The plane was about to land and I was excited. I was meeting Aunty after about 15 years and I was damn excited.
The Tambes had been our neighbors for a long time. Till the time they decided to shift to a bigger house, they had been with us, through good times and bad; through thick and thin. As a child I remember whenever the food was not to my liking, I would run across to their home, to see what Aunty had prepared. When I was sure that I would be scolded for my mischief’s, i would run across. So many memories came to the mind and I chuckled and the person next to me was shocked. Yes, shocked. He must have thought that I was mad. 🙂
I was going back to the town I grew up for the alumni meet of our school. More than the meet I was charged up about meeting aunty. Her son Ajay lived in Mumbai. Uncle having passed away, some years back, aunty lived alone.
After a hurried bath, I took a cab and rushed to meet her. Ajay bhaiyya and me were in touch via facebook and he had passed me her address. Uncle having passed away, she had moved into a one bedroom flat.
I had not informed her and had forbid bhaiyya too. I wanted to see if she would recognize me. And so I rang the bell and stepped back. After a full 7 minutes, I heard foot steps and after about a minute the door opened. I am sure she mist have peeped through the peep hole.
‘I don’t want anything, what are you selling?’, she said that in a single breathe. Though her voice cracked a bit now but it had the same vitality.
‘Aunty, don’t you recognize me?’, the vitality of childhood had returned in me too.
She opened the door a little more and then after some seconds, ‘Shamo…’
We spent the better half of a morning catching up on the news. She made me masala bhath, jhunka bhakar, which I gobbled up sitting on the kitchen platform, the same way that I used to do in the childhood.
But something puzzled me. She never mentioned about her son. It was absolutely visible that her arthritis was painful and yet she was living alone. Why?
In the evening I probed the matter.
‘Oh, that. You know sons change after marriage. It is only his wife now’, ignoring all my other questions.
The meet went well. Though scheduled to catch my flight from New Delhi, I changed my plans and instead went to meet Ajay bhaiyya and barged into his office.
He smiled and said, ‘I knew that you would be coming’. Having been raised together we knew each other’s psyche well.
He left his office early and we went to his home.
‘Life is not always as you see, Shamo’, he said.
‘Still fuming, I said,’ Meaning?’
‘You think I have thrown out Aayi from my life.’
‘Yes’, I said. I was so angry that I was in no mood to be diplomatic.
‘Do you have time? This may take some time’.
‘I have al the time for aunty,’ I said mockingly.
He let out a sigh and started.
‘You know aayi and baba had started everything from scratch. They formed their own lives. Which is good but when we were growing up, they forgot that I too had my aspirations. I tried to spread my wings in the limits set by them but when I got married it became worse. Baba had a heart attack and expired. Aayi alone was lost for direction and instead became more overbearing. My wife Nisha had to dress the way she wanted, to behave the way she wanted , to eat what she wanted etc. Nisha understanding her mental state agreed but when our daughter was born; and Aayi continued with her ways, she put her foot down. What Nisha said was that she wanted her daughter to be raised not like a robot but as an individual. And I agreed with her’.
My anger by now had melted and I listed with rapt attention.
‘Aayi who had ruled her world for over 30 + years, just could not accept that. She just could not adjust. Do you remember Bhargav uncle?’
When I nodded a yes, he continued. ‘Bhargav uncle had come down to Mumbai and I told him the situation in our home. He said that as Aayi was not the person who would ever adjust or let go, wouldn’t it be better if he she went along with him to our old town. There was a flat vacant in their building, she could stay there and as there were a lot of ‘old friends’ living there, they could all spend time nicely and look out for their needs. Aayi, jumped at this idea and returned.’
‘Tell me Shamo, was I wrong?’.
I was pensive in my return flight. The best of people ruin their lives just because they let their ego run their lives and do not adjust and accept.