“Where can I take you this evening, sir?”
“Baneshwor Heights please,” I stare out the foggy window, looking at all the demolished buildings that resulted from the devastating earthquake. I see two little girls in ragged clothes, begging for food and water from strangers but coming up with nothing. The earthquake had destroyed the lives of many people in Nepal. Many were left without shelter and water and were forced to live in a state of poverty, not like the life before was much better. Kathmandu is in a village surrounded by the beautiful Himalayan mountain range, and the people living in the city can barely afford to live. If not for the tourist attractions, there would be no money in the city, and people would suffer.
“Sir?” mumbles the poor old driver while prodding his hand in my direction, palm up.
“Yes? Sorry.” I hand him a fifty rupee note, which equates to less than fifty cents in America, for driving me from the airport. I turn around to see a gated house, with cracks up the dull red-bricked wall. The state of the house was far worse than when I had last been here. There were green patches on the corners, which I assumed to be moss, and the grass and weeds in front of the house were taller than me. My grandfather had bought this property twenty years ago and had spent his entire fortune building the house, only for it to be pretty much destroyed. I see my grandmother, uncle, and aunt coming out of the side screen door, and I immediately go toward them to offer my respect.
“Oh. It’s been so long since you’ve visited us nathi.” My grandmother cried in her frail voice.
“I know, I know. It’s good to finally see you again. Where is buwa?” I asked her.
“He’s upstairs meditating as usual.”
My grandfather had been diagnosed with dementia a couple years back and his memory has since been rapidly deteriorating. At first, he couldn’t remember where he put his pen, then he couldn’t remember phone numbers, and then he forgot who I was.
“He’s in here.” My grandmother directs me to a pretty much empty room. A lone man sits in the center, motionless as if he isn’t really there.
“Buwa, do know who I am?” I ask my grandfather.
“Uh? Who’s there?” questions my grandfather.
“He’s your nathi, your grandson.” My grandmother explains to him, although she had probably tried explaining to him who I was before I arrived. However, my grandfather seemingly ignores my grandmother and goes back to his stateless position.
“Buwa,” I ask once again, “Buwa,” I say for another time, “Buwa!” this time I yell.
“Uh? Who’s there?”
“It’s no use nathi. His condition has been getting worse, he has been completely stubborn and won’t listen to any of us” my grandmother informs me. As I begin to call my grandfather again, I notice a shiny reflection in the corner of my eye. A single drop of tear nonchalantly drops from my grandmother’s eye. I realize at that point that there was no point in calling out to my grandfather again. With my newly formed disappointment, I slowly climb the stairs to the kitchen and eat dinner. Afterwards, I collect my belongings and sort them in my room and sleep, hoping that I would get to talk to my grandfather tomorrow.
In the morning, a faint voice cries for my name.
“Nathi, wake up. Get ready, we’re going to go for a walk.”
Shocked to see that my grandfather has woken me up, I climb out of bed, get ready, and venture outside with my grandfather.
“Buwa, why did you wake me up so suddenly?”
“I just wanted to catch up with my grandson, that’s all.”
My grandfather was a short man, no more than probably 5’ 6”. He had wrinkles all over his face, as one would assume a 74-year-old man to have, and wore these rounded glasses. He was a very wise man, he pursued a career in law and traveled all over the world to practice law. He eventually became one of Nepal’s Supreme Court Justices, and his goal was to represent Nepal in the United Nations and earn his Ph.D. in law. However, things didn’t work out for him. Just when he was about to go the States and earn his degree, his dementia got worse, and it was physically impossible to continue learning.
“Look at all this traffic, you know when I first came down to Kathmandu, there were only a couple of bikes and one measly car on these roads.”
The traffic is horrendous.There are cars buzzing left and right. Constant rickshaws and taxis swerve right in front of us. The velocity of the cars isn’t that big, they must be only going 35kph, but the sheer size of the road and the number of cars make it impossible to cross. It’s like running through a farm of beehives and trying to avoid contact with a single bee. My grandfather on my right is confident and determined; as a result, he uses his native skills and knowledge to power through the traffic and we make it to the other side. Once we make it to the other side, the sides of the road are swamped with shops of any variety a person could imagine. Business entrepreneurs stand like hawks by their shops, eying any potential customer that would be interested in their shop. There are sari shops, tech and mobile shops, flight ticket counters, restaurants, and anything else one could envision.
“Oh look. Look at the toy store down the road. Can you see it nathi?” asks my ecstatic grandfather.
“Yes, I can see it.”
“I remember you crying in our house because you wanted the same toy gun that your friend had, and I had to run all this way to get one for you, but then I forgot my money, so I had to run back home and when you saw me return with no gun, you cried even harder and … oh your face when you cried … and then I had to come back to the toy store and I finally got the toy gun,” chuckled my grandfather.
“Wait, buwa. How do you remember all this?”
“What do you mean? It's a very fond memory of mine, of course I would remember that.”
I began to ponder. I thought my grandfather had dementia, but now he was acting like he never had the illness. All of his memory just seemed to suddenly reappear. “Buwa, you have dementia, yesterday you couldn't even remember who I was. How did your memory come flooding back?”
“I don't recall ever having dementia. Are you sure you don't have dementia?”
We laugh, but I am still in shock. How could his memory just come back out of thin air? My grandfather and I continue to stroll down the busy Kathmandu street, all while my grandfather keeps telling me stories of the past. The thought of him being cured of dementia hurts my brain, but on the inside, I scream in joy that he has his memory back.
We go back home and I explain my findings to my grandmother and uncle. They question my grandfather, and his memory does not fail at home. Overjoyed, my grandmother cries while my grandfather comforts her. I go to bed and am thrilled to meet my grandfather again.
The next morning, I sneak into my grandfather’s room.
“Buwa, buwa, wake up,” I yell to him.
“Buwa, let’s go for a walk again like yesterday.”
“Who are you?” My grandfather asks.
“I’m your nathi, your grandson,” I explain.
“I don’t have a nathi.”
“No, remember we went for a walk yesterday and you told me stories of our past. Remember.”
“No, I don’t remember who you are or walking with you.”
“Remember how you told me that you had to run to the toy store to get me a toy gun because I cried,” at this point, I begin to tear up.
“No, I don’t.”
Then it hit me. The day that I dreamed of, hoped of, it was all just a fantasy. My grandfather never recovered, we never walked together, he never told me the story of the toy gun, it was all made up by my subconscious. There was no miracle, it was all a fraud, a lie. I could never accept that my grandfather had an illness. All I ever wanted was for him to get cured, and in doing so, I had wasted my time, my valuable time, with my grandfather. I got so caught up in the fact that I wanted my grandfather to recover, that I never took the time to actually meet my grandfather.
The Forgotten Reality
“Where can I take you this evening, sir?”