare trees and ground covered with sparse powdered-sugar-like snow on a cake, to 24 inch whipped-cream-like snow smothering the earth. 

The winter months were difficult for Anna even tho' he had lived in Westboro in winter when he was younger and well. But with Parkinson's it meant that he was unable to go outside for a walk. That he had to constantly be careful not to slip in the snow the odd times he did go out. His visits were pretty much restricted to travelling from home to Summit Eldercare and back.

Winter was difficult for Anna. The cold. The fewer hours of sunshine. Being restricted to home. Often when my uncle (Krishnakaka) or sister (Mamta) called him in winter, Anna would tell them about the elephants outside his window. This wasn't a hallucination that lasted hours, but occurred many times over weeks. Both Krishnakaka and Mamta have narrated their conversations with him. Here is how they went:

Photo Courtesy Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary 
Anna: There is an elephant outside the window.

Them (disbelievingly): Really?

Anna: Yes. There is an elephant outside my window. Standing in the snow.

Them (catching on): How long has it been standing there?

Anna: I don't know. It is always there.

Them: Is it the same elephant every time?

Anna: There are two of them. Sometimes it is one, sometimes the other.

Them: Are you sure it is an elephant?

Anna (affronted): Of course it is an elephant!

Them: Can you describe the elephant?

Anna (as if talking to a small child): It is grey in colour. Has two big ears and a small tail. 

Photo Courtesy Professions for PEACE
Them: Are they very big? Thinking of their size.

Anna: Yes. Big ears mean they are African elephants.

Them: Anna / Cheenu, you are in Westboro. There can't be any African elephants in the garden.

Anna (not hearing the logic):
Its fascinating that these elephants are walking in the snow.

Them: Anna / Cheenu, what would an elephant be doing outside your window?

Anna (after a long pause): You will have to ask the elephant. It is outside my window standing in the snow.

This conversation could go on for many minutes till one of them would say something like, "Don't worry Anna. The elephants just came to see you. Even if it was snowing."

Anna has not hallucinated about elephants since he has come to Delhi, even though he has often thought he is in Westboro.

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