Do you sometimes think that your life is a failure? Is that really so?
I met Sumathy akka after many years. She was not really my sister. I just called her akka or sister, out of respect.
When I was newly married, I was a tenant at her house. I lived on the ground floor in the front portion of her big house and she lived in the apartment behind mine, with her mother and three sons. Two other families lived on the first floor.
I got introduced to her at a vulnerable period in her life. She had just lost her husband a few months earlier. She was terribly depressed and refused to come to terms with her loss.
I was newly married, and completely naïve (make that ignorant) about cooking and housework.
I was a comedienne of sorts and a chatterbox. I made digs at myself as I went about my work and slowly I was able to draw her into my conversation.
Soon she was giving me tips and helping me out. We became good friends even though there was an age difference of 20 years between us.
Her mother told me one day, her eyes brimming with tears:
“I thank my Gods that they sent you here. My daughter would have wasted away but for your company.”
I stayed in that house for five years and then we were on our way to other cities where my spouse’s work took him.
But when I came to Chennai, I would drop in at the lovely house where I began my married life, to catch up with Sumathy Akka and her sons.
She was proud of the way her sons had turned out. At that time, her first son had married well and she was deliriously happy.
The years rolled by and it was only after ten years that I was able to visit her again.
But this time she was back in square one.
Just like the first time I had met her.
She was not living in the big house. She had remodeled the garage at the back into living quarters for her self. I was shocked to see her in such sorry confines.
“My life is a failure,” she said as I sat sipping her filter coffee.
I spluttered the hot beverage by the suddenness of her statement.
“I lost my husband when I was 38 years old. I struggled to get my sons educated.”
“You did a good job of that. I am sure your kids are proud of you.”
“My first son and his family have converted to another religion. “
She mentioned the religion by name.
“I am still a Hindu and they do not want me to worship my Gods in the house. That is why I live here alone by myself.”
“You could move in with your other sons.” I said, trying to be wise. “Where are they?”
“My second son started a business and met with colossal loss. He was even imprisoned for some time. Now he lives in another city and refuses to talk to me. His wife rings me up sometimes, wanting to know what we were going to do with this house, which my sons will inherit after me.”
“He is in Singapore. He has married a Chinese girl.” She said. “I stayed with them for a few days. But she eats fish, prawns and chicken every day. You know I am a total vegetarian.”
“My life is a failure.” She said again and I did not know what to reply.
When it was time for me to leave, I pacified her:
“What your sons make of their life is their problem, not yours. The world has changed so much. Converting one’s religion or marrying a girl from another ethnic community or being a failure at business is not a big crime, you know. You just keep thinking so.”
Seeing her woe-be-gone face, I started babbling.
“Your life is NOT a failure… You are a grand old lady… You did the best that you could for your sons…now it is time to live life on your terms…enjoy your grand children…make peace with your errant son… visit Singapore again and teach your Chinese daughter-in-law, your vegetarian culinary delights…”
Did I not say that I was a comedienne of sorts and a chatterbox?
She gave a wee smile at my outpouring and walked me to the gate.
I hope I was able to cheer her up.
A little at least.
Just like I did, many years ago.
Story By : AN. Written By; Gulsum Basheer@talkalittledo