The bus came to a sudden halt with no prior hint, that I almost knocked my head against the sturdy metal bar.
“Are you ok, Geetha ji”, my maid enquired.
“I am fine, almost survived if I might say“, I replied, trying to sound funny, as she wrapped her agile arms around me and brought me back to my seat.
Travelling by public transport was a struggle in itself, worse if your age happened to be on the unfortunate side of 80. A cold shiver shot through my body as the chilling wind swept through the window in a hurry. I draped my saree around me tightly and flexed my arms closer to my body to suppress the shivers that threatened to shatter my fragile body.
The ink blue sky was in the remarkable process of giving way to the crimson clouds. Soon, darkness would embrace them.
Today was the most tiring day in months and the most dreaded one in that regard too. If it wasn’t for my maid who noticed a tinge of blood on the sink a few days back, I would be on my bed reciting the Bhagavat Gita at this hour of the day.
The horrendous events of the day drifted across my eyes. Alarmed was I about the whole procedure, for a person in her twilight years didn’t deserve to perch her hopes on a higher rung when it came matters related to her health. But the doctor, a compassionate human being, was persuasive in pacifying me as he cut out a small bit of her breast tissue for the biopsy. Breast disease and blood tinged sputum? I was confused. The disease might have started affecting the lungs – he disclosed the assumption through his implicit speech, an outright revelation would have shattered me, he knew the psychology of the old for sure. The benefit of the doubt would offer me solace atleast till the biopsy report came, he might have thought.
A sudden spurt of cough brought an end to my trance.
I clinged onto the bar, as the bus paused at the next stop. A lady carrying a baby in her arms entered the bus, almost staggering as the bus resumed its journey in a hurry. I watched as my maid offered the lady her seat. Settling down next to me, the lady sighed a breath of relief and smiled at me.
I noticed that the pretty smile which twinkled on her lips failed to brighten her eyes. Was it true or was it just me, for I have always sensed people tending to pour out their minds while conversing with an old person. So did this lady, who smiled at me, oblivious of the fact that it failed to mask her sorrow.
Her name was Sakshi and she was returning after paying a visit to her mother, who resided in the next town. Sakshi’s mother used to spend her days at her husband’s house till two months back, until he started being irked at the presence of a woman who threatened to fall ill anytime.Try as she might, Sakshi’s pleadings to retain her mother at their house failed to pierce her husband’s deaf ears. Her mother was ousted from their house, albeit with a permission for Sakshi to visit her mother once every month.
Finishing the poignant story, Sakshi said with a gurgle of emotions moulding her words, “My mother is sick and I miss her so much. Every bit of my heart yearns to take her back to my home and nurse her as best as I can. Unfortunately, my hands are tied. The fear of jeopardising my family overshadows my responsibility towards my mother. Isn’t my future my husband and this child? Cruel as it might sound, I cant lose them at any cost. She wiped away the stream of tear that gushed down her cheeks and continued, “Where as the story is different in my brother’s family. His wife is adamant that our mother shouldn’t be allowed to stay at their house for more than a week at a stretch, for fear that she might have to take care of her during her frequent bouts of sickness.”
I kept looking at her till tears flooded my eyes and blinded my sight. The bus shrieked to a stop once again, and it was time for me to leave the bus.
I walked with the help of my maid in slow steps to the debilitated old age home which had been providing me shelter for the past one year, when my maid asked hesitantly, “When are your children coming to visit you, Geeta ji? I saw them the day you were brought to this place, never after. I hope they will be here to take you to the hospital for the next visit, won’t they? “
My heart fluttered as I answered her question with just a slight
nod of my head.
And that was when the vague doubts that had been haunting my mind for the past few months resurfaced to finally confluence into an answer. ‘Perhaps, they never will’.