People were her lifeline. She wanted them and likewise they too were attracted to her. Her charm and common sense, her piety and her calm, were there for all to imbibe and to emulate.
They say a woman is the back bone of the family; she can make it or break it.
This lady was the matriarch of our family. Her kind and gentle demeanor was only a facade for an assertive and stubborn personality.
She laid the rules, the values, the religious rituals to be followed. All laid down by her dictum.
Don’t mistake me, she was not dictator, but I can call her a benevolent despot!!
She grew old, her roots firm and secure, enclosed in the protective fold of her son’s family she could now lead a retired life. Handing over all her responsibilities and her chores into the competent and capable hands of her daughter in law, albeit reluctantly, she immersed herself in piety and worship.
The first blow came when grandfather passed away.
The red dot on the forehead of a married woman is her proud declaration of “pativrata”, of her dedication and distinction.
It was taken away from her.
What she feared most in her life had happened. She was not to be given the gift of dying a “sumangali.” Her prayers had fallen on deaf ears.
She bore this too with her customary dignity. But her thoughts were tortured. Her mind would swirl with the unfairness of all that had happened. But the thought that no one can change vidhi (fate), was her only solace.
4 years passed this way, she was now confined to a room. Yearning for attention, she would call as we crossed the room. To give us small inane jobs, to keep us near her, to talk to us, she tried in many subtle and blatant ways.
We had no time for her.
Life was a roller coaster, a hundred new things to be done, a hundred different ideas to be explored. There was no time,… no time to sit and chat with an old lady.
We wanted to finish the job and quickly run from there. We could not understand her need, her loneliness.
Her greatest fear was that she would have to face death alone.
Her decline happened slowly. A year on the bed and a week in coma. She was sinking and we knew that. Knowing her fear for being alone, we tried to keep her company, took turns to stay with her, sat in her room, doing our work, or close enough to monitor her every move.
It just happened that we took a rare day off and decided to got out for the evening, leaving her, not alone, but with her college going grandson.
We don’t know when it happened. Which was the exact moment when her life passed, passed into eternity, but it happened that night, and not one of us were next to her.
My brother was there at the door step, tense and expectant. Quick phone calls were made to the doctor, as I made my way into the room and touched her. Cold and lifeless, she lay there on that bed.
I stroked her cheek, and all the love and affection, scolding and admonishments that she had heaped on us, flashed through my mind.
The end is innocuous, taking us silently or violently, but ultimately we will only remain as memories in the minds of those we leave behind. Whether those memories are sad or happy or angry depends solely on how we had chosen to lead our lives.
For this grand dame, death had finally released her from bondage. But she is not gone for ever, for we as her loved ones, carry a piece of her in us always, and we in turn will pass it on to our loved ones.