Saturday Story 9: Independence Day
It all started with a book. Pratima stared at the slim volume with a blue and white cover. It had been a long – really long! – time since she last read anything. Maybe that’s why her daughter had sent it across. Sitting in the US, Kaveri had discovered the joys of Amazon Prime and was constantly sending amma ‘things she would otherwise not buy’. Like a nice sari, or a kitchen appliance.
“Now what in the world do I do with this !” thought Pratima, staring at the book.
She may well have just left it at that but the title intrigued her: ‘The Art of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo. That afternoon, instead of watching her serial, Pratima started reading. By tea-time, she was half-way through. Sunder was surprised to see his wife with her nose buried in a book, way past her bedtime.
The next morning, Pratima served the usual idlis with filter kapi for breakfast, along with an ultimatum: ‘We need to start tidying up’. She would start with her sari cupboard, while Sunder would look into the boxes full of old files and papers. The poor man was bewildered but it was best to play along…
Following the Konmari method to the T, Pratima held up each and every sari, blouse and petticoat and asked herself, ‘Does this item give me joy?’ When the answer was ‘no’, she said ‘thank you’ and put them into a separate pile. By the end of the day, the pile was a mountain. She contacted the Nari Seva Sadan and asked if they could pick up a ‘large donation’.
“I feel so much lighter,” said Pratima to her husband that evening. He didn’t say much in return.
Indeed, he too had generated a couple of hundred kgs of raddi, and was looking forward to his usual routine. But Pratima had other plans. Over the next 2 weeks, she emptied out every drawer, cupboard, suitcase, trunk, nook and cranny of the house. Possessions collected over 40 years of married life. Objects of daily use, no longer in use. But still carrying memories, and attachments.
The house became more bare, the dining table more spare. No sambhar with idli, only chutney. Sunder would have been worried about Pratima being sick, except that she was looking much livelier. There was a new spring in her step. She was going for long walks, spending more time in the terrace garden and, one day, he even saw her doing some Bharatnatyam poses.
Ah, that graceful young woman whom he had first seen on the Chembur Fine Arts Society stage.
He had begged his mother to approach her friend and ask for the daughter’s hand in marriage. Pratima had given him a perfect life. A loving home, two beautiful children, emotional bonding, moral support, and a peaceful retired life.
“I want to do something for your mother now,” Sunder said to Kaveri and Karthik, on Skype.
They were upset, at first. Why can’t both of you come and stay with us in America? We will look after you. Let us be your support in old age. They meant well, of course, but Sunder knew his wife well. Pratima would spend all her time cooking their favourite dishes, making their life more comfortable. For she was not one to sit still, to stop playing her role…
Pratima was shocked when Sunder said he was planning to sell the house. But why? Where would they go? We are taking sanyaas, he answered.
In the Mahabharata, after ruling the kingdom wisely and well, the Pandavas cast off their jewels and robes, and headed into the forest. Leaving behind the grihastha life.
“It’s time we do the same,” said Sunder to Pratima. Up in the heavens, the Gods smiled.
6 months later
Pratima has a busy schedule, with morning yoga, afternoon dance class, evening badminton. And all the time in the world to read.
“The food here is excellent,” says Sunder to the kids on Skype. “I hardly miss your mom’s cooking.”
Indeed, life at Forest Hills Senior Citizens Home is a wonderful experience. Independence is precious… and comes, in many forms.
Don’t miss the audio file: Inside the Author’s Mind – Why I wrote ‘Independence Day’.