Better Late Than Never

“Where are these children heading to?” grumbled Dadima. “No interest in our culture, our music, our food….. Add to all this, the parents of today also encourage their children to follow Western culture

Jyothi got up as usual from her bed at 6 am, feeling fresh and energetic. “What a miracle? I do not have the nagging backache today morning. It must be the effect of Lion Balm which my grandson Biswas applied last night before I retired to bed. Several medicines are being marketed these days and each of them proclaims a miracle cure for our aches. But this balm is really very effective.” Thinking thus, Jyothi walked towards the wash basin to brush her teeth.

Just then, Pratap who was standing there asked, “Ma how is your back now? Did you sleep well last night?” Changing her tone, Jyothi said, “No not much of improvement. I feel the same. “

“You know Pratap how much of running around I have done in my younger days with all three of you? Taking you all to classes, preparing delicious snacks, taking care of your homework etc….. Endless chores! Anyhow, where is Bahu?” “ Oh, Sumitra is busy in the kitchen preparing pizzas, tiramisu, lasagna, pasta and noodles for Bhavna’s get together in her college this evening as her college closes next week for summer vacations.”

“What pizzas, tiramisu….did I get it correct? Why is your wife not preparing traditional Indian food for the get-together? Why we also have mouth-watering dishes like Chole Batura, poori etc. You must instil Indian culture and values in your daughter and encourage her to eat more of Indian food. After all, these are only ‘phoren stuff’!”

Pratap continued in an irritated manner, “Ma, these dishes are also good and the children like it. That’s all. Having them once in a while is alright.” “You are not strict with your children. That’s all I can say. You all may do as you wish.” “Okay, Okay,” walked away Pratap as it was getting late for his office and this was no time for arguments.

Jyothi suddenly caught a whiff of pleasant smelling eau de cologne floating in the air. She raised her head and saw Biswas, “Dadima, just move a little. I need to keep my iPad, mobile, laptop on the table.”
“You have enough space to go,” said an irritated Jyothi.
“Dadima, do you want to listen to some songs?”
“What type of songs?”
“Well I have the songs of Back street boys, do you want to listen? ”
“No, no my ears are not tuned to your screaming and screeching songs.” “Well, Dadima do you want to listen to ABBA of yesteryears. It is very melodious. Please, Dadima, just listen once,” pleaded Biswas.

Jyothi continued in an adamant manner, “No way! What songs are these? Just don’t know how you all manage to listen to these songs. Do you not have any CDs of Sitar, Hindustani or Carnatic music?”.
“You are incorrigible Dadima,” said Biswas and left the place in a huff.

“Where are these children heading to?” grumbled Dadima. “No interest in our culture, our music, our food….. Add to all this, the parents of today also encourage their children to follow Western culture. As parents, they themselves are aping ‘phoren culture’. Is it not the duty of the parents to teach their children to appreciate some Indian classical music, make their children follow our customs and know our ‘parampara’? Always these children need pizzas, pasta etc. Even from the health point of view, these are not as good as our dal chawal and sabjis. What cooking is Bhavna going to do when she enters her in-laws’ house? Well, none of my ideas is heard in this household. All I have to learn is to keep my mouth shut and not voice my opinion as that is the only way to avoid conflicts and tiffs.”

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“Dadima, where are you? Ma and I are making so many varieties of dishes for my get together in college this evening. Come here and taste them. They are so yummy!” Seeing her Dadima’s long face, Bhavna continued, “My dear Dadima, come on, they are all purely vegetarian dishes, the recipes of which we downloaded from the net. They look tempting. Just a bite Dadima”.
“Look Bhavna we are neither Italians nor French and as I always tell you, I like only our desi food. Why do you brag about the cuisines of other nations when our Indian cuisine has everything we look for in good food? Those days my mother taught me to make a simple lunch by the age of eight and look, you a college-going girl still does not know to make a simple Indian lunch or dinner. Always talking about pizzas….Your mother also encourages you to eat and make these dishes. What a mother-daughter combo! And your Papa is one who enjoys these dishes prepared by you two. I am really tired of talking about the same subject for the past many years.”, said the now-frustrated Jyothi. Bhavna left the scene with a sulky face. Sumithra just patted her daughter and went about her other chores.

The phone rang and it was Pratap’s call, “Look Sumi, my friend Mathur is having a birthday celebration at his place. You all get ready by 6 and we shall leave for the party. There was a special request by Mathur to bring Maaji along as his mother is a good friend of Maaji. Ok?”

Maaji was relaxing in her room when Sumithra peeped in, “ Maaji, your son just called to say that there is a party at Mathur’s place tonight and asked all of us to be ready at 6 in the evening. “
“Do all of us include me as well?”, asked Jyothi.
“Yes, Maaji. There was this special request from Mathur to bring you along.” “I am not interested in this cake cutting business and singing etc. You all may go. I will be content watching the TV serial at home. Just make a few paranthas for me for dinner”, said Jyothi.
“But Maaji, your friend Preeti aunty is also there. She must be looking forward to your arrival. It will be a nice change for you as well. Please come Maaji”, said Sumithra, in her attempt to convince her mother-in-law.
Preethi’s name made Maaji accede to the request and she continued, “Alright I will come, but don’t force me to eat this and that. Right?”
“Sure Maaji…Maaji”, continued Sumithra the accommodative Bahu “Shall I wear that beautiful long dress which your son gifted me for my last birthday? All my friends have planned on wearing something different today.”
“Why can you not wear the salwar suit that I presented you for Diwali this year? Is it not good? Moreover, you should wear something Indian and not other dresses in public. You may probably wear that long dress of yours when you and Pratap are alone. That is my view”, said Jyothi. On hearing this Sumithra’s face fell.

“Hearty welcome to all of you,” said the Mathurs with a big smile writ large on their faces, as Pratap and his family entered Mathur’s house. The entire hall was well decorated with a huge cake set in the middle of the room with Preethi’s smiling photograph placed on the cake. On seeing this, Jyothi was surprised. She went closer to see if it was her friend’s photo. Yes, it is Preethi.

“OMG, how happy and contented Preethi looks in the photo?” thought Jyothi. This thought of hers was no understatement as she saw a happy looking Preethi walking towards her. Hugging her she said, “Hello Jyothi how are you ?” Seventy-year-old Preethi looked beautiful in a designer saree with a light make-up which added to her already beautiful looks. “Yeh Preethi, your birthday today? Preethi replied coyly, “Ya, I did not want any celebrations but my grandchildren and Bahu Sonali insisted on having a party. In fact, it is my Bahu who selected this saree for me and she is my ‘make-up’ woman too! I did not want to spoil the fun and so gave my consent and I am the ‘heroine of the day’ “

Soon Preethi’s grandchildren came running and hugged her. “My sweet Dadi,” said they. “Jyothi Dadima, our Dadima is not like so many other Dadimas of our classmates. She never criticizes our dresses in front of our friends and says we look good in leggings and tops or any other modern dress. At the same time, when we are alone at home, she tells us that we should dress properly without any indecent exposure of the body as our body is sacred and needs to be given respect. We appreciate her ideas about dressing as they are logical and we do accept them.” They further continued, “You know something Jyothi Dadima, she tastes the new stuff we prepare at home like burgers, pizzas etc. instead of rejecting them outright, as it happens in several of our friends’ houses. In her own way, she never forgets to tell us the health benefits of wholesome foods like dal, rotis etc.’ Once in a while, it is alright to eat a pizza or a burger, but not too often Beta’, says she. Is our Dadima not a wonderful person?”

Just then Sonali walks in and pitches in her share of the comments about Preethi, “Yes Aunty, Preethi Maaji always encourages me to try out new recipes, go for long or short tours with her son, and is more than willing to spend ‘exclusive’ time with her grandkids when we are both away! She likes to see me always well dressed and keeps telling me to look my best throughout the day. We both go shopping many a time and Maaji is very enthusiastic and keeps prompting me to buy new stuff which is recently introduced in the market, be it clothing or anything else. She is my best friend and never makes me feel the absence of my mother. At the same time, she gently pinpoints my mistake, if I do something wrong and that too not in public.”

Lastly enters Mathur, “I have been hearing everything. Maaji is a gem. She has undergone several hardships in life but she does not allow her past to overshadow the present and keeps moving with the times and acts as a buffer in times of crisis. Maaji, we all love you,” said Mathur in an emotion-laden voice.

There was an awakening in Jyothi’s mind. “What have I done for the past many years? I am ashamed of myself. God, thank you for this wonderful realization through Preethi and please help me turn over a new leaf at least now. Better late than never. I too wish to be a much wanted Dadima and Ma in my family,” thought she.


Image via Pixabay


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