Monday, February 09, 2009

A story that impressed me

This is a rough translation of an interesting story I read in a Tamil magazine a few years back. It must have impressed me a lot for me to remember it even now.

An old man had let out a part of his house in the suburbs of Chennai to a middle aged couple with a teen aged son. He had a son who was well settled, leading a busy life, living in a posh upper class locality of Central Chennai. It was evident to the tenants that the relationship between the old man and his son was cordial but rather aloof and the old man never seemed very comfortable during the son’s monthly visits which were regular but formal affairs. The daughter in law and his only grand daughter also accompanied the son more out of a sense of duty than genuine affection. The old man put down his son’s behavior to the formative years the son spent in boarding schools and hostels since he himself had a transferable job and was very often posted to areas that lacked good schools.

“I catered to his physical requirements but never to his emotional ones. He is doing the same to me. He was close to his mother but unfortunately she died early and he never bonded with me the way he could have. But he is a good boy and I have no complaints.” He’d often say. He’d go on to add that the tenant and his family were as good as his own. Their 14 year old son called him ‘thatha’ meaning grandpa and often went to him for help with his home work assignments. He dined with them on festive occasions, remembered their birthdays and anniversary and asked after their extended family who in turn had a kind word for him whenever they visited.

One day the old man suffers a stroke and has to be hospitalized. The couple who had by now grown very attached to him tried to contact his son who was holidaying abroad and took care of him till his arrival. The son arrived quickly enough and was very grateful to the couple for their help. He took charge of the situation and shifted the old man to a hospital near his house and arranged for an attendant to look after him.

The tenants continue with their busy lives when their son wonders aloud as to how ‘thatha’ may be faring. It is then that they realize that a week had gone by and they had not visited him in hospital. The hospital was far off but the trio undertake a tedious trip by local train to the nearest station and hire a taxi from there to the hospital. They feel relieved that his condition was stable when their son goes close enough to hear the old man mumble something.

“I have a table made of Burma teak. It is a spacious one and you would use it as your study table as a child. I got it specially made for you when you started school. The tenant’s son uses it these days. They are a cunning lot and may claim it to be theirs. You don’t get such good furniture these days and a table of that size would cost a fortune even if one makes it with some ordinary wood let alone teak wood. You must take time to go and fetch it for your daughter..……..”

The tenants are shocked. The old man continued to mumble something but it did not matter any more. They return even without waking the old man despite their son’s protests.

This story set me thinking. Parenting is often described as sacrifice. It is supposed be a forgiving experience. One tends to overlook the flaws of children and in spite of irresponsible behavior from them one always tries to defend them. But don’t we owe some kind of appreciation to those who stand by us in our time of need? Can we afford to be blind to the fact that neighbors who pitch in and help are not bound to do so but they do it out of genuine concern? In this story for instance it was alright for the old man to want to give the table to his grandkid. But was it necessary to imply that the couple were cunning and had an ulterior motive in taking care of him? With more and more children leaving ageing parents to deal with their old age is it not important for us to change our attitude?

12 comments:

ugich konitari said...

Makes you think, doesnt it. I think the key to the whole thing is , "“I catered to his physical requirements but never to his emotional ones. "

If your mental and social makeup is such that you cannot touch your child's mind, then you cannot see into anyone else's either. The tenants were just a convenience. I have seen this kind of thing happen in typical situations, where the wife is no more, and the husband gets all withdrawn and in his own imaginary world.. Maybe the effect of the stroke also needs to be considered.

Aathira said...

I have members in my family, who I am certain might react in the same manner.

At times I feel that old tales are not always just fiction. They might have a very strong link to reality.

apu said...

HHG, Interesting story. I feel people tend to feel closer in one sense to their children, i.e. some sort of possessiveness or 'family feeling' even in cases where there is low emotional attachment. I've seen this esp with fathers of the earlier generation where there was little involvement with children.

starry nights said...

Interesting story, I have to agree with you that peoples thinkin has to change.I believe that there are many good people out there who help not because they want something, but because they are kind and see that there is no one else to help that person.I think it is good to be cautious but it should not blurr our thinking.

Srijith Unni said...

Hmm.. thought provoking...

Renu said...

very interesting story, and true also, I have seen in my family that women will be kind to their own children only,I know a women, whose daughters dont want to keep her even, she stays with her DIl and she looks after her well, but that women, still cares for her daughters only, has no kindness or love for her DIL, and thats her persona..she has all her charity mind only for her relations, wont spare her money or thought on unknown.

Sumana said...

As always HHG, you set me thinking. So very true. Anybody who comes to help out of sheer generosity are thoroughly mistaken. Sad that the world changes this way and we need to keep our attitude and values strong and right always.

oorjas said...

this is an age old story. parents are somehow blinded towards their kids mistakes.

wasn't the son actually the cunning one who stuck to his father for the property or money...?

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Hip Grandma said...

ugich:you are right.We cannot expect a person who does not understand his own child's emotional requirement to understand the emotions of strangers.But despite this he is worried that his teak wood table should not be claimed by them and should be inherited by his g'daughter!

Aathira:these are not just stories.They reflect the mindset of the society we live in.

apu:is this perhaps their way of making up for lost time?

Lalitha:i think the concept of 'me' and 'mine; has to change.in times of need those who help are 'yours' and if not anything else they need your good wishes and trust.

srijith:I was surprised how close to reality this story was.an acquaintance of mine told his mother that he did not want any share in her silver and gold since his brother had looked after her all his life while he was just an occasional visitor. he felt that his mother's valuables rightfully belonged to his brother.But no one including the mother agreed.property had to be shared equally they felt.may be they were right.any change of heart at a later stage would breed ill will between brothers they felt.

renu:sad but true.years and years of sharing the same roof with one's DIL does not result in accepting that she too has now become part of the family.she is treated like an outsider all her life.

sumana:These days people are not willing to believe that one can help for the sake of helping.It was not so earlier.Community living is a gone thing and we live as isolated pockets.

oorjas:true,parents tend to support their children even if they are wrong.I don't think children care too much for the antiquated furniture their parents own.It is parents who thrust them on the children whether they want it or not.Thanks for the award.i'll check it out.

Monika said...

i know many such people who would do this....

sadly this is the part of society surely needs to change

i personally think relations of heart are much stronger than relations of blood and it does prove in a husband-wife relationship doesnt it?

Ramya said...

HHG,
As you'd mentioned earlier, the story reflects the society we live in. In my own family, I've seen a woman caring for her daughter more (read only caring for her daughter) than her son. Having given her daughter in marriage 10 years ago and inspite of living with her son and dil, always , always, thinks , cares and had concerns for her daughter only! I dont really understand how a woman can show partiality among her own fruits of her womb, but I'm seeing it happen in every aspect, every day!

Paras said...

Interesting and so true.
The best way to change it is, break the cycle by setting a good example ourselves.
Give values, love and skills to our own offspring...
Be willing to give the material stuff to others also(related or not)who care for us...