Signs Of The Times from Faizan Ahmad Sofi to Alzheimer’s

By Humra Quraishi

Sitting absolutely shocked and devastated seeing those shots of 12 year old Srinagar based  school boy Faizan Ahmad Sofi .This child had been  recently arrested by the police on those various charges of sedition and stone pelting , and now finally released on bail .

Can a  child actually attack the State ! Maybe he was  a bystander or quite simply provoked by the crowd . Is arresting him the sane way to settle the so called  rebellious streak  ! Couldn’t he  be treated in a humane way ! Couldn’t be counseled and not treated as though  he was a top criminal  or to put it in more  fashionable terms a ‘dreaded terrorist .’ Could a child  terrorize the State machinery !

That look on his young face speaks volumes of the third class tactics used by the cops. That hapless cum traumatized expression on his  face  disturbs , haunts ,unsettles ,saddens, heaps sorrow …for that expression relays so many of those vital offshoots .Foremost, the complete helplessness of the  average citizen against the State machinery . Together with that, that underlying fact that even children are not spared by the brutal system .Yes , the State has the power to ruin the very innocence , the  very childhood of a child .

Where are the  heads and tails of all the commissions and committees and ministries , which are set up to supposedly  monitor the welfare of the being ! Today , the situation is so grim that its  difficult to  protest even in a non – violent way .What happened to the Arvind Kejriwal led protests in New Delhi  last Sunday ? Why were unarmed protestors  lathi – charged and attacked ! How does one protest !

Whilst on Kejriwal I must say that he is using the right political strategies by attacking both the  Congress and the Right Wing .Yes, he is intruding into the political terrain .And why not ! Let his led intrusions fill in this vacuum – this vacuum between the  masses and the rulers,  I have been writing about  all along .


Though I have been writing on the  Alzheimer’s Disorder ( AD )  ever since my father was struck by this disorder and died in 1996 , after battling with it for eight  long years. Perhaps , I want to offload my guilt , not being there for him for a considerable stretch when he needed me the utmost .And with that in the background or foreground I ‘m trying my utmost to try spread awareness about this disorder,  by writing about it .And as the World Alzheimer’s Day approaches – 21 September – I am once again focusing  on this disorder .And this year  two positives do stand out.

But before that , let me focus on those basics to AD . ‘ In realistic terms this disorder can be explained by loss of memory cells . AD is a progressive, degenerative disorder / disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms of AD include a gradual loss of memory, decline in the ability to perform routine tasks, disorientation with regard to time and space, impairment of judgement, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language and communication skills. As with all dementias, the rate of progression in Alzheimer’s patients varies from case to case…This incurable, degenerative and terminal disease is generally diagnosed in people over 65 years of age. An estimated 26.6 million people worldwide were afflicted with Alzheimer’s in 2006 .This number may quadruple by 2050. However, there is no evidence that women are at an increased risk than men. The earliest observable symptoms are often mistaken to be age-related concerns or manifestations of stress. Alzheimer’s develops for an indeterminate period of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. And because it is degenerative, the management of patients is of utmost importance and the role of the caregiver becomes extremely crucial.’

Now coming to the two positives ,which have emerged only recently .Though there’s little to  no cure  to harness the  dying memory cells  but Dr . Pravat Mandal of the National  Brain Research Centre ( Manesar , Gurgaon ) does claim to detect the onset of this disorder by special MRI s .He concedes that there’s little permanent cure for the dying or shrinking  memory cells  but , yes , the process maybe slowed down – that is decay cum shrinkage  of the dying memory cells maybe slowed down . To quote him – ‘ Alzheimer’s disorder stats much earlier than the actual symptoms are seen with a person. This actual process can be seen through brain imaging (MRI and MRS ) .The MRI/MRS method is fool proof and no radiation and no surgery, no blood work is required…’

And the other positive that I’m seeing and sensing  is that more and more of us are talking about this  disorder  and with that becoming better caregivers .In fact, the  very support of the immediate  family is of crucial significance And with this the role  of the caregiver is of utmost importance . So much so that there are many who quip this basic one liner – the actual victim of  AD  is not the patient but the caregiver, because the patient isn’t really aware of what’s been happening and is solely dependant on the caregiver.

There could be several such dedicated care givers .Recently I came across academic Asha Puri who looked after her Alzheimer’s struck mother .She tells me- ‘My mother’s name was Raj, Dr. Mrs. Raj Puri, nee Charnalia. She had a very strong personality and an abiding faith that she retained till the end.

Though she lost her parents when she was very young, at fourteen when her uncle suggested she get married she decided that she wanted to study and become a doctor. She said the money for her wedding should be used for her studies. She studied at Amritsar Medical College and came second in United Punjab. She lived intensely, was very active and took life as it came. She was very open, very rational and very caring.

Her approach to life was positive, she never let things get her down and was very practical. Even after she learnt she had Alzheimer’s she initially used her repetitiveness to teach English / …’ Asha also adds that she and her sister had to ‘reinvent our lives’ , to be there as caretakers for their mother – ‘ I had to leave my job at the University.

My sister and I had to reinvent our lives, create an extended family of nurses, helpers, medical support etc and learn not only about Alzheimer’s but how to deal with the other associated problems. Then there was the medication. Allopathic medicine did not hold out much hope and we looked at alternative systems, Ayurveda in particular. Here too, finding the genuine doctor required research.You have got to change your  lifestyle and thinking .Stand back and review your life. Then look for practical solutions. If you can, get as much help as you can, treat help like family and if there are children around create as much intergenerational contact as possible. The most important thing is to create a routine taking into account the requirements the loss of faculties engenders. Second, get as much information as possible. Three, join support groups and talk. Don’t try to obfuscate and wish things away. Accept them, and look for solutions. With a little thought, there is always something that can be done.’

Leaving you with these lines of  the well known poet – writer of the country , Kamala Das. These lines of Kamala Das – titled-Alzheimer’s…

‘Alzheimer’s disease/
is a spider /
deadlier even than /
the tarantula /
It weaves its web/
within the brain /
a web rugged like /
and thought-proof//
My mother/
For seven years had/
It looked through her eyes /
although she was silent /
as a safe/
plundered bare./
emptied of memories./
her disease talked/
Like a Bhuddhist monk /
it said /
life is sorrow.’


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