Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai. Aug ’08
Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd, the constituents of which will get on and off. But the aggregate numbers will always remain steady or perhaps get higher.
And then, in about 6-7 hours, return. Traveling the same 3 hours. Jostle with new shoulders and rush home to take care of recalcitrant sons & spread happiness in the family. And then get out of bed, the next day. To repeat the routine. The next day. And the next day. And so on.
And oh, by the way, in between those 6 hours of travel, stand in front of young minds and teach for many hours. About plants. Science. Environment. And so on. For a few years. And then, the government transfer comes finally, as rain to parched lands. And those tired legs get some respite. The soul is still fresh.
Years keep flowing by. Her husband, an able vivacious, intelligent and loving man, with loads of friends has a new companion, who he has been seeing for some years now. The doctor introduces him to her and her sons as a certain Parkinson. This Parkinson is no ordinary push over.
Like a string of native kings falling by the wayside to make way for an invading imperial force, each part of the body is ceded to Parkinson. Except perhaps the mind. That freedom struggle still is on. As before. Very much on. Twenty years is a long time. The soul is a trifle weary. But still is fresh. The lady manages to keep it so. Both hers and her husband’s.
In the in between years, relatives come and go. Come when in need and go on satiation! Friends come and go. Actually many go. And only a few come. Many laugh aloud at the woman & her plight. She endures those sardonic grins with a surfeit of will, happiness and just a plain need to keep going, No matter what.
The years roll on. And then, she retires. From work. The husband strains every sinew to ensure he retires only after completing his full term. And retires too. She ensures his soul is fresh to do so.
Other health problems surface. For her too. The finances look shaky. The house that stands in their name, stands like a majestic evidence of all that it took to put it together. There are options available. ‘Compromise on values’ does not figure on the list.
Problems persist. And then, roll away. Like water on a lotus leaf. New ones, continue to emerge. The soul is still fresh.
Somewhere in-between she gets her sons married. Small savings over years make way for grand weddings. ‘Talk of the town’ types. The daughter-in-laws are inducted well into the family,with a perspicuity that many a corporate would pay a kings ransom for.
She encourages her sons to move on and see the world. The sons move to different cities. Tending to their own lives & holding on to the telephone lines and the odd train journey to stay alive to ‘home’. A grandson arrives. Happiness abounds. The soul is still afresh.
So, she tends to her husband & his now permanent companion, Parkinson, in a distant city. Oh, by the way, upon retirement, she learns how to operate the computer & gets herself familiar with the Internet.
One able son opens a Gmail account for her & gives her lessons over the phone. She picks up the pieces. Autodidacts every piece. Bit by bit. She understands Browses. E-mails. Reads twitter posts. And stays connected with her sons, their families and to the rest of the world. The soul. Oh that’s fresh.
Her life & her husband’s life are an epitome of survival. And a will to carry on, no matter what. A desire to make a difference and to raise sons who perhaps will do the same. A story of beauty & lessons in an endless struggle. A soul that refuses to cave in. A soul that is still fresh.
One of her sons is a torch bearer of sorts, starting with being an entrepreneur while still being wet behind the ears at college ! And shines through, to date, and holds tremendous promise.
The other son, hems and haws. Meanders through the labyrinths of the corporate world. Someday, he believes, he will be worthy of being their son and all what they put into him.
Today, he catches people celebrating Amitabh Bachan‘s birthday, and thinks about his heroes. A few empty stares into a Saturday sky and lurking pigeons later, he proceeds to write. About his heroes.
With moist eyes and a tear that’s just dried, on his left cheek, he begins,
“Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd….