Amita heard the bells in the pooja room accompanied with the streams of Vishnu Sahasranaam on the music player. She grimaced and pulled the quilt high above her head and slept. ‘When will this drama stop’, she thought to herself.
Her parents Mrs. and Mr. Shastry had always been very devout. But from the time her father had retired, more so. As soon as she could, she had moved out of home. She worked for a publishing company as a sub editor and she enjoyed her job. But her mission for this visit was important. She had to tell her parents that she had found her soul mate.
Late night when she finally went to her bed, the events of the day flashed before her eyes. She had mustered enough courage to tell her mother about her choice. Her mother was surprised but calm. She in turn told to her husband i.e Amita’s father. Her father was shocked. He told just one line. “and this is the reward we get for giving you independence”. But her mother calmed him down. She asked, ‘Are you really sure that he is the one for you’. She said yes. And then things just ran ahead. Her parents had contacted Varad who in turn contacted his parents. And now they were supposed to come down for a talk.
Fifteen years had passed since then. She and Varad had got married according to a Vedic ceremony. She had wanted a court wedding. ‘Cheap and best’, she had said. But her parents had put their foot down. ‘In a vedic ceremony you take your oath for better or worse taking agni (fire) as a sakshi (witness). And that is the best witness than we signing some useless paper,’ her father had said.
Fifteen years of living together and so many times they had been ready to call it quits. But every time, they had gone back and worked on their marriage. Fifteen years and a lovely daughter. A daughter who was as headstrong as she was. But strangely she possessed some qualities of her grandmother. ‘Genes I suppose’, Amita thought.
Fifteen years and her own publishing company. ‘Not bad at all’, she thought. But then she often thought that she had missed the growing up years of her daughter. She and Varad rarely spoke except over phone calls. All these years her mother in law took care of Aparna; her daughter and the home but then suddenly she had a heart attack and expired.
She was finding it difficult. To run a household, a publishing company and of course handling a teenage daughter was tough. And on Varad’s suggestion, she had asked her mother if it was possible for her to come and live with them. Her father had expired some years before and her mother lived alone. Her mother had not agreed at first. Her routine, her home was precious to her. But then Varad had promised her that her routine will not be objected to. And for Aparna’s sake, she had agreed, But Amita was tense. In all these years she and her mother had moved far. Amma’s habits still irked her. ‘I suppose the morning calm will be broken now with the loud vocals of MS’, she thought.
It was more than a month since amma had arrived. And strangely the house was calmer now. No chaos, no friction. Aparna was happier and strangely there were no ‘morning sounds’. Amita could not resist herself and went to her mother’s room. Only to find that the Suprabhatam was kept at a low volume and her mother busy with her morning pooja.
She signalled Amita to sit down. She joined her once her rituals were over. ‘Why amma, why did you keep the volume so low’, Amita asked.
‘Because you don’t like it’, amma replied.
‘But then back home you kept it on high’, said Amita
‘But then that was MY home, this is yours’, amma said.
Amita felt ashamed. ‘No Amma, this is your home too.
Amma just grinned.
For the first time Amita noticed how easily amma adjusted to any circumstance. She thought of herself, what a rebel she had been. And yet amma had been patient. Chiding her, guiding her but never losing patience. And she though of her own conduct with her daughter. But then Aparna was a brat, worse than she had been.
‘Why the worried look’, her mother asked.
For the first time in her life Amita decided to confide in her mother. ‘Aparna amma….she lives in her own world of friends and illusion. She doesn’t ever speak to me freely nor…….’
‘Have you ever tried speaking to her Amu’, amma asked, ‘What I have seen is that you don’t ever have time for either her or Varad, For that matter even your relationship with Varad is superficial. I must admit that though I never liked Varad at first but he has proved to be a better person’
‘You didn’t like him but you agreed upon my marrying him’, protested Amita
‘You would have married him even if I had said no’, Amma said simply. ‘You have always been a confused person Amu, all your decisions have been because you wanted to rebel and nothing else’.
‘What do you mean?’, shrieked Amita
‘You dropped out of science stream becausee your appa wanted you to do it. You got into publishing be cause you could be out of the house for a long stretch. You married Varad because you wanted to show that you could make your own decisions….I could go on and on but lets leave it like that’.
‘So you mean to say that I do not have any good points’, said Amita
‘Did I say so? No, I didn’t. You are good in so many ways like you are charitable, if you make a decision; you stick to it, and so on’.
‘The problem between you and Aparna is that you never spend any time with each other. And she behaves in such a manner just to attract your attention’, said Amma
‘Amma, I don’t have time to attend to her brattish behavior’, said Amita
‘You have to decide then, what is more important. Your important ‘jobs’ or your family and relationships’, said Amma
‘Why is it that a woman has to take such decisions and not a man’, shrieked Amita
‘Let us not bring gender issues now Amita. Point is that Varad is doing everything to give a stable home to Apu but she needs a mother’, said Amma, I would not have brought all this up because you have always made it clear to me that your life is none of my business but then a young life is at stake and I have to protect her’.
‘And frankly Amita stop being selfish now. Think about others too. Or you will be left alone. Don’t think Varad will be patient forever. If he decides to leave you, imagine how lonely you would be’, said Amma
Amita got the shock of her life. Amma meanwhile got busy with her morning rituals.
Days passed. Amita tried to bridge the gap but now Varad and Aparna were so unused to her that they did not know how to reciprocate. Amma gently guided them saying every one should get a second chance. Apu was calmer, the lines on Varads face reduced.
Amita came to ammas room one day, sat with her watching her doing the pooja. A strange peace descended on her.
‘Amu, you wanted to speak’, asked amma
‘Yes amma. Amma the conversation which we had last month, why had you not spoken to me like that earlier. Maybe I would not have to struggle so much now.’
‘Ammu everything has a time and place. IF I had spoken to you earlier, would you have listened to me?
Amma had a point, Amita nodded.
‘And ammu we cannot change anybody if he or she is not willing. Even the Lord does not interfere if you are not ready to take his help. Remember Draupadi and her disrobing. The Lord could have stopped Draupadi from going into the assembly but he didn’t. Only when she raised her hands and cried out for him that he rescued her’
‘Amma how are you so patient and tolerant’, asked Amita
Amma gave a toothy grin. I never was patient Amu until I started to follow the Lords dictate. It’s very easy to follow then to lead Amu. And everything is given in the Gita, you just have to follow what is given’, said she
‘Give me an example’, asked Amita
‘Well in the second chapter of the Gita text 14, the Lord says:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
tams titiksasva bharata
O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
So you see once you accept the fact that ups and downs are normal in life, you become calm and accept life as it comes, amma said with a grin.
Amita that day could understand that her mother was not just a blind follower of rituals but her understanding of the science of spirituality was much vast, much more than what she could ever aspire for.