The Yayati Syndrome

The Yayati Syndrome

The other day, I went to see my ninety-seven-year-old friend, Subhadra. I walked past the front garden, under an avocado tree laden with early fruit and a mango tree all shiny with rain-washed leaves and raw mangoes. My friend had adorned the garden with a clay figure of a colourful elf mounted on a small hillock. Marigold and asters, red and white Easter lilies turned the small compound into a kind of idyllic paradise. School children on their way home would stand at the gate to gape at the wonderful park-like space forbidden to them.

My friend was curled up on her bed, her face turned to the wall. Nearby stood her walker, her stick and her worn-out footwear. It was a well-kept room thanks to the housekeeper, with a TV, a sofa set and a book case full of books.

She woke up to my voice and sat up, a frail shrunken figure. She held out both her hands to me. After a smile and a greeting she started on her aches and pains. It was quite a list of her sufferings during the day and she spoke of her insomnia at night. I thought she looked tired and fed up with life and wanted to call it quits. She kept repeating, ‘What shall I do, what shall I do. I used to read, knit, embroider and garden and now I cannot do any of these things. What shall I do?’

Of course she was no Yayati, sunk in sensory pleasures. On the contrary, she seemed quite disillusioned with life. I wanted to cheer her up and bring her out of her depression. I tried hard to think of something and to my astonishment I heard myself saying, ‘You’ll live up to a hundred years, Subbi.’

At once I saw the gleam and glint in her eye. In spite of all her aches and pains she wanted to live up to a hundred years. In this sense everyone is a Yayati.