SHORT FICTION by VIKRAM KARVE
“I have decided to give the bungalow for redevelopment…” his mother says.
“Re-development…?” he asks – surprised.
“Yes – redevelopment of our old bungalow into modern high-rise apartments – I discussed it with your sister – she wants it too…” his mother says.
He looks at his sister and smiles at her sarcastically.
“Oh – so this is why you have come to Pune all the way from the US – after a gap of 3 years…” he says to his sister.
“We were busy…” his sister says.
“So busy that you couldn’t come for father’s funeral last year…?” he says in an accusatory tone.
“I wanted to come – but couldn’t – and you were here to do everything…” his sister says.
“Oh – Yes – I am always here to do everything…” he says with sarcasm in his voice.
His mother looks at him and speaks.
“Let’s talk about the redevelopment of our bungalow…” his mother says to him.
“I am not interested in redevelopment – I love living in this bungalow…” he says.
“But your sister wants redevelopment…” his mother says to him.
“What has she got to do with this…?” he says, “father had clearly said that this bungalow was mine…”
“No – but…” his sister starts speaking.
He gestures for her to be silent.
Then – he looks at both his mother and his sister – and he speaks in a firm voice.
“10 years ago – in this very room – father had said that this bungalow would be mine after he died – do you remember…? I wanted to buy a flat near Baner – and move out to live independently – but father said there was no need for me to buy a flat – that I should live here and look after him and mother – and after his death – I would be the owner of this bungalow…” he says to his mother and sister.
“That was 10 years ago…” his sister says.
“So…? He gave me his word. Doesn’t his word of honour have any significance to you…? In fact – knowing that I would be living here permanently – I got the bungalow renovated – I built two extra rooms – improved the terrace – beautified the garden – now – the bungalow is in good condition – and – we are quite comfortable here – so – there is no need to demolish this beautiful bungalow…” he says to his mother and sister.
“Those are your views – we feel redevelopment is the best option – the builder is giving us a very good deal too – one 3 BHK flat for each of us – and quite a nice amount of money…” his mother says.
“What…? You have already talked to a builder for redevelopment…? You didn’t even bother to tell me…” he says – shocked.
“He had come here in the afternoon – when you were at work – so – I am telling you now – the moment you have come back from work…” his mother says.
“You should have asked me before speaking to him…? And – did the builder land up here suddenly on his own…? Someone must have spoken to him…” he says – curious – looking at his mother and sister.
His sister speaks.
“My husband spoke to the builder – he is a classmate of my husband…” his sister says.
“Oh – so it is your husband who is the culprit – sitting in the US – and creating mischief here…” he says to his sister – contemptuously.
“Don’t speak like that about your brother-in-law – he is elder to you…” his mother says to him – in a tone of admonishment.
“Then tell him to mind his own business…” he says curtly – then he looks at his mother and sister – and he says, “I am the owner of this bungalow now – and I have decided that there is going to be no redevelopment – that is final…”
His sister looks at him and speaks.
“You are not the owner of this bungalow – this bungalow was originally built by our grandfather – so – it is ancestral property – after father’s death – the bungalow belongs to all 3 of us – mother, you and me…” his sister says.
“But father clearly promised me that he would be giving me this bungalow…” he says – assertively.
“Father is dead now…” his sister says – matter-of-factly.
“I know he is dead – I was the one who performed his last rites – but you didn’t even bother to come for his funeral…” he says reproachfully to his sister.
Their mother intervenes.
“Please stop arguing…” his mother says to him, “that fact is that your father didn’t make a will – and even if he did – you won’t be the sole owner of this bungalow since it is ancestral property…”
“But he promised me – in front of you – doesn’t his promise have any credence…?” he asks his mother emphatically.
“We have to be practical in these matters – we feel that redevelopment is the best option – we are getting a good deal – so – we should go ahead…” his mother says to him.
“I am not interested in redevelopment – I want to live this bungalow…” he says.
His sister looks at him and speaks in a combative tone.
“What do you mean “I want to live in this bungalow”…? You can’t always dictate terms and bulldoze your way. I have an equal share – as much as you have – so you have to listen to my views too…” his sister says insistently.
He looks at his sister coldly and speaks.
“Oh – “equal share” – okay – so – from now on – you look after mother…” he says to his sister.
“What do you mean…?” his mother interjects.
“You keep out of this…” he says to his mother sternly, “I am talking to her…” he says pointing to his sister – then – he turns to his mother and says, “till now – I looked after you and father – now – father is dead – and – and you say that his promise is dead too – so – your daughter will look after you from now on…”
His sister is taken aback.
“How can I look after mother – I don’t live in Pune…” his sister says.
“Then – you relocate to Pune and live here…” he says to his sister.
“I am an American Citizen – I am happy living in the US – why should I relocate to Pune – I don’t want to live in Pune…” the sister says.
“If you don’t want to live in Pune – why do you want a house in Pune…?” he says to his sister.
“Why not…? It is my right to have a share in my parents’ property…” the sister says.
“Yes – and it is your responsibility to look after your parents too – I looked after them for the last 10 years – now – it is your turn…” he says to his sister.
“My turn…? What do you mean…?” the sister says.
“Well – rights and responsibilities go together – if you have equal rights to your parents’ property – you have equal responsibility of looking after them too – I have done my bit – I looked after both father and mother for 10 years – now – only our mother is alive – so – it is your responsibility to look after mother for an equal duration…” he says to his sister.
“And you – what about you…?” his sister asks him – questioningly.
“I am moving out of the bungalow soon – so you can stay here and look after mother…” he says.
“Moving out…? Where…?” his sister asks.
“That’s none of your business…” he says rudely.
“What do you mean…? How can you just go away like that…?” his sister says.
“Don’t worry about me – you worry about doing your duty – rest assured – I’ll be back after 10 years once your turn is over…” he says.
“I told you that I can’t come and stay here in Pune for such a long time…” his sister says.
“Then – you can take mother to America to live with you – anyway – that’s none of my business – it is your prerogative how to look after mother…” he says firmly to his sister.
Then – he walks out of the room – before his mother can react.
He means what he says – and – he walks his talk.
A few days later – he moves out of the bungalow and relocates to another city – taking up a new job.
His mother pleads with him to not to go – but doesn’t pay any heed to her entreaties.
Meanwhile – his sister has returned to the US – back to her husband and family.
His mother keeps beseeching him to come back to Pune – but it is of no use – he doesn’t come back.
Then – a few months later – he migrates overseas for better career prospects.
So now – with her son and daughter both abroad in foreign countries – the mother lives all alone in the bungalow – lonely and desolate.
And – the bungalow…?
Well – though his mother and daughter are keen on redevelopment and building high-rise apartments in place of the bungalow – the redevelopment cannot happen without his NOC – which he consistently refuses.
He also makes it clear to his sister that she is responsible for looking after their mother for the next 10 years – when it will be his turn again – as per the “equal rights – equal responsibility” hypothesis.
Living in the US – the sister can’t look after her old mother living in the bungalow in Pune – and – taking her old mother to the US doesn’t seem practicable – and – neither is her old mother inclined to relocate to America – so – the old mother leads a lonely existence in the bungalow.
The daughter does whatever she can – remotely – from the US – to arrange caretakers for her old mother – who is becoming infirm day by day.
When the daughter realises that her mother can’t live alone – she moves her mother to an “assisted living facility” – and the bungalow lies unoccupied – locked up – uninhabited.
I wonder what will happen to the bungalow…?
Will the son come back and live in the bungalow…?
Will the bungalow be demolished and redeveloped into high-rise apartments…?
I really don’t know.
Let’s see what happens.
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.