The Blame Game
by Annapurna Sharma
It was a pleasant day with the morning sun rays picking up heat. Jaykar was sitting in the balcony, reading the Sunday Times. A retired clerk, he filled his time with the morning walk, the newspaper and an occasional visit to the market. Hourly tea-breaks and the spice of his wife’s regular rants made his day. His wife, Chaya despised Sundays as most of the time he was glued either to the newspaper or the television. To her, most irritating were his short-lived health resolutions, which he often picked up from either the paper or the TV.
Just then, Vikram, Jaykar’s son walked into the balcony, “Good morning Dad! What news?”
“Oh! The usual run-of-the-mill stories of scams and politics,” replied Jaykar casually as he handed over the paper to his son.
Vikram, in his early thirties was a fiery and handsome man, worked as a Manager in a reputed firm. Busy throughout the week with pot-boiling, chamber meetings and target deadlines, he made it a point to keep his Sundays free of the official clutter, so he could spend time with his family.
Vikram grinned at his Dad’s casual comment and settled down on a chair. Suddenly they could hear loud voices. They looked at each other.
Putting a hand over his forehead, “Damn! It’s no different here either. The usual grind over petty issues,” lamented Vikram.
“A dash of homemade tadka over the national news,” smiled Jaykar.
“How can you be so cool? It is only on a weekend that I am at home, and it is like sitting on tenterhooks. You are here throughout the week; don’t you lose your temper?”
“Will losing my temper fetch me any peace of mind? It’s a blame-game; a time-pass just like the crossword puzzle is to me. By the way did you have your morning tea?” asked Jaykar patiently.
He persuaded his son to get some tea for himself, to lighten his spirits. But Vikram refused to step into the house, as he thought the volcano had erupted and feared that the lava was spread throughout. Finally, Jaykar decided to get a cup of tea for his son and a second cup for himself. He knew he had a lecture in store for his second cup, but he didn’t bother as long as he got to gulp the steaming, hot liquid.
Vikram sighed and thought, ‘Hat’s off to Dad’s patience, a go-getter, I can never be like him.’ **
Sunday evening, at the beach.
Vikram and Preeti, his wife, enjoyed the crisp, cool breeze that caressed their cheeks and tickled their senses. Hand in hand, they walked along the length of the beach, kicked sand and let the surf wet their feet. They shared a plate of pani-puri and munched on hot roasted peanuts. They made their way to a lone bench, where there was little noise, except for the waves eroding the sand front.
He had been married just a year ago to Preeti, a bubbly, carefree girl. Fresh out of college, she was candid and outspoken in her views. A novice in home-making, she had regular confronts with her rather forgetful and haughty mother-in-law, Chaya.
“You know what happened in the morning,” spoke Preeti above the din of tides.
She didn’t wait for him to answer and blurted out, “Last night the milk had to be heated and set for curd, which usually your mom does. She forgot and left the milk out. Today morning, it got spoiled and two liters of milk got wasted. She holds me responsible for her forgetfulness.”
“If she forgot, you could have either reminded her or it’s a simple task which you could have done,” added Vikram.
“I dare not interfere in her work, she complains about everything. She keeps nagging, either the curd had not set properly or it has become too sour. It doesn’t matter whether I did anything or not, she just has to argue. You know it’s a daily charade,” complained a vehement Preeti.
Vikram knew Preeti was right, but he just couldn’t give her the liberty to say anything about his mom. Moreover, he couldn’t let her spoil his cherished evening; he had to stop her before she went into the details of the incident.
“Mom’s getting old and I feel you should take charge of the household,” advised Vikram.
“You always take the side of your mom, no matter what she does. It looks like you don’t care for me.”
Vikram tried to pacify Preeti, “It’s just that I was trying to make things easier for you.”
‘How could he take any one side? Both of them are dear to him, but they behave like two parallel roads which never meet. He is in a ‘Catch-22’
situation, which they will never understand. It is he who is most hurt in their squabbles,’ thought Vikram.
Sulking, they both go back home. **
Seated at the dining table, Vikram had a quick look at the headlines in the newspaper. His mother served him breakfast.
“Vicky, have the parathas lest they become cold,” nudged Chaya.
“Oh! Aloo parathas! My favorite! With raita, great Mom,” said an excited Vicky.
Chaya beamed at her son, “You still behave like a kid sometimes.”
“I don’t mind what you think of me, but when it comes to these, I cannot stop myself from gorging them,” said Vikram pointing to the parathas.
Suddenly they heard a loud sound. It came from the kitchen – the falling of utensils. Preeti was in the kitchen making the morning tea.
“There is a dent in all my vessels, she can never be careful,” muttered Chaya.
Vikram kept quiet, because he knew one word that he uttered would instigate many more, he had no time, as he had to hurry to his office.
Jaykar seated at the table spoke in an undertone, ‘Even you were careless when you were newly married.”
His mom glared at his dad. Vikram thought, ‘There it started again!’ He didn’t want to be a part of the repartee. Each one tried to outsmart the other. He quickly swallowed the rest of the breakfast and left the room. His mother yelled after him for not having a second helping or his tea. He didn’t bother to answer; he just wanted to be out of the skirmish.
As he left the house for his office, he could hear the crescendo from inside. He didn’t know why they created such an obnoxious atmosphere. Why couldn’t they see his angst? Once he reached office, he reluctantly pushed his thoughts out of his mind. **
Vikram was busy throughout the day. At about six in the evening, he got a call. For a moment he was in shock, he left office immediately. **
To his chagrin, the heavy traffic tested his nerves. He yelled at the driver to drive fast. Anger and anxiousness brewed within, he ran to the reception, as soon as he reached the ‘Lifeline Hospital’. Preeti waited for him. He looked at her with pain in his eyes, ‘How’s he?’
“He is out of danger, still in the ICU. They had to insert a ‘stent’ in the RCA, right coronary artery. Now he is under sedation. You can go in and have a look,” explained Preeti.
Vikram went in to see his dad. Jaykar was sleeping peacefully; he was surrounded by wires and digital meters which monitored his condition constantly. The duty doctor assured him that his dad would be fine in a couple of days. Vikram had a barrage of questions for the women outside. He thought, ‘It must be something to do with these two women and their arguments, otherwise, dad is healthy and fit, I must find out.’
As soon as he came out, his eyes searched for his mom. Chaya sat in one corner of the waiting lounge with Preeti, who was holding his mother’s hand, an oddity. He sat beside them, “What happened, Mom?”
With tears in her eyes, “He had pain in his chest since two days, but he didn’t tell us. He was watching TV, Preeti gave him tea. He babbled something, the tea cup fell from his hand and he held his chest. Thank god, Preeti was quick enough to summon a taxi and bring him here. The doctors told us ‘more delay would have been fatal’. She was the one who had been handling everything since we brought him in. If it wouldn’t have been for her, I would have been helpless,” said Chaya.
“Why didn’t you ring me up?” demanded Vikram.
“We did, but the network was not reachable. We obviously couldn’t have waited for you,” shot back Chaya.
‘True,’ he had been at the site today, where signals waver. It was strange that his mother was all praises for Preeti, a volte-face. The way they spoke and comforted each other was new to him. A defiant Preeti was now the caregiver. They had proven him wrong. He was privy to their innate qualities of love and care, especially in need. His dad’s foresight was right. They involved in squabbles, but didn’t harbor vengeance against each other. How naïve was he in his judgement? **
After a week, his dad was discharged from the hospital with a list of do’s and don’ts. Preeti took charge and both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law worked in tandem.
His dad looked at him, meaning to say, ‘Didn’t I say?’ Yes, a blame-game of sorts that did no harm. ***