By Pritha Banerjee (L&T-MHPS)
This is a story of Mrs Shila Roy. But, this is not a unique story. I’m sure that many women will be able to relate to her story.
Mrs Roy is a woman full of gentleness, empathy, tolerance, sensitivity, and resilience. She is a good and responsible daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother! She is lovable and admirable. She is an educated and self-dependent woman. Although not an extraordinary woman, she is a woman of substance.
She recently celebrated her 50th birthday. She voluntarily retired from service this year. She, along with her husband stay in her apartment in Delhi. Both of her daughters are settled in different cities, one in Bangalore and the other in Kolkata. They have a maid who is staying with them for nearly 20 years.
After retirement, Shila was excited to stay at home with her husband. She had so much plans for her upcoming days. The list included watching television, listening to old music, preparing and eating different dishes she had missed all these years.
But things were not so easy for her. Mr Roy was not so fond of classical music. So, he stopped her from playing them. Television was controlled by Mr. Roy who was also a retired man. They started fighting on every other topic.
Shila was unhappy with these state of affairs and decided to go and stay with her daughters for a few months as well as visit her mother.
Shila discussed her plans with Mr. Roy. He wished to join her. So, they planned to visit her mother first.
Every girl is usually excited to visit her parental house. She was glad to reach her home town, Kolkata. She was going to surprise her mother, who stayed with Shila’s brother and his family in the same house.
During her cab journey from the airport to her house in Thakurpukur, Behala Shila was thinking about her room, her childhood memories, the balcony, the dining room. She recounted many stories about each corner with Mr. Roy on their way to the house. He could senseher excitement of coming to her home after nearly 7 years.
When she entered the house, she realised that everything was different. Her room was not hers’ anymore. Her nephew was staying there. The interior decoration was new. The sitting room was converted into a small office chamber of her advocate brother. Their Mother’s room was shifted to ground floor guest room which was also renovated as per her brother’s choice. She doubted that her mother would be happy with the choice of decor. But, she ignored all these things and tried to make her comfortable in whatever was available. She realised that the stay cannot be longer than two days. Accordingly, she informed her brother and sister-in-law. For those two days, she stayed in a small room beside her mom’s. She spent the days mostly with her mother. She realised that her mother was lonely in her own house. Others were busy in their day-to-day activities.
She promised to fly her mother along with her back to Delhi.
Next stop was her elder daughter’s place in Calcutta only. She received a warm welcome from her Son-in-Law and Daughter. She was happy to finally come and stay with her 3-year-old grandson. They decided to stay for fortnight. But as days passed by, she realised that it’s creating a problem for their daughter and son-in-law. With them around, their socialising was restricted. Moreover, they had to plan for food for every meal. Otherwise, they would order food from outside for dinner, skip lunch and breakfast as both worked for 10-12 hours every day and left their son at the creche and then cared for by a babysitter.. Their . Shila enjoyed tremendously with the baby who was equally delighted to see her grandparents. She was happy to see all the systematic arrangements made by her daughter. As a mother, Shila was proud to see her child grow up and manage her home and family all by herself. On Sunday they all went for a movie and dinner. At dinner, while they were waiting for food, Shila’s daughter shared that her office colleagues have planned to go to Darjeeling with respective families next weekend. She wanted to join them along with her husband and daughter. So, she asked Shila if they could leave early. She suggested that her parents visit her again later, considering both were retired now. Shila readily accepted and confirmed to return before next week end.
Rest of the days she travelled through the city temples and markets all alone. Mr. Roy was happy with the television and declined to join her.
Next destination was Bangalore. They reached there on Thursday. Her younger daughter stays with her in-laws in their two storeyed house. So, definitely they had planned for a short trip of two to three days there. Her in-laws were very happy to see them. She enjoyed the two days completely with the family there. Her daughter was also on leave during the two day visit. She was happy to see her parents together after a long time. Her Bangalore trip was short but more pleasant compared to her Kolkata trip. Here too, her stay was incorporated with few compromises. She was not fond of the food served and she couldn’t ask for her own choice. The room in which she stayed was not well ventilated. Still, the love she received from others made her stay nice.
From Bangalore, they returned to Delhi to their house. She was happy to return but still confused. When she left, she was irritated with her stay here, but had to return. Lying on her bed a thought came to her mind.
When this house was bought, she had paid an equal amount as her husband. Last year, when her parental house was getting renovated, she had paid equally as her brother. Four years back, when her elder daughter was buying the 3BHK apartment, she helped her with a high amount from her fixed deposit savings. Same amount she gifted to her younger daughter too when their house was being rebuilt.
She had a question in her mind… What was her mistake? She had spent all her life earning money. She had fulfilled all her responsibilities for her family. She has paid for her happiness in advance. Still, today she is “homeless”. She has a house or two legally. But home? Where she can live her life like she wants to? She felt helpless. She could hear Mr. Roy entering the room. He switched off the lights and went off to sleep. Shila lay with her eyes wet, gazing at the wall of the dark room in her house.