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When a woman turns 60, do all her needs disappear? How about the need for autonomy, dignity, and a space of her own?
After her husband passed away, a partnership that lasted over 30 years, Veena’s daughter and son both offered to take her in, but she was reluctant to leave her home and adjust to a new life at the age of sixty.
At the same time she was afraid to displease her children, Priti and Rahul. When people said, “What more does a woman want at 60…ek aurat ko kya chahiye is umar mein…other than a roof and three meals?”, she wondered if they were thinking of a dog’s life.
Priti was wary of having her mother over since it meant a few adjustments, but at the same time she didn’t want to appear neglectful or lose out to her brother and his wife.
Veena had been a disciplinarian with a regular schedule; she kept a good home and her place reflected the love and care that had gone into it.
Some of the problems for Priti included the space crunch in her 2BHK apartment with both bedrooms taken up. Priti’s kids weren’t willing to give up their room or share space with their grandmother either, complaining about the lack of privacy. Following the late night grumbling, Veena was left to occupy the lone sofa-cum-bed in the living room. It was difficult for her as the son-in-law lay sprawled before the TV watching his favourite shows and needed his own space having a drink or two after dinner.
And so the nights grew longer for Veena but she wasn’t really sure whether to be relieved or grateful to them for having her…especially the son-in-law who wasn’t very well disposed towards her and held a deep grudge against her late husband for not getting a share in his property despite throwing out hints of not receiving dowry at the wedding.
This had strained their relationship despite Veena’s efforts to mollify Priti and her son-in-law with the best her kitchen could offer and liberal gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, festivals or other occasions. All said and done could not soothe or compensate for ‘half a crore’ forgone.
Veena was uncomfortable on the sofa cum bed, unused as she was to a foam mattress, but she did not dare complain of it. She couldn’t enter the kitchen for her early morning cuppa as it disturbed the maid-cum-cook who occupied the place. She wasn’t free to cook meals of her choice if she didn’t like the preparation, because Priti was clear about some rules in her home. Veena found her own little space, by the little table in the kitchen, but from the 13th floor she could barely see any life below … just a bird’s eye view of which she could make out nothing.
Her grandchildren were too busy with their own lives, laptops or smartphones and with the air conditioning turned at 18 degrees she dare not venture into their room. She also missed her favourite shows. As the family watched their favourites, she read and reread the newspapers. She missed her prayers and chanting as the home temple was sent packing into the bedroom at a height beyond her reach to make way for a mini bar in the living room, so God too was out of the way.
Veena had reminded Priti that she wanted to visit the temple nearby for Ramayana readings, but Priti had set off for an outing instructing her mother to make chicken curry since her husband loved it. Veena dared not displease her son-in-law and did as she was told, feeling hurt that her daughter didn’t think it was necessary to respect her sentiments. Funny as it was, she felt like a stranger now to her own daughter who had once lived with her for more than two decades.
Veena found time hanging on her hands, unable to adjust to the new space or with the people who had distanced themselves from her.
She missed her own home… shaded with huge trees, waking up to the chirping of birds every morning, the bird feeder where she regularly put out grains and some freshly cut fruits and water, as she watched them eat …wondering if they remembered her. The crow had built a nest for its fledglings on the branches close to her window with squirrels scampering up and down to collect food, monkeys that trooped often swinging from branches annoying the birds on the trees. The auto rickshaws lined below on the road, the noisy children going up and down the street… all that gave her a sense of familiarity.
Veena longed to go home but dare not express it, lest she would not be welcome again.
However, last night’s conversation over the dinner table had put Veena Menon in a fix. Priti had asked her to sell the apartment so that they could use the money to buy a bigger house to accommodate them all. She spoke of the extra rooms required for Rahul and his family in case they visited, additional space for a music room for the kid and so on. Veena felt threatened and uneasiness seemed to possess her mind. She called Rahul, but he was busy at work and brushed off the whole thing saying that she should sort it out with her daughter. Veena had a foreboding that her son-in-law was at the back of it all and knew she had to act now.
Some time later her neighbour over from her old flat called Priti to inform her of a leakage from Veena’s flat that required urgent repairs before the rains set. Veena packed her bags again, this time feeling a strange sense of elation.
Once back, she quietly thanked her friends in her neighborhood who had come up with the plan to save her from the unhappy situation without hurting Priti.
There can never be anything in the world like home. The shaggy dog lying at the gate came forward to greet her, she threw open the windows and inhaled deeply, looking at the nest on the branches…the fledglings had left and only the crow, remained.
She made her favourite filter coffee and sat down with a plate of her favourite ginger cookies she had bought after a very long time. Life was going to be beautiful again…she wasn’t going anywhere now…
Top photo credits DragonImages via Canva Pro
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