I am back after a three-week break and am called a fool by exuberant friends who are thrilled at working fewer hours. “Why did you have to go this long during the Ramadan month? This is the best part of the year…”
The day I returned, even before I could unpack the goodies I brought, I heard my choking mom over the phone say a cardiac arrest took away my uncle. A rolly-polly man whom I had just seen a week ago. With whom I had sipped a cup of coffee. I dread to think of my two college-going cousins and aunt. I’m glad I met him. I saw him smile. I heard him speak. I’m happy to have seen him alive one last time.
Our neighbour, a paan-chewing retired headmaster and intellectual, who always made me wonder how he kept himself clean ‘cos he spat over his tummy that walked two yards before his feet; who never once missed on advising me on the importance of teaching my girl her mother-tongue; the one who said on every annual trip of mine that my parents are proud of me… that veteran, with whom I had many banters until my last trip, was unrecognizable this time. Lying on a water-bed covered with a loin cloth, just skin and bones, unable to speak or turn without help. I’m glad I saw him. I didn’t know what to pray when I left his door.
My paternal aunt – an authoritative woman with a mind of her own who minced no words in spelling out what she thought – was one who no one in our neighbourhood or family messed with. In her crisp cotton sarees and oiled hair she had an opinion on everything from global politics and economy to temple rituals and young fashion. This time I saw her with a bald head and limp hands on a wheel chair being fed by a home nurse. She looked up at me, when I called out, and her lips quivered. I didn’t know what to pray when I took leave of her.
I’m glad I made the trip now. [More on my reasons on why I do not waste a single day once my daughter’s school closes every year in another post]
This morning a young friend Whatsapp-ed me, “hw was d trip. Ver al did u go.” To my reply that I was at home, she sent me a sad emoticon. :'(
I wish I could write an open letter to all NRIs…
I had a ball of a time with my parents. I watched a Malayalam blockbuster with my dad. Yes, he drove me and my li’l girl and bought us chips, too. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie at the cinema with my parents.
|With my mom and dad
My parents insist of driving the 150km distance to the airport to receive us, this despite my mom not being comfortable on long car journeys. But she was there, as always, her eager eyes maneuvering through the crowd to catch that first glimpse of us.
When I woke up on my first morning, tea with my favourite cake was ready on the counter. I loved plum cake as a child. But I can’t remember being force-fed plum cakes before my wedding. In fact, on February 4, 1999, when I was all set to fly to Dubai for the first time, my dad had rushed out. He returned with two pieces of cake and my mom insisted I eat both. The butterflies in my tummy on having to fly alone, of leaving home, of settling into a new life…had numbed me from seeing the love in my dad’s gesture then. “Never mind. Don’t force her,” I remember him tell my mom.
|The cake I could not finish
Last week, when uninvited guests arrived at lunch time and sat pretty, I set out to clean the prawns from the freezer. With a dozen other jobs that required immediate attention, my mom interfered and insisted I leave that for her and do something else instead because “your hands will smell”.
How I wish I could mention every single day’s events out here…
Yes there are differences. As an adult now, I do not buy all of my parents’ opinions. And this time, in particular, I had to voice my stand on a couple of topics. Yet, yes, yet not an iota of their love for me is lost.
This post is not about me being pampered or about my relation with my parents. This trip was an eye-opener, to say the least. I felt the suppressed pain of the ‘abandoned’ and ‘isolated’ senior citizens [several of them] waiting for those few days they get to spend with their children but, all the same, boasting of their credentials as if in compensation.
“How quickly three weeks went off,” my mom sighed when I was packing. She stood by me checking every single item she had prepared went inside my suitcases and not back to the store room. “You hardly stay at home. Don’t you have 30 days leave?” my dad asked breaking the silence that engulfed our home on the last night at the dinner table.
Now, back to my second home the ‘I’ culture here is nauseating… My job, my friends, my dreams, my passion… my family [read spouse and kids].
A humble request to all NRIs – those caught in the race of livelihood and have no budgets and to those who use their free time to catch up with worldly offers and materialize their dreams – please take time to visit your folks often. Your money, your passion, your aims, all that you claim to be YOURS could never be yours if you were nipped before birth. No matter how much they claim to understand your busy schedules and your need to work away from home, it’s those seconds that you spend with them that they look forward to. It’s those moments that heal them. Not your lip service or bank accounts.
And to the other exotic breed who find it shameful and/or obligatory to acknowledge or visit their family, remember irrespective of where we go and which passport we hold, we will remain Indians – emotional souls with a heart that aches when ignored by our own. Time does catch up, don’t wait until then.