Ajji came in disturbed, mumbling to herself.
‘What happened Ajji, why are you so disturbed?, I asked my grandmother who had just returned home after dropping my younger brother Vinay to school.
‘Shailu, I had read in the newspaper that depression is on the rise. It is true’, said Ajji.
‘Why do you feel so Ajji’, I said.
‘I saw a man talking to himself. A young man, Shailu in his 20s. I got so upset. Chee chee, such a young life wasted. And then I saw another woman shouting at no one in particular that the report has to be submitted today….’
I started laughing
‘Why are you laughing. You should feel pity for these young lives wasted’, Ajji said.
‘Ajji they were talking on their mobiles’, I said
‘No, no, she said, ‘I didn’t see any mobiles….’, she said
‘They must be talking on their handsfree…’
‘What is that’, she asked
‘We cannot hold our mobiles in our hands while driving Ajji so we have our handsfree or bluetooth or earphones’, I replied showing my earphones to her.
‘Ohh, so they were talking on these’, she said
I laughed. Poor ajji,she was finding everything so new. Ajji never used to go out. happy at home and with her chores at home. The maximum that she went out was to meet relatives. But then recently we came to know that she was Vitamin D deficient and so the task of dropping and picking Vinny to school was assigned to her. So that in that way at least she would go out and soak in some sun. But every day now she was seeing and learning something new and it was fun to be witnessing with her.
My friend Preeti came in one day and we were busy. No, not studies we were goofing around trying on new combination of clothes and clicking pictures when Ajji came in. ‘Huhh, Preeti, what happened to you….You fell down…your lips…why are they swollen’, she asked. We laughed till our stomach ached. ‘Why, why are you laughing like that’, she asked.
‘Ajji’, I said holding on to my aching tummy, ‘It is known as a pout, we are just posing for some pictures’.
‘Huh’, was all that my innocent ajji could say.
‘Come, come Ajji, pout like me’, said Preeti and posed. Ajji imitated like her and it was fun.
Ajji was just like a kid soaking in everything new.
‘Is it fun to ride’, she asked me one day when I was parking my Activa.
‘Oh yes’, I said, ‘I love it when I feel the wind. It makes me feel so free’.
‘Hmm’, she said, ‘will you teach me how to ride’.
‘Ajji, no, I can’t do that… I mean at this age…..if you fall down….’, said I
‘See, Shailu when I was young I learnt to ride the bicycle without my father’s knowledge but then one day he came to know and he stopped me. Those days it was not acceptable you know. Today it is. Won’t you teach me Shailu. Before dying I want to feel the wind too’, She pleaded
I just couldn’t say no.
And from then on, Ajji would sit pillion and we would go to the nearby ground where she would learn to drive.
When the first time she had driven from our complex gate to our home my father was shocked.
Obviously at her age ( 71 to be precise), we could not allow her to drive on the road but yes now and then she would drive in our complex.
One day on my return from college I noticed a group of children huddled in a corner near the complex gate. I ignored them thinking that they must be planning some mischief..
At home my mother was grumbling to herself. ‘what happened amma’,I asked.
‘The maid didn’t come in today that too without notice’, she said as she threw the doormat in a corner and continued, ‘And your ajji….instead of helping me, she has gone off to be with the kids.’
‘Ohh, is it she with them’, I said.
‘Who else’, she said as she banged the broom down.
We both looked at the group. Someone had said some joke and all were laughing heartily.
‘Let it be amma. She cannot do all these work anymore, isn’t it. Let her do what she can’, I said.
‘Yes’, said amma softening a bit, ‘The next door neighbour is having a migraine and was complaining about the din the children were making. So she took them aside,’ amma said.
‘It is good that she is keeping herself active….let her do whatever gives her joy’, I said. Amma nodded.
‘And now’, I said, ‘let ME help you’. And I took the broom from amma’s hand.