This post was written by Bhasmank Mehta, Posted on 7th March 2016,Updated on 9th March 2016
“Dad, it’s some woman on the phone asking for Rajoo beta.” said Pooman as she answered the phone.
“Dad, who is Rajoo beta?” she asked as she waited for Rajesh to take the phone from her hand.
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” responded Rajesh as he took the receiver in his hand and greeted with a hello!
“Rajoo Beta! Hello! It’s your Grandma from the village. How are you?”
As Rajesh confirmed that he was fine, his mood suddenly changed. He felt as though he had just lost the biggest sale of his career. This was one phone-call he dreaded receiving. Still, to keep up the appearances, he responded “How are you, Grandma? Long time since we have spoken to each other. I have been meaning to call you but … “
“But what with your married life, a job in city and the demands of the family to put up with,” Grandma interrupted, “you must be left exhausted with very little time for yourself.”
“Was that my grandchild that answered the phone?” she inquired a bit eagerly.
“Yes.” Rajesh was abrupt in his reply. “So …” Rajesh was about to ask the purpose of the phone call when Grandma again interrupted and said that she would like to pay him a visit soon.
“Sure, okay! I will try and get some time off work and visit you instead. I will ask Gita and Poonam to accompany me so you have an opportunity to meet them as well. Hopefully that will save you a trip. You shouldn’t be travelling at your age, you know!” Now that Rajesh had found fame and success, he felt embarrassed to be seen with his Grandma at his apartment in Mumbai. He guessed that if he could visit Grandma for an afternoon one day, he may just be able to avoid having to put up with her. He was still thinking about how Grandma will fit in with his new found life-style when Grandma continued, “Actually it’s all arranged” Rajesh could not believe his ears and only half heard the rest of the conversation, “It’s no trouble Beta. I have booked a bus ticket this coming Thursday. All you have to do is pick me up from the bus stop. It arrives at Mumbai Bus Terminus at 5.50 in the evening.”
Rajesh was dumbfounded. When Grandma did not hear any response, she continued, “Rajoo Beta, you will be able to collect me at the bus stop? Or should I ask your friend Subhash to pick me up? I got your number from his father in the village. They all talk about you. Subhash comes by once a month and talked a great deal about you, you know! I hope I am not troubling you too much beta?”
“Hmm … what? No. … I mean Yes! I will be there to collect you the day after tomorrow, Grandma. It’s no trouble. None at all! I’ll see you on Thursday.” replied Rajesh as he swiftly terminated the call. It was apparent from his actions that he was not a happy person to have received such news.
Grandma, although old, had a fair knowledge of her place in the society. After Rajesh had lost both his parents in a car accident, he was raised by his Grandma. Alternative would have been that the authorities would have placed him in an orphanage in some town far away as there were none available in or around the village. Affectionately, she used to call him Rajoo or Beta meaning My Son/Child or Rajoo Beta. She wanted to ensure that Rajoo never missed his parents. He must never feel that had his parents been around, he would have become something or set up his life differently. Time passed by and Rajesh grew up to become a Graduate in Business Studies. It wasn’t long before he managed to find a job with a top branded company in Mumbai. He soon climbed the ladder of promotions and became an Executive Sales Director. Grandpa used to visit him from time to time but the fragile body having suffered hard work just to bring up Rajesh through his old age had taken its toll. He passed away some three and one half years ago. He usually conveyed the family news to Grandma on his return following each visit.
One day, whilst Grandpa was still alive, Subhash had gone to visit his dad in the village. He soon learned that Rajesh was also in Mumbai and lived only a walking distance away from his office. Often, Subhash used to visit Rajesh after work to talk about old times. Gita – Rajesh’s wife – enjoyed this small talk as she managed to find out quite a bit about Rajesh this way.
Rajesh got married almost eight years ago. He had met Gita during one of the office promotions held at the Grand Exhibition Centre. It wasn’t long before they got married and had their first and only child Poonam. Gita enjoyed her domestic life. Rajesh earned a reasonable income and had agreed that it would be better if Poonam was to receive full support of his mother. However, one day about a couple of years ago Gita had asked Rajesh if he would mind if she were to do some work from home.
“O Darling, now why would you want to start any sort of work when there is really no need for extra income? As it is, we are managing just fine.” Rajesh commented.
“Well, yes I know and really, money is not the issue. You see, now that Poonam goes to school on full time basis, I have lots of time left on my hands. I just thought that if I were to talk to other mums from Poonam’s school and see if I can teach them the basics of Beautician, may be they can enhance their life-style. Also at the same time, I will be able to keep up with my knowledge, make some new friends locally and the extra cash will be an added benefit. Also, my dear, it just may be that some of them may want to utilise your services and I would consider an honour to have helped my husband in his business” Gita said very affectionately.
Rajesh was pondering on the subject when Gita once more attempted to persuade him, “I’ll make sure I do not let this interfere with our life-style.” Gita did not want to miss out on those lovely evenings out as guest of honour on numerous nights each month.
“Well alright! So long as you make sure that we still have a life.” Rajesh knew very well from the conversation with some of his work colleagues that once the couple parted in their ways, it is very difficult for them to maintain a family unity. Especially, when money or greed takes precedence.
“Daddy! Who was that on the phone and who is Rajoo Beta? You were going to tell me in a minute?” yelled Poonam. Her loud voice broke the line of thoughts that had over-powered Rajesh for a while. As it happens, Gita was also anxious to hear from Rajesh about the contents of the phone conversation.
“That, my dearest, was my Grandma. She is the only one to call me Rajoo Beta.” Said Rajesh in a matter of fact way.
Rajesh’s mind was somewhere else! He was wondering how he would accommodate his Grandma. Then again, what about his friends? What will they say? How will he introduce the old woman from the village with no manners and worse, no knowledge of the high standards required to maintain good life in the city’s high societies. How will he manage with his friends visiting him and worse, what will happen to the business that he had painfully built over the years?
“So how come she hadn’t called you before? How is she? What’s happened to her? Is she alright?” enquired Gita. She was concerned because she had learned from the days when Grandpa used to visit them that Grandma was fairly active and was independent. It had to be serious for Grandma to have to call.
Poonam also was inquisitive, “Your Grandma? I’ve never met her before! What does she look like? Where is she? Can we see her? … Daddy, please take us to see Grandma!”
“She called to let me know that she will be coming to Mumbai the day after tomorrow.” Announced Rajesh and continued, “I just wished she would have given me a bit longer notice. Or better still, I should have done something about this a long time ago.”
“Do what a long time ago, darling?” asked Gita.
“Well, I had been thinking that after Grandpa’s death, I really ought to have sold off the properties in the village and placed Grandma nearer to us in one of the Old People’s Homes. There is one two doors away from where Subhash is working.”
“No, I want Grandma to stay with me. She can share my bedroom. I am sure that we can have good times together.” Poonam Protested.
Gita also concurred that it was rude of him to think like that. Parents and grand parents are a gift of god. She asked Rajesh to look around and notice that life had no real purpose other than to go out and work, come home and occasionally go on holidays. Had it not been for our parents or grand parents, we would not have been where we are today. We should be thankful for their input in our lives. “I wish I had my grand parents around.”
Gita had grown up within a family of greed and arguments. All she knew was that if something was needed, one had to argue or snatch or worse, demand by way of causing a commotion. It wasn’t until she had started work that she realised that there were nicer persons out in the society and her behaviour was otherwise unfriendly and unwelcome.
It had taken a number of years for her to be as calm as she is now. So the news that she will be able to meet the Grandma was the best one since Rajesh had permitted her to go ahead with the home activity to keep her occupied.
“So how long will she stay with us?” asked Poonam.
“I have no idea but I hope as short a period as possible.” Said Rajesh abruptly, still worried about his reputation and shame that he will have to embrace whilst introducing Grandma to his friends. He was also hoping that she would not stay for long and thus the damage will be minimal. “Come Poonam, let’s go get started on setting up your room and the rest of the house so that Grandma feels most welcome when she comes.” said Gita.
“Anyway, there is nothing I can do for now except wait for Thursday. Meanwhile, I don’t know how I will be able to concentrate at work.” Rajesh grunted as he walked out slamming the door behind him. Gita almost shouted for him to drive carefully but restrained herself. She knew Rajesh too well for his reactions on such comments.
Next two days were absolutely totally contradictory between husband and wife.
Gita was over the moon. Excitement was an understatement. Best part of the day had gone into rearranging Poonam’s room. Then there was the rest of the house to be cleaned up. Not that it was dirty but this time, the cleaning was with a little bit of extra care and attention to ensure that no corner was left untouched. The covers of the cushions were replaced. The dust from the ornaments, the TV and other items in the sitting room was removed. The whole area was swept and mopped thoroughly. There was also the bathroom. Gita made space for Grandma to place her cloths on one of the shelves. She also placed a towel and a bar of soap, should Grandma need them.
Then there was the kitchen. Every woman’s pride and joy. She made sure that all the spices in the spice-rack were topped up. The fridge was set up nicely. The utensils were placed in their place.
Best part of Wednesday was also utilised to ensure that every comfort had been thought of and catered for. It was also the day for her students or shall we say her friends as they had become by now to come in for further training. Instead, they were informed of the big day. They also helped clean and dust the rooms and the day just went by in a blink!
Unfortunately for Rajesh, these seemed to be the longest two days he had spent in ages. Time just would not pass. The clocks were testing him. They seemed to be so slow that if it had been up to him, he would have told them off for being slow. In cricketing terms, he would have given those clocks some ticking off and fined them with a hefty penalty. The days were at least passable but the nights! Wow, nights just seemed like an eternal mental torture.
At work, he was jumpy at everyone who entered his office. He snapped at anyone and everyone. It was as if his senses and attitude had taken leave of absence. It was a real testing time for him. He was furious at himself for not having done something about his Grandma before now. Why had he not placed her in a Home? Why had he not made provisions to disassociate from this embarrassment? Why had Subhash given her his address and contact details? Why was Gita so excited instead of sympathising with him? How many days will he have to keep up this charade of ‘nice guy’ before he loses his temper. In any event, why did this stupid woman want to come to Mumbai anyway? Why can’t she just carry on with her farming and be happy in the village? Why didn’t she just pass away at the same time as Grandpa?
Rajesh had built a new life and was quite happy in his own ways. A beautiful loving and caring wife, a lovely obedient child, a good job, a nice car, a nice apartment, a reasonable bank balance and loads of ‘friends’. What more could one ask for. Even Rajesh himself was surprised at his own weakness of not being able to control himself. Ego was riding high from within. At this juncture in life, anyone not able to compete with him, not at par with him in his perception was not worth his time. This being his attitude towards the outlook of life, also his Grandma was undeserving of his attention.
Finally, today was the big day! Thursday was here. Gita and Poonam could not retain their excitement within. By now, all the friends, neighbours and anyone, well, everyone knew that Grandma was coming to stay with them. Not only was everyone within their own block of apartments but the whole society was looking forward to meeting The Grandma. It was as though Diwali had arrived prematurely. The external decorations had only begun after Rajesh had gone to work.
Well, everyone except Rajesh who, after work, was on his way to pick up Grandma at the bus-stop. He had finally managed to pluck up enough courage to ask Subhash to go with him. Not because Subhash was a family friend and would help break the deadly silence during the journey home but also because Rajesh was afraid that he may say or do something that could flare up the situation unnecessarily.
The bus terminus, although crowded and almost impossible to move without bumping into the next person, seemed to be at a stand still. The bus had arrived only a few minutes earlier. The only person visible was that of a short frame of this frail, delicate individual standing only an inch short of four feet. Subhash recognised her immediately and walked straight towards her pulling Rajesh by his hand. He bowed to her feet begging for her blessings and so, reluctantly Rajesh followed suite.
Walking to the car for Subhash was a very short distance but for Rajesh, it was an eternal walk that just would not end! So as to avoid much of the conversation, he had opted to drive despite Subhash’s generous offer to drive home in his top of the range BMW. Soon, the convertible Mercedes entered the grounds of the Society and the welcoming music took over the small chitchat.
“From a small village has arrived our Grandma,
Bringing joy, O! our beloved Grandma.
Rajesh is not your only Son and family,
The whole society is your one big family.”
For the first time, despite his unprecedented hate towards the arrival of his Grandma, Rajesh felt so proud and overwhelmed as if he had organised this whole street party. His embarrassment had turned into pompousness. Gita, being aware of Rajesh’s state of mind for the last couple of days had made sure that all credit was due to him and thus easing the air of hatred to air swollen with pride.
In this festivity of joy were not only the people of the society but also some of his business friends and associates. Subhash had made sure that anyone whom Rajesh thought of being someone was present. It was almost like a surprise birthday party for Rajesh but only this time … this time it was for his Grandma. Whether Grandma will live up to all this pompous and make Rajesh feel proud or not remained to be seen. Gita, most certainly had made the effort.
Grandma was very easy going person. Totally care-free attitude. She spoke to anyone and everyone. She could carry a conversation with anyone at any level. Grandpa had made sure that she could read and write so that she would not have to rely on others in his absence. She had carried on the good old habit of reading the daily newspaper that Grandpa had so forcefully instilled in her. Her knowledge of greenery was also remarkable. She could tell the type of herb just by looking at a leaf of a given plant. She knew their remedial qualities as well as their best use in different types of food dishes. Her hand at knitting was just stupendous. She could knit anything after only glancing at the pattern. Her memory was so good that most of the friends coming to meet her were just amazed.
Well, Grandma was just … wonderful. Amazingly wonderful. Awfully wonderful. She won the hearts of anyone and everyone that met her, including Rajesh. It was as though that biggest loss of sale mentioned earlier had suddenly materialised. Gita was so proud of the attention she and Rajesh were receiving from all the friends and acquaintances that it was difficult to differentiate between joy and ego. Particularly interesting was how Grandma had helped rearrange Gita’s Kitchen so that everything was, well, just perfectly placed.
And what about Poonam, well, she was just walking in thin air. The short stories Grandma told her and her friends, the paper cuttings to make toys out of, being able to comb her hair herself were just a few things keeping Poonam occupied.
Having spent four fabulously wonderful days and nights, Grandma asked Rajesh to sit next to her. She said, “Rajoo Beta, I can see that your apartment is full of people. They are all enjoying as I had always envisaged. However, every good thing has to come to an end. Tomorrow is Tuesday and it is time for me to return to the village.”
The room went dead. Absolutely, totally, silent. You could hear the pin drop! The words “return to the village” came across loud and clear. After what seemed to be an eternity, this abrupt silence was disturbed by Poonam:
“But Grandma, you have only just begun to tell me all those stories you promised. I have only learned three stories from you! And all those paper cuttings to learn! Please stay a bit longer …”
“Yes!” said Reshma, “I was hoping you would teach me how to make all those different types of Parothas”
“And I thought you would teach me all that knitting work” added Sudha.
“What about my lessons in house-keeping” added Anjana “my husband is well impressed with the changes I have made so far.”
“Correct, yaar!” Anjana’s husband exclaimed referring to Rajesh, “You see my friend, it’s like this” he continued “Our business is one thing. But if you send Grandma back, Anjana will be upset and you know how I hate it when she is upset. You know how our business suffers. You have to do something so that Grandma stays with us for a bit longer.”
“I think my reason is the most important one” added Shivprasad, an elderly notary person of the community, “after your aunty passed away, I have had very little by way of conversation with anyone similar to my age. I was beginning to enjoy the small talk every morning after my breakfast. This cannot just stop!”
“O Grandma! You have to stay a few days longer” added Gita. Then referring to Rajesh she pleaded “Please Raj, do something! Don’t you think that Grandma ought to stay a bit longer?”
Rajesh got up but was very serious. Everyone appeared stunned. No one ever could tell what was in his mind. Least of all, at times like this. Sometimes he would be jolly and at others, he would say something that could be so harsh that even the hot knife slicing through a slab of butter would appear to be blunt. For the first time in years, he felt that he had misjudged the situation. He knelt to his knees in front of his Grandma and with a tear running past his cheek, he admitted,
“Grandma, when I was young, my parents died and you adopted me as your own son. You never ever questioned anything I did. Grandpa also made sure that I was well looked after. Grandma, you never so much as raised your voice for all my mistakes. You simply sat me down next to you and explained my errors. Naturally, you got a reply from me as to why I ought not to make those same mistakes again.”
Everyone in the apartment was flabbergasted! No one had ever expected Rajesh to do something like this, No One, Ever. Well, at least Gita had never seen Rajesh grovelling to anyone. Not even when it was his fault. As far as he was concerned, he was always right and that was that. That’s how Gita had known Rajesh, the only way!
“Grandma! You have done so much for me. You took the place of my mother and my father. You have been my mother and you have been my father. You were also my Grandma and above all, my best friend when I most needed someone. You did what no other Grandma would have done. You sacrificed your precious time that you could have spent with Grandpa. He worked even when he was to have been retired. Between the two of you, you made sure that I achieved my goals. What I am today is due to your hard work. You could have let me lose on the streets or sent me off to any one of the hundreds of orphanages. But you, you put an end to your dreams of spending retirement together and carried on working. You still manage our farm in the village whereas you could have asked me to take care of you. You never once asked for a pay-back.”
“If after all that you have done for me, it would be an absolute unjust to say the least if I were not to confess my feeling towards you.”
“But Beta!” Grandma interrupted.
“No!” insisted Rajesh as he got up and paced around the room full of people who had come to chat with Grandma, “No. For the first time in my life, I have woken up and want to admit my guilt. Please don’t stop me. If not for me, at least for Poonam as well as everyone else who may otherwise feel ashamed to admit their faults.”
“You see, Grandma, it’s like this. For me, Graduation was only the beginning. Everything that I wished for ever since then has ‘just fallen into my lap’ so to speak. All you see around you has come with ease. Some luck, some charm and a little bit of hard work. Of course, sweet talking to people has also played part; but a very small part.”
“Most people I associate with tend to be around my age group. Some are a bit older but none as old as you. Above all, most of them appear to be well off and affluent. I always thought that these friends are mine for life. I could not bring myself to introduce them to someone from the village with no knowledge of city life or antiquate as we know it in Mumbai. I could not bring myself to be apologising on your behalf every step of the way. That would not have been me. Not part of my characteristics, if you follow my drift!”
Rajesh continued, “I had forgotten that I too had once been part of the same village. I too had no shoes to put on my feet or an apartment to boast about. I longed for a bicycle, never mind the motor car. And today … today I see that there are loads of people coming in and out of this apartment. Some of them I only know them as so and so’s wife or so and so’s husband. I see young and old. I see some with whom I have never made an eye contact. Whereas I would have differentiated between whom to associate with and whom not to, You, Grandma … you mix with everyone. Last four days have been a blessing for me.”
“I most sincerely owe you a very big apology. What you do not know is that the minute you called, I’d been wishing that you had rather not called me in the first place. I wished that I could have taken you to Old People’s Home where you could have been safe and happy. I was really enjoying my life and your arrival came as a shock. I really hated the idea of you coming here. I thought that you would interfere with our lives and cause untold amount of arguments.”
“Not only did I fail you, I also failed Gita. She never once spoke a word against you. She has been the pillar of your visit. And than there is this guy, Subhash; not an ounce of ego, not even any sign of being proud. I have learned from everyone around just how hard they have worked to please you. But, more importantly, they made it look as though it had all been my effort. Please Grandma, tell me, just where did I go wrong?”
“Of all the materialistic things that you could teach all these people, I have a lot to learn from you and that is not materialistic. If not for them, please stay a bit longer for me. I beg you!” Rajesh came sat next to Grandma and held her hand in his and pleaded, “Please Grandma?”
“Well, okay. I suppose a few more days will not hurt anyone. But you must send a message to Shyamdada. Tell him that I will be there soon. Tell him to wait for me for the harvest.
And don’t forget to thank him for a wonderful job his son has done here.”
“Okay, Grandma, I will inform Shyamdada all about Subhash as well as the harvesting and about everyone here.”
And so days went by and then weeks went by. Gita’s beautician classes turned into cookery classes. In between there was also knitting to be learned. Then there was good house-keeping to be taken care of. Gita also wanted to learn a lot of the things from Grandma.
“Do all Grandma’s know all this?” Poonam inquired one day.
“Yes Beta,” confirmed Grandma, “only problem like your daddy mentioned the other day is that they all think Grand Parents are there only to be placed in the Old People’s Homes. They think they know best. People forget that one day; they will be old as well. Their children will also be thinking of placing them in these faceless and heartless homes.”
“No Grandma, I will never think of putting my mum or dad in any types of homes. I will keep them with me so I can learn lot more and be more clever than all my friends.” Said Poonam. “Plus, by then, they will also know lots of stories they can tell my children.”
Hearing this, Rajesh almost cried and apologised many times over for his unforgiving behaviour. Gita felt her throat drying and quickly picked Poonam up to hide her tears and gave a big kiss on her cheeks.
Talk about stories, every evening Poonam sat with many of her friends to hear different stories from Grandma. They were so good that even Shivprasad used to join in. sometimes, he would also tell one or two stories. But like Poonam said,
“I think Shivdada only comes here to meet Grandma!”
Many times during her stay, Grandma mentioned about going back to the village. Rajesh even suggested that they sell of the property in the village and Grandma stays with them permanently. But now after six weeks and coming close to harvest time, Grandma insisted that it was time for her to return to the village. Otherwise all the vegetables and fruits would go to waste. All her efforts and hard work of Shyamdada would also be wasted.
When all avenues of arguments to retain Grandma had failed, it was agreed that they will all go to the village the following weekend to help out with the harvest. They will also have a biggest garden party in the empty fields thereafter.
And so, Grandma’s visit became one very memorable event.
May Your God Always Be With You
This is my first long story. Your comments will greatly be appreciated including how I can improve on my writing. Thank You