For a heartbeat, a lifetime of devotion triumphed over dementia’s raging incursion. As the opening bars of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ to mark the end of this year’s Republic Day Parade in Delhi drifted from the television, my 89-year-old father started and then attempted to stand up on legs that no longer quite work. Somewhere inside a mind whose circuits have almost been obliterated by dementia, the old soldier knew that this was his country’s song and that he had to stand to attention.
He isn't perfect. But in the 30-odd years he was an officer in the Indian Air Force and the decades since, commitment to India and its people were the values he lived by. And one of those values was to stand to attention for the national anthem.
Once, a few years after he retired, we were at an event in my school. The school band struck up the national anthem, not to signal the end of proceedings, but as part of their repertoire. And like a shot, my dad was on his feet; this drew some strange looks, but we all followed. I squirmed then at the unwelcome attention that came our way. But now, whenever I think about that incident, it’s pride I feel, dusted with a pinch of shame for having squirmed back then.
And that is what I breathed into his ear a few days ago. Hoping that somewhere inside what lingers of his mind a cluster of neurons would fire and let him know how very proud I am of him and how much of the good there is in me is largely because of him.