Mrs. Shah’s husband had been claimed to cancer. All attempts to save him, and the best treatment had perhaps prolonged his breaths for one more year. Now, after he was gone, his widow had decided to live all alone, in their house.
“You will not live alone Mom! How will you? What is the need?” Shikha her daughter urged; maybe her words penetrated her mother’s headstrong mind!
“Why can’t I? I will not leave my own house. No way”. Her firm voice resounded in her old authoritarian style familiar to her family. “This house is no les my companion! It has seen you both arrive, aged with me, and hedged my fifty years of martial household. This house is a part of my life. I don’t feel lonely here.”
Her children understood that their mother didn’t treat the house like property, like their own generation did. Also, this was not the time to force their wishes on her. She was habituated to living in that house- that old habits die hard. No one questioned her back after that.
Mrs. Shah started living alone. Her son Sanjay, and daughter Shikha lived close by. Six months passed. The children and closest relatives of doting brothers and brothers- in- law waited patiently for her to thaw down or her resolve to turn mellow.
“I can’t imagine living like that. How does she? The days are manageable but what about the nights? …and what when the dark nights turn stormy, ghoulish and rainy?” when Mrs Shah’s sister- in- law vocally worried behind her back, everyone was at their tenterhooks. “Running about the banks, doing taxes, groceries and the usual drudgery of domesticity, when you can easily sit back and relish by your son’s garden!” Clearly her decision had let off an endless round of gossips even in her neighbourhood. “it was never her habit not to miss a chance to hurl sinuous words to Sanjay’s wife whom she never liked. She can’t face her now. That’s why she lives alone.” There were as many gossips as there were the mouths in the kitty circle too. “will she be able to watch TV, and chat for long hours on phone as much as she likes there? Will not their children complain?”
The grapevine didn’t take long to reach Sanjay. “Is my house not yours too?” One fine day he presented his thoughts before her.
“How can your house be mine? Does it give me the familiarity that I have here? When can I have this liberty to choose my lifestyle? Why is that a woman must confirm to societal norms all her life? I am healthy, happy and okay; and I am very happy because you will be there for me when I truly need you. When I beckon, I entrust you with help and support.”
Children of Mrs. Shah soon learnt to make peace with gossips. That old habits die hard was more about them and less about their mother.
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