What is love without sacrifice?

Salil froze when he saw the text. That was the one message he hoped he’d never receive ever since he left home as a 19-year-old.

Despite all these years abroad, Salil had always been very connected and attached to his family. He would call his parents diligently every week on Saturday mornings to update them about his life. They would celebrate his achievements over video calls and inspire him to do even better. His parents were a rare breed with no demands for him to return to the country, get married or take family holidays together. They believed once they had given him the wings to fly, he was the master of his own destiny.

And, flown he had, across the seven seas to unravel the mysteries of the human brain. His research and findings were world-renowned and that’s why people from the world over wanted to pick his brains. On one such trip to Iceland, he made his usual video call home and his father answered.

“Where’s ma, Papa?” asked Salil. “She’s frantically looking for her wardrobe keys all over the house. She can’t seem to remember where she kept them,” he said. Both men laughed and pulled her leg a little more when she finally came to say hello. For the first time, she was distracted when speaking to Salil. He noticed but didn’t voice it.

In the following weeks, Salil got very busy and couldn’t call up his parents for almost a month. This was the first time in years he hadn’t spoken to them. He had faith they were both doing well until he got the dreadful text: “We need you back home.” His father hardly ever sent a message, leave alone such an abrupt one.

Salil immediately called his father. The septuagenarian spoke with a quiver in his voice, “It’s the onset of Alzheimer’s, son. She is losing track of things and having trouble remembering names, too.”  Salil felt guilty for the first time for not going back home in the last seven years. He was so engrossed in his own life.

He boarded the first available flight to India. When he reached home, he saw his mother standing with a blank look on the face. Instead of hugging him, she just stared at him with a faraway look. Salil broke internally.

Ironically, there was little he could do even as a neuroscientist, but a whole lot of good as a son. This was his chance to repay his debt of gratitude towards his mother. All this while, he had only received from his parents—their love, understanding, and unconditional support. It was time to give.

Just like that, he wrapped up his life in the US and moved back home to take care of his mother just like she did for her son all these years.


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