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In the Autumn of her Life – Part 2

Time went by; days went by, months went by, and there was no change in Tony’s condition. It was as though he was sleeping a sound sleep and did not want to wake up. It was a heart-wrenching sight to see little Mike go up to his father to try and wake him up.

Tony, whenever in town, had always woken up Mike in the morning by pushing aside his covers, kissing him on the forehead and saying’, Good morning, my superhero!!’

And now that Mike thought that his father needed to be woken up, he would do the same thing. But the only difference was that Tony did not wake up, no matter how many times the child tried.

After a year of covering all the expenses, the airline got in touch with Diana and told her that since there did not seem to be any hope of Tony recovering, they would have to stop doing that. This was a massive blow because Diana knew that it would be next to impossible for her to bear all the expenses. But then she didn’t have a choice and had to do it. She managed for the next six months though it was tough.  After that, the doctors attending on Tony suggested that since he did not need any life support, she could take him home and save on the bills. The only thing was that she would need an attendant to take care of him, but the cost of that would be far lower than the hospital bills. Though most people had given up all hope and did not expect Tony to recover Diana was not one of them. She was convinced that her husband would come out of this. She didn’t know when but she knew that he would.

So going by the advice, she got Tony home. There was an advantage of doing that. The family was now able to spend more time with him. They all would take turns to sit with him, talk to him, read out excerpts from his favourite books and pray that he would recover. Though Diana’s business was doing well, it wasn’t easy for her to take care of all the medical expenses. The six months of hospitalization which she had had to pay for had taken a toll on her finances. But her siblings stood by her like a rock. They all chipped in whenever they felt she needed help.

Time went by, and it had been five years since Tony had met with the accident. Mike was now a ten-year-old boy who had all but forgotten his father. He only remembered him the way he was now, eyes closed, oblivious to everything. Many times Diana wondered if Tony would ever recover, but each time such a thought entered her head, she quickly admonished herself for being negative and pushed the thought out. She had faith in the powers that be and knew that things would get back to being normal. And that is precisely what happened.

Somewhere the powers that be decided that the woman had proved her love, her loyalty, her devotion towards her husband beyond doubt, and now she needed to be rewarded. One Sunday, when they were all at home, and the attendant was changing Tony’s clothes, he detected a slight movement in one of his hands. Thinking that it was just a figment of his imagination, he ignored it, but then he saw it again. It was just a slight movement which could have gone unnoticed had he not been so close to Tony. But when the attendant saw it for the second time, he called out to Diana, who rushed into the room followed by Mike and Jane. And then Tony moved again,  a little more than before, and this time everyone saw the movement. Diana knew that she had to call the doctor.

The doctor came, checked and said that it did appear that he was coming out of the coma. But he still couldn’t say how long it would take before they could see any other change. And then, as if by a miracle as the doctor was saying this, Tony opened his eyes. Diana screamed with shock and amazement!!! She couldn’t believe what she was seeing!! Mike and Jane couldn’t even utter a word. And Tony just looked at all of them with surprise. It seemed as though he had just woken up from a good night’s sleep and couldn’t fathom as to what all the fuss was about. He smiled at Diana, obviously recognizing her. But then he looked around and saw some unfamiliar faces. There was this look of astonishment on his face. Diana took his hand in hers and kissed it. Tears of relief and joy were streaming down her cheeks. She brought Mike forward and said, ‘Tony, our son’.

Tony looked at him; he tried to get up but couldn’t. The doctor told him to take it easy.  

The doctor smiled and looking at all of them said that it was evident that Tony had come out of the coma. He could recognize mostly everyone, which was a positive sign. But, it would take him a long time to recover completely, though the chances seemed to be bright. He told Diana to get a good physiotherapist who could help him regain the use of his muscles. He added that all of them needed to keep patience and support Tony in every possible way.

Thus began the journey of Tony’s recovery. It took him almost a year, but thanks to Diana’s efforts coupled with the physio and yoga sessions, he was able to get back to being as normal as possible. He now wanted to get back to work, so he informed his office about his recovery. The airline couldn’t give him his flying job, but they agreed to a desk job for him. Tony was okay with it, and so once again, life became happy for the Smith family.

But this five year sabbatical from the world had transformed Tony. He was no longer the happy-go-lucky guy he once had been. It wasn’t that he had become sad and melancholy. It was just that he realized how lucky he had been to come out of such a major accident and resume a normal life. Yes, it wasn’t absolutely the same as before. He had issues like he had to walk with a stick; getting up from anywhere was a slow and arduous process.  He couldn’t exercise any longer, and every movement took time. The process of recovery was very, very slow and gradual. But each day was better than the previous one, and he was making progress.

The entire experience had shaken him and made him understand how vulnerable and uncertain our lives are. Another thing that happened was that the episode restored his belief in God. Before the accident, he had believed that there was a superpower that controls all humans, but now his faith was rock solid. He believed that this miracle had happened only because someone up there was looking out for him. As a result, he became very spiritual.

Life had changed for Tony in other ways also. For one, his son, his heartbeat was no longer a little boy. He had grown up and as he felt moved away from him. It wasn’t as though he didn’t love his father or anything like that. It was just that the time that he had spent without him had made him used to live without him. His life revolved around his mother and grandmother, and Tony had to struggle to become a part of it. Then both his parents had also passed away in the five years, and a lot of other things had also changed. So he had a lot of catching up to do. He knew that, but he also knew one more thing. He didn’t want to catch up with everything and everyone. The recovery had made him realize that he just needed to focus on the essential things and the important people in his life. And to begin with, that included only his immediate family and nobody else. So he now spent most of his time reading, meditating and being with his family.

Diana’s joy and relief at having got her husband back were to be seen to be believed. She knew that God had been very kind, and they were indeed blessed. Each day on her way back from work, she looked forward to spending time with her husband, with her family.

Time went by and then almost two years after Tony’s recovery, Jane passed away. Ever since Tony had come back into their lives, she had started feeling that her duty towards her daughter and her family was over. She had done everything that was required of her, and so now she didn’t have much to do. She was at peace and in a way, ready to leave. Slowly she started stepping back from everything as though she was preparing everyone. And then one night she died in her sleep, peaceful and happy. Though Diana had foreseen it, when it actually happened, she was heartbroken. Her mother had been like a rock all throughout Tony’s illness. And though not in perfect health herself she had taken over a large part of Diana’s responsibility. It had been because of her that Diana had been able to continue working. Mike, too was deeply attached to his grandmother. Her passing was a big blow for him. But life had to go on. Though Diana and Mike missed her a lot, she had left some beautiful memories for them to cherish for the rest of their lives.

Thanks to all the hard work, by now, Diana’s business had become really big. Many of her students had gone on to win beauty contests, got into movies, and the best part was that they all never forgot her or her mentoring. Despite all the turmoil in her life, Diana also had never let it affect her work. Once she entered the portals of her office, all her worries and anxieties were left outside. For the family, the business had become their mainstay. Though Tony had gone back to work, he couldn’t work for too long. The accident had taken its toll on him. He couldn’t sit in one place for too long and couldn’t concentrate for too long either. So after about three years of struggle one day, he decided to give up and quit. He knew this decision would have financial repercussions on them, but he just couldn’t cope up.

He discussed it with Diana before putting in his papers.  Though a little shocked, she understood him and therefore supported him. She also knew that she was earning enough, and they would be able to manage. She believed that it was far more important to have him with her.  Material things didn’t bother her any longer; it was the presence of her loved ones that she cared about.

After quitting, as expected Tony had a lot of time on his hands, but he had been prepared for this. Diana was busier than ever, and though sometimes she felt guilty about being away from home for long hours, Tony never seemed to mind it. Tony understood that she needed to do that. Even when she went for social gatherings to network, Tony was happy sitting at home. He didn’t object to her going. He liked being at home. He had taken to Buddhism, which gave him a lot of peace and calmed his mind. He also used the time to bond with his son, who was now in college. Mike was planning to go overseas for his Master’s, and Tony wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. He helped his son in the entire admission process, and within a year, Mike was all set to go to New York to study.

After Mike left, life for Tony changed in a big way. Other than spending time with himself, there was nothing much to do for him. He missed Mike, and though Diana tried hard, she couldn’t cheer him up.  One good thing was that by now they had started socializing a bit and would catch up with friends every once in a while. Earlier, they had not done that largely because Tony didn’t want to meet people.  The reason was that whenever they met all people wanted to talk about was his accident and the recovery. And he just did not want to do that. He wanted to put all that behind him, but the world did not let him. So, therefore, he had chosen to stay away from people. But now it had been almost ten years, and everyone had moved on. So now he was okay to be with his friends.

However, his mind, despite all the meditation, the spiritualism was not at peace. It was always restless and in turmoil. And it had started frustrating him. Diana could see all this and wanted to help him. So she suggested that they go on a holiday, something they hadn’t done in years. Initially, after his recovery, he hadn’t wanted too. There had been financial constraints, and then Mike had been too busy to go with them. But now everything was kind of sorted, so Diana decided that it was the best time for them to do that. The change she was sure would do a world of good to them.

Tony liked the idea. After giving it some thought, they decided to go to Switzerland, the country where his mother had come from. Though his mother had belonged to Switzerland, he had not visited it very often, but now he wanted to go there. But he was sure about one thing, and that was that he didn’t want to go to any place that was crowded. He wanted a nice, beautiful place, something close to nature. And so they chose to go to Dubendorf a nice quiet place near Zurich.

It ended up being a very relaxing holiday for the two of them. Their days would begin on a relaxed note; there was no rush to go anywhere or to do anything. They would wake up at leisure, go for long walks, eat at the local restaurants, chat and spend time with each other. Some days they would walk up to the City Centre and listen to some local guy playing good music. They spent two weeks over there and then it was time to head back.Though they went back and resumed their life in Mumbai, a part of Tony got left behind in that little town. He missed the town, its quaint shops, book stores, the walks and the time that they had spent there. Maybe the fact that his mother had grown up there had something to do with it. Whatever it was, there was something that kept pulling him back. So the next year once again they decided to holiday there. They did this holiday thing for three years in a row, and then Tony took a decision. He decided that they would move to Dubendorf and spend the rest of their lives there.

Though Diana had been accompanying him on the holidays and quite liked the place, moving there was not something that she had even thought about.  In any case, she didn’t want to move to a new place, leaving everything behind. There friends, the family were all in India. How could they leave everything and move? And the most critical part was the fact that her work was in India. How could she leave that? And if she did that, where would the money come from? She was convinced that moving there would be a foolhardy decision and she would not do it. She told Tony about it but also added that they could go there twice a year if he loved the place so much.

But though at that time he agreed six months later Tony again went back and started pestering her to move. Now Diana had always been with her husband through thick and thin and had always supported all his decisions, but this whim of his seemed a tad too impractical. But no matter how hard she tried to talk him out of it, he wouldn’t give up. Somewhere in his head, he had become fixated about the place and the fact that he wanted to live there. Daina discussed her problem with her son and Richard. Though they could see her point, they also figured that for some reason, Tony was hell-bent on the move and was not willing to relent. They tried talking to him, trying to make him change his mind but to no avail. He had made up his mind. The only option was for her to agree and move. Mike suggested that they could invest all the money that they got after selling off her business and live off that income. And in the meanwhile, Diana could explore options for herself in the new city.

Diana found the whole idea preposterous and incredibly stupid. For one, how could she just let go off her business just like that? She had invested so much time and money into it. Her heart and soul had gone in to keep it up and running. On top of that, it was doing so well. Then both she and Tony were now in their mid-forties. What would they do? They were not that old that they didn’t need to work for the rest of their lives? But Tony was not open to any logic or reasoning. He had decided that he wanted to move, and that was it. Though not at all happy about it, ultimately Diana had to give in. They sold their house, all their belongings, the business and moved to this new place to build a new life. Diana was full of apprehensions, anxiety but had no choice. She loved Tony and could do anything for him. And that is what Richard told her at the airport, ‘You are doing this for love. Don’t worry; you will be fine.”

They landed in Zurich and from there took a cab to Dubendorf, to the new house. The house had been bought by them on one of their earlier visits. They had got it furnished too. So they could begin their new life from day one. The first few weeks went by in settling into the new house, the new place. Mike and his girlfriend came to visit them and helped them settle in. But once the initial newness had worn off, Diana started getting bored. There was only that much of reading, cooking, cleaning and walking that she could do. In any case, she had never ever cooked in her life, and it irritated the hell out of her now that she had to do it. Though Tony wasn’t fussy or anything like that and chipped in, Diana hated the idea of doing it every single day.

The house was starting to get to her. She wanted to work and put her mind to some constructive use. And then something happened to change the course of her life. Ever since the two had moved to this new place, they had been trying to make themselves a part of the local community. The city had a Town Hall where everyone met on Sundays to discuss local issues. At one such meeting, the Mayor announced that they were going to open up a new school and needed volunteers to help them with that. The volunteers could contribute in various ways. They could give money, their time, their skills to the school. Everything was welcome.

Now it wasn’t as though Tony wasn’t aware of how much Diana had sacrificed for him. He knew that she missed her home, her work and her old life. And though she tried to put up a brave front in front of him,  he knew that she wasn’t happy at all. So he suggested that not only would they give money for the school, but they would also give their time to it. They would help in the setting up of it, and since Diana had the experience of running an institution, she could help in the setting up and then the running of the school. Diana too liked the idea, and so they approached the Mayor who was only too happy to rope them in. This project was like a God sent for the two of them. Both got passionately involved in it. Right from the land where it was to be built to the way it was to be designed, they got involved in everything.

To begin with, they had decided just to make the kindergarten section and then build more with time. The section was one of a kind with state of the art facilities and teachers who were trained to deal with young kids. Diana was made in charge of this section, and she loved it. With time from being just in the administration part, she started getting more and more involved. She loved being with the young ones and spending time with them. It was therapeutic for her. She loved telling stories, singing to them, and they had all become her fans. Seeing how much she loved all of that, she started doing weekly sessions with the children.

Her mind was now gainfully occupied, and she was happy. Seeing her happy Tony was also very happy. Life went by, and soon it was Tony’s sixtieth birthday. And in a town where once they had been strangers, there were so many people who had come to their house for the party. Seeing them with their new friends, it didn’t seem as though it had only been fifteen years since they had moved there. Mike too came with his wife and two children. It was one big happy occasion.

It had taken time, but Diana now loved the place and the people. It wasn’t like India, people took time to open up, friends just didn’t drop in whenever they felt like, and it was more formal. But Diana liked this part, and what is more, she ended up doing something that she hadn’t ever done in Mumbai. She had a best friend now, Irene, who she met in school. They were similar in many respects, and though the husbands were not too friendly, the women clicked and like how. Many times they met for coffee, shopping and sometimes drove down to Zurich just to spend a day. Diana had grown to love the country, the picturesque locales, the fresh, clean air. In fact, she now admitted that the move had been a good decision. The expression on Tony’s face when she said that was too good!! He would have this smug look about him with just a hint of a smile. The move had worked for Tony as well. He was happier and at peace with himself. Maybe after the accident, he just wanted to break away from Mumbai. Perhaps he just wanted to get away from the demons.

And then one day Diana stepped out of the house to run some errands. The two of them had been having their morning tea when she remembered that she needed a few things for the kitchen. She decided to walk up to the shopping area. The area was just ten minutes away, but it took her more than an hour to get back. She had run into a couple of people and had ended up chatting with them. As she opened the gate, she saw that Tony was still sitting on the chair, reading his book. It seemed a little strange that he could be reading for that long, but she felt that maybe it was one of those days. But when she got close, she realized that he wasn’t actually reading. He wasn’t even holding the book. It was lying on his chest, and he seemed to have dozed off. Even that didn’t send the alarm bells ringing because nowadays Diana had noticed that Tony had got into the habit of dozing off at the most unexpected times and places. Sometimes while eating, sometimes while talking to her. She had suggested seeing a doctor, but he had refused.

She got close to him and then saw that one of his hands was on the floor and in an odd kind of a position. She rushed towards him, touched him, called out his name, but there was no response. She quickly called for the doctor and also called Irene. Both of them rushed to her place.

One look and the doctor knew what had happened. All the same, he checked for the pulse, which confirmed his suspicions. He looked at the women and told them that Tony had gone. 

Diana couldn’t believe it!! He had been fine when she had left an hour ago. How could he have gone? The doctor told her his heart had probably given way. It was just too shocking and sudden!! She hadn’t expected him to go like this. Ever since they had moved, he had never ever fallen sick. In fact, she was the one who had some ache, some pain which bothered her. He, on the other hand, was fit and fine. And now!!! Diana panicked ! how would she survive now? He was her only family in that country. She couldn’t go back to India. How would she live without him?

But that is when all her friends and in particular, Irene stepped in and took charge. She calmed her down and told her that everyone in the town was with her. She had nothing to worry. Her husband informed Mike. Nobody bothered Diana with anything. They took care of all the formalities.

And then when she went for the prayer meeting at the town hall, she was astounded. It was full of people which is when she realized how much that town and its people loved them. People came forward and spoke about Tony, about his contribution to the community and especially the school. The fact that they had not been natives but had still done so much for the community spoke volumes about the character and integrity of the couple. It spoke about the goodness of their heart. By the end of it, there wasn’t a single dry eye in the hall. Diana was extremely touched.

Once everything got over, Mike wanted to take his mother with him to New York. He didn’t want to leave her alone, but then Irene stepped in. She knew her friend and what was in her mind. She told him that much as his sentiments were to be appreciated, he had to understand that Diana’s life was now in this little town. It was her home, and that is how it was going to be. She told him that it would be grossly unfair on his part to uproot her once again to take her to a new place. She could not be expected to start afresh at the age of sixty-two.

She had friends who were like family and who would take care of her. He did not have to worry about her at all. Mike understood Irene’s point and decided not to pressurize his mother. Diana continued to live in the house that she and Tony had built with so much love and affection.

And now she still lives there, goes to the school in the mornings, goes for walks with Irene in the evening. She does a video call with her son and her grandchildren every day. She is happy and content.

And today, I Jenny Thomas have come to give her a cheque for the royalty of her book.

I ask her one last question, ‘Is there anything that you would like to change about your life?’

She looks at me and says,’ No, nothing, I wouldn’t want to change anything at all.’

I take her leave and walk up to my car to go back to Zurich.

The book has done amazingly well, and excerpts from it have been published in magazines and newspapers. The story has touched a chord with people, and at the age of sixty-two, Diana has once again become a celebrity. And this time in a country which isn’t the country of her birth!!

Isn’t that incredible!!

2 comments On In the Autumn of her Life – Part 2

  • Diana’s life is exemplary. I loved her life story. She made so many sacrifices. I read the biography so many times. I read every word of it & could not put it down till I had completed. Such an interesting & fasinating life so beautifully portrayed! Excellent Sangeeta

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