Instinctively and inconspicuously, I moved to her side to protect her from the surging traffic and help her cross over. She noticed me by her side and asked if I was also going to the market and could help her cross. I nodded and asked her to wait. As the traffic slackened a couple of minutes later, I held her by the shoulders and indicated to the car drivers on both sides to slow down.
On the other side of the road, as I gave her my hand to get on to the footpath, she thanked me gratefully. I asked her if she wanted to buy some milk from the Mother Dairy and offered to buy it for her. Panting due to the effort of walking, she told me that she had to get milk as well as vegetables and that she would buy them herself. As we crossed another road, I held her steadily on the potholed road and again gestured to the drivers to wait a few seconds.
Very politely, I queried why she didn't get grocery, milk and veggies etc delivered to her home from the store inside our housing society itself. She replied in a matter-of-fact way that she didn't have any phone. I don't know what came over the lady suddenly, but she started confiding in me about how her son and daughter-in-law had been troubling her. In a feeble voice, she spoke about her illnesses, her childhood, her parents and her happy and comfortable life with her husband of 48 years. She told me how loving and caring her son was in his childhood and what hopes they had from him. But after his marriage, circumstances changed, he ruined his father's established business, squandered the savings and started pestering the mother for disposing off their properties and giving him the money. Her thoughts were all muddled up, but she spoke quite coherently.
I was a bit embarrassed to hear all this; after all, I was a stranger for the lady although we happen to reside in the same society. With vehicles screeching and honking all around, I couldn't hear all that she kept on babbling, but her tear filled eyes conveyed her inner turmoil and predicament very clearly.
I wished to move away, having reached the Mother Dairy booth, but the despondence in her eyes held me back. I stayed with her for a few more minutes till she fell silent, except for the heavy breathing. Gently, I asked her if she wanted me to wait for her, but she politely declined my offer. "It is my destiny, I have to bear it." I told her to take a rickshaw home and moved towards the market in a pensive mood.
Generation and communication gap, too many expectations from children, different aspirations and lifestyle, acceptance of disagreements- that brief conversation with the gloomy lady, or rather her monologue left me wondering what is it that makes parents and children drift apart to the extent that life becomes a living hell, perhaps for both!
-By Seema Taneja
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