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Saturday, January 7, 2012

When they steal...

At 85, she looks surprisingly young, may be around 70 or so, strong built, signature marks left on her determined lips by years of betel leaf chewing, power glasses and an warm smile. She has recently moved to Kolkata with her second son and his family: wife and two kids. In a small 550 square feet, 2BHK flat, the family lives through their daily chores, silences, nods, laughs and disagreements. She is a mother of four sons and two daughters. Almost all of them are well-established now, with their respective families, spread all over the country. She raised them well, is what she thinks at times.

At 85, she is also pretty fragile. She depends on her children to take care of her. She misses her husband, but at this stage, her children are her strengths. Her fragile health is a concern for them all. She has a doctor son and daughter-in-law. They enquire about her health regularly. They can't keep her, as they stay far off from the remaining siblings and it gets difficult to care for an elderly member in a busy city. She understands. Her elder son and daughter-in-law are eager to take her on, but the children have board exams, and they cannot afford disturbances. She will move with her elder son after the exams, she decides.

At 85, she is quite senile too. Her frequent fights with her daughters-in-law on the day's menu, on missing petticoats and blouses, on misplacing her medicines intentionally put her in their unfavourable side. We all know daughters-in-law play a significant role in accommodating an aging member in the household. She does not quite understand that. She holds her ground, and more often than not, fights tooth and nail. She makes enemies often, her undiplomatic and headstrong ways do not help her sons fight her case with their respective wives. She did not choose her daughters-in-law well, is what she wonders at times.

At 85, she takes her regular walks outside the apartment. A diabetic, her doctor promised her good health if she exercises regularly. A modest kilometer around the apartment, every evening, is her time to reminiscence about her life so far. The clothes she wore, the food she cooked, the chores she finished, the efficiency with which she managed her household, the expenses, readied the kids for school and maintained her relationship with her neighbours. A mother and a wife, a 'home maker' and a woman, what were her proudest moments, she debates as she takes her daily walk.

At 85, she broke down. During one of her daily walks, when she was about to enter through the apartment gates, a boy in a cycle passed by and snatched her gold chain. She had no defense, she shouted for help. By then, the thief had made away with her gold chain. She somehow managed to get to her flat, got the attention of the family members and neighbours, and narrated the story minute-by-minute, umpteen times to each curious well-wisher, till they decided to lodge a police complaint. Tired, shocked, disturbed, the 85-year lies down. Next day, she walks to my mother's place and sits down. She starts crying, profusely.

"Why are you crying? Did your husband gift you the chain?", my mom enquires.
"No. I bought it with my own money. I saved money from my household expenses, and had bought it", she laments.

At a time and age, her gold chain bought from her 'own' money was possibly the only pride left in her life of senility, old-age, ill-health and transit from one household to another...Only if they knew what they all steal, the thief, the family members, and the acquaintances from her uneventful, mundane life, I hoped then.

Let this new year bring her and us all moments to be truly proud of and moments that no thief (in any form) can steal from us. Amen! Happy new year, 2012.