Srikanth Perinkulam

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Tag: Amma

Shasta

It’s about 2 AM and I am on a side bed in Sinai Hospital. Earlier today (yesterday) Meena and I brought into this world a sparkingly beautiful 7lb 5oz girl. I remember seeing Meena during the institute at TFI with some of her school kids and thinking she would be a wonderful mother one day. Eight years from then, as I see this little munchkin in the crib beside her, I am more than thankful for all that has led to this day. I’m thrilled beyond limits.

Tara, Zara, Agni, Annapurna were all front runners for the name. With our mutual love for the mountains and belief that the name should exude power and confidence, we eventually zeroed in on Shasta. I first came across the name on a Dirtbag diaries podcast – Flying Deep. I profusely liked the way it sounded and the fact that Mt. Shasta was a towering, potentially active volcano sealed the deal.

I’m psyched that we’re naming her after a mountain. While climbing up a peak or on the ridge, I always feel the eerie and calming sense of belonging. It always reminds me of days spent in the hospital living by the day…a mixed bag of memories I so wish, I didn’t have, yet I’m so thankful I do… Somewhere deep under I knew Amma wouldn’t make it. She’d been swinging in and out of consciousness for several months now. One of those lucky days in November 1999, her vitals seemed reasonably stable. She was longing for some fresh air and I was able to finagle one of the nurses to take us outdoors. We took amma on a wheelchair to the terrace of the hospital. It was a dark, chilly and breezy night. Hyderabad was just about wrapping up its Diwali celebrations. Far down where our vision could stretch, every now and then a rocket would shoot up and the fireworks would brighten up the sky. Amma was thrilled! As another waft of cold air blew on the terrace, amma clenched my fists and said “I’ve never been this high on the mountains. This is the most beautiful sun rise I’ve ever seen”. It didn’t take us a lot to figure out she was having yet another bout of hallucination. The last few months the medications were wrecking havoc. This time though on that terrace, I felt a sense of thankfulness. For this, was one of those moments when I could see that child-like sparkle in her eyes, something that would remain captured in my memories of her and something which I’d never see again…forever. From that day, Mountains and more so sunrise on those ridges took a whole different meaning.

A few days back, as we floated the name within the family circle, one of my cousin’s mentioned Shasta meant ‘teacher’ in Sanskrit. Meena and I met through a teaching fellowship and I thought it was pretty awesome that we ended up naming our kid – Shasta! Shasta, also happens to be a reference to a south Indian Hindu deity that my ancestors have long worshiped. All in all we seem to have appeased all generations!

For the middle name we decided to just leave it as R, depicting Ratna – amma’s name, Rajesh – a dear cousin of mine who committed suicide a few years back and Ramu anna – another cousin who very recently passed away fighting cancer. The hope is that we’re saliently reminded of them all through Shasta.

While I can’t quite foresee the future, I believe we do have in mind the kind of person we would like to raise. The world at this point in time has a lot of negative things going on. We hope as Shasta grows and develops a personality of her own, she does so much more than what we’ve done to bring in more positivity around her.

Bookmark:Is There Awareness Behind Vegetative States?

That day when we’re able to distinguish that line, I’d wish we’d figured this all out way back in 2000. It still bothers me that we weren’t able to figure out what was going on in that mind and if at all there was a communication happening…

Bookmark: Is There Awareness Behind Vegetative States?

Imagine that a loved one, let’s say your brother, has suffered a serious brain injury. After languishing in a coma, he finally “emerges”—that is, he cycles between sleep and wakefulness, yanks his hand away when it’s pricked, is startled by loud noises, and so on.

Memories

I get into my house, I believe from the side entrance. Looks like there’s nobody in there. It’s mildly windy. Possibly from an open window? There’s a barely audible calming music from MS coming out from the bedroom. As I walk in, I notice TVM in the bed cocooned in a blanket, her eye’s glazed and probing deep in thought. I gently tap her and ask her if everything’s okay. She turns around and I somehow know she’s thinking of Amma. Tears well up in her eyes as she asks if we did everything we could. I’m petrified. I don’t have an answer for her and I’m left standing there for a seemingly long time… All of a sudden I notice someone trying to open the window mesh and get the keys from the inside. Atchuth? I open the main door and see Nikhil, Sharath, Aparna and a few other kids. They say they’re back from Brueggers. I come back to the bedroom to check on TVM. She’s smiling as if nothing in the past really happened.

Wait. That doesn’t make any sense. There’s no Brueggers in Habsiguda. I haven’t been to a Brueggers myself. This can’t be real. I turn around and realize it’s 04:40am. Hop off the bed, into my yoga clothes and head to the kitchen. I’m insanely awake and fresh. As I work on different tasks in the kitchen the dream keeps playing in my mind…

Miss Me has long been saying I should write more about Amma. Unfortunately, most of my memories now only seem to be from her last few years in the hospital. Times mostly dabbled with pain…I barely recollect any memories of me growing up with her around. Memories need triggers and someday hopefully when they kick in, I’ll be able to recollect more of the good times I spent with her…If only I could get those back, I’d treasure them for life.