"When the cat is away mice play," so goes the
"Mother Kamla being away resting in her private room
in the second storey of the house, I faced no inhibitions or obstructions on her
account nor have I any phobia of her presence on the scene of reciprocal visits,
of my maternal kith and kin and my friends. My meticulously thought out plan has
succeeded well. I feel free as a lark to dance, play or sing in merriment in the
joyous company of my guests, like Words worth's Myriads of Daffodils that
strewed the greens and tossed their heads while dancing in breeze.
Feeling free as a lark I soar high singing and singing
while soaring like shalley's sky lark surcharged with music."
One day jubilant entertainments are held in the new drawing
room. After sometime, the grandma, Kamla begins to feel embarrassed in the new
situation. She often grins within herself, "I have now begun to become
redundant, a non-entity in my own home," she starts thinking.
She adjusts herself by often retiring to her
bed-cum-sitting room, in the second storey of her house. This, she gradually and
imperceptibly changes into her permanent habitat. She keeps herself engaged in
knitting and sewing clothes. She is provided with her own sanitary arrangements.
Also, she comes down to the ground floor at meals and tea time only. (four times
a day). Such a voluntary confinement accelerates her ageing process and she
becomes weaker and weaker to move about.
As an obedient and affectionate daughter-in-law, Koshaliya
serves her (Kamla) well and feeds her as usual now in her sitting-cum-bed room.
And, as time passes by, relationships widen due to fresh
marriages of their kith and kin, Koshaliya remains busier ever after, at least
for a couple of years or two. She finds herself over exhausted at the end of
"I thought, I was as clever as I was brisk and nimble
in the prime of my youth. But alas! Sooner than later, grim thoughts of waning
strength and slackening of movement began seeping into my mind. I begin to
realize that my self imposed plan had 'turned counter productive. My additional
load of work in serving food and drink to Kamlaji in her room entailed many up
and down trips. I have been feeling exhausted and panting for breath in the
middle of the stiff staircase while carrying food and drink and bringing down
metallic utensils for a wash besides having to make many more rounds in her
service. My calf muscles seem to be laboured and beleaguered many hues and my
knees seemed to refuse bending to take an upward step. So many times, I have had
to take help of side-walls to struggle going up and reaching Kamlaji.
Cursed be the moment the plan was put into practice not
only to the deprivation of the vigor of my youth but also to the deterioration
of Kamala's comparatively the then better health".
Koshaliya often ponders over the plan and sometimes is
heard cursing herself aloud.
Despite the comforts provided to her, Kamlaji also feels
disgruntled for an isolated life she's forced into having to the detriment of
Koshaliya's husband is sensitive enough to watch the
sluggish movements and listlessness due to his wife's overwork. One day he says
to her, "My darling, dear Koshaliya, I have been watching you for long now.
Something seems to have sucked out all your youthful vigor, agility and
smartness. Where is the pinkish glow on your ruddy cheeks gone? It seems to have
been bleached yielding place to ghastly parlor. I can't bear this plight of
Aren't you feeling weak, anemic and famished? Do you need
any thing to keep yourself trim again? Pray tell me what is ailing you. I will
do everything to keep you up and doing, happy and healthy.
Koshaliya was so far hesitant to reveal her woes to Keshew
and feeling shy to speak the plain truth, relates what is wrong with her in
fumbling words, thus:
"Dear Swamiji, you see how exhausted I feel at the end
of each day. You too remain too busy in your official and horticultural work of
the Tehsildar," says Koshaliya to her husband, Keshew.
"True my darling, true. But what is the remedy?"
"May I make a suggestion? Let us purchase some earthen
plates, cups and tumblers from a potter's mill." Koshaliya suggests.
"What then? How will it solve the problem of our
fatigue, my dear ?" replies Keshew.
"I as well as you know our mother, Kamlaji is a saint.
She has grown more saintly than before, now. If we use these earthen plates to
serve her food and tea, she can easily throw them out of the window after use
each time. This will relieve me of more than half of my labor in her service.
Won't it?" says Koshaliya.
"Certainly darling. Certainly. You begin the process
from tomorrow and I will convince my mother about," replies Keshew.
The process begins. Their two sons and daughter, Krishen,
Kewal and Kunti by now are school going, teenaged, Intelligent children. On
observing this for several days, the three children hold a secret conference
together. They argue, "We have grown up under the close supervision and
care of our dear parents. We have picked up the art of domestic chores,
gardening, work at our lawns and even reading and writing by imitating them. Now
they have provided us another opportunity to imitate them. But fashions are fast
changing. Suppose there are no potter's mills by the time our parents, dear
Keshew ji and dearer Koshaliya Ji get old, what can we do ? Wherefrom can we
procure earthen plates, cups and tumblers for them to eat and drink from?"
They hit upon a plan during the same conference.
"Let us fix turns and stealthily collect the plates,
cups and the tumblers thrown out after every meal and tea time by our grand
mother," suggests Krishna.
"Yes, let us begin from our eldest brother. Let him
collect these articles, wash them clean and store them in the attic,"
suggest Kewal and Kunti.
The plan is meticulously executed. The plates, cups and
tumblers get elegantly piled and exhibited on one side of the attic for a couple
of years or so.
By chance, Keshew steps into the attic after sometime. He
is surprised to see piles of artistically placed plates etc. there. On going
out, he says to himself.
"After all my wife is farsighted and has received
perfect training at my parents' hands. She must be preparing for the sacred
thread ceremony of our children", he thinks. So, after coming
down, he behaves as if he hasn't observed anything extra-ordinary in the attic.
Time passes by. Once Koshaliya runs after a cat with a long
rod in hand. The cat had drunk and spilled her bucketful of milk. She follows
the cat to the attic. As soon as her eyes catch sight of the well exhibited
earthenware pottery, she frets and fumes. "How is it that my dear Keshewji
has bought the Pottery for the sacred thread ceremony" without
even consulting me in the matter? Doesn't he know that fashions are changing
fast? And, this pottery may soon get substituted by stainless steel utensils,
plates and cups etc?" She says to herself. Despite her simmering anger, she
controls herself and keeps mum.
Once, on a happy occasion, tables for tea are laid in the
lawns of the house shaded by umbrellas.
In the middle of the merry gossip, din and chatter at that
party, Koshaliya, losing her control, suddenly bursts out aloud. "Who, the
devil, has dared to store piles over piles of earthenware plates, cups and
tumblers in the attic?"
She repeats the same, in fumbling voice several times.
The gay participating guests and others are stunned. All
eyes turn towards Koshaliya. There is a hush of silence. Keshew is dumb founded.
The children tremble and sink in their seats. The guests look puzzled at this
The trembling children mutter. "Mummy, Daddy We….
We…..We." They try to speak but can't face their stunned parents.
One of the guests says, "Yes, dear Krishna, Kewal and
Kunti tell me what you have to say, please tell me what you want to say".
The children, turning their backs towards their parents
say, "Dear auntyji, you know we have learnt everything even reading and
writing by obediently imitating Papa and Mummy all through our life time. You
also know that fashions are changing fast. Who knows, when our Papa and mummy
grow old, there may not exist any potter's mills? then"? "Yes dear
children, all this is true. But how does that matter to you?" asks she.
"Pappa and Mummy have been feeding our grand ma in
earthen plates and pottery for years now, Grand Mother throws these, each time,
out of the window after use we collected them washed and stored them safely in
the attic. After all, wherefrom else could we get them when our Mummy and daddy
grew old? Haven't we done the right thing anutiji? They replied candidly.
Hush. Hush Hush .Hush .h... h... h... "was the
reflexive response, in whispers, from all mouths: Keshew and Koshaliya were dumb
founded sweating and sunken in self contempt and deep contemplation.