Be Careful What You Wish For In Old Age, For You Might Be Thirsting For A Mirage

These are not the grannies of old who attended keertans and just wanted their vansh to continue. These are women who are persons in their own rights!

These are not the grannies of old who attended keertans and just wanted their vansh to continue. These are women who are persons in their own rights!

Hankering from afar for what we do not get, perhaps sums up human nature. What we have got is no big deal, we have got it, isn’t it? Simple! Finish! Let’s focus on what we should have got and be miserable!

Prema had invited her childhood friend Sneha to come and stay with her since the latter was visiting her city. Both are in their late sixties. Listening to her friend Prema, Sneha realized that her greatest regret was that her son had settled in the US and naturally the grandkids too were there. The son was earning as sons settled in the US are supposed to earn and was very generous. This generosity enabled her to have a comfortable lifestyle like maintaining a car, driver, live-in servant etc. etc. “I could be of no service to Rohit, poor boy what has he taken from me? He was hardly sixteen when he went to the US. He worked very hard to earn to pay for his education. He even did the job of a butcher at night so that he could attend college during the day.”

“I have done nothing for him. Remember, he liked that Bengali girl. She was five years his senior and very dominating. I showed my disinclination – maybe they were already at crossroads and my vote against her spelled the doom of that four-year-old relationship. I also learned a lesson. He was left alone! He reached his forties and showed no signs of getting married. Then out of the blue, he introduced to me this Irani girl who was willing to get married in India. I remembered the lesson learned and kept quiet. She came to India – it was/is a polite, formal, limited exchange. I was lucky, I was getting the chance of playing at shaadi shaadi. My dream of seeing him as bridegroom was fulfilled. He has had two kids with whom I skype. I gave him no help in her deliveries, her mother came. My knee replacement surgeries make the long flight to the US very harrowing. The kids come sometimes in December for a week or two. I have to be satisfied with that. My ears are starved for their voices, I want to feed them, bathe them, tell them stories.”

Sneha listened to her sympathetically but an incident from the past floated before her eyes. It was summer vacation and Rohit was busy cycling in the corridor of the house and Prema scolded him not to cycle and he had threatened, “All the time you leave me with Daadi and go to teach, now at least in holidays do not shout at me. Just wait when I’ll have kids I will also leave them with you like you leave me with Daadi.” Prema had laughed and replied, “No, thanks. I have raised you and your sister, and that is more than enough for me. I am not going to be saddled with raising your children.” Sneha did not want to sadden Prema, so she kept the flashback to herself.

Sneha came back home, but she could not forget Prema’s sad face. Next day Kala rang her up. She had a lot to narrate as she had been missing her quota of the phone time. They were in the habit of talking daily. Sneha and Prema had worked together for thirty years. Each knew the other’s life’s ins and outs. Kala’s daughter-in-law was working, and Kala had to look after her grandkids. It was not that Sneha wanted to compare, but the similarities in both her friends’ lives ran before her as converging and diverging parallels – touching here and departing there.

Kala started complaining about her backache, “Mine is not the age to run after an active toddler. They think keeping a maid for the kids is enough. The nine-month-old Shashi is so choosy he does not want to be held by the maid. On top of that, the maharani leaves a chart of his feeds – fruit juice at this certain time, mashed veggies at that. If you deviate from her instructions, one has to you know, sometimes the juice is not ready, or the baby wants milk… then her silent treatment is eloquent of her displeasure. Don’t I know how to raise kids? Whom to blame – I only had chosen her as my daughter in law.  I only have chosen to live with them. I wish I had decided to live alone: at least my day would have been mine.”

“Oh my God! I really pity myself. The cook is there at 06:30 am. You must plan because he is going to be with you only for an hour. Layout everything in the kitchen, set the stage so that the star performer can perform. Planning takes so much of my energy! Then the maid for washing utensils turns up. Then the maid for dusting, cleaning and washing clothes turns up. Sometimes one is missing, sometimes the other is…I have to request, cajole, bribe the one to do the other’s duty or at last pitch in myself. On the top of it, he tells me that I should enjoy the kids’ childhood because he knows about my regrets that I could not enjoy his babyhood. But they are her kids and not mine and I am no more young  and energetic.”

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“And they think they have given a cook, an ayah, two maids – oh why don’t they keep one more maid for supervising the four. I had dreamed of getting leisure in my retired life and not slogging at her deliveries and slaving after her kids. My god, it was much better while I was working. You dress up nicely, go out and forget all the jhanjat.” At this point, the problems, the politics which had irritated and defeated her at times at the workplace, seemed welcome or were at best forgotten.

Sneha wonders how to help her friends. She was sure Prema would think Kala is happier and Kala was bound to think that Prema is happier. These are not the grannies of old who attended keertans and just wanted their vansh to continue. These are women who are persons in their own rights! They have clear expectations of how life should be lived. Again, individuality is fine; but alas, most of us get into the rut of thinking that life is good but not good enough and live our lives unhappily. Perhaps give and take does not exist in a good relationship, only give and give does.

Is Prema ready to realize that if her dream of living with her grandkids comes true, it may not turn out to be that pleasant? Because getting what you want always comes with strings attached. And is Kala ready to realize that the feeling of being useful, being wanted if taken away – would leave a difficult to tackle vacuum behind?

Happiness is a mirage. At their age at least, it should be easier to swallow the dose of philosophy which is always needed if one wants to live a reasonably happy life. We cannot forget ‘the conditions apply’ clause. Having all that you want does not guaranty happiness; to be satisfied with what you have, might. Then there is the cliched but useful ‘count your blessings’ mindset also.

Image source: a still from the movie Kucch Kucch Hota Hain

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