In this women-centric short story, Maya shows the generation gap between daughter-in- law and mother-on- law. How they are from different worlds, different times. The resolution is heart-warming.
She has her gaze fixed on the monitor. Google is open.
‘Breast feeding mothers….’ She fills in the search column.
A flood of websites related to the quest overwhelms her intelligent mind. She is at an utter loss which one to go for! There are so many! She must be done with the job before the infant opens it lids and demands to be fed again. She casts a glimpse at it and smiles within. The baby is fast asleep.
‘Turn more pages related to your search….’ The screen suggests benevolently.
‘This it is! Breast sours often occur as a baby nibbles the nipple, sometimes urged by the need to have something hard to chew between the newly sprouting teeth….’ She reads.
‘No! No! No! This isn’t what I’m searching for.’ She makes a weird face puckering her nose and lips, rejecting the page.
‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…Next’
‘Let me try this.’ She mutters.
Her mother-in- law stands at the doorway, her brows raised in annoyance.
‘Can’t you do all this later?’ She asks, trying to keep patience.
‘Just a minute, Mom.’ She answers without looking in the direction.
‘See, I have to go somewhere. I can’t keep standing here to see whether you’ve taken your lunch or not.’ She blurts out.
‘It’s me who is undergoing the pain.’ She mumbles, shutting down her lappie and rising for hand wash.
‘Where are you going now?’ The other asks, surprised.
‘For hand wash of course! How can I eat like this?’
‘What’s wrong with that? I mean….You have been lying in the bed the entire day, why then…?’
‘Mom, you won’t understand. There are millions of micro-organisms stuck to the keypad of your computer or laptop….’ She explains, standing by the basin.
‘Fine! Fine! Don’t start all that again!’ says Rukmani.
‘Huh!’ Sasha shrugs her shoulders.
‘Huh!’ Rukmani also hikes her shoulders pretending indifference.
She is serving the food on bed.
‘Mom please let me spread the bed server.’
‘Fine!’ She waits with the food in hand and looks edgy.
She eats with ease like an innocent lamb, chewing the food as many times perhaps as suggested by the doctor. The other sits there watching her, amused.
‘Hey! What happened?’ She asks.
‘Nothing. I was just thinking…’
‘Thinking what?’ She laughs.
‘How would you manage with the baby when you are back to work? I mean ….’
‘I’ll work from home at least for a couple of months or so.’ She enlightens her mother-in- law, patting her lappie, as though it were her baby too.
‘The germs…!’ The elder one teases.
‘Oh yes!’ She smiles, picks up the bowl of dal and empties it in one go.
‘Have a little more.’ The other pours a bowl full of ‘dal’ in the emptied bowl.
‘I don’t have to overeat. Please.’ She heaves a sigh.
‘You want the child to go hungry?’
‘If you eat like a bird, how will the child be fed?’ The other explains.
‘Remember what my gynaecologist said? The balanced diet….?’
‘Rubbish.’ The other gets jumpy.
‘That’s the problem!’ her forehead furrows in frustration.
This is the daily schedule between the two since the baby is born. The two keep polling for two different viewpoints. One stands by the scientific reasons and explanations, while the other does for her age-old beliefs; the beliefs handed over to her by her mother and mother-in-law.
‘Jaanu, I’m having breast pain. Your baby is a little devil! It sucks and sucks….’ She giggles, savouring the feel, while the baby clings to her breast.
‘Poor me!’ Her husband naughtily whispers on phone.
‘Hey! Envious of your child? Shame on you!’ She whispers. She is startled by the sudden presence of her mother-in- law in the room.’
‘Let’s talk later,’ utters the husband.
‘I heard nothing.’ She says slyly and makes way for the porch to dry the baby’s nappies in the sunshine.
The two dearly love each other but their views don’t match. The elder one also happens to be the mother of a teenage girl, who’d be married soon. Her daughter is also highly qualified and very often resorts to ‘Google’ or ‘Yahoo’ for finding solutions to her problems than seeking her old aged wisdom.
‘What’s wrong with the generation?’ Rukmani often wonders.
‘What to do with these old people?’ Sasha wonders.
Sasha was born and brought up in a cosmopolitan city. There she has been working in a reputed firm. She works laboriously from dawn to dusk, eager to make her place in the firm. She has got promotions by and by. There are many people under her today.
Hers has been love marriage. She came in contact with Sam through facebook. The moment she saw his picture on the screen, she was swept off her feet. She was not a rural girl, who had to accept her love mate, as chosen by her parents. She sent a friend request to the guy, which was but obviously accepted. After all she was attractive and well-groomed too. The two decided to ‘date’ and soon fell seriously in love. Both sent the respective photographs and bio graphic details to their parents expressing the desire to marry.
Both had arranged everything on their own. Sam would pick her from the office and the two would shop together. They had done the entire shopping before their parents reached them. They had planned everything. They had decided that they would continue to work without having kids until they had saved a handsome amount for the future of their kid.
‘Let’s make the list of relatives. Cards are to be printed. There is so much yet to be done.’ Sam’s father had expressed the concern.
‘No cards Dad! And no relatives please! What do they have to do with my marriage?’
‘Have your wits gone to wool gathering? What sort of a marriage would it be without guests?’ His father had asked with mouth agape.
‘I don’t want my happiness to be spoilt by those who’d pretend to be annoyed at first and then reluctantly come as if to oblige us. And their stale opinions and endless tales about love marriage of course! No! No! No! That wouldn’t be!’
‘Are we supposed to be there…or not?’ His Mom had demurred.
‘Of course Mom! Sasha’s family and ours. That makes the perfect world! We’d of course give a treat later on to our colleagues.’
‘That’s right! What I’ll do is that I’ll send messages to all co- workers.’ Sasha chirped.
‘Would there be no music, no singing of marriage songs, and no gathering?’ Sam’s Mom couldn’t still believe what she heard.
Sasha’s parents were equally shocked.
‘Well, let’s book some hotel for the ceremony, what say?’ Her Dad had suggested.
‘Dad! We have been working day and night to lay by something for future. We can’t afford this much extravagance for mere show off, can we?’ She sought Sam’s approval. ‘She’s right!’
‘Let me remind son… I’m still alive. I can manage everything. After all, why have we been saving for years?’
‘Okay! Fine! If you really want to do something get the money deposited in some bank for your grandchildren.’ He laughed.
‘Hey! Dad! Just kidding.’
‘The way you’re concerned about your child’s future, who is still far away from existence; so did we! Don’t worry about the expenditure. We’ll throw a grand party in our hometown. After all people must know you’re married. You’re our only son.’
‘Whatever! Don’t please expect us to join. We’d be going for honeymoon next weekend and would be back after three days. Work must not suffer.’
‘Since you’ve decided everything….’ Parents had laughed away the matter with a heavy heart.
Sasha had come to live with her mother-in- law after two entire years. It was when the doctor admonished her for being a workaholic and not caring for the baby’s well being.’
‘It’d look awkward, no? Going there with this swollen tummy?’
‘We married ceremoniously. We’re proud, we’re going to become parents.’ Sam had caressed the swell pushing against the satin of her night gown.
‘Sam, I can’t bear the thought of living away from you!’ She had said, clinging to him.
‘Our parents are an inseparable part of our life, aren’t they?’
‘You’re my world, Sam!’
‘The three of us will make a perfect world, won’t we?’
‘Of course yes!’
It was with great reluctance that she had come to stay with Rukmani, her mother-in- law.
Sasha was beautiful. She was highly competent and soft spoken too. In short, she had all that Rukmani had desired in her daughter-in- law.
What was missing then?
Had she missed somewhere?
Rukmani sat on the cot outside, lost in thoughts.
A few relatives came to see Sasha as well as her baby.
‘Slip into something sober. There are guests at home. They want to meet you.’ Rukmani peeped into the room to convey. Sasha had still been searching something on net.
‘Please bring them in. What’s wrong with this dress?’ She innocently asked.
‘Okay.’ She submitted as usual.
The chats went on for long. Sasha didn’t know she was expected to touch their feet. She didn’t know what to reveal and what not. She was describing the urban life they lived. The work she did, etc. etc.
The ladies came out with mocking expressions, giggling and whispering.
Rukmani couldn’t endure their laugh. She folded hands before the guests and thanked them for the visit.
‘We must say you’ve got such a nice daughter-in- law.’ Satire dripped from their lips.
‘You need not bother how she is. She is no less than my own daughter to me. I like her a lot and that’s what counts the most, doesn’t it?’ She said with bold expression.
‘You invited us to be insulted?’
‘Doesn’t matter what you people think. You may sever your connections with me, but I can’t sever my connections with from her. Hope I’m understood well?’
She shut the door with moistened eyes.
That’s what she had always feared.
She was stupefied by the warm touch at her shoulders.
She turned at once.
Sasha stood there perfectly dressed in an Indian way! She wore a sari! The first time!
What was more surprising was that there were tears in her eyes. Tears of reverence for her!
Tears of apology.
‘Ma!’ She couldn’t speak more. She hugged Rukmani.
‘Thanks! Thanks for everything you did!’ said Sasha, her lips quivering with emotions.
‘Don’t be silly. I always loved you like a mother does.’ Rukmani caressed her head.
‘I realize it today.’ She wiped the big tears with the pads of her fingers.
‘I always knew; you would.’ Rukmani said overwhelmed with feelings.
‘Our world has been shrinking year after year. If it continues to be so, I’m scared.’ She fell at Rukmani’s feet, sobbing.
Pix from Net.
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