Those Cruel Twilight Years

I was paying a visit to my dear nonagenarian aunt who was suffering from old age diseases. She was a widow and could still remember her momentous incidents long back in Dacca and Kolkata. However, memories of the recent happenings seemed to elude her. She drew me close to her and whispered ” will you now reside with me in my house for there is still a big room kept locked only for you. These are the keys”. She flaunted them tucked away neatly in her well managed skirt.
Any visitor to her flat would be greeted by the same request while tears rolled down her cheeks. She was oblivious of the fact that that she had already handed over the big mansion built by her husband, a renowned civil engineer, to a promoter only to be alloted few small flats instead.

She was a very kind lady and wielded lot of power since my uncle was posted outside of the state most of the time. While managing the household affairs she would devote lot of time to studies. When she earned school and college degrees at unbelievably ripe old ages it was a matter of celebration for all of us and the local press circulated such incredible feat widely for emulation.
But alas the impending inevitable death seemed not to care a fig for her robust past performance nevertheless.

I have closely observed this feeling of helplessness at the fag end of a life during my service in Banks. While many such heartrending tales would require the entire space of this newspaper let me restrict to few such incidents worth relating.
Being a manager of a nationalised bank my job was, among others, close interaction with the super senior customers assuring prompt and personalised services. An well known octogenarian customer having illustrious past records of sports activities would visit the branch and always call me by his sofa seat side only to discuss his personal problems seeking my help to withdraw money and return home safely. That his hard earned money was very safe in our custody was writ large on his face. We could well realise much to our embarrassment though that bankers could only provide him the necessary solace and support desperately solicited even though he had well established offsprings and wielded lot of power and responsibilities during his extra ordinary sports activities.

Another incident will remain ever etched on my memory. A gentleman of like age would often call me over the phone enquiring ” what is the balance in my account” –
though very polite the voice was confident and smacked of a British accent spoken with much clarity which might only be expected from a person holding a high and eminent position. I could not but respond to his request without any demur. He would then send a bearer with a cheque for encashment. But his signature at such a ripe old age had already begun to shrink and we can still shudder to remember having passed such cheques bearing little resemblance to our records. It was, as it were, almost like a child’s meaningless scrawl. Considering his illustrious academic and service career we could not request him either to withdraw the cheque facility and take recourse to thumb impression instead.

He was very close to me and we shared past experiences to our fill. He would contribute in these columns in the prime of his life. Another bright example of someone having a glorious past awaiting his destined end almost in desperation and helplessness seeking bank help in full faith when there was no dearth of close relations.

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