It had been eleven years since grandpa had passed. Prathyush had an uncomfortably familiar feeling. The house was in a state of constant irritation. The only difference from the last time was the person in the bed. It was his grandmother instead of his grandfather. He had been bedridden for almost a year, she was in her third week.
“Why should I do it? Let him do it,” said Karuna in a hoarse whisper. He was the second of four sons in the family and Prathyush’s oldest uncle.
Prathyush sat next to his grandmother and held her bony hand. His uncles were always trying to escape bedpan duty.
“Dadi, do you need me to get the bedpan?” he asked slowly.
“No!” she said looking horrified. Eighty-year-old Lakshmi Dadi couldn’t bear the thought of her dear grandson helping her take a shit. She held his hand and looked at him. “I want to escape. You know what I did for…” she began weakly.
Prathyush knew what she was talking about. Only two people in the house of twenty knew the secret. “Dadi!” he said, horrified.
“This house won’t be happy with a bedridden person. You know it,” she said weakly.
Eleven years ago, it was the same. Everyone old enough was grumbling over the old man in the bed. There were no smiles or laughter. Prathyush’s father and his siblings did not know how to care for others. They openly cursed their father for his sickness. One evening, Dadi had taken a pillow and entered the room. When she came out, grandfather had passed. Happiness returned to the rest of the household but Prathyush always knew. He did not understand it until several years later but he knew.
“No,” said Prathyush immediately.
“No person should live long enough to be a burden,” said Dadi weakly.
“You are not a burden,” said Prathyush immediately.
“I know my sons. I raised them to be successful in their career but compassion is not their strong suit. Your grandfather had to go because …” said Dadi but stopped short of completing her sentence.
Prathyush looked at the frail woman on the bed. He knew what she was asking. He knew why. He had no ill will towards her for what she did to his grandfather. Now, he realized that she loved him enough to do it. Prathyush realized that his father and his uncles were selfish. Dadi did not blame them for it. She just did not want her husband to see it. What she did was wrong legally but she did it with the best intentions. Despite his acceptance of her choice, he knew that he did not have the courage to do what he did. He stared at her.
“Don’t worry. You only need to leave me alone tonight,” said Dadi calmly.
Prathyush had a choice to make. Was he going to make his Dadi endure more pain or was he going to let her leave with dignity?