Today I was talking to Vimala maami who was our neighbour in Mylapore when I was preteen. Vimala maami, Seetha maami and Vasantha maami were my mother’s peers and mothers of my childhood friends. Our relationship continues until today albeit via electronic channels.
Seetha maami and Vimala maami moved adjacent to each other in a distant suburb, to live lifelong together. They are closest until today. Vimala maami is 72, Seetha maami over 75.
Seetha maami is struck with breast cancer at this age and Vimala maami is taking care of her. I started weeping quietly when I heard of this in phone today. Maami suffering is too much to handle as I discovered, surprising myself with the reaction.
Vimala maami started narrating to me one incident from my childhood that I was not aware of.
Vimala maami’s mother-in-law died of breast cancer. That I knew of. That day I still remember but I was not even 10 then.
Maami said, one day my grandfather asked my grandmother to go with him to Ramanaashram in Tiruvannamalai. For that, my patti told my thatha, ‘why should I go to Ramanaashram? Ramanaashram is right here in Mylapore. Come with me, i will take you to Vimala’s house. How Vimala the daughter-in-law and the son, her husband, are rendering physical service to the aged mother, you must see. I am seeing this everyday. Then tell me if I should go to Ramanaashram with you.’
My patti led my thatha to Maami’s house. There my thatha was impressed to see what a yeoman service the young husband and wife with two toddler children, were still rendering to bedridden cancer patient, mother of Maama (Maami’s husband). Then it seems my grandpa told my granny in everyone’s presence, ‘no need for us to go to Ramanaashram because Ramanaashram is indeed here.’
This Maami told me when I told her my mother-in-law is with me always whenever I am in India. Of the four daughters-in-law, the last and unwanted ugly duckling me is surprisingly always her first trusting choice with who she feels most comfortable. Maami told me what a blessing it is to have the elderly wanting to be with you. She then related to me this very simple real life incident that she says she can never forget. It also gives a great insight into what kind of couple my paatti and thatha were. The kind of conversations they had had… We miss noticing these small cute things about our elders when they are around… In my case, I hardly got the chance really…
This is how I grew up. This is how we were in those days. Sometimes we want to become utter selfish and just be by ourselves. After talking to maami I feel a lot better now. Sometimes it does anger me that why it must be only me always. And after the way I have been treated over years.
But then the heart remembers, the stomach remembers. The tongue can be harsh but the heart forever is loving and can never turn down anyone. So that’s the reason.
For last Diwali I was with my mother-in-law in hostpital (for about 10 days). On the day before discharge, my MIL called me to her bedside and holding my hands she told me, ‘you and my son and my grandson will always be only happy. My blessings will always stay with you.’ I thought since I could not do anything for my own parents, God was giving me a second chance to take care of my MIL. I did nothing much really. Just someone being there can make a monumental difference especially when one is incapacitated.
Despite all this sometimes the devil in us pops out. After all we are human. We hold on to bad memories and push back the good ones. But after hearing from Vimala maami about my paatti and thaatha and Ramanaashram, I feel ashamed for talking behind my MIL’s back and at times sulking for being saddled with her. Hereafter I would try to mend my ways. How long will someone have the cheek to ask me, not to go out without wearing dupatta (even in this age ada rama)! After her who will even bother.
I want to visit both Seetha maami and Vimala maami soon.