Tuesday, May 5, 2015

OLD AGE DILEMMA – METAMORPHOSIS – A Story

OLD AGE DILEMMA

This morning I met a lady in her 60s.

Both her children (two daughters) have migrated to America and settled down there. 

She has visited the US a number of times – mainly for delivery, babysitting and nanny duties of her grandchildren – since both daughters decided to have all their children in America for obvious reasons.

In India – the lady looks after her widowed 85 year old mother.

One of her daughters is calling her to America for nanny duties, since the daughter has to travel a lot for work. 

Her widowed mother is complaining that she cannot live alone for 6 months (of course, she is too fragile to travel abroad).

During her earlier trips abroad, her widowed mother managed to live alone, but at that time the old woman was in her late 70s/early 80s and she was fitter.  

The lady in her 60s is in a dilemma.

On one side stands her 85 year old widowed mother, pleading to her not to go to America.

On the other side is her daughter, beseeching her to come to America to take care of her children, as this will enable the daughter to focus on her career.

The lady is torn between her loyalty to her mother and her love for her daughter.

And in her case – her motherly love for the daughter has prevailed over her filial duty towards the mother and she has decided to go to America for 6 months.

Of course – there is one more reason – the green card requirement to live in the US for the specified duration of time.

Also – the lady is exploring the option of sending her mother to an old age home – rather than leave her all alone at home.

All this reminded me of a story I had written around 10 years ago, in 2005, called METAMORPHOSIS.

So – let me delve deep into my Creative Writing Archives and pull out this story for you to read.

Do remember that I wrote this story when I was in Mumbai around 10 years ago in the year 2005 – hence the Mumbai atmosphere of those days...

METAMORPHOSIS
Short Fiction Story 
By 
VIKRAM KARVE  

“I want to go home!” the father, a redoubtable intrepid tough looking old man, around seventy, shouts emphatically at his son.

“But why? What happened?” asks the son.

I have had a terrible time out here for the last one month since you dumped us here.” the father complains loudly.  

“Please Baba. Don’t create a scene,” the son, an effeminate looking man in his mid-forties, says softly.  
 
“What do you mean don’t create a scene?” the old man shouts even louder, waving his walking stick in a menacing manner.
  
“Please calm down! Everyone is looking at us!” an old woman, in her mid-sixties, pleads with her husband.  
 
“Let them look! Let everyone see what an ungrateful son is doing to his poor old parents,” the old man says loudly, looking all around. 
 
“Ungrateful?” the son winces.  
 
“Yes, ungrateful! That’s what you are. We did everything for you; educated you, brought you up. And now you throw us out of our house into this bloody choultry.”  
 
“Choultry! You call this a choultry! Please Baba. This is a luxury township for Senior Citizens,” the son says.  
 
“It’s okay,” the old woman consoles her husband, “we will somehow manage in this Old Age Home.” 
 
“Mama, please!” the son implores in exasperation, “How many times have I told you. This is not an Old Age Home. This is a retirement resort. It’s such a beautiful exclusive township for Senior Citizens to enjoy a happy and active life. And I’ve bought you a premium cottage – the best available here.”  
 
The mother looks at her son, and then at her husband, trapped between the two, not knowing what to say as both are right in their own way. So she says gently to her husband, “Try to understand. We’ll adjust here. See how scenic and green this place is. See there – what a lovely garden.”  
 
“I prefer Nana-Nani Park at Chowpatty. All my friends are there,” the old man says.  
 
“You’ll make friends here too,” she says.  
 
“Friends! These half-dead highbrow snobs?” the old man says mockingly.  
 
“Okay,” the son intervenes, “you both can take long walks. The air is so pure and refreshing at this hill station.”  
 
“Listen you impertinent kid!," the old man shouts at his son, "Don’t try all this on me. I’ve been walking for the last fifty years on Marine Drive and that is where I intend walking the rest of my life till my dying day.” 

Then the old man turns to his wife and says peremptorily to her, “You pack our bags and let’s go back to Mumbai. We are not staying here in this godforsaken place!”  
 
“Try and adjust,” his wife beseeches him, “you’ll like the place. Look at the facilities here – there’s a modern health club, gym, library, recreation: everything is here.”  
 
“Gym? You want me to do body building at this age? Library? You know that after my cataract I can hardly read the newspaper! And I can get all the recreation I need watching the sea at the Chowpatty and walking with my lifelong friends on Marine Drive.”  
 
“Please Baba, don’t be obstinate,” begs his son. “This place is so good for your health. They give you such delicious nourishing food here.” 
 
“Delicious? Nourishing? The bloody sterile stuff tastes like hospital food. I can’t stand it – where will I get Sardar’s Pav Bhaji, Kyani’s Kheema Pav, Vinay’s Misal, Satam’s Vada Pav, Delhi Durbar’s Biryani, Sarvi’s Boti Kababs, Noor Mohammadi's Nihari, Fish in Anantashram in Khotachi Wadi next door…”  
 
“Please Baba! All you can think of is horrible oily spicy street-food which you should not eat at your age! With your cholesterol and sugar levels, you’ll die if you continue eating that stuff.”  
 
“I’d rather die of a heart attack in Mumbai enjoying the good food I like rather than suffer a slow death here trying to eat this insipid tasteless nonsense,” the old man shouts at his son, then looks at his wife and commands, “Listen. Just pack up. We are not staying here like glorified slaves in this golden cage. One month here in this godforsaken place has made me almost mad. We are going right back to our house in Girgaum to live with dignity!”  
 
“Please Baba. Don’t be difficult. I have to leave for America tonight,” the son pleads desperately. “I’m trying to do the best possible for you. You know the huge amount of money I have paid in advance to book this luxurious place for you?” 
 
“You go back to your family in America. I am going back to my house in Girgaum. That’s final!” the old man affirms to his son. 

Then the old man looks at his wife and says, “You want to come along? Or should I go back to Mumbai alone?”  
 
“Mama, please tell him,” the son says looking at his mother.  
 
The old woman looks lovingly at her husband, puts her hand on his arm and says softly, “Please try to understand. We have no choice. We have to live here. There is no house in Girgaum. Our tenement chawl has been sold to a builder. They are building a commercial complex there.”  
 
“What?” the old man is stunned by his wifes betrayal. 

The old man looks at his wife with a perplexed expression on his face, unbelieving, as if he is shattered, and he says to her: “you too!”

And suddenly the old man
s defences crumble and he disintegrates.

No longer is he the strong indefatigable redoubtable tough man he was a few moments ago.

He seems to have lost his spirit, his strength, his dignity, his self-esteem, even his will to live!

There is a drastic and unbelievable metamorphosis in the old mans personality as he meekly holds his wife’s hand for support.

Totally defeated, his heart and soul totally broken, the old man obediently walks with his wife towards their cottage, where they both, along with many other similar Senior Citizens, will spend the last days of their lives  lonely, unwanted, waiting for death in the Old Age Home.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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