“What’s your plan for today, have you made a to do list for the week?”, my husband quizzed on a Monday and it suddenly made me giddy. For the last month I had been waiting endlessly trying to get a project, it felt like I was living the same day every day. It didn’t seem like things were going to change so I planned for some “me” time since nothing on that to-do list was getting ticked. Even though it had nothing to do with my career, I wanted to break that passive jinx of 20 days. “Everyone does it at some point so, why shouldn’t I?”, I thought to myself.
While everyone sneaks out occasionally to catch a movie on odd days to get supreme discounts, I decided to watch little surprise gem which was going to be in theatres for just a week. Luckily it was short enough to sneak from office for a while, and so the plan was made to watch a Marathi movie – Astu. I suppressed my guilt, headed on to the movie theatre where of course there were just 7 of us to watch this film while Salman bhai was attracting the rest to his black langot and yet another muscle flexing act in Sultan.
The story was about a man Appa, struggling with Alzheimer’s and the ripple effect it created through his family, especially his daughter Ira who looked after him. Since with time, he gets physically violent, Ira keeps him away from her home with a domestic help and visits him on weekends. On one of these weekends she arrives at his home to pick him up and take him to her place. On the way, they halt for a small errand that she needs to run. While she is away, Appa spots a huge elephant, and through the crowded market follows it long enough till the outskirts of the city. What follows is a beautiful rendition of a complicated relationship between the father and daughter. Ira’s guilt about having lost him this way, her anger for being the sole caretaker while her sister Devika lives in another city, far from this.
Dealing with a patient of Alzheimer’s can be exhausting enough, especially if it’s in the family and more so if its parents. She reminisces about the past when he was an eminent professor who had many accolades and was revered by everyone. His deep knowledge of Vedas and Puranas and his chanting of its verses would always silently play in her mind. She would be amazed at how much passion he had for these scriptures, for even though he struggled for daily conversations after his memory loss, he never forgot them. Even though she admired him, she also had suppressed anger for him for being so aloof and distanced while her mother was breathing her last. Her constant struggle with herself for feeling guilty about him while also feeling caged being his only caretaker, made her feel helpless.
Appa meanwhile lives with a poor gypsy couple Anta and Chanamma who own the elephant. Chanamma takes care of him like her own, and Appa starts wailing to her like a baby to his mother. Through a lot of struggle Appa’s family finally locate him through the police and Appa is reunited with Ira. While the movie was made very modestly, with no blaring background scores, or meaningless dialogues and songs, it was refreshing since it did not preach like say a Baghban in your face, to take care of parents. It gently put a thought out there, that at some point, we need to connect with our parents as humans. They too, could have made some mistakes, but its ok to let that go. Sometimes they too need to be eased out from the burden of being our parents and be themselves.
Time may not heal the pain, but if it could ease it a tad, it may truly be worth it.