Attitude, the Essence of Life - contd
by Sudha Chandrasekaran
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Swathi handed over the 10 rupee note to Vignesh. Vignesh dashed out of the room to get his cone from the ice cream truck. Swathi pretended to nod sympathetically at Radha’s tales of deprivation during her days of childhood.
On seeing Vignesh running out, Radha started fuming and would have run down to assault the ice-cream wallah. Till then the house was calm; why did the ice-cream guy come and spoil this atmosphere? To whom can she complain about the behavior of her mom-in-law? To neighbours? They each had their own share of burdens. She also started to sense that they secretly sided with her mother-in-law and felt that Radha was the unfair one and not Swathi, for she appeared to be harmless and soft spoken. She was a regular temple goer, smiling at people who crossed her path and enquiring them about their welfare. With this image of hers how would anyone believe Radha’s tales about her mother-in-law? Early into her marriage, as she and her husband sat watching the TV in a relaxed manner one night, she tried talking to him about the idea of how much better the home situation would be without his mother’s presence hovering around always. “Wouldn’t Ma be more comfortable and happy in a Senior citizen home amongst people of her own age?” said she. Radha was always conscious of little things she did at home, and always felt that she was not free and happy like her friends who had no in-laws around. She tried to sound that whatever she had said was with good intentions and that it should not be taken in the wrong spirit by him and that he must not misunderstand her.
Her husband raised his hand, stretching it as if he was relaxing. For a moment she shivered thinking that he was about to slap her. “But understand that she is my mother, who has raised me single-handedly after the demise of my father when I was eight years of age. She has no one but me now. Where can I send her now, hmmm?” These words of his in a gruff tone delved themselves into her consciousness. She could guess that this was the end of the conversation and that her husband would not carry on this topic any further.
Radha, who was returning home from the market, was dragging her feet to reach home, which was not very far. This was rather unusual as she was a fairly fast walker. For the past 10 days, she had been having throbbing headache most of the time and every small movement of her head hurt her to a great degree. Her eyes turned blurry every now and then and things went out of focus. It may be nothing. May be all that she needed was rest. But with the several chores that she did everyday and with her mom-in-law always hanging around, how she could ever think of taking rest, even for a single day. Even now her head is splitting with ache, not very painful though, but nagging no doubt. Her
right arm, in which she was lifting her bags, suddenly fell flatly against her side, like a Wind- famished sail. Immediately she transferred her bags to her other hand.
Gradually she stopped walking and set down her bags. “What’s it that I am experiencing? Definitely it must be the curse of that woman” were her thoughts. All that she needed to do was to rest a little, catch her breath, return home and then beat that withered old woman with this new broom which she had just brought and continue beating her until she was driven out of the house! ‘How cruel can a person be?’ prompted her conscience.
Suddenly there was a great commotion and she heard people running and shouting. Soon she faintly heard “Bus is coming! Bus is coming! Yeah lady move, move...... get out of the way!”
Bus? Where? She did not see any bus and all at once her senses blacked out!
Radha is back in her apartment after a month in the ICU and her bed has now been shifted to her living room. There is a full time maid to take care of her needs and also a nurse who does the job of a speech therapist and a physiotherapist. The sight of the maid irritates Radha, what with her areca nut chewing habit; loud voice always jabbering in the back ground with nasty interjections. The doctor is of the opinion that Radha is gradually improving, but at a very slow rate and that the family members must not lose hope. She is definitely responsive: her eyes widen in recognition when she sees her dear ones including her mother-in-law. She lies down in her bed most of the time and is taken down to the garden of the apartment complex in a wheel chair thrice a week.
The neighbours sympathize with her over her present dependant condition. They ask Swathi, “Maaji, Radha is such an active young woman and why should this happen to her?” Swati looks at them with sorrow filled eyes and says that she worries about all three of them –Radha, Vignesh and her own son, who is now doing a second job to pay the high hospital bills of Radha.
Soon Radha hears her son calling out to her-Amma, Amma…. She tries to smile but his face is expressionless. She soon realizes that her facial expression does not reflect the smile which she wants to exhibit, as Vignesh looks at her blankly .Her mother-in-law, a shadow like figure in the background, is seen telling something to Vignesh and he leaves the room and soon returns with some paper package in his hand. He slowly and gently holds her up. Swathi with her shaky hands gently opens up the package and scoops a small quantity of cold and creamy pink stuff from a plastic container. Radha’s lips tremble. The same ice-cream from the same ice-cream wallah melts in her mouth. In the changed circumstances, the same ice cream tastes heavenly now, though it tasted different months ago!! The care and concern of her mother-in-law had changed her attitude! ***