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An Indian wife taking care of her husband in old age is common, but this old Indian man taking care of his ill wife on a flight filled me with hope.
On a flight from Mumbai to Delhi, I happened to have an elderly couple occupying the adjacent two seats. Later I thought, it must have been destined to happen. Else why would they get seats next to me in the entire craft?
The lady arrived in a wheelchair. Later I learned from the husband that his wife had arthritis. I couldn’t help noticing them because there was something very peculiar about the couple: the roles were reversed!
The husband helped his wife in shifting from the wheelchair to the seat, settled her in, and only then occupied his seat. Starting from her need for a blanket to her food and tea, he was looking after her more like a parent than her husband. He promptly supported her cup at the bottom when her shaking hands could have spilled the hot tea on her. I am sure that like most of the Indian wives, especially of that generation, the lady would have done the same all her life for this man who now, in old age was kind of returning the favour!
They seemed to be flying for the first time as the husband kept asking me a few questions about things he wasn’t sure of, like if the food was complimentary or what the milk powder was meant for. By this time, I was so awestruck by his simplicity and mannerisms, and his affection towards his wife, that I myself was more than eager to help them like turning off their air ducts when they felt cold. Unlike other occasions, I didn’t feel disturbed by his small talk with me.
He would ask me in English and then explain the answer to his wife in Hindi. He saved his own jet imli, and when I offered mine too, he enthusiastically explained that his wife is extremely fond of them, and he would give them to her later as small treats. I couldn’t and didn’t resist the tears flowing out of my eyes, looking at this superlative display of affection of a husband towards his sick wife.
In India, we say that wives become mothers to their husbands and here I had a husband turned father sitting beside me. The lady must be in a lot of pain, and in her physical misery, may or may not have realised how lucky she was. I left the craft with a peaceful smile on my face when he protectively put his hand over his wife’s head as I was pulling out my bag from the overhead compartment!
This short encounter left me with raging emotions for a long time. I kept thinking about how we take so many things for granted in our life…our health, our spouse and loved ones and then how life throws up such situations where one can’t move an inch without their support. And suddenly, I was so grateful to God for all the good things that I have been blessed with. A husband who am sure would do the same if God forbid we were in the same shoes, all the wisdom and opportunity to take charge of my health and work towards it before things could go really bad, a job that lets me travel and have such heartfelt enriching experiences, a daughter who is well-adjusted to my travel and makes no fuss when I am not at home with her, in-laws who manage everything in my absence and have never stopped me from travelling, and the list goes on and on.
I hope I would be able to retain this feeling of gratitude within me for a long time, and enjoy each day of life without cribbing about small problems every now and then.
Life is good!!
Image source: By Shuman Charles, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons