One afternoon Preeta happened to notice an appeal in the newspaper bearing the name of her college. The appeal had been made to all former students of the college to contribute generously to rebuild the college library that had been damaged and destroyed by a flood in the area. The news brought tears to her eyes. She thought of the many evenings she had spent browsing through books and magazines in the library. She thought of the librarian who treated the library like a temple and tended to the books as if they were her children. She wondered about the librarian’s reaction to the calamity and felt sorry for having called her a “vigilant vulture”. She sat brooding over the unfortunate event when her mother-in-law called out to her.
“Why don’t we start preparing dinner” she said, “fetch me a knife and the cutting board. I’ll start peeling potatoes while you make tea….”
She stopped on seeing the expression on her face.
“What is the matter child?” she enquired “what’s bothering you? Are you alright?”
Had it been another occasion she might have given an evasive answer but the news had evoked memories of a life that had been so precious to her. She handed the newspaper to her mother-in-law and explained in brief the calamity that had befallen her Alma Mater.
“The library must have been one of your favorite haunts in the college,” said her mother-in-law “ your mother has told me what an avid reader you were before marriage. No wonder you are feeling so bad! Why don’t we send some contribution towards its reconstruction?”
Preeta looked up feeling genuinely surprised. She had never imagined that the older woman could understand her concern let alone appreciate it. Her mother-in-law’s words touched a vital cord in her heart and Preeta felt an instant bond developing towards her.
“That would be great amma” she exclaimed “thank you so much. Could we send the amount tomorrow?”
“Why not?” she replied “the earlier the better. And why do you seem so surprised? I may not have gone to college but I also led a life before marriage just like you. I too felt like a total misfit here and longed for a return to my parental home. Your concern is genuine and I don’t expect you to cut yourself from your roots. All I want you to do is to adapt to this new environment, strike new roots and accept it as your own”
“I will definitely do it amma,” said Preeta “provided you guide and direct me”
“Let me first direct you to the preparation of an evening meal” laughed amma “or else your husband will pout and sulk like a five year old”
“Not my husband but your son!” retorted Preeta thoroughly enjoying her new found authority over her doting mother-in-law.