Life Begins at Fifty!
by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
“Hello Yuwanthi, has everyone arrived for the function”, asked Hari, Yuwanthi’s brother, who was getting ready to leave from Kolkata to attend the twenty fifth wedding anniversary of Yuwanthi. “I will be bringing 3 dubbas of Rasgollah, 2 boxes each of chum-chum and sandesh from here, so, place your order of sweets accordingly,” continued Hari in an affectionate manner. On hearing her brother’s voice Yuwanthi’s heart skipped a beat, as it was now more than two years since they met each other. “The house is wearing a festive look and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of you with bhabhi and children,” replied she in an excited tone.
Replacing the receiver in the cradle, Yuwanthi felt that all this pomp and show for her silver wedding day was not at all essential. Her daughter Kripa along with her husband Rakesh and her only son Dheeraj, who was doing his master’s degree in the US had arrived a couple of days ago to celebrate the grand occasion of their parents. Yuwanthi could not help thinking about her wedding day twenty five years ago, when her mother-in-law had caused a flutter in the mandap, when the jewels given to her by her parents were not up to her expectations and liking. Yuwanthi’s husband, Yuvraj had been a mute spectator to all the unpleasant happenings. Also, she remembered with a tinge of sadness, the indifference of Yuvraj on several occasions, when she was rebuked for no fault of hers by her in-laws. He had brushed aside her complaints saying that it was with great difficulty that his mother had raised him and his siblings with the meagre salary of his father. Yuwanthi had longed for times to be alone with Yuvraj to have a heart to heart talk with him. But that was not to be, as there was hardly any privacy for them in the house. Never once did he cast a loving glance at her or had comforted her when she felt dejected owing to the happenings at home. Kripa and Dheeraj arrived one after the other and slowly she got used to Yuvraj’s ways and life just chugged along with both of them sharing the same roof and speaking only when necessary. Yes, it was now twenty five years since they got married!
“Mom, come let’s go shopping”, awakened Yuwanthi from her thoughts. “We will buy a dress for Dad. You definitely must know Dad’s taste,” said Kripa. “Also, Mom, Dheeraj is taking Dad out to select a saree for you. We want to see whether you both are ‘made for each other’” joked Kripa. “Well, selecting Dad’s dress is no problem for me, but your dad has totally no clue of my likes and dislikes,” spoke Yuwanthi, trying to hide her tears. Yuwanthi’s mind was transported to the bygone days once again. All that Yuvraj knew was his office work and had had no time to take his wife and children for a vacation or for that matter even a movie. Yuwanthi had single handedly brought up her children. The older generations were no more and the children had flown away from the nest. Yuvraj was a successful banker and had reached the post of Regional manager and Yuwanthi kept herself busy by burying herself in books, doing social service and teaching needy children.
On hearing the peals of laughter around her, Yuwanthi pulled herself to the present. Everyone was playing Antakshari and teasing each other and having samosas and hot tea which was being served continuously. Suddenly, one of Yuwanthi’s cousins made an announcement-Now Yuwanthi will sing a beautiful song from Madhumati for all of us! When Yuwanthi heard this she was caught off guard.” Yeh, not me,” said Yuwanthi. ‘Common ya, you were ranked No. 1 female singer in your college days. Why is the koel shy of singing today”, joked her cousins. Yes, her passion for singing cooled down after marriage as there was no encouragement from her husband’s side. “We want Yuwanthi, we want Yuwanthi”, shouted some of the relatives. Some said, “Yuvraj ji is waiting impatiently to hear your voice. Common start now ya”. This remark made her blush. She sang the song and was utterly surprised when she realized that she could still sing well. There was a loud applause and appreciation poured in from all quarters except Yuwaraj. She cast a furtive glance at him. Her heart sank on not seeing any sign of appreciation or even a smile on his rock like expressionless face.
Evening party on that day was a gala affair. There was no dearth for jokes and laughter all around. It ended on a very happy note and all the relatives and friends left for their respective places. Dheeraj left for his friend’s place and another car, carrying the special couple of the day, along with Kripa and Rakesh left for the temple. Soon the cars parted ways and went off in opposite directions. Mother, father and daughter were chatting
away when Rakesh‘s cell phone rang. It was a call from Dheeraj informing them about the breakdown of his car and wanted them to come and pick him up from the mentioned place. Rakesh and Yuvraj left, leaving behind the mother and daughter under the shade of a tree. Left all alone to themselves, mother and daughter started discussing various topics.
“By the way, when are you planning to leave Kripa? “, enquired Yuwanthi in a sad tone as her heart was heavy since both her children will be getting back to their places soon. “Mom, we are planning to leave on Tuesday, which is two days from now. We have to resume duty in our office on Thursday. How I wish we could stay longer ma”, replied Kripa.
“ Dheeraj wants me to go with him and stay in the US for about three months as he is feeling lonely in the far off land”, added Yuwanthi. She continued, “Your father can manage alone as there is a good restaurant close by and he can get good food whenever he wants, from there. I have decided to go with Dheeraj.” “But Mom, Dheeraj is young and can cope up with loneliness as there are several avenues open for him. He has his own friends’ circle; has got his studies; he plays several games and goes to the gym often. But think of dad, he will miss your company. Food is not everything ma,” explained Kripa. “It is not that way,” protested Yuwanthi. “Never once has he asked me about my interests, my likes and my dislikes, nor has he openly supported me in front of his people. Has he ever taken me out for a holiday? No. Do you see how inconsiderate he was and still is?”
“Mom, please forget the bygone days and live in the present. I totally agree that many a time you had faced rough weather without the support of Dad and can visualize the predicament in which you would have been placed then. But, forgiving and forgetting is the formula for a peaceful living. You took charge of the running of the entire household and raised both of us very well .Dad devoted his entire time and attention to his office affairs and did not think beyond that. His entire world revolved around his office. But now, Mom, he has retired and has no one other than you to keep him company. Do not resort to ‘tit for tat’ principle ma. You seem to be still holding on to the past. Dad is hesitant to talk to you freely as he is suffering from guilt complex. Dad has no sisters and has not mingled much with female members in the family and so could not understand your feelings much. But believe me, Mom, he now regrets for all that have gone by”.
“Kripa, all said and done, a daughter is forever supportive of her dad’s ways. Just do not take sides with him “, said an irritated Yuwanthi with her eyes glistening with tears.
Kripa put her hands around her Mom, “my sweet mom, we all love you and know your soft nature only too well. Do not get offended ma. Shall I tell you something? When Dheeraj and dad went out to buy a saree for you, Dad felt bad that he was not able to select the colour of your choice. Leave alone the design. Also, Mom, when you sang last night, Dad was carried away by your voice, but the mental block which has been erected did not allow him to praise you openly. Why all this hide and seek game ma. Past is past. Let bygones be bygones. The people who might have created confusion in your lives are no more. Start afresh now. Life after fifty or sixty is a fruitful period, wherein you and Dad can enjoy the company of each other, after having fulfilled your duties well”. Yuwanthi stood speechless on hearing this from her darling daughter, who according to her was still a child!
Soon after, Yuvraj, Dheeraj and Rakesh arrived on the scene. Yuwanthi glanced at her husband and said, “Kyon ji, sunte ho. Children have presented us with a cheque for our wedding day and want us to go on a holiday. Where do you think we can go? Shall we go down south, as both of us have not visited any of the southern states so far?” Yuvraj was pleasantly shocked on hearing these words come out from his wife’s mouth. He nodded his head in the affirmative with a bright smile on his face which Yuwanthi had not seen for the past many years. The entire family felt the undercurrent of joy flowing between the couple. In his hearts of hearts Yuvraj thanked his children for having broken the ice between them which had lasted for so many years now. It is true that children bridge the gap between their parents, is it not? ***