Between Two Numbers

Between Two Numbers

6 mins

Such is being a mortal,

When existence is measurable,

On scales and systems defined by us,

Just like the ones we use to celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries,

As we and our relationships age, between two numbers,

But a lot changes as we jump from one number to another,

Let's see how.

 Suresh Chandra Sharma and Saroj Devi have been living together for the past 59 years. One can imagine they were actually growing up together. Sounds a little funny, right? Especially to a generation which cannot maintain a relationship for even six months. Well, that's how society transforms with changing times. And it happens for a reason.

  Coming back to our beloved couple, Saroj was barely 15 and Suresh 21 when their parents married them off. It's been an adolescent’s and a newly grown up adult’s new beginning of a lifelong relationship. One can wonder how they must have lived different phases of their emotional aging together. Saroj devi was 17 when she bore her first child who couldn't survive as was the case with most women in India during those days. Healthcare, mother’s nutritional needs, and child’s fetal developmental monitoring were a privilege only the elite could afford. Despite all this they managed to raise six children, it's a kind of managing only, with a single breadwinner and so many mouths to feed. With 5 daughters and the youngest being the son as was the norm in Indian families which exist till the date of having one son at least (the support of their old age), irrespective of the number of daughters one has. Today, one will find such a thing a bit scary when managing oneself is in itself a big task. The so called millennials won’t understand the entire notion behind having so many children. But if u ask Saroj devi she has a different story to justify the reason behind giving births to so many kids.

      She narrates the teachings of her mother who herself had many children, out of which some survived and some didn't. It's a kind of a legacy in some way. Saroj, being a pious and a religious lady, has God as the center of all her activities and life events. So is the case with her children too. She thinks it was God's will that she should bear 6 children so she fulfilled that. Human anatomy, physiology and the entire mating game backed by logic ann science lose its credibility when God enters the scene. Such is the power of religion. Better not argue with her on this. She has more stories and even more theories to back up her stance than you can even cook up in a year’s time to counter attack her point. Her infallible faith in God and his powers are worth taking cognizance of.

   With so many children came an equally large number of responsibilities. And this only increased with Suresh being in a transferable state government job. What is commendable about them is the way they have raised their children with no discrimination at home or otherwise. All studied well, graduated from different colleges pursuing their dreams and charting their desired career paths. Suresh and Saroj got all of them married to partners who fitted best in their societal mores.

  Now, at the last leg of their life’s journey, becoming grandparents, with grandchildren visiting them in the summer vacations, the couple feels that they are reliving their parenthood again and cherish the moments they spend with their grandchildren. But Suresh is 81 now, with asthmatic complaints and a declining memory due to Alzheimer's gripping him slowly. He is a loving grandfather but with Saroj, he behaves nastily and gets on her nerves with his childlike tantrums. He met with an accident a year ago leading to multiple fractures in the skull and an eventual decline in his memory, mental health, amd overall well being. Saroj blames herself for his condition as she feels that she did not keep nine days navratri fast last year due to some minor health issue and so God cursed her by making her husband ill. Saroj’s health is fine but she fears the time when Suresh will succumb to death, as she is seeing him die slowly and painfully. She bears his erratic behavior because she understands he is in pain and also makes it a point to pray for him daily.

    It was the year 2015, Saroj and Suresh’s children decided to celebrate their parents’ 60th wedding anniversary (sasthipoorthi), rare phenomena when couples complete 60 years of their marriage and togetherness. They planned a wedding, in the same manner, they did 60 years ago and the children arranged everything in the traditional UP brahmin way the marriages were performed in the earlier rustic lifestyle of their parents. It was supposed to be a grand affair as many relatives, kith, and kin from far away, and even a number acquaintance was invited. But on the night of 28th April, Suresh started feeling breathless and no inhalers helped him regain his breath to normalcy. An ambulance was called, Saroj was getting pampered as a new bride, with haldi and mehndi on her hands, and choosing her old banarasi silk brocade rusty red saree, to be worn with her trademark gold jhumkas, and red bindi. Little did she know her groom his in ICU now.

   As soon her granddaughter informed her, Saroj was in tears and pleaded her to take her to the hospital immediately. She spent the whole night by Suresh’s side as he was recuperating through a ventilator. She prayed the whole night but Alas on the morning of 29th April, Suresh opened his eyes looked at Saroj and his kids and smiled a bit, to finally close his eyes forever. Saroj cried her heart out, beating her bangles on the hospital room bed, and wiping off her sindoor and bindi. The children and the grand children tried to console her but all went in vain. She cursed her not being enough devoted to God as the reason for her husband's death. So naive and pure she was.

   She lives in her home alone with Suresh’s picture by her bed which she sees often and remembers the beautiful years they spent together. The short film which their children made for the wedding day, to show their years of togetherness, she now watches it in the evening, sitting in her living room, where Saroj and Suresh used to have their evening tea together.

She pauses the film at the last scene and stares at their last picture together for a long time and eventually falls to sleep.

Such is the dance of destiny,

You try to shake a leg,

To the tunes of joy,

In the times of merriment,

But it twists you in ways,

That you stumble and fall,

To never rise again.

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