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One could call it a regrettable tale…

In Kozhikode!, Paati sonna stories!, Peeterru! on March 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Hello random reader,

Seetha was on her death-bed.

It is not as bad as it sounds though. She is a frail, 75-year-old woman who had already had two major heart-attacks and was not recovering from her third. One could say that she had lived her life and had her moments, if one were allowed to say such things when a person is about to die. One could also say that she had no regrets. Of course one would be lying then.

In fact, Seetha did have regrets, a lot of them. For starters, she was not happy with her husband right from day one and had lived her entire life wishing she had married someone else. A richer, kinder and most of all, a more caring individual. Although, one could not use this fact to claim that she didn’t love him. She cried the hardest when he died 12 years ago. Her children were actually surprised to witness this spectacle for she had always made clear her disdain for that man.

One could only venture a guess as to why she did cry that day and whatever the guess is it would be as far away from the real reason as it was close to it. Later on she did confess to her son that she had absolutely no idea why she cried that day. Her son, who had a Master’s in Philosophy and talked in riddles at every opportunity he got, attributed it to some kind of a void she felt in her life when her companion of almost half-a-century suddenly abandoned her. The son rarely made sense, even to himself. ‘Pretty much like the father’, she thought.

The answer didn’t satisfy her in the least and she had never been able to figure out her own reasons for the tears. During these last moments however, she even felt kind of happy that she was going to join him in his heavenly abode. (She believed in these kinds of things. Although throughout her life, she had maintained that he was going to go to hell for the way he had treated her). All she wanted to know was why? This is, if one is allowed to call it that, her first regret.

Seetha’s mother-in-law Janaki (through some weird irony, they were named after the same deity, Rama’s consort), according to Seetha, was a tyrant. One would be wrong to believe this. In fact one would be wrong to believe any woman’s take on her mother-in-law. Janaki could be a kind person when she wanted to and for once, one could rightly say that she just didn’t want to be that person when she was around Seetha.

Seetha didn’t lie down and take a beating either. One could say that their quarrels were some of the loudest and most remembered in their area, if anyone was still living there or alive and old enough to remember it. Of course one would be exaggerating. Indian households during Seetha’s prime were renowned for their in-law altercations and this pair did nothing more or nothing less.

The average Indian male, during that era, was often the centre of his wife’s and mother’s quarrels and the only way he could appease both women was by remaining silent throughout the incident. One could compare him to a pampered brat who enjoyed all the attention he was getting. One would be wrong of course for all these men, during such times, wanted only to disappear into oblivion and never return. The apathetic silence did nothing to help how Seetha felt towards her husband and she only fought harder.

She was most ecstatic on the day her mother-in-law passed away and didn’t need any Philosopher to explain to her, in riddles, the reason for her jubilation. Her regret now, was the fact that by some odd chance and great stroke of luck, Janaki might be in heaven, waiting. (She stoutly believes no sane God would ever allow her into heaven though.)

Then there was her son, the Philosopher. Seetha had wanted him to become an engineer or a doctor like everybody else. But Ramu (that’s his name) had always been lazy and never shown commitment towards any of his endeavors. One could say that this is exactly why he studied philosophy. One would be wrong again. Ramu like everyone before and after him has no idea why he took up Philosophy.

Apart from all this, Seetha wanted only one thing from Ramu. She wanted him to marry and raise a family like a decent man should. One could argue that marriage and familial bonds are not the only criteria to certify an individual as a decent man and yes, one would be right. But one should remember that for people like Seetha, the last remnants of a dying generation, the words decent and man hold very different meanings from what you are used to. It will be as difficult for you to comprehend her definitions as it would be for her to understand and come to terms with yours.

Ramu didn’t marry. He was completely against the concept of marriage itself and considered a family to be nothing but a burden. One could say that he was deeply affected by the way his father spent his entire life in frustration unable to have or realize any dreams for himself. One could also say that his lack of commitment had manifested itself in the form of this weird notion and allowed him to justify leading a life of solitude. There is no right or wrong here. If you ask Seetha though, she would say that some woman somewhere has been saved of all the misery she had to endure had she married Ramu. But still she felt bad about it.

The story of the daughter is more interesting. Seetha’s daughter Shoba was the kind of woman Seetha and her friends used to gossip about back in the day. She was currently in her third marriage which in her own words was “breaking apart”.  She was a very pompous woman who had delusions of grandeur and associated happiness with the bank balance of her current husband plus her own alimony from the previous two.

On e could say that had Seetha been exposed to her daughter’s society at her youth and educated in the same manner, she would have turned out no different. Of course one has no idea what might have actually happened when one says such things. It is but natural to blame the mother when the life of a daughter goes wayward and since there was nothing to blame Seetha about directly, one has to hypothesize such things by putting her in her daughter’s shoes.

Seetha, as is natural with almost all mothers, gave up trying to understand her daughter when she was in her teens and began blindly trusting her. One could say that Shoba’s education and her natural contempt for the middle-class (which at that point included her own family), made her a more formidable opponent (if Seetha ever wanted to take her on) than Janaki. Of course one would be stupid to jump to such conclusions. Seetha was very proud of her daughter and actually wished she had been more like her. Until the first divorce that is. After that, she only cursed herself for giving Shoba too much freedom.

These and a myriad of other thoughts were running in her head. As her chronicler it was my duty to share with the world what seemed to me the top-rated regrets. One could say I have done a commendable job. Sadly what happens next would make that statement completely groundless.

Seetha had a vision. It was her mother-in-law. She appeared out of nowhere and for a full five minutes stood there staring at her simply. One could say that she had a vicious smile playing at her lips. This one though would be the director of a mega-serial which stereotypes women. Janaki in fact was just standing there waiting for Seetha to realize her presence.

Once Seetha noticed Janaki standing there, for some reason which eluded even me, who was privy to all her thoughts, she gave her a dazzling smile. She was never more beautiful than at that moment. And at that moment exactly she died. One could say that through some unfathomable way, the two women communicated with each other and perhaps Janaki managed to ease her passing. One could also say that Seetha were hallucinating during her final moments and had gone crazy.

If it was the second case, take it from me, all her regrets would have disappeared. The one regret she would still have, which would overpower all these others and make them seem insignificant, was that of all the people she could have hallucinated about, why did it have to be her?

One could say that I’m wrong and as senile as Seetha herself. Maybe. Maybe not.

So till I write again…ciao ciao.