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With each passing day Madhu’s restlessness was touching new heights. She had so much to discuss with Amma but she couldn’t.
The fifth winner of our September 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Jigyansa Mohanty.
Madhu was upset, and it was evident from the dark circles which had popped up under her eyes like an unwanted guest. She has never felt like this in last one year. She wants to run away to the quietude of her inner soul but she can’t. She leans against the window panel feeling dejected and dispirited.
Since last 48 hours, she has been struggling, making peace with her mind. She wants to go and hug Revathi Amma, but she can’t. She can’t forget those two sentences which were enough to create a wound, deep in her heart.
“You guys are tenants, Madhu… so you won’t be able to empathize with me. Owners have so much to look into…”
Revathi Amma may not have thought twice while uttering these words.
“Maybe she had not received her daily dose of calls from her two sons living abroad, and in a fit of rage might have spoken to you in such a way,” Sumit said, while consoling her.
Madhu had never envisaged that she would get a Mom-like figure in Revathi Amma. She had lost her mom when she was in college, and post marriage, she had barely got time to interact with Sumit’s Mom as they both had to pack their bags and leave for Pune, Sumit’s place of posting.
New to the city, Sumit wanted a place close to his office so that he could spend some quality time with his new wife. They went through lot of apartment complexes and were on the verge of finalizing one, when a friend suggested to check this house posted for rent on the company portal. Though Sumit was not interested, Madhu wanted to check it out, and finally they had landed up at Revathi Amma’s pad.
When Madhu and Sumit saw the house for the first time, they were not only taken aback by its architecture, but also by the lush green trees around. Madhu fell in love with the place on her very first visit.
“Darling, we too will build a house like this someday,” Madhu said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Sumit gave a sly smile and said “Why not? Definitely!”
From the design of the house, Sumit could easily guess the abundance of goods and riches on the part of the owner.
“Will they keep us as tenants?” Sumit murmured, while pressing the doorbell with anxiously.
Madhu was behind him, holding his hand, and looking at the door with curious eyes. Madhu had never expected that an old lady would come and answer the doorbell.
Fair and petite Revathi Amma must have been in her seventies. The first meeting itself was enough to create an impact on Madhu. The way she said “Beti” in her Tamilian Hindi accent, was too adorable. She had no airs around her. Clad in a cotton saree and white slippers, she went around showing the entire house to Madhu and Sumit. The house tour was not limited to their portion; it was of the entire bungalow, including the outhouse.
With every corner there was a story that Revathi Amma would refer to. Starting from her late husband, to two sons, daughters in law, and grandchildren, everyone was there in Amma’s heart and she took pride speaking about them. The tour lasted for an hour but that one hour was enough for Madhu to judge how affectionate Revathi Amma was. Despite Sumit’s objection, Madhu decided and finalized Revathi Amma’s house as their new pad. Finally, the much in love couple made Revathi Niwas their new address.
Since then there had been no looking back for Madhu. She stuck a chord with Amma and saw her as a guardian in this new city. After Sumit left for work, Madhu would finish her household chores and then would come to sit with Amma at her terrace garden. Amma’s terrace boasted many different varieties of indoor and outdoor plants. Soaked in the afternoon sun, Madhu loved sipping tea with Amma. Sometimes Amma would get peanuts and Madhu would peel them off, and both would relish the same with a pinch of salt. With that Amma would share her life experiences so dramatically, that Madhu would be lost in them.
Both the sons of Amma were settled abroad and she was the sole resident of such a big house. There was this maid servant Maloti who resided with her family in the outhouse and took care of Amma. Maloti would do all of Revathi Amma’s household chores and in the night too would come to give her company as Amma feared to sleep alone after Appa’s demise.
Whenever Madhu would cook something special, she would make little extra so that she could give it to Revathi Amma. Amma was no less either, she would instruct Maloti to prepare certain delicacies so that she could send the same for Madhu and Sumit.
Revathi Amma loved this new couple and Madhu too echoed the same feelings.
But since yesterday, Revathi Amma’s words have been troubling Madhu to the core. She had never expected that Amma would call her a tenant. Yes, they were tenants, but being called the same in such a blatant way was something which Madhu had least expected. Moreover, Amma uttered the words without realizing that Madhu was not at fault.
Madhu had forgotten to switch off the water motor, something which she always used to do on time. Water overflowed, and this triggered Amma’a anger. Amma was extremely particular about water usage and had warned Sumit once beforehand. Yesterday when there was a delay on Madhu’s part to switch off the motor, Amma had become furious. She might have repented later, but her angst was obvious.
“How can Amma say like this? How can she utter such type of word? Are we just tenants and nothing else? I look up to her as a motherly figure and she thinks we are ones who are residing in her house in exchange of money…” All these thoughts were enough to give Madhu sleepless nights.
She couldn’t speak to Sumit as she knew, Sumit would have just one answer “either you stay here or if you want, we can shift to a different place!” There’s no point talking to him, thought Madhu, and went to bring back her clothes from the terrace. Even with her ongoing struggle with the pile of clothes, she didn’t forget to give that curious look at Amma’s terrace. There was no sign of Revathi Amma; clothes kept hanging on the drying rack and newspaper was lying on the marble floor.
Maybe Amma has gone out, thought Madhu and consoled herself.
Amma’s words were pinching her to the core.
It’s been forty-eight hours now and she has not spoken to Amma. Previously whenever there had been any issues, she had gone and spoken to Amma, but this time she has made up her mind, that she is not going to break the ice.
“Do you expect Amma to come and say sorry to you” Sumit asked jokingly to which Madhu was furious.
“I never expect Amma to come and say sorry, but I just didn’t like the way she spoke. I have always loved and admired her. Both of us have been so kind to her, from day one. Not only that, we have taken care of this house as if it’s our own. Despite all this she says we are tenants, and we can’t empathize with her. How can she think like that? I know staying alone in such a big space in old age is not easy. But that doesn’t mean she can vent out her anger on me.”
Then swallowing a lump in her throat, she added “Why doesn’t she come and talk to me? I am like her daughter. She too can come and convince me. I mean…”
“Ohhh!! Calm down, calm down” Sumit said, while trying to pacify Madhu.
With each passing day Madhu’s restlessness was touching new heights. She had so much to discuss with Amma but she couldn’t. Somewhere within she was feeling the pain every second.
“Why don’t you speak to Amma?” said Maloti while watering the plants in Amma’s terrace garden.
“Hmmm,” Madhu said in a low tone, and was about to shut her terrace door, when Maloti commented,
“Do you know, Amma is not well. She is having fever since last two days”
“What?” Madhu bombarded Maloti with tons of questions.
Maloti hurriedly went inside without uttering a single word. Madhu couldn’t tolerate any further. She couldn’t hold herself back from visiting Amma. All her ego and self esteem went for a toss, and it was Amma’s safety which mattered the most.
Hurriedly she prepared a kadha, and rushed to her beloved landlady’s house. Amma was not at her usual place, that’s the living room where she watches TV often.
“Maybe she is in the bed room, resting…” thought Madhu and went in quietly. To her utter surprise the room was closed from inside.
“Amma might be asleep, I shouldn’t disturb her,” Madhu murmured in a low tone, turned back and was about to return, when two warm hands hugged her from behind.
It was the ever cheerful, Madhu’s Revathi Amma. Tears started rolling down from Madhu’s eyes.
“Sorry, Amma… I mean, are you ok? Hope you are doing good, Maloti told me you are not well?”
In her anxiety Madhu couldn’t notice the blue cap and party glasses that Amma was wearing. Once she spotted the same, she became furious.
“What is all this Amma? Maloti lied to me….”
Maloti came from behind wearing an identical cap and glasses, and was about to open her mouth, when Amma said, “My dear, Madhu… I only told Maloti to inform you that I am unwell. I knew, you would come running to see me.” Then touching Madhu’s hands and looking into her eyes, Amma continued,
“I know you are upset because of my words the other day. My intention was not to hurt you. I think of you as my daughter. I had two sons and now God has given me a beautiful daughter. If kids do something wrong then parents have full right to guide them. Water is precious and we need to understand that. I never intended to hurt you, Beti!”
The tears which had dried up started to resurface, as Madhu began sobbing. She was guilty of having misunderstood her ever cheerful Amma.
As she calmed down, Maloti dragged Madhu up, asking her to wear another pair of birthday cap and party glares. “Today your Amma turns 72 and we three musketeers need to celebrate,” said Revathi Amma.
Editor’s note: In 2019 our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month got bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry.
The writing cue for September 2019 is this quote from the poem Someone Leans Near, from the book Five Poems by Nobel Prize awardee Toni Morrison, a towering literary giant, who passed away recently on 5th August 2019 at the age of 88.
“You wait, longing to hear
Words of reason, love or play
To lash or lull you toward the hollow day”
Jigyansa Mohanty wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
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