Sita Lakshmi was in her late sixties. Her exact age did not matter anymore, not to her at least, all she did was lie down all the day and wait to be woken up by her son for being fed or being bathed or for being cleaned. ‘Madhava’ she would call out irrespective of him being inside the house or not ‘give me some water, my throat is parched’. More often she fell back to sleep forgetting to have water and wait till her son comes home.
Madhavan, 32, unmarried, was working in a local grocery store. He made sure that he visited home thrice during his work timings from the shop, to take care of his mother. This has become a routine since Sita Lakshmi was affected by Alzheimer's. He had no qualms about this. His mother has done so much for them and she has gone through so much and the least he could do was to be there in the time of her needs. He was youngest of the seven children of Sita Lakshmi. The others who were brighter and more successful were in the different parts of the world quite far from their mother, not just physically. Sitalakshmi used say ‘Out of my seven children, six are for the world only you are for me.’ True to these words Madhavan did not marry because he was apprehensive how a new girl might react to such a person in the house. He neither has the heart to leave her in old age home nor the money to hire a domestic help.
When the night falls it becomes more difficult. She keeps calling out ‘Madhava are you going to kill me without giving me water’? No matter how many times he reminds her that he has put a jug full of water next to her with a tumbler she forgets and calls him. He obliges every time without uttering a word. It is not her fault. When she was able, she ground kilos of dough for idli or Dosa or kneaded flour for chapatti for their large family. It is not her fault that she cannot do it now. It is now time for her to be taken care of. So, he even sleeps in the semi conscious state so that he can heed to her calls whenever needed. He has dedicated his life to this but pardonably with some mixed feelings.
In this monotonous cyclic order of events on one of those sticky days of April Madhavan got up and finished off his household chores and went to the shop. The air was thick and humid. Everything around seemed heavy and every particle in the air tried to get precipitated on the skin. One of the days which will irritate everyone and make them yell at each other as if something is biting them. When it seems things cannot get any worse they do. Mr. Rao came to the shop and he is known for not leaving without making problems. After keeping Madhavan on his toes for about 30 minutes to get various things and change them time and again, he finally asked for the receipt. After the payment when Madhavan gave him back the change he threw a tantrum and said that he had given a 500 Rs note not 100 Rs! No matter how much Madhavan explained Mr. Rao did not listen. Then his indignation grew into a fury and called Madhavan a thief. Finally the owner had to intervene and scold Madhavan to please the tough customer. Owner also said if there is cash deficit at the end of the day it will be taken from his salary!
A sad heart is like a sinking ship which is already submerged partly in water when something heavy falls on it, it only hastens the destruction. Madhavan was walking back home with the burden of being called a thief, being scolded by his owner, crushing his already worn heart. He was tired of the surprises life threw; he was weary of waiting for answers for all the questions. He was wary that the questions were getting more and more complex every time. He wanted to give up but he wasn’t holding to anything.
Sitalakshmi eagerly awaited him and he promptly attended to her and after the needed nursing, cajoling and tending she also got ready for the journey through the nights on the chariot of sleep. However before sleeping she said ‘Madhava, you have to get married soon, how long will you waste your life on this old lady?’ and he snapped ‘Ma, you have gone mad, you go to sleep’. Nothing much left to do; he also lied down on his bed with a thousand thoughts dancing around his head and a thousand things moving in and out. His frustrations trampled over his satisfactions. His desires instigated him to destroy his diligence. He tried to shut all these witches out and walk on a simple steady path and just as this struggle was reaching a crescendo Sitalakshmi called out ‘Madhava. Give me some water, my throat is parched’. Madhavan said ‘Amma, it is next to you in the big jug. Please don’t disturb me today’. Having answered the old lady’s call he lulled himself to sleep.
The sticky morning had descended again and he woke up all sweaty and directly went to the bathroom to brush and wash his face. Making himself a cup of coffee he went to wake his mother up. ‘Amma, Amma, wake up’. The old lady remained still without any intentions of moving. She had started her travel into the depths of universe to emerge on the other side. And the jug of water next to her was full up to its brim as he had left it.