A Short Story.
The cup of tea lay cold in her hands, she hardly noticed. Her mind was in turmoil. How she missed him. Wish he was with her today, to share her thoughts, to listen to her and help her resolve the dilemma. She missed her husband, her confidante and friend of the past 30 years.
A massive heart attack 2 years back and Girish had left her forever. The world stood still for Kusum and coming to terms with reality had taken a tremendous effort for her. What made it more difficult is that it was just the two of them that lived together in Mysore. Their only daughter Preeti was married and lived with her husband in Bangalore. It had been 2 years. Though they missed their daughter but they had created a beautiful world for themselves.
They both were retired bank officials. They spent their time relishing every moment of life at a leisurely pace. The mornings were occupied in teaching underprivileged children at a school; afternoons were nap time and evenings were spent strolling in the park and chatting with their friends. The bliss of retired life after decades of the hustle bustle was something they both enjoyed to the fullest.
Then one day all of a sudden, Girish passed away. Preeti stayed back for a few days with her mother but she had to leave to resume her job. She asked to mother to move to Bangalore but Kusum refused. This was her home, her city, her people, the memories she had Girish had created over the years in this house; she would not leave them and move. She assured her daughter she was strong enough to take care of herself, mentally and physically. Plus they had good neighbors who would always watch out. Her daughter left.
Soon Preeti was expecting her first child. Kusum was over the moon, she couldn’t wait to see the little one. She adored kids and how she wished Girih were here today. As Preeti’s due date came near, Kusum moved to Bangalore to help her daughter with her delivery. A beautiful princess came into their lives, they named her Kashish. The next few months were a blur. Sleepless nights, constant crying of that baby, a barrage of guests at home, tending to her daughter who needed time to recuperate after the delivery took up all of Kusum’s time. She was fatigued at times but one look at the little one and all her tiredness vanished.
It was almost 4 months now, Preeti was much better and could manage the work, and in fact it was time for her to go back to work. Kusum missed her hometown, her friends, the local food, festivals and so much more. She decided it was time to go back. The baby’s erratic sleeping patterns were now a thing of the past, she had settled down more or less into a routine and Preeti was able to manage by herself with some help from the maids.
She broached the topic one day of her thought to go back to Mysore. Her daughter’s reaction complete took her aback. “Mom how can you say that? I thought you had moved her permanently to look after Kashish. You know I have to join back in a few weeks time, it is not possible for me to quit my job with the housing loan and the mounting expenses, just Deepak’s salary will not suffice. You are well aware of this right. So you want me to leave the baby in a day care? That too when you are not working, nor are you ill? As a mother, isn’t it your duty to support your daughter? Or do you too think once you got me married, you have been absolved of your responsibilities.”
Kusum was shell shocked, she did not reply. She could not sleep the whole night; she kept tossing in the bed thinking if she was a bad mother? She decided she needed sometime to herself to resolve this conflict.
The next days he packed her bags and told her daughter that she would go to Mysore for 2 days to take care of some matters
As she sipped her evening tea, she thought about it yet again. She wondered if she was a selfish woman not fulfilling her duties of a mother. Her mind took a back leap – 25 years back when she and Girish struggled each day to make the most of 24 hours, Shuttling in the maddening Mumbai trains, hanging for dear life, running to board the bus, completing the paper loads of office work , coming home and taking Preeti’s studies, cooking and taking care of other household chores. They hardly found time to breathe, their goal was to give a good education to their only child and secure her future as well as theirs financially.
When Preeti turned 21, finished school, Engineering and secured a job in an IT company in Bangalore, they hardly realized. The years had just swept by and they hardly had time to live for themselves. They then moved to Mysore and that’s when they began to savor life and relish each moment, they were living truly for themselves. Girish once told her – this sunset of life is the most beautiful phase Kusum and we should not give this up ever, we toiled for others, our parents, our child and now is the time we truly live for ourselves. Even if I am not around, my wish would be that you savor this life, your independence. Stay here in our home, amongst the memories we built in the past few years with our friends and make the most of these years. She thought if he were here, what would he say?
They had done their best in giving a good education and upbringing to their child. As a mother does that mean that till her last breath she has to only live for her child? Was it wrong if she thought about herself, her desires just once? She loved her daughter and grandchild a lot, but did that mean she should bury her own wishes? If not now, when would she fulfill them? She had never told her daughter that she would raise the grandchild; probably it was something her daughter just assumed. Had they decided to have a child just because she was around to raise it? They did not have any parental support in their time, they struggled but worked together to raise a child, so why not Preeti and Deepak. And she was always willing to help out when they needed her.
She now felt light headed. She had made her decision. For once she did not care what people or her own daughter thought. She was contended that she had decided for once at least in her life to live for herself. The #WomanInHer had decided to give precedence to her wishes, there was no guilt, no remorse, no negative feelings, the Mother and the Woman in her had embraced each other today and both were unanimous in their decision.