Lalithamma was brought by her daughter and grandson. For want of space in her home, being at the mercy of the owner of the one room living space, the alternative was to shelf her in an ashram for people like her. With aching pain she nursed since the age of five, when her mother walked out on her and her father. Vimla, hardly had the love and passion of a mother towards her daughter. However, that her mother needs sustenance in her ripe old age did not deter her from finding alternate for her.
My father is a muddled person. He cared not, when my mother walked out, he took care of me, no doubt, but he harbored another spouse, who bore him five children. He shoved me around, so much so, my Chikkappa, with folded arms took me into his care. My indifferent father was too happy to have my burden taken over by his brother. And I was even so happy and relieved of the torment living with my step-mother. I grew up a happy young child, till it was time for me betrothal.
We live in a community surrounded by myths and beliefs not in tune with the modern times. So even if the legal age of marriage was 18 years, I was given in marriage at age of 13, when I matured. And the man offered to me in marriage was 30 years old.
Chikkappa ensured that the man was of substance, healthy, wealthy and wise. And so began my next stage in life, happily married and ready to bear children. Our son was born three years later. I took him to my father, who showed no interest to look at or even carry him. I returned home to hear of the news that my husband met with death in a head on collision with a lorry. That was the end of my happily married watchword that crashed into depression.
My son is now 18 years, in college and doing well. His only heartache is that his grandfather never ever, even once, spoke to him, even though they live diagonally opposite each other in the same lane. How strange life can be! My mother, out of the blue, gets in touch with me. All I know is that she lived with a family as a helper. And in the late years of her life, felt she should live these years with me.
What an expectation!
Forgetting that she deserted me at the age of five, I traveled to Bengaluru, found where she lived. In the absence of the family who she lived with, she very jollily accepted to travel back to my home. I brought her to my little thatched place, hardly enough space for my son and myself. I made an effort to confront her with my father, who by now fathered several children with his second wife.
My son never forgets to remind me that my father, though lives diagonally opposite our place, never ever in his 21 years, accepted him as his grandchild. My parents never recognized each other. And I was too unnerved to patch them up, because he had a large family, and she only me. I knew of an Ashram that sheltered the poor homeless. They willingly admitted her. Two days later, they call to inform me, the medical check indicate no serious illness. She just needs nourishment. However, she was neither eating nor inclined to socialize. A continuous sleep of 20 hours did not enliven her.
I called her mentor and informed him of her non-cooperative stance. He arrived in a couple of hours. How loyal was he? On seeing him, all faked illness disappeared. She looked up into his eyes and pleaded to take her back. He agreed and she lit up a blossomed smile asked for a drink of water and biscuits, walked upright back to her bed, changed her clothes, and of she went sinking in the kindness of the man whose children she took care of. We were stunned at the volume of affection!
Who says close bonding between parent and child occurs naturally. Here was a scene of complete surrender between individuals where loyalty paid off. We felt peace and happiness that small mercies, like admitting her, is so fulfilling.
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Prof. Dr. Jennifer Marie Bayer
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