Life has come a full circle. I watch my 85-year-old mother’s shrunken frame crouched on the hospital bed. Osteoporosis had resulted in yet another fracture. Exasperated, I flung up my hands in despair for the umpteenth time and asked her as to why she didn’t take to the walker.
What purpose did the walking sticks and walkers serve neatly lined up against the bedroom wall, if she had to stumble her way out all the time? Guilt writ large on her feeble face she just stared blankly.
As she was being wheeled in for surgery, I was trying to keep calm, what with hubby nervously discussing the possible complications with the surgeons and the endless pre-op tests going on.
She, the lady, oblivious to everything, requested for her hair to be neatly done up and a better shawl to be draped around her shoulders! Dumbfounded at her spirit I asked, why the red-carpet-walk mood for the cold, impersonal operation theatre? She folded her hands in prayer and said: “Waheguru bhali karuga!”
Post surgery, the force feeding sessions started. Coaxing, at times threatening, I made her gulp down the required amount of tasteless food. She politely suggested that I buy her a feeder with a nipple for tea, so that it doesn’t trickle down her cheek while being served from a tilted cup.
One realises the futility of anger and impatience with an old and helpless parent when one recalls the dedication that they had rendered towards you. In a flash, I recollected how she would accompany me to school every day and lovingly assure me that she was sitting right outside the class till school got over. In the unfamiliar new nursery of perpetually howling students, I sat secure in the faith that Ma was right outside. How small I felt in the present state of losing patience with her when she never gave up on me even when a battery of tutors had withdrawn from the tortuous task of trying to teach me arithmetic. My most average performance would not dismay her and she never let me feel discouraged either.
I wanted to swallow back my doled out sermons as I remembered that my goof-ups were never reprimanded sternly. She maintained that no child can be judged by one act of callousness.
The generation that preceded us had borne their struggles stoically. Having lost most of the male members to feudal battles, she was an overcautious and overprotective parent -- yet, gave in graciously, as and when independence was asked for. Never expecting anything, she selflessly educated countless children of country cousins and the like. Denial and deprivation was humbly and unquestioningly accepted. Duties prevailed over rights. We are a privileged lot; yet, seldom step outside our comfort zone. The aged, in their sunset years, are still spreading light.
A frail hand on my shoulder brought me back into the present. Concern-laden, Ma asked: “Have you eaten anything? Go home and rest. I am fine.”
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor)