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December 11, 2020 Friday 10:05:16 AM IST

The Professor Who Got Scared of Alzheimer's!

Guest Column

 Professor Devendran Nair returned home in the evening and straight away plunged into his old telephone book and diary. He was seen frantically searching his personal email and My Documents folder on his laptop.

"I am not getting his name. One Professor Narayan or it must be Sampath or does it start with C?" His wife Rudrani, a PSU bank employee had just returned from work and was surprised at his behavior.  "Relax dear, have a cup of tea, what's the problem?" 

Suddenly, Prof Devendran's phone beeped and it was a Whatsapp message from his colleague Shirley that two more experts they had invited will not be available for the December 17th webinar.  "This is getting on my nerves. What to tell the Director and the VC?," Prof Devendran was called by his shorter name SD Nair or SDN by his colleagues as he felt Devendran despite being a supreme lord in Hindu pantheon was an old name!

Meanwhile, his colleague and newly appointed Asst Prof Shafeeque called. "Sir, you had mentioned about an IIT professor to be contacted, could you give his contact info?"

However best he tried, Prof SD Nair couldn't recall the name. " Am I forgetting everything, Shall I call you back?" and hanged up his phone.

And he plunged into his easy chair in despair. His daughter Alakananda came asking for an OTP for an online payment made by her on his account. He said he can't remember any OTPs!  "Dad, you don't have to remember just show your mobile!"

Meanwhile, Rudrani went upstairs to tell their son Mithun that something was going wrong with his father. Mithun was chatting with friends after a day-long online MBA classes and exams.

As they came down, Prof SD Nair quickly went to the bathroom and after some time came back without the shirts and vests on. "What happened to you, where is your shirt?" his children asked. The professor looked at his body and cried in despair, "What's happening to me, where is my shirt?"

Suddenly, Rudrani also felt a shock. Is my husband started on with Alzheimer’s? "I am forgetting everything. Today is... how many days more for the event?" Conducting webinars had put a lot of stress on the poor professor. This event was rescheduled twice to accommodate some key experts and if this date was to be extended, the Professor feared it will not take place. It was an important meet on 'Outcome-based learning in undergraduate science courses.'

" What is the issue mom?," Mithun quipped. He talked about forgetting a professor he met at a Delhi seminar. "Did he give any clues?" Seems to be an engineering college professor and belonged to Karnataka, Rudrani said. Mithun took his Dad's lap and found out the events he had gone in the past few years and was hopeful of finding a solution.

Meanwhile, the Professor started walking up and down the room. "Where is my mobile, who took it?" "Alaga," he shouted. "I told you not take my phone."  Alaga came running from the kitchen and was surprised as she had not taken the handset. Rudrani started crying. It was enough for her to conclude her better half was having Alzheimer’s!" She frantically called a few of her friends who expressed sympathy and gave the contact numbers of leading psychiatrists in town.  She quickly dialled those numbers but they were all busy attending Zoom Meetings and online consultations.

She began to think of a hero in the Mollywood movie who suddenly was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the agony the family went through. Meanwhile, he kept asking where he kept his mobile phone. They searched the table, chairs, bed... it was not to be found! With tears Rudrani called her husband's close friends, her colleagues in the bank. They all consoled her, what else they can do!  Rudrani recalled that despite being elevated to Professor and Dean of Quality Assurance  in Chemistry last year, her husband was going through tough times. The accreditation procedures and inspections (the fact that college had dropped one grade previously), online classes and new Covid exam protocols, the need to conduct several webinars, the institutional leadership which put the entire blame on faculty when things go wrong had all compounded his miseries.

Meanwhile, Alakananda recalled that a brother of her close friend was doing final year MD Psychiatry at NIMHANS Bangalore. Dr Suraj had also visited their home a few times before his NIMHANS entry. He was busy with hospital duties and examinations but offered to help. He came on video call and chatted with the Professor. "Relax. Uncle, nothing to worry," Dr Suraj said. "Where are you now?" He looked around the place and said "At home?" Dr Suraj told Rudrani to get him a glass of juice. He didn't even have a glass of water after getting home. "Great, so you went to college today?" "Yes!" "Whom did you meet first in college?" It was not difficult to recall!

As he parked his car and came out of the garage, he had seen the beautiful Sharanya, the new Assistant Professor, wearing a bright yellow sari and was looking really good. It was her birthday and she offered sweets straight away on seeing him. Thereafter, he slowly began to recall the incidents one by one..

Meanwhile, Mithun had stumbled upon a few names by searching the event details and panelists who had attended the Delhi meet. He checked the Linkedin and FB accounts of his father. He zeroed in on a few suspects. He showed those to his father. "Yes, there it is- Dr Shankara Narayana Murthy, Hon. Professor of Manipal Institute of Technology!" Meanwhile, mother and daughter duo were also searching for his mobile. And suddenly the mobile rang but it was ringing from the bathroom!
After a while, the professor seemed alright and Dr Suraj agreed to call again later in the night. He had a nice bath and they had dinner together. Soon, there was good news from the college too. Prof Shafeeque called in to say that some of the experts including Dr SN Murthy had confirmed the participation and there was sufficient numbers now.

But the Professor's mobile continued to ring as his worried colleagues and students were eager to know if everything was alright. However, as usual, he didn't forget to take a dig at his wife, 'You flashed this news to everyone and made me a laughing stock, how will I face them tomorrow?"

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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