Friday, October 30, 2015

An old lady's angst.

Lekha's friend was having her art gallery inaugurated by none other than the popular cine actor, Suresh Gopi, this evening. Padmavathy Amma, all of 78 yrs, had come by and I'd the privilege of giving company for her and my mom while her daughter-in-law attended the ceremony, along with Lekha.

I've always seen this elderly lady with a pleasant and smiling face who laughs at my PJs without reservations! But this evening, it was a different story altogether when she broke down narrating her harrowing existence in her son's house - she has two daughters older than the son. All are doing extremely well and the son is into business, built up on his dad's efforts. She'd lost her husband about 15 years back and the assets are on her and her son's names. Her statement, "He makes me sign a lot of papers and cheques without bothering to explain the purpose and I affix my signatures without any query because I'm yet to get over the trauma when he and his wife had made life hell for me for asking that question initially," was the one with which she began about her sorry plight.

She talked about her life as a complete stranger in her own house. Though they've domestic helps, she's expected to do the heavy jobs of grinding and preparation of dishes that suit the son's palette. There's no communication between the three of them and food is never served to her nor do all of them sit and break bread together. She's supposed to fend for herself and having played out her role as the lady of the house of a nair family, with all the attendant responsibility and authority during her husband's time, she's still used to being served rather than serve herself!

She's kept in the dark about all the activities and many a time, left overs of food is served to her. She visits her daughters - one lives at Coimbatore and the other at Palakkad - during the summer vacations who give her clothes, token money(As she and their brother have enough through family inheritance!) and articles of personal effect. The son and the daughter-in-law, therefore, do not give her any money and to put it in her own words, "They're under the impression that my daughters have loaded me with money and because of this all round misplaced conclusion, I don't have money even to give an offering at the nearby temple! The latest is that they do not like me to step out of the house to go to the temples because I can get into bad(?) company and shoot my mouth off about what was happening within the household!!"

The two grandchildren - both boys - were indifferent towards her and the younger one studying in class I who's a complete brat - he's been spared the rod as he'd problems at birth - bullies her and she showed us the welt mark from the kick that he gave her a couple of days before, affecting her gait. The parents didn't even bother to admonish the child! Her medical treatment has not been reviewed for a long time as the son and his wife do not find the necessity to do so. "I don't bother them any more after my repeated pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Let my system collapse," she says with a faraway look on her face.

"Their bed sheets, spreads and pillow covers are washed in the washing machine regularly but it's been ages since mine have undergone a wash!" Her pathetic tale continued......

Her narration shocked me and as she cried, my mom and I felt sad, not knowing as to what we could do to reduce her anguish. The contempt that she has for her son and his family had come to the fore during the narration. She'd then gone for a wash and regained her composure, but I was seething within me at the son's misdeeds.

Soon after, her daughter-in-law had returned from the function and the three of them were off for home in their hired car giving a rosy picture of a happy, contended family, the truth about which we now knew!

I'd increased the pace of my evening walk to shake off the melancholia.......


Their frequent visits to the temples, fasting on different days of the week to please different gods were all meaningless exercises when the mother was being tormented on a daily basis at their home.

And after the old lady passes on, a godman will tell them that nothing is going right for them because the parents' souls were very, very angry with them and to nullify it, offerings have to be made. Money will be dumped because of the 'scare' without realising that if they'd only invested a bit of love and care to the mother, during her lifetime, the situation could have been avoided.

.........Oh, how farcical life can be? We've time for the dead but not for the living!!  

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