“Om is the first word I taught him; he can now speak ten words.”
The pride in the voice is unmistakable, and it might sound like a toddler’s mother speaking, but this is Kamala Laxman, wife of veteran cartoonist R.K. Laxman. After a stroke in June left Mr. Laxman’s speaking ability severely affected, his wife has been helping him recover his voice, one word at a time.
The creator of ‘The Common Man’ was admitted to Pune’s Command Hospital on Friday. He hasn’t been able to speak or swallow after the stroke and has been living in his house in Pune after he was discharged from Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital a fortnight ago.
Mr. Laxman was brought to the hospital after he complained that the nasal tube, fitted to provide food, was uncomfortable. It was replaced with a tube fitted directly to his stomach by a process called Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy. The operation, which lasted half an hour, was performed on Saturday by Senior Advisor (Medicine and Gastroenterology) Colonel V.K. Gupta.
Speaking to journalists at the hospital on Monday, Colonel Gupta said the operation had been smooth and that Mr. Laxman would be discharged in a day. “The tube in the stomach is wider, which will allow more nutrition to go in. His condition is stable and there is no cause for worry. He even sketched today,” he said.
Ms. Laxman (84) said: “He is 88 and yet he is very sharp. He communicates with me through gestures and writes notes. Due to the nasal feeding for the last two months, he has become half his size. The doctors have told me that he will be able to talk. So I am arranging for a speech therapist to help him from Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital.”
Saying that taking care of him has been “like bringing up a child once again,” Ms. Laxman said: “I help him draw and write. I have been helping him to walk a bit as well, but I don’t think it is advisable for him.”
She added that the constant stress had taken a toll on her health as well.
“Compared to the stroke in 2003, which left him paralysed on the left side, this has been a much more traumatic experience for me. I have not thought about myself for the last two months now,” she told The Hindu. “It is unfortunate that a speaker like him has to lose his voice. He leaves people roaring with laughter every time.”
Stating that calls from relatives flowed in after watching television reports that Mr. Laxman had suffered another stroke, she said it was important that the right news reached people.
“He is a favourite among so many people. The Hindu, too, is like family,” Ms. Laxman said, adding that he has had a long and close association with the newspaper.