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Emotional Moments of Parkinsons #4 Shobhana Tai

Parkinson’s Mitra Mandal does not have an independent office.  We hold the executive committee meetings at the residence of the members.  The criteria to choose the meeting place is that it should be centrally located making it easily accessible for the participants.  One of our well-wisher, Rekha Acharya has been asking us to hold this meeting at her residence for the last seven to eight years. But, she lived in the MIT campus making it inconvenient for many.  Now her son has bought a house for her at the centrally located Prabhat Road. So after coming to stay there, Rekha again insisted that we have the executive committee meeting at her new residence saying that, “Now I have come to stay nearby so kindly organize the meeting here. Now you have no excuses.” She urged us to hold the January meeting at her residence and we agreed. 


By the time the day of the meeting dawned, many of the executive committee members dropped from the meeting due to inevitable reasons, so in the end the only members who could attend the meeting were Patwardhan, Karmarkar, Asha Rewankar and us two. In fact, we would have cancelled the meeting at such a time as we don’t have any fixed schedule. We change the day and time of the meeting by coordinating with the members earlier over phone and now through WhatsApp. 


But since we had decided to meet at Rekha’s residence after so many years and we thought she must have made preparations we did not think it was fair for us to cancel the meeting now. So the members who were able to attend would go to her house and discuss the regular topics.  In fact our main intention was to respect to Rekha’s enthusiastic invite. 


Earlier, Rekha had called every member personally and explained to each of us how to reach her house from our respective residences. She had also mentioned all the landmarks that we should look for.  Even during these phone calls she insisted that we all come. So we all reached her house on the appointed day, at the appointed time. 


Before proceeding further it is important to introduce Rekha Acharya. She lives alone after her husband’s death about three to four years ago. Her behavior as a member of the mitra mandal is exemplary.  She has a very energetic personality.  For the Parkinson’s Day celebration, on the 11th of April, she has taken upon herself the financial responsibility of the bouquets and flowers needed for it. She is an enthusiastic participant at the mandal’s annual picnics.


Rekha was diagnosed with suffering from Parkinson’s at the age of forty seven, it took about three to four years for the doctors to realize this. She was visiting her son in the US of A, when she was diagnosed. She accepted the diagnosis very positively. It can be said that it is a characteristic of her nature to adapt herself to any situation that comes her way.  Before her marriage she was learning to be a physiotherapist but had to leave it half way after marriage. She then did her M.A but had to leave the country to go to Nigeria, as her husband was offered a job there. She began teaching in schools in Nigeria.  


By the time, she returned to India,  the degree of B.Ed  had become compulsory to teach in schools. So it was difficult to get a teaching job without the B.Ed degree. She then did a Kindergarten course from S.P College. At  the same time interviews for kindergarten teachers were underway at MIT.  Rekha was selected from thousands of applicants.  Within a short span of time, she rose from the position of a teacher to becoming a member of the policy making committee of the kindergarten and set up kindergartens in both Marathi and English mediums with great success.  In short, she  has made the most of the opportunities that came her way, she kept herself busy by working constantly.  This was one of her great qualities. That is why she could live well even after the death of her husband.


When we went to her house we were a little skeptical about her physical health. That was because her on period is for approximately 30 hours, then begins her off period.   She is in her seventies now and was been suffering from Parkinson’s since she was forty seven. The intensity of Parkinson’s has also increased. We thought she must have ordered the snacks from outside.  But we were surprised to see the arrangements she had made. Gur Polli (roti’s stuffed with jaggery), dahi vadas and kachoris stuffed with fresh green tur peas.  She had cooked these complicated recipes at home herself and not ordered from outside.  She has a maid at home but she had taken a little help from her. Rekha said “I wanted to teach these recipes to the maid hence have cooked these.”  We did not expect her to cook such an elaborate spread. All the dishes were very well cooked. She mentioned that she had kneaded the dough for the gur poli and also stuffed the kachoris herself. Which meant that Rekha had done the toughest work and taken just a little help from the maid.  She was insisting that we take more helpings of the food. She further told me, “ Shobana Tai, you are unable to digest Channa dal so don’t worry, I haven’t used it any of the recipes, please eat to your heart’s content without any fear.” I was surprised that she was aware that I am unable to eat channa dal and she had taken into consideration the dietary restrictions of all the guests.  This shows how lovingly she hosted us! Overall her nature is to do whatever she does with all her heart. 


Rekha has many friends who usually accompany her to different events. The day we visited her, she had invited Nayana More also. Nayana More is the wife of one of our deceased member, Colonel More. She too lived near MIT, hence Rekha and she were good friends. When we went to Anandvan she accompanied Rekha as her companion.  She had come for the January meeting also.  They went together for many events, like movies, plays. They both were fond of musical programs hence attended these, too. Rekha was accompanied by a different friend in all events. She was a friend to all. 


When Rekha lived near MIT, she had kept two college going girls as paying guests. Rekha served them two meals, except breakfast. As the college was nearby, the girls came home for lunch. Rekha fed them freshly cooked hot meals. So, when she shifted to Prabhat Road, she was not sure whether the girls will also shift with her as the college was too far from the new house. But the girls were so attached to Acharya Aaji that they did not mind travelling for college. The day we went to Rekha’s house the girls were also there. Rekha fed the girls all the dishes that she had cooked.


The girls were going for a movie after lunch. Rekha asked them which movie they were going for.  On learning that they were going to see the movie ‘Ye Re Ye Re Paisa’, Rekha told them she had seen that movie just a couple of days back and it was not worth watching. When we heard that she had already seen the movie we were at a loss of words to appreciate her enthusiasm. While discussing in the meeting she said, “Isn’t the next meeting at Narmada Hall? Only fifty to sixty cups of tea will be needed, I can get that from home.” OMG! We were in awe once again hearing her enthusiastic words.


While all this was going on, my thoughts began to drift. I put myself in Rekha’s place. If I were in her situation, I wouldn’t even think of making a cup of tea for myself. It was beyond my understanding to invite so many people home, cook elaborate dishes and feed them with so much love.  Later also she always insisted that I come to her house after meeting, relax for some time and leave after having dinner. I was once again surprised.


After lunch, she brought a pile of beautiful napkins and asked us to choose the ones we liked. She had bought these from Nallis when she went to Chennai. We took all these with love, as Makar Sankrat had just gone by, she gave us til gud (laddus made of til). In short, Rekha loves to travel, she loves to shop, infact she loves everything. And despite having Parkinson’s, she has not lost her enthusiasm for life, it has not stopped her from sharing it with others too.


I am always overwhelmed by Rekha’s brilliant personality. For a long time, I have thinking that I should go and live with the Parkinson’s patients who live alone. I should observe them, see how they live life and if possible make a movie about them. But, I haven’t been able to do so yet. Therefore, I decided to share about them, about their life in my blog ‘Emotional Moments of Parkinson’s’. I hugged Rekha tightly while leaving, I wanted to absorb positive energy from her. Watching her walk, one feels that she is about to fall. But in reality she was walking around the house constantly showing us something or the other. Seeing and Experiencing all this one can only say “ I salute you Rekha.”

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