Seventy years old Kamla Tai was on her usual early morning walk. Dawn was just about breaking and like every day, she was heading to the Jogger’s Park in the neighborhood where many people would come to walk, jog and do various exercises. It was for the past twenty five years that Kamla Tai would come here regularly and do some walking and exercise. She had many friends there and they would all sit and chat after that for some time, post which they would all disperse for home.
That day too, after the chat, Kamla Tai left for home. On her way, as usual, she picked her packet of milk from the milk booth along with two packets of Parle-G biscuits and turned smilingly to Pixy and Laxy, two stray dogs who were wagging their tails furiously waiting for their daily breakfast. Kamla Tai moved slightly away from the booth and fed both of them the two packets of biscuits. After eating the dogs jumped over her, licking and rubbing their noses on her hands as Kamla Tai patted them lovingly. After this daily ritual, Kamla Tai got up and with her packet of milk, set for home. She was crossing the road when a tempo suddenly emerged in full speed from the side road and hit Kamla Tai. Kamla Tai lay sprawling on the road, unconscious, in a slowly accumulating pool of blood. Pixy and Laxy were going round and round her, whimpering and barking. People gathered and Kamla Tai was taken to a nearby hospital.
Kamla Tai had to stay in the hospital for a little more than three months. Both her sons stayed in the US, with their families. As soon as they were informed, both of them came rushing. They took turns in staying in India to be with her, but it was very difficult for them to stay away from work, for long. Both were in very senior positions so could not afford to be away for too long. Somehow they managed the hospital stay but when Kamla Tai was discharged, the real problem arose. She had a fractured spine, along with other fractured bones that would take months to heal. Kamla Tai was completely bed ridden. Who would look after her?
They arranged for nurses who would look after their mother and then went away. Kamla Tai had a help, Sukhu, who had been with her for the last thirty years. She assured her sons that she would always be there for Kamla Tai. Shortly, the agency that had arranged for the nurses had some problem and informed that they were withdrawing their services. The sons were nonplussed as to what to do. Kamla Tai was not in a position to travel too. Due to some important , unavoidable scenario at work, they were unable to come to India. Sukhu offered her help. She had a teenage daughter, Manyata, and said that both mother and daughter would take care of Kamla Tai, completely. Thus Sukhu and Manyata, became the care givers of Kamla Tai.
Sukhu and Manyata took very good care of Kamla Tai. The whole day Sukhu would look after her and evening onwards Manyata would take charge. She would feed her, clean her and most importantly, chat with her. Both Sukhu and Manyata would do whatever possible to keep Kamla Tai happy and that was a big thing for Kamla Tai. At night, with Manyata asleep on the divan next to her bed, Kamla Tai would affectionately watch her and wonder how much of love and care this young girl showered upon her. She had become quite attached to her and genuinely wanted to do something for her.
One morning, while having breakfast, Tai asked Manyata,
“Manu, you have studied till the XII, why did you not continue?”
“Babu passed away that year and we had to shift from where we were staying, because the builder had bought the land. Aai had to take this hut on a higher rent so there was a sudden money crunch. So there was no way that I could start college,” said Manyata in a matter of fact manner,
“Would you like to study further Manu?” asked Tai tenderly.
“Tai, I would have loved to study further and become a teacher but it won’t be possible. Aai has to buy a small flat and for that I want to work and help by contributing too. I will definitely fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher, one day, but that has to wait,” she said smilingly as she helped Tai back on her armchair.
Tai’s mind was set thinking. She was taking stock of her finances. Her husband’s pension sustained her well and took care of her medical expenses too. Suddenly her eyes lit up. She remembered her ornaments. These were all made of gold. Many were from the time of her wedding, given by her parents and her in-laws. There were many additions to them all through her married life too. In her times, gold ornaments had a different significance. They were passed on with utmost care, love and pride from one generation to the other. Both the giver as well as the receiver, would be overjoyed by this process. Now times had changed. More importance was being given to personal choice, style and matching the fashion and times. The traditional gold ornaments were losing their value and acceptance. Tai too had dreams of handing over her ornaments to her daughters-in-law and later to the grand children. As luck would have it, one daughter-in-law was Indian American and the other was Mexican. They were very sweet and warm towards Tai, but understandably, there wasn’t much interest in Tai’s treasure. This would really disturb Tai quite a lot. Who would she pass on her treasure to? Who would be happy to get these? She had no answers.
Now suddenly, Tai had made some decisions. She spoke about this to both her sons, who were taken aback in the beginning, but later accepted it gracefully. The very next day, Tai called her jeweller home. She told him that she wanted to sell off most of her jewellery. The jeweller was surprised but Tai was determined. She took out all her jewellery and went through each of these, down the memory lane. Her eyes moistened. She just kept a piece each for her daughters-in-law as a memento. She then called Sukhu and Manyata together. She gave her wedding necklace to Manyata, saying that this would be Tai’s wedding gift for her, whenever she gets married. She then handed over a sum to Sukhu, enough to buy a small flat. She then handed over a check in the name of Manyata, that would take care of her college and further education. Gifting all this made Tai fill with an unknown happiness, such that she had never experienced before. She felt so liberated and content. Why impose things on anyone who has no value for them? All her precious jewellery that she had so tenderly saved, was put to much better use than she had ever dreamt of. Sukhi sat there sobbing while Manyata got up and hugged Tai tight saying,
“ You are my fairy angel.”
It was Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtian New Year. What a beautiful beginning of a new year for both the giver as well as the receiver!