I returned after a trip down south on Deepavali day. My mind was filled with precious memories of my trip and I did not feel the urge to celebrate Deepavali. My Deepavali had already been celebrated in the very place where I grew up when a good number of us gathered to celebrate my maternal uncle’s 80th birthday. And the cousins who hosted the function made it memorable. For the three days I spent in my maternal grandfather’s house I forgot that I was married and lead a life of my own in far off Jamshedpur. My career and the promotion that still eludes me did not matter.
My mama and mami certainly deserved better. When my mother was widowed at the age of forty and moved into her maternal home my maternal grandfather was alive. He had to support us because we had no one else to turn to. We later realized that he was a little apprehensive about my mami’s reaction to the circumstances and had plans to set up a separate establishment for my mother if he sensed that his only son and daughter in law showed signs of displeasure. It never even happened. My mother had to adjust considering the future of her children. My mami was under no compulsion to adjust. But she did. My mother continued to live there even after my grandfather passed away within 5 years of my father’s death and finally moved out only after my youngest brother took up a job. For the next 16 years that followed she would visit us and spend a few months in Jamshedpur with me or in Hyderabad/Mumbai or Tirupathi with my sister or older brother but would always return to Gobi which was her head quarter. Twenty one years is a long time for anyone to play host and my maternal uncle and aunt not only offered emotional support to my mother – they did it without a frown on their face. They too went through a lot during the period. Crops failed and management farming was not profitable. No one would have blamed them if they had showed us the door. But they were great people. My own children have pleasant memories of a summer spent at Gobi in 1986.
For all the kindness they showered upon us they should have spent a happy retired life. My uncle had planned to do just that when he sold his farmland and renovated his house after all his children settled down. But God willed otherwise. My aunt suffered a massive stroke and never recovered. Due to an inoperable clot in her brain she was unable to recognize her own children. Initially she would speak incoherently calling out names at random. On one occasion she could recall who I was and enquired after my younger sister but little else. That was 15 years back. She now lives but has no life and her children attend to her as if she were a three month old. My uncle looks after her with affection and claims that he wants do as much as possible for her now because he could never do so when his children were growing up and he was busy attending to his farm.
Whenever I think of the two of them I wonder why they are being tried in this manner. There are times when I feel that scamsters and the like have it easy and selfless souls are at the receiving end of life’s blows. I know of no past or future lives or of God’s way of balancing things. I do know that my uncle and aunt did not deserve this. However, I did seem to find an explanation in Brian Weiss’s book Message from the masters in which the author says that those who have always been serving and caring for others sometimes need to receive the love and affection of others. One cannot always be the donor. I would not know if there is truth in this explanation but would it not discourage people from being good to others if their kindness is repaid in this manner? I am truly confused.
Be it as it may, I am glad I decided to visit my uncle and aunt. I may have become a grandmother but memories of the days spent at my grandfather’s place in familiar surroundings will always be cherished by me.