Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Want to Go Home



Sometime ago – I met a lady friend in her early 60s.

Both her children (two daughters) have migrated to America and settled down there. 

She has visited the US a number of times – mainly for delivery of her daughters, babysitting and nanny duties of her grandchildren – since both daughters decided to have all their children in America for obvious reasons – so that kids automatically get US citizenship.

In India – the lady looks after her widowed 85 year old mother. 

Sadly – the lady widowed too.

One of her daughters is calling her to America for nanny duties”  since the daughter has to travel a lot for work. 

Her 85 year old widowed mother is complaining that she cannot live alone for 6 months 

(Of course  the old 85 year old lady is too fragile to travel abroad).

During her earlier trips abroad – her widowed mother managed to live alone  but at that time – the old woman was in her late 70s and early 80– and  she was much healthier and fitter.  

My lady friend in her 60s is in a dilemma.

On one side stands her 85 year old widowed mother  pleading with her not to go to America.

On the other side is her daughter  beseeching her to come to America to take care of her children  as this will enable the daughter to focus on her career.

My lady friend is torn between her loyalty to her mother and her love for her daughter

It is a case of Filial Love (Love for her mother) versus Motherly Love (Love for her daughter).

In my lady friends case – her motherly love for the daughter has prevailed over her filial duty towards the mother  and she has decided to go to America for 6 months.

Of course – there is one more reason – the green card requirement to live in the US for the specified duration of time.

Now – my lady friend is exploring the option of sending her mother to an old age home – rather than leave her all alone at home.

All this reminded me of a story I had written around 12 years ago – in the year 2005  called METAMORPHOSIS.

So – let me delve deep into my Creative Writing Archives and pull out this story for you to read.

Dear Reader: 

Do remember that I wrote this story when I was in Mumbai around 12 years ago in the year 2005 – hence the Mumbai atmosphere of those days...

Short Fiction Story 

Dramatis Personae:
Father (Baba) – a 72 year old man
Mother (Mamma) – a 69 year old woman
Son – a 45 year old man

“I want to go home...!!!” the father  a redoubtable intrepid tough looking old man  who is 72 years old – shouts emphatically at his son.

“But why...? What happened...?” asks the son.

I have had a terrible time out here for the last one month since you dumped us here...” the father complains loudly.  

“Please Baba. Don’t create a scene...” says the son  a soft-spoken effeminate looking man in his mid-40– maybe 45 years old.  
“What do you mean don’t create a scene...?” the old man shouts even louder  waving his walking stick in a menacing manner.
“Please calm down...!!! Everyone is looking at us...!!!” says an old woman  in her mid-60– she pleads with her husband to be silent. 
“Let them look..!!! Let everyone see what an ungrateful son is doing to his poor old parents...” the old man says loudly – looking all around. 
“Ungrateful...?” the son winces.  
“Yes, ungrateful...!!! That’s what you are...!!! We did everything for you – we educated you – we brought you up. And now  you throw us out of our house into this bloody choultry....”  
“Choultry...!!! You call this a choultry...!!! Please Baba – this is a luxury township for Senior Citizens...” the son says.  
“It’s okay...” the old woman consoles the angry old man – her husband. 

The old woman says: “We will somehow manage in this Old Age Home...” 
“Mamma, please...!!!” the son implores in exasperation, “How many times have I told you...? This is not an Old Age Home. This is a “Retirement Resort. It’s such a beautiful exclusive township for Senior Citizens to enjoy a happy and active life. And I have bought you a premium cottage – the best available here.”  
The mother looks at her son  and then at her husband. 

She feels trapped between the two  not knowing what to say – as both are right in their own way. 

So she says gently to her husband: 

“Try to understand. We will adjust here. See how scenic and green this place is. See there – what a lovely garden.”  
“I prefer Nana-Nani Park at Chowpatty. All my friends are there...” the old man says.  
“You will make friends here too...” she says.  
“Friends...!!! These half-dead highbrow snobs...?” the old man says mockingly.  
“Okay...” the son intervenes, “you both can take long walks. The air is so pure and refreshing at this hill station.”  
“Listen you impertinent kid...!!! the old man shouts at his son, "Don’t try all this bullshit on me. I have been walking for the last 50 years on Marine Drive – and – that is where I intend walking the rest of my life  till my dying day.” 

Then the old man turns to his wife – and he says peremptorily to her: 

“You pack our bags and let’s go back to Mumbai. We are not staying here in this godforsaken place...!!!”  
“Try and adjust...” his wife beseeches him, “you will like this place. Look at the facilities here – there is a modern health club, gym, library, recreation  everything is here.”  
“Gym...? Do you want me to do body building at this age...? Library...? You know that after my cataract operation – I can hardly read the newspaper...!!! And – I can get all the recreation I need in Mumbai – watching the sea at the Chowpatty – and walking with my lifelong friends on Marine Drive.”  
“Please Baba  don’t be obstinate...” begs his son. “This place is so good for your health. They give you such delicious nourishing food here.” 
“Delicious Food...? Nourishing...? The bloody sterile stuff tastes like hospital food. I can’t stand the food over here – where will I get Sardar’s Pav Bhaji, Kyani’s Kheema Pav, Vinay’s Misal, Satam’s Vada Pav, Delhi Durbar’s Biryani, Sarvi’s Boti Kababs, Noor Mohammadis Nihari, and the delicious Fish of Anantashram in Khotachi Wadi next door…”  
“Please Baba...!!! All you can think of is horrible oily spicy street-food  which you should not eat at your age...!!! With your cholesterol and sugar levels  you will die if you continue eating all that stuff.”  
“I prefer to die of a heart attack in Mumbai enjoying the good food I like – rather than suffer a slow death here  trying to eat this insipid tasteless nonsense food...” the old man shouts at his son. 

Then the old man looks at his wife and commands her: 

“Listen. Just pack up. We are not staying here like glorified slaves in this golden cage. One month here in this godforsaken place has driven me mad. I will go crazy if I stay here even one day longer. We are going right back to our house in Girgaum to live with dignity...!!!”  
“Please Baba. Don’t be difficult. I have to leave for America tonight...” the son pleads desperately, “I am trying to do the best possible for you. Do you know the huge amount of money I have paid in advance to book this luxurious place for you...?” 
The old man looks sternly at his son – and he says firmly to his son: 

“You go back to your family in America. I am going back to my house in Girgaum. That’s final...!!!” 

Then – the old man looks at his wife and says to her: 

“You want to come along with me...? Or  should I go back to Mumbai alone...?”  
“Mamma  please tell him...” the son says – looking at his mother.  
The old woman looks lovingly at her husband – she puts her hand on his arm – and she says softly to her husband: 

“Please try to understand. We have no choice. We have to live here in the old age home. There is no house in Girgaum. Our tenement chawl has been sold to a builder. They are building a commercial complex there.”  
“What...?” the old man shouts. 

He is stunned by his wifes betrayal. 

The old man looks at his wife with a perplexed expression on his face  unbelieving  as if he is shattered  and he says to his wife: “You too...?” 

Please try and understand...” the old woman says to her husband. 

“Yes. Now  I understand. You and your son have fooled me. You sold our rooms in the chawl to the builder – you slyly brought me here saying we had to vacate our house for one month as our rooms had to be repaired – and then – your son handed over the tenement to the builder. I am sure he got a huge amount for vacating the chawl - and he spends a fraction of it to lease a place in this old age home and he pockets the rest of the money...” the old man says. 

The old man looks at his son – then he looks at his wife – and says to her: 

“Am I right...? Your smart son did a deal with the builder and you connived with him..? Because of my love for you – as a magnanimous gesture – I put the tenement in your name – and you betrayed my trust...” 

Tears well up in the old woman’s eyes. 

The son looks away – trying to avoid his father’s eyes.

Both mother and son remain silent. 

For sometime – there is a grotesque silence. 

Reality dawns on the old man – he realises that he will be never going back to his beloved home in Girgaum again. 

Maybe there is no home left – the builder may have already demolished the chawl after getting the few remaining people to vacate it – the few – like him – who were determined to stay there for the rest of their lives – and – like him – they too may have been betrayed by their near and dear ones for money. 

But – now - it is too late – and – there is no point thinking these things.

The old man realises that he will have to stay in this wretched old age home for the rest of his life. 

He is overcome by despondency – a sense of hopelessness and depression.

– the old mans defences crumble  and  he disintegrates.

No longer is he the strong indefatigable redoubtable tough man he was a few moments ago.

He seems to have lost his spirit, his strength, his dignity, his self-esteem – he seems to have even lost his will to live...!!!

There is a drastic and unbelievable metamorphosis in the old mans personality as he meekly holds his wife’s hand for support.

Totally defeated  his heart and soul totally broken  the old man obediently walks with his wife towards their cottage – where they both – along with many other similar Senior Citizens  will spend the last days of their lives  lonely  unwanted  waiting for death – in the Old Age Home.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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