Annie is desperate; with her permission, I would like to share her story with you. If you can help her, she will be very thankful. She lives with her son Aneesh and his wife Martha. Annie has had a strange sickness for several months now. She watches TV past 11.00pm until she falls asleep. Sometime around midnight she has terrible dreams followed by severe chest pain and rapid heartbeats. She feels her heart is bursting. She gets terrible fits of shivering and sweating mimicking classic symptoms of a heart attack. After this, either Aneesh or Martha has to come to sleep in her room, and then she settles down and sleeps well. Aneesh has taken her to a series of doctors, general physicians, cardiologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists, ENTs, and finally to psychiatrists who told her she is a hypochondriac. Aneesh took that also as just another diagnosis which really does not matter. After extensive investigations and countless ECGs, EGGs, CAT and MRI scans, all sorts of blood tests and hormone screenings she is found to be as fit as a fiddle. No symptoms of her disease appear if either Aneesh or Martha sleeps with her in her room. No abnormalities were detected but she takes volumes of medication and is more often sick. Aneesh does not discuss her sickness with her, but when she complains he promptly calls for a taxi and takes her to a new doctor every time. She loves the change in doctors. She does not want her only son, Aneesh, to move out her house. Aneesh and his wife Martha had plans to move house. Aneesh is 31 and has never lived away from home, even while studying. He completed his studies in and around the city where they live. Even after his marriage two years ago, he continued to live with Mom. He is a very quiet person, very obedient and never gives any trouble to his mother. He was always a caring son. He shared the same room with his mother all his life until his marriage. Now that he is thinking of shifting home, Annie wants to believe Martha is behind this move but she corrects herself quickly that Martha is more caring and dearer to her than Aneesh. Martha is more than a daughter, so gentle and loving in all her ways. Martha is practically an orphan; both her parents died early. She has no siblings. That was a special attraction Annie had for Martha. Like her son, Martha is also a single child. She is extraordinarily quiet, very decorous and polished in her behavior, gentle to the core with sad eyes and slow movements.. Her uncles and aunts are all in the United States. One cousin, who is a nun, lives in India. That cousin visits Martha once in a year around Christmas. Martha’s birthday is on December 26th; her cousin usually arrives on the 20th and leaves on the 26th after the birthday celebration, usually a dinner at a hotel of Annie’s choice. Annie is Martha’s best friend. Aneesh is a very private person, kind and soft spoken. He has no bad habits such as smoking or alcohol drinking. He is a voracious reader and more of an academic. He works as a lecturer in computer science in a nearby technical college. He is a loner. Though he has some friends among his colleagues none are close friends. Aneesh does not watch TV whereas Annie is practically in front of the TV most of the day and up to 11 in the night. Aneesh spends some time with BBC That is his contact with the outside world at large. He has strong opinions on Israel, Iraq and Iran. Other than that Aneesh has his college trips and his books. They visit no one and no one in particular pays them visits except the parish priest when the church is in need of financial contributions. After making a contribution, Aneesh feels he has done his duty towards his religion and that is the end of his connection with his church. On the other hand, Annie is an ardent churchgoer and she sees to it that the family gives to the church rather lavishly. When Annie compels, Aneesh accompanies her to church. In any case, Martha would be ready even before Annie gets ready for the church practically everyday at 6.15 am. Although Aneesh is a good driver, invariably, Annie drives for the church trips. For her that is some sort of donation for the church. Annie’s family is proudly held up as an ideal Christian family unit by the Rev. Fr. Vicar and no one disagrees. Now Aneesh wants to move out. He has already bought a place and is about to move. Annie is desperate. Since the death of her husband some 29 years ago, Aneesh has been the only focus for Annie. Her husband, John, died 7 months after Aneesh was born. He was a premature baby and Annie didn’t go in for a second marriage though her family insisted on it for almost 20 years. “I had enough married life” was her one-liner whenever someone broached the subject. No one knew beyond that but obviously there was more to it than was said. Her husband John according to her was a sex fiend; It was an endurance test for her especially when she was sick with a bad pregnancy. John died 7 months after Aneesh was born and Annie firmly believes untimely departure was due to overindulgence. He died on a Sunday at 8.39 pm. By the time, Annie realized it was something serious he was gone. She was in the bathroom for perhaps 3 or 4 minutes when she heard a grunt and stirring. She did not think much of it. When she heard a definite distressed sound, she rushed back and found John in profuse sweat. She hollered and raised the neighborhood and even before they reached the hospital some ten minutes away, John was gone. Annie has no definite recollections of the next few months. John’s elder sister, Jessy, came to live with her after John was gone, and took care of everything including the bank balance. When Annie got wiser to what was going on, she gathered courage to pack Jessy off and take charge of her own life. She was angry and penniless. Her anger brought back the determination to live and give her son a life. Fortunately for her, John’s terminal benefits arrived from his employers only after his sister had left. Even though Jessy’s name appeared as the sole beneficiary in the papers, the company attorney smelled a rat and sorted out the whole thing. These events strongly motivated Annie to get a firm hold on things. She was no more a helpless widow though only 25 then. But by then she had learned to distrust everyone and keep away from all relatives. She singlehandedly brought up Aneesh, managed what was left of John’s ancestral property, selling off practically all of it except the house and a sizable piece of land in Jessy’s possession. Now Aneesh has to take care of it, but if he is planning to move out she doubts whether he will have the fight left in him to recover his inheritance from the wily aunt. Annie is desperate. She does not know why he wants to move. She has always been a doting mother. She lives for him. If she wanted a life for herself, she could have walked away thirty years back. She decided against it for his sake. Now at 56, nothing beckons her to go on. Aneesh wants to move. “Can you believe it? He bought a flat almost six months back and I didn’t know about it! 31 years of untold misery and unspeakable suffering, cheated by relatives, chased by flesh hungry wolves, lonely and fearful I have survived, not for my sake, never a day for myself. Now I have this terrible sickness and he wants to move out with his wife. Martha is a gentle person; gentle as a doe. Or is she a quiet Leopard? Honestly, I do not know. I have known human nature and what all it is capable of. But I felt Aneesh is different. He is different. Is it Martha? I have no clue. Both of them are so quiet, nothing escapes their lips. How can two people be so alike? Is this my Aneesh? Honestly, I do not understand anything. I am desperate.” Annie halted for breath. Annie says she is afraid for Aneesh. She wants to keep him in her sights always, especially in the nights. She is afraid something will happen to him if she lets him out of her sight. He might have a heart attack like his father. His father had the heart attack because of overindulgence. So she is afraid of the same thing happening to Aneesh. That is a real petrifying fear in her. She cannot help it and she is desperate, she kept repeating. I tell you this so that you may think about Annie and her situation and come up with some suggestions. Thousands go through life in more trying circumstances. I want you to be aware of that and have a heart for those who suffer like Annie. Is Annie at fault? If not who is at fault? Would Aneesh own up responsibility? Is he really at fault? What is the role of Martha in it all? What would you suggest to Annie? How would you go about it? Think.

© Alex Mathew


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