“The day’s light fades out like the life outside the window” ... these lines from poet Balachandran Chullikkad’s work Sandarshanam randomly came to my mind as I entered a by-lane from Padamugal-Kunnumpuram Junction in Kakkanad and reached Signature Aged Care.
Silence has overwhelmed this centre where veteran filmmaker K G George, who left an indelible imprint on Malayalam films through his immortal works, spent the dawn of his life.
Everything is as usual here, just like the sedate rhythm of life. The chill brought in by the overnight rains still lingers on the flower-bearing plants outside. K G George, Malayalam’s favourite filmmaker, was one of the 75 inmates staying here at the fag end of their lives.
George was admitted to the Signature in 2018 after suffering from a stroke. In the early days, he would amble in and around here with the help of a walker; as if making the baby steps in his second childhood. He would spend the first two years watching movies and welcoming guests by cracking jokes. The media too would often visit him for interviews.
His conversations would feature the stories from the days when he had accompanied his father to paint the trucks of Kulathungal Pothan to that of the Italian master filmmaker Frederico Fellini. All his conversations followed a sedate note, enunciating each word repeatedly in case of a voice crack. His health, however, worsened further over the past couple of years. The pandemic period turned out to be a completely isolating experience for him. Having developed difficulty in swallowing or drinking even a drop of water, a tube was put through the throat. The memories slowly began to fade away behind the curtain (yavanika).
“We do not call this institution an old age home. People who undergo various life conditions, including Alzheimer’s, reach here in search of a peaceful evening of their lives. Everybody wishes for a death without excruciating pain. Hence, we accord priority to palliative care,” said Joseph Alex, who helms the signature project.
Joseph gave scant regard when false reports began doing the rounds through social media that K G George had been spending the final phase of his life in a destitute home and there was no one to take care of him. Neither did Joseph give any responses to it.
“People who come here know us very well. We used to celebrate George sir’s birthdays here. Several filmmakers such as Renji Panicker, B Unnikrishnan, Shaji Kailas, Anto Joseph, etc used to drop in here to meet him,” he added.
The final page of the office register here mentions his address merely as K G George, Film Director. In fact, K G George is the 319th inmate of Signature to meet a peaceful end to his life.
As I climb down the steps, more lines from Sandarshanam begin to echo in my ears. “It’s time to leave... the shadows of night we parted ways a long time ago”