On 9th November 2012, Mrs Uma, wife of an officer in the Indian Air Force at Trivandrum filed an FIR at the Peroorkada Police Station, Trivandrum as follows:
“My father Shri T.R. Narayanan, 80 years, who was staying with me in Trivandrum at Planning Board Lane, Rajalakshmi Nagar, Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram has been missing since 8th November 2012. He is a dementia patient and has no clear memory; consequently he is under essential, regular medication. He went out for a walk on 8th November in the afternoon between 12.30 and 1 pm. He has not returned till date”
Narayanan was the second son of M V Ramaswamy Iyer and Ranganayakki who were agriculturists owning more than 400 acres of paddy land at Palakkad, Kerala. They gave employment to many people and also personally toiled to produce paddy and other agricultural commodities. That was the time Kerala embraced the communist rule (first time in the world a communist government was democratically elected). Ramaswamy Iyer lost the entire 400 acres of land in the ‘communist revolution’ when the ‘tiller became the owner’. On a fine day he became landless. He was not in a position to fight a legal battle. He died when his son Narayanan was just 11 years old. As the entire family property of many generations was lost, Narayanan started going for stenography classes immediately after completing his matriculation. He travelled to Bombay in search of a job. As he couldn’t get a proper job, he reached Bangalore and later got placed in the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. He brought his younger sister and mother to Bangalore and took up the responsibility of the education and marriage of his sister. He got married to Saroja and had two children Uma and Vidya. His wife died when he was 57.
Narayanan was a source of inspiration for his daughters throughout his life. Once both of them got married, he chose to stay alone without disturbing any of the daughters. He cooked himself, did gardening, maintained the house and enjoyed his old age. He used to go and stay with his daughters for a few days during festivals and birthdays. He was proud and confident being healthy and independent. But the daughters noticed something strange soon. He started forgetting the names of the close relatives. He lost the way to the house of his daughter. He forgot his own landline number.
Daughters of Narayanan quickly realized the need for a panic button. Narayanan was losing his memory very rapidly. Narayanan was staying with his daughter Uma at Trivandrum till the morning of 8th Nov 2012, the day he was found missing. The details were published in newspapers. Announcements were made in Doordarshan and a local channel. Daughters met the Chief Minister at his residence and handed over a written petition seeking his help to trace their father. Meanwhile an auto driver reported that he saw the missing person crossing the road at PMG junction with the help of a Policeman on a particular day. From the CCTV footage at the traffic signal the policeman identified Narayanan. Frantic searches were made in all possible directions across Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Posters were put up at prominent locations and letters were sent to all old age homes and Ashrams.
After several months, a letter was received from the ‘Home of Hope’ a charitable organization run by a person called ‘Auto Raja’ at Bangalore confirming that Bangalore Police had handed over Mr Narayanan to them on 10th November 2012 and he had a peaceful death at their home on 23rd November. Narayanan was found sitting alone in the Marathahalli Ring Road (Narayanan had lived in the house in that location for about 40 years) and a conscientious passer-by reported that to the police after it was found that he was unable to recall the address of his daughters. He was just mumbling ‘my daughter…my daughter’. The people from the ‘Home of Hope’ cremated him on 24th November 2012 as per the Hindu rites seeing his poonal. They had taken the picture of Mr Narayanan on the day of arrival and also of his body after he was no more.
Friends, be aware...
Next time when you see a person sitting lonely on the street, remember he could be a person who had lost his memory and yearning to get united with his/her dear ones! Naryanan’s two daughters, Uma and Vidya were devastated when they heard that their loving dad had roamed on all streets in Trivandrum and Bangalore looking for the houses of his daughters. Imagine the plight of a person who had lost his memory and unable to find his way to sweet home!
Dementia or the specific disorder called Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, a progressive brain cell death. As per the World Alzheimer Report 2013, ‘nearly half of the 101 million dependent older people in the world are living with and experiencing the effects of dementia’.
The WHO Dementia report estimated that ‘there are 7.7 million new cases of dementia each year, implying that there is a new case of dementia somewhere in the world every four seconds’. It calls for the following:
- promoting a dementia-friendly society globally;
- making dementia a national public health and social care priority worldwide;
- improving public and professional attitudes to, and understanding of, dementia;
- investing in health and social systems to improve care and services for people with dementia and
- increasing the priority given to dementia in the public health research agenda.
(One can read the full report here: http://www.who.int/mental_health/publications/dementia_report_2012/en/ )
Narayanan has gone for ever. But we have a few angels like Auto Raja who serve hundreds of destitute people who have stranded on the streets of our cities.
After knowing about the above incident from Vidya, daughter of Narayanan, I was curious to know more about the person called Auto Raja who took care of her father and given him a dignified funeral. I found out his address and spent two days with him to know about his great service. You can read about that (along with a short film) in another article. (click here to read)
(c) Sibichen K Mathew