By Kunal Arora:
Now in her seventies, my maternal grandmother was the epitome of beauty and gregariousness in her young age. Married at the tender age of 19 to an educated and professional English teacher; she was the second wife. She gave birth to six children, four girls and two boys. It was a curse not to have a boy in the family at that time.
Besides bringing them up in a cultured way, teaching good manners to all the children, she made sure they develop into humble and kind human beings first and think about success later. With this, she never lost interest in novels and movies. She still remembers the plot of every movie she had seen on the bigger screen. Also, Devanand is her favourite actor. Old age was never an issue for her. She always thought one can use various means to support oneself at the fall of life.
Little did she know that what would happen in the ending chapters of her life would shatter her heart to pieces. A few years back she started developing issues with her knees and was forced to use a ‘walker’. Then came gall bladder stones, making her completely dependent on her husband and two married boys. After the arrival of the second daughter-in-law, the peace and calm of the house was lost. There were altercations every day regarding petty issues and there was no love left in their hearts. She never had a perfect relationship with her husband but it seems old age unites people more than love does.
She lost her husband two years back and the situation worsened. She was asked to write a will making both the sons equal holders of the meagre property grandpa had left. She did it to maintain peace in the house, but it actually brought in more pain. Restricted to walking less and eating less than she used to, she saw the apathy in the people around her. None answered her hysterical cries unless they got disturbed by it. Sometimes, she called a rickshaw puller and asked him to drag her to the hospital to get rid of stomach pains. She was asked to pay for the bills in her own house.
She loves the little kids in the house immensely. They are left to her care by my uncle but, besides this, there is no other reason why she is still supported by them. Now, when both the sons are shifting to their new houses, they are uneasy with the idea of keeping an old, ageing woman in their big, clean and organised mansions. She is still strong but everyone knows how rejection feels at this age and that too when it is your own blood that is pushing you away.
Every instance of pain and agony she shared with me, filled me with rage against my own uncles but I never saw her crying over this and she was always strong in her words. She told me, “it is better to rely on material objects rather than on blood relations. My walker is the best partner at this age, it never said no to me. Relations are weaker than a drop of water which splits with a powerless blow. Make yourself strong inside.”
Every time she was denied help, she got stronger. I asked her what keeps her so steady and resilient. “Your own sons are forcing you to stay away from them, knowing that you are weak and need constant care.”
“Old age is an arctic cold which absorbs any heat, submerging everything else and I become more polite and merciful with every denial I get. In no way can anyone escape karma at this age.” That’s what she told me. She says it is a lesson for everyone. “You live alone, stand alone and die alone. All other events are just short, happy phases which pass with time.”
She is a brave woman and I admire her for her spirit and the guidance she has given clears the mud in my thoughts regarding relations and dependence. The way she has been denied acceptance by her beloved and blessed sons, the way age crippled her to be dependent on others and how her indomitable spirit found support in her walker shows how fragile human life can get with bad relationships. But it also tells that with a spirit like my grandmother’s one can always smile in pain.
She is living in the same house in Ambala, Haryana, where she gave birth to all her children, somehow making her way through the trials and tribulations of life. Besides all this, she wears a graceful smile and no one can judge what she has been through.
This is not just the story of my grandmother. Many senior citizens face problems as their children are too busy with their lives and forget how they ought to treat their ageing parents. They suffer diseases, are mentally fragile. In the fall of life, every human being passes through this phase and needs emotional, mental and physical support. It is time we all paid tribute to our parents and grandparents by being humble and considerate to them.