Dec 10, 2023
Dec 10, 2023
Rocking in her armchair every evening, Amma would either let life go by or sat quietly, her eyes closed to the world around her or sometimes, gave vent to mumbling. Either her knitted brow would advertise her irritation or when she said her prayers, a smile would peep out from behind her withered teeth, that now looked like crumbling pillars of a collapsing edifice.
Every evening Amma would sit outdoors for about two hours or so until her son or daughter-in-law would hold her by the arm and return her to the lonely room and bed just before the twilight set in. Her evenings were set to this routine.
Sitting outside, at times she would throw questions at the passers – by. Who are you? How are you? Where to? How are you doing? What’s the time like? Ain’t it so hot? Ain’t it cold today? Her voice reached everyone but her queries generally fell on deaf ears. People would either break into laughter or choose to see through her. And Amma would lose heart.
Children, though made her eyes sparkle with delight. She would want to hold them and touch them but as soon as the kids noticed her pupils, dilated with joy ogling at them through the thick lenses, her wrinkled face and silvery disheveled hair, they either burst into peals of laughter or tears, freaking out and crying. Disheartened, she would clasp her shrunken hands in her lap, and look lost at the stubbed Jamun tree. The little bunny of hope would crouch back in her heart, too scared to peep out again!
During summer holidays, when sundown takes longer, Amma once dragged herself somehow to reach the approach road to the park; the park that beckoned her with all the commotion caused by the boisterous children at play and enticed her to day-dream. She would lose herself in a world of fantasy.
That day she tottered towards the park, barefoot and just wrapped in a thin saree, sans the petticoat, not only unmindful of the heavy traffic but also the upheaval caused by her empty armchair at home. She walked past the houses; the fragrance of the melodious, young laughter pulling her to the park.
She could feel her sore legs as she reached her destination; dragging her numb feet over the flight of stairs to enter the park, she held onto the hibiscus branch near the lamppost and sat down. Rubbing her knees, she sat there, observing the children. So many of them! Some on the swings, some playing, running, laughing, crying, and quarreling. She wiped her lenses clean, every now and then, to give a good look to them, blinked her eyes and grinned with delight, flashing her five odd teeth.
She sat there a long time slowly rejuvenating; her sore limbs gradually coming back to life. As it grew darker, the house rebounded with commotion- “Where’s Amma?”
“Did someone accompany her?”
or she slipped out alone?”
“She hasn’t got hurt, has she?”
“Where is she?”
The son and the wife ran around, confused and alarmed. The neighbours began to gather at the door.
“Why do you let her out?”
“She is too old to be out. You should keep her in.”
“This stress is going to boomerang on your health too. You aren’t getting any younger yourselves!”
As many people, as many voices.
“She is bored stiff, cooped up in her room the whole day, you know. So, we let her sit out for some fresh air and a little chit-chat with the neighbours. It refreshes her. We have the TV to watch, make calls to the children and go out for a stroll but Amma has her limitations, you see,” the daughter-in-law explained.
“Sitting in the courtyard, Amma can observe the birds in the tree nearby and crack jokes with the passers- by. Ageing has its own problems- she’s become hard of hearing and senile. She hears and understands only what she wants to. Hemmed inside a small room the whole day, she is thirsting for a little relief. The courtyard refreshes her and she sleeps better,” she added further.
Mr. Khanna nodded his agreement,” You are on point but it is still a matter of concern.” Steadying his glasses on his nose with a finger, he suddenly stared at the street and cried,” There she is! That’s Aunty approaching!”.
“Yeah, that’s her!” The son and his wife ran towards Amma, clearly annoyed and very cross.
“Where were you?”
“Are you crazy, Amma?”
“You could have hurt yourself!”
“You are so reckless, you know! Do you ever think of us? You are such a bother, Amma” they held her by the arms, and went on venting out but Amma was too happy to mind anything.
The small crowd slowly fizzled out. The son, his wife and Amma entered the house. The exasperated son doled Amma some advice – “Stop troubling us, Amma. We are getting old too.” The dull pain in his knee that had hassled him this last week, had almost made him lose his cool.
“What does it matter to her? If something untoward happens, people will blame us, not her,” the wife remarked.
“Especially, my elder brother and sister who are least interested in her well-being.”
The wife dipped pieces of flatbread in warm milk and grumbled,“ I guess, Amma is looking for her own children in the park- the ones of her flesh and blood. Where do we get them for her? I am sure, she is unhappy here!”
Amma was hardly paying any attention or making an attempt to understand the circumstance. She was just focusing on the chapattis soaked in milk and still relishing the warmth of today’s beautiful memories. Having finished her dinner, she burped loudly and retired for the day. Boisterous children – playing merrily, laughing, crying, running around- was all that she could recall as she closed her eyes. Her own childhood memories came flooding back. Warm tears rolled off her cheeks making the thick lenses of her glasses wet.
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More by : Dr. Manju Bal Krishna