23rd August 1998
My dearest daughter,
Yesterday my little friend across the road Shamila came to see me and together we watched a funeral procession. "Isn't it strange," she said, "the fuss people make at a funeral and yet...." She was silent remembering perhaps as I was the old lady whose funeral we were witnessing.
She was very old and obviously had struggled hard to educate her only son who was now holding a very good position and was married to a beautiful girl.
Their house was very well kept, but Mrs. Perera, that's the old lady was an outsider. As is the custom of the old, she liked to talk but her daughter-in-law was always too busy, involved in a great many projects fund raising, ironically enough, even for the old! She disapproved of the old lady chatting to the vendors.
" Can't she be quiet, " she would complain, "must she be so talkative, just imagine asking the keera woman how her children were keeping, as if it matters to us?"
So the old lady stayed within the lonely house. It is sad daughter, that few understand that when one is old one likes to recall the past, after all when death is so much of a certainty, should not one at least have the consolation of decribing past memories, happy memories when one was young! The couple would go out frequently and she would stand near the door watching them wistfully.
Once I asked her why she did not go for a drive and she said, "My son is too busy to take me out and anyway I do not know their friends."
Now don't get me wrong daughter they were very kind to the old lady in a condescending fashion, as if she was too senile to know of what was happening around! In fact when she was sick, they even brought a nurse to take care of her. 'I have no time to stay in,' said Ramya her daughter-in-law, and the poor old lady had to swallow Marmite 'cause the nurse did not understand her preference for such old fashioned items as Kanjee! " We spent so much on medi-care," said Ramya, "but she fusses so much." She was of another generation that thought boiled corriander sufficed for a cold!
When the child was born there were greater problems, grandmother and mother had different ideas of bringing-up the child.
The servants left because according to Ramya the old lady interfered, according to the old lady the servants did not care for the child.
"Why can't she leave him home with me," she would say. "I am not spoiling him after all he is only a baby." She would rock him to sleep much to the consternation of Ramya who believed that a child must be left to sleep in the cot.
One day due to the constant friction her son told her to leave the child alone. I met her weeping under the mango tree all alone. Because she could not carry or hush the crying child. Anyway the old lady lived in material comfort. She sat on a chair on the verandah and watched the world go by, a mere spectator.
Perhaps daughter we will be all like her someday, but I wish your generation will understand a little more, listen to old wishes and watch old eyes light up with the joy of being appreciated.
As we watched the wending funeral procession, I woundered whether Shamila was right when she said, 'the old lady had every material comfort, except the joy of being needed and loved."
Well daughter do you agree with Shamila?
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