The film 50 first dates narrated the story of Henry Roth, a vet (Adam Sandler) who falls in love with a Hawaiian girl, Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), only to realise she has anterograde amnesia – her memory lasts just for a day. And yet, the screenplay of how he tries to make her fall in love with him every single day in a different way had spectators in tears.
Here’s a story of a real-life Henry Roth with a few exceptions. Meet 83-year-old Botany professor from Kolkata Pabitra Nandi, who meticulously planned every small detail of his second marriage that took place yesterday.
Don’t be mistaken; it was his second marriage with his own wife of 55 years, an 81-year-old retired doctor Gita Nandi, who struggles every single day with a failed memory.
The doctor, who could once remember her patients at the tip of her tongue six months post-treatment, failed to recognise her relatives after the onset of Alzheimer’s, seven years ago.
In an attempt to help Gita remember the day the couple married almost five decades ago against her family’s wish, Pabitra decided to re-enact their marriage the same way, at the suggestion of Gita’s doctor.
Dedicatedly putting thought and action together for seven days, he managed to recreate every detail as the couple exchanged varmalas (garlands) at their Rabindranagar residence at Dum Dum.
Speaking to the Times of India, he recalls how the couple married at the same ancestral house 55 years ago, in the presence of a sole witness, Gita’s cousin.
“We fell in love against her parents’ wishes. She used to attend my tuition classes, and I got drawn towards her. Maybe her parents perhaps wanted to marry her off to someone rich and successful, not a botany professor,” he recounted.
After marriage, Gita continued to pursue her passion – medicine and became a doctor in three years.
After a successful career in medicine, she worked in the social sector. Post her retirement from B R Singh Hospital; she even joined politics where she was nominated the chairman-in-council for the municipality. It was around this time that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
When she initially spoke to Pabitra about forgetting things on a usual day, he let it go thinking it was a regular age-related issue. Only when it got worse, did he sense their world was slowly crumbling.
It wasn’t long enough till Gita forgot every memory she had.
Ever since Pabitra has been trying multiple ways to help her recall their long life together. Heeding doctor’s advice, Pabitra even took Gita to their ancestral place in Bangladesh, but it didn’t work.
The botany professor still didn’t lose hope and continued to fight for his wife.
They may have no kids, but the couple used all their savings and set up a charitable trust to help underprivileged students. The first floor of their two-storey house lays vacant to carry forward the trust’s work.
Gita has her own good and bad days that Pabitra struggles with.
Even though the uncertainty of death scares him, one thing helps him push through – Gita’s smile.
“Fear grips me at times. Both of us have grown old. What happens if I am unable to take care of her? But when I see the hint of a smile in her eyes, I forget every fear,” he tells TOI.
In-set feature image credit: Times of India