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One and only

Four is a friendly number.. one so lonely! Roshmila Bhattacharya on the pain of loneliness of a family that married off two daughters.

sex and relationships Updated: Apr 21, 2009 13:33 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

The D’Souzas lived in the building bang opposite. Our apartments faced each and over the last decade, I’ve watched their lives unfold before my eyes.

When we first moved in, they were a family of four. D’Souza had just retired. His wife taught at a nearby school and their elder daughter worked with a private airlines. The younger one was still in college.

D’Souza was 60-plus.. gruff, grizzled, with a temper that sparked suddenly and emitted loud roars from behind drawn curtains. His wife and elder daughter I rarely heard, but the younger one had a temper that matched her dad’s. Their arguments however were few and far between. For the most part they were a close-knit foursome.

Then the older daughter was married off.. in a froth of white lace and a shower of confetti. She went away with her groom to set up home in foreign shores. The family that had whittled down to three grew quieter.. less exuberant.

Oh boy!
It was only when Maria returned home after three years, with her young son, that spirits soared again. Both Maria, her mother and sister would be out all day. D’Souza was alone at home with the boy and his minder. It couldn’t have been easy having a two year old jumping around all day but grandpa didn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes we would hear exasperated shouts but mostly he was all smiles as he chased after the lil’ imp. It was when Maria and her baby left, and he found himself all alone again, that D’Souza grew forlorn.

Soon after, his younger daughter, Sharon, went away too. We learnt from the bai that she had joined her sister in Dubai and got herself a job in the Middle East. That left just mummy and daddy home.

Home alone
Mummy was still working. So daddy found himself some rose plants and tended them as if they were his babies. My mother-in-law who cares for our window sill plants, would report that the old man had spent all day turning up the soil or spraying his roses with too much water. Often she would complain that he spent most of the day at the drawing room window. “Every time I look up, there he is!” she’d mutter irritably.

Then one day, the D’Souzas locked up the house and went away. They were gone for a good three months. By the time they returned, the plants had withered and died. He didn’t replace them. Now, he pottered around the house all day muttering to himself.

Sometimes, his voice went up a few notches. It was the bai who told us that the old man was losing his mind. He had been under treatment in his home town. “Memsaab has to lock him in when she leaves because she’s worried he may wander off and get lost,” the bai added.

I waited for the girls to come home, sure that once they did their daddy would get better. It was obvious that he was lonely. They haven’t, still. But D’Souza, I notice, has grown quieter.. probably the medicines at work.

Occasionally, he comes and stands at the window. But my mother-in-law no longer cribs. I guess she has also realised that this is his window to the outside world. The world he was once a part of.. and now apart from. Four is a friendly number.. one so lonely!