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December 6, 2016

Treatment of parents

Filed under: common man, family, social change — neosurya @ 17:23

I had a friend (A) who posed a problem a few days ago: We were speaking about taking care of his father (B). B had a regular job, but did not take particular care of his kids. Each day after office, B came home for a short while in the evening, and stayed to himself. Income was regular, and the mother of A was efficient. So, the kids were able to get a good childhood. But it was very clear that B had no real role in their upbringing. A’s life was not ruined because B’s income was more than sufficient. B however, was totally disinterested in family life.

B (the father), and B’s wife (A’s mother) were living in Bangalore. A’s mother had recently passed away. Till the mom was alive, A and his siblings (a sister in India and a brother who was in USA) would visit B occasionally. Festivals and other customary visits were kept up. B and his wife regularly visited A and siblings also. For about 3-4 months a year, B and his wife would come and stay with A. But there was no real love lost between B and rest of the family.

B continued to visit his kids after his wifes death. But B was not a pleasant person to be with. His friends were no more, and he would continuously complain about one thing or the other. No major physical or financial damage, but there would be no fatherly (or grand-fatherly)  involvement as well. He would have an unpleasant face all through the day, and entering his room was like seeing a person who is sulking his way to the other world. B would be extremely particular about his schedule, food habits, and general preferences about daily life.

The challenge was that B was going to be over 80. There was no disease in particular, but he was getting old. Senility was bringing on other challenges.

A argued that B should be sent to an old home while B was still in OK health. Once health went down further, argued A, it will be difficult for B to adjust to an old home. B did not want to be sent to an old home. B was saying that to get his (substantial) self-gained property, A and his siblings must take care of B at home.

I had seen another father once like this. An old man, in his 80’s living near Tarnaka, Osmania University, Hyderabad. I had gone to him to seek legal advise. His room was on the first floor of the garage of an independent villa in Tarnaka. The villa was his own, but he had given the whole place for rent. His servant lived downstairs in the garage, and he lived upstairs. The room had a desk with an old transistor radio facing a window that overlooked the street. An old teak bed had been set towards one of the walls with a grayed out mosquito net that had seen more regal times. There were about 3 chairs in the room, but only one was empty. The others had huge stacks of letters and legal correspondence. There was a bookshelf on one side which recessed into the wall. It also probably held his clothes.

While discussing the legal problem, I had mentioned that I was from such and such company. The father slowly got out his sons card, and said you know him – “He is the senior Engg VP of ***. Do you know him? He is also into IT.”. This old man’s son was a very senior executive in a global multinational company. When I say senior, really senior – like the VP of a major engg. division of a Fortune 500 firm. He could have been my bosses bosses boss. The father was speaking about his son with pride, but it was apparent that he could not live with the son either. The old father made a point to mention that all his grandkids visit him during major festivals. “Even if they miss some due to exams, they come during Deepavali for sure.”, he said.

I have seen some unfortunate mothers’, father-in-laws, and mother-in-laws also in the same situation. Maybe there were good reasons to do this. Maybe the women or men created unhappy situations in the family. Maybe the father or mother were more nasty and looked mellow to strangers. Maybe there are some worse family secrets. Maybe this is a necessary feature of our modern, liberal, urban lifestyle. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I wonder, If we cannot take care of a mother and father who gave us birth, can we be good to complete strangers? If we give second chances to a terrorist, a murderer, a common criminal, why not parents? Maybe it is wishful thinking on part of a liberal society that humans are good. Maybe there is no true love among humans. Maybe. Maybe not.

June 4, 2014

The boiling milk

Filed under: common man, family — neosurya @ 17:04

As the night slowly opened up to the calm morning sun, Malini woke up to see her husband peering into the laptop. “Since when are you awake, it is not even six. Sleep for some more time.” she said. Vijay replied: “Good morning, I just woke up. I have to leave early for work. When did the kids sleep last night? Sorry, I just could not stay awake beyond 9:30.” Malini said: “They fooled around till 11:30 last night. They just have one more week. School starts and I shall tighten their schedule. Both will have to wake up at 6:00.”. Vijay responded: “Yes, that would be nice. I can take them on a nice long walk while you get the tiffin ready. Munde is dead, BTW”. “Which Munde?”, asked Malini.

As Malini took the laptop from him, Vijay got up from the bed, stretching away the laziness from his bones. He quickly grabbed a shirt: “The minister, he died in a road accident.”. Malini was asking something, but he left the room in a hurry. “Good morning amma, good morning daddy”. His father was occupying the bathroom. Vijay hated using the bathroom in his master bedroom. He preferred to squat while completing his morning affairs. And the only Indian toilet would be captured by his father. There was a daily competition of sorts between the two. At least one of them had the uncomfortable pleasure of sampling the gastronomical smells left behind by the other.

Vijay reached out for his toothbrush, and found the usually white bristles shaded blue and orange. He remembered that Priya had used his tooth brush to color her dolls. Vijay walked to the garden and got a nice neem tweed for himself. As he continued brushing, he remembered the question asked by Malini. He went back to the bedroom and said – “Munde was the newly appointed rural development minister under Modi. He died in a car crash.” Malini took a few seconds to realize that he was continuing a long forgotten thread and said – “Oh, so sad.”.

Malini decided it was enough time trying to ascertain the meaning of the shlokas she was learning. After her reading, a good half an hour got sucked into ablutions and cursory chats with her Mother in Law. Her MIL, Vijaya was busy preparing pickles to be packed into porcelain jars. Her in-laws split time between two suburbs of Hyderabad; staying for three months at the IT hub of Gachibolwi with Malini and Vijay, and the following three months at their ancestral home near Alwal, where their Daughter was living with her family. Each quarterly transition was marked with frenetic preparations. Preparations, that changed with the prevailing season. Being June, the season of the sun God, the making of pickles and home-made appadams was in progress.

“VijayaLakshmi, I am going on my morning walk, you want to come or sit there with your children”, shouted Mr Murthy. Vijaya muttered to her DIL: “40 years of marriage, and he never calls me Vijaya or Lakshmi, he always has to use the long name. We will go for our walking OK, I will be back in half an hour.”.

Malini smiled at her, and started off for the kitchen; Vijay would need to leave soon for office. She also had to get ready for her Sanskrit class. She saw Vijay and asked him: “What are you looking for?”. “Nothing, I just wanted to make Ragi malt.”. As she looked about the kitchen, her expression changed. “What is all this? How many times have I to clean this mess. Day in and day out all the vessels are used up for making some or the achaar. I am fed up with this aavakaaya and appadam making. Look at this – VijayaLakshmi garu used up all the vessels, and there is not even a vessel to boil milk now.”.  As she walked over to the sink to clean a vessel, Vijay said: “Look, they do not mean anything bad, if they did not leave a vessel, we can clean it naa. Let me clean it for you.”. “No !!! it is not just about the vessel. They are not at all dependable. Leaving for this place and that place every few months. They do not follow a schedule. Every three months, they disappear. The first month and the last get spent in a massive cooking fest. At the same time they nag me that I should go for a job and they will take care of the children.” .

Vijay replied: “We should take these things with a pinch of salt. Look, when we visit your parents, your mom troubles me with all her odd customs, and your father – oh he is unbearable. But I do not fret. We have to laugh these things away.”. This statement fired up a powder keg: “How many times do we go to my place? Once or twice a month at max. In any case, this is not about parents, it is about cooking. If you are a daughter in law, you will know how difficult it is. I cannot tell them anything.”. Vijay replied: “Look, no one is asking you to behave in a certain way. I never tell you to make my breakfast, or do the bed. I do everything myself.” Malini retorts: “Does that make you a saint? All good husbands must do that, there is nothing special in it.” Vijay replied: “That is it. You do not have to make the ragi malt or anything, I am leaving for office.”. He then corrected himself, came back and said: “I even suggested that we should buy a flat. You never agreed.”. Malini, with even more fire retorted: “You make it sound like I hate them. I like staying with them. I just, do not like this travel and cooking business. Look at the kids, they are so happy now. Priya will nag me for three months for her grandmother. The children always ask me why they have to go. And I cannot stop them from going.”.

In the meantime, there was a loud hissing sound. The milk boiled over. Malini and Vijay looked at each other. And smiled.

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