He rests his trembling hands on the table. The veins form a complex network of tributaries and distributaries. Some throb for seconds, uncontrollably. He tries to steady them. The satin tablecloth lies under his fingers, wrinkle-free, cold. He glances at the flowers in a small vase kept on the table, the cutlery and the dishes. He looks around; the tall pillars, the crystal chandeliers, the immaculately decorated chairs, the hushed conversations, the measured clinks of forks and spoons, the mild Bach, the suits and the designer clothes. He tries to steady his hand further.
A kid comes running to him. Plate full of scones, poached eggs, muffins and croissants. Places it in front of him. “Grandad, eat some.” He smiles nervously. The items on the plate look foreign to him. More plates pile up. Noodles, miso soup, muesli, salads. More family members join the table too. A lady in her well-kept clothes says, “Papaji eat some paratha”. He looks at the plate. Slices of paratha (Indian bread) that look quite dry and hard and a bowl of sambhar. He tries to tear one piece, dip it in sambhar and takes a bite. People around him start chatting, planning the day. The different attractions to visit, the time it will take, how best to organise.
He continues to chew. His hand trembles a bit, he takes a gulp of water and tries a second bite. He stares blankly at the chandelier while his mind wanders off. It was a bright sunny day if he remembers correctly. It was a Saturday too just like today. They were sitting outside the courtyard, chatting and having their morning milk. His daughter, who is sitting next to him now, was playing with her toys. There were hot parathas being served and pickles to go with those. He remembers the warmth of the plate in his hand against the cold of the cutlery now, he sighs at the measured movements around him and remembers his daughter throwing a ball at him that morning.
“Papajee you have dropped sambhar on your clothes”, his daughter admonishes him gently. He goes back to chewing the parathas, a nervous smile clings on to his lower lip. “These are hard and cold”, he thinks. Those around him are praising the breakfast spread in this 5-star hotel. They try to give him some muffin – the chocolate ones. He takes them hesitatingly. Out-of-place, too-late-in-the-day, he smiles with pride at his daughter’s enthusiasm to take him around the world, to good restaurants, good hotels, or to the movies. And then he looks away and sighs.
At what? I do not know. But I know he sighs. I know they sigh. The fathers and the mothers. They hide from their grown-up, accomplished children and they let go of a sigh.
As a single child growing up in a middle-class joint family, I have seen my parents make many sacrifices of their small pleasures for the family’s well-being. These choices came easy to them. They sacrificed vacations, good clothes, good restaurants while we somehow in our sub-conscious minds kept a count of these all.
And then one day, all of a sudden, having dealt with our own devils in life, education, work and society, we-the children, now grown up feel this strong desire to give our parents the comfort and pleasures that they once gave up. We drag them to the restaurants and subject them to unfamiliar taste, we take them to the loud theatres and expect them to get used to the Dolby digital surround sound, in the winters of NY we take them to weekend Durga pujo or in the heat of Ajanta caves we drag them from one cave painting to the other. We send them tickets and put them in 20 hour long flights across oceans to show them the foreign land, to drive them around in the posh interiors of our automatics, we take them into the oceans and put them on city’s eyes, we make them sit through musicals and ask them to be comfortable with the soft hotel pillows. Doing this makes us feel good. Going through all this, at this age, are they really happy?
I do not have an answer. Parents to me are typically these unusual creatures who take immense pleasure and satisfaction at their children’s achievements and can do almost anything to keep their children happy and in the right path.
But still, I am sure, they do sigh…they just hide it…but they do let go of a sigh…
Many of you reading this will recognise my dilemma. What do you think about this? What is your take on this?