As she walks up to me, I look at her and realize we are meeting after about 8 years. But we still look the same after so many years. At least I feel so. Does she feel the same looking at me? I don’t know nor shall I ask her as the smile in both our faces says it all.
Oh God! How much I miss those days with her! Life was full of innocence and cheerfulness. And then she got married and shifted to another city away from friends and family to start her new life with a stranger. Deep in my heart I was sad of the things that would be memories now but knowing her for so long I knew she would manage well. As even some day, we were strangers too but then we also have been inseparable. Even post her wedding, distance couldn’t do us apart. We are always in each other’s thoughts and a ping away. At last, my friend had found her soulmate and we all had celebrated with her.
So, here she is after 8 years sitting in front of me. We have lot to talk but we are silent. Maybe we don’t know where to start from. Maybe I don’t know what to ask or she doesn’t know what to say.
Then she starts off with a question for me, “Do you feel being the only child of your parents is a curse or that child is not worthy to deserve a sibling of his or her own?”
Well, I was taken aback by this unusual question. I knew she was the only child of her parents, but after 30 years of being born why suddenly she had this question, was the query in my mind. For a second, I wondered, did her parents say so to her? But until then I had myself always felt being the only child was a blessing. You don’t have to share toys, chocolates etc. There are no sibling fights and you are the only one who gets all the undivided love and attention. As in her case her father always made sure to take her to tuition, school and college. She didn’t have to drive or go alone visiting places. Her mother, on the other hand, made sure to feed her with her own hands till her wedding as my friend never liked to eat vegetables. Her mother once told me if I don’t feed her, she keeps aside all vegetables she dislikes and eats only potatoes. We used to make fun of her that her mom feeds her but she was never embarrassed and she would joke, “you know I don’t eat veggies, so I have less energy. Why waste that little energy by feeding with my own hands? I use my mom’s energy”. That used to be her answer. Not sure how logical was her theory but we used to laugh. All these I felt was the immense love for their only child.
Suddenly I realized she was still waiting for my answer, as I got carried away with my own thoughts. So, I promptly replied “I don’t think so”. And immediately she replied be neutral and answer. Don’t be biased, tell the truth please. But the fact was I still had the same answer. Then I decided to ask her who made her feel this way or why was she asking this question now. She didn’t give an answer to my question, but what I got back was a blank stare from her. I felt there was lot of things going on in her mind but her heart wasn’t letting her speak.
Then we moved aside from this serious topic and kept chitchatting about old days, her new work, life etc. Amidst all these discussions, I felt she had changed or really had she? I felt she was acting her best to be cheerful, to be the same old friend of mine. But somewhere she was failing. Time and again she repeated can I not get back into those days. Life was pure and innocent those days. As per her, she found life too complicated now. I felt work and family life may be taking a toll on her that made her feel so nostalgic.
Then as we discussed, I came to know her mother is ill sometimes. Though her mother is fit and fine yet some age-related niggles and issues she keeps suffering. Here came the second question from her, “Do you think is it okay to be the only child who is a girl and married? Can you help or take care of your parents with all the sincerity?” This time I had a prompt reply “yes you can if you want to and nobody can stop you from being a dutiful daughter”. She was happy this time and smiled. She added, “Thanks for the encouragement”. Then she said how do I help them if they don’t want to be helped?
I asked her the reason of their denial as after all she is their daughter. It is she who has to take care of them. Then she almost became teary eyed and replied, “because I am married”. I said “but you are an independent working woman and the thoughts of not taking any financial or any kind of help from a daughter is like ancient now. They should not think like that.” Having said that as far as I have seen her parents, they are quite modern in thought process but still such kind of thoughts I couldn’t imagine it coming from them. So, I told her to explain and make her parents understand. But she said she has tried but they are adamant with their decision. Then I suggested her why not her husband go out and explain, maybe he can get them motivated. That is when she said he and his family are the reason why my parents want to avoid any help from me. I was bit perturbed by the statement. Then she elaborated if her mother is sick and she gets a call from home informing the same, it is obvious that her husband being in the same house is aware the scenario. He informs his parent that her mother is sick. Then when she speaks to her in laws, her father in law makes sure to taunt her saying your mother always has some or the other trouble and you must have inherited and you will have those issues in future. As per her “yes, my mom doesn’t stay well. But who in the world doesn’t have health issues? And if she is unwell that doesn’t mean she is a burden or a constant trouble maker. And inheritance is biological. How can I predict and how is my father in law sure I would suffer with same illness in future?” When her father who takes her mother for doctor visits, buys medicines or helps her mother out when she is sick doesn’t complain, these people who haven’t done anything to soothe her feel she is a constant troublemaker as if their son financially and morally supports his in laws.
I asked her, "Why don’t you explain this to your husband?" she replied that she did say and her husband argued that “yes your mother keeps falling sick every time and so constantly there is some problem. So my father is right, it is definitely a trouble."
I was a bit shocked with what she said. I was thinking the world has changed. Nowadays son-in-law is more of a son. May be then I felt every son-in-law may not have same thought process. She then said these kinds of remarks by her husband and her in-laws has upset her parents so much that they don’t inform their daughter also if any health issue happens. They just want peace between my friend and her husband. They don’t want to be the troublemakers as her father-in-law stated. I could feel now the sentiments of this girl and the relevance of the question she had asked. I could see her sandwiched emotionally between two families.
She added, “I don’t know if questioning about the remark made by my father-in-law to their son was right or wrong but definitely, I have realized my parents don’t hold any importance in the life of my soulmate. They are troublemakers for him. I may be the worst daughter or human being or daughter-in-law for raising or opposing their thought process. But I had to do it. As my parents are people whom I know since my birth and these few people who came into my life few years back consider them as a trouble, and have they troubled my in laws or their son for anything. Then why such a compliment for a sick lady? Now my parents are physically able, but some day in future they won’t be, and if they are considered trouble now, then what next?”