Mami's 'Baby Steps'
Mami's 'Baby Steps'5 mins 45 5 mins 45
I met Mrs. Prabha, whom we called Mami, last summer and found her the same cheerful, happy lady in her late 70s. I have always felt rejuvenated in her company. It has been a decade but every time I visit Shimla, I see a different shade of her personality.
Prabha aunty lived with her only granddaughter on the mist covered mountainous region of Annadale in Shimla. Vimala, Mami’s granddaughter, worked in a humble school which was a few meters from her residence hence it was quite comfortable for Vimala to reach Prabha Mami during emergencies. Yes ‘emergencies’ – which I happened to witness during my recent stay.
At a glance nobody will be able to gauge that Mami needed any caretaker. You must spend an hour with her and I am sure you would roll with laughter with her puns and punches. She has a good sense of humour to engage any guest who visited. Such a lively lady needed a ‘caretaker’! I was surprised. I couldn’t believe my ears when Vimala unleashed the secret. It was a strange trait though, which I failed to comprehend during our meetings. Quite possibly I missed observing it. But ‘Why?’ I asked myself. It then dawned upon me that whenever we had a chat Mami would never stand or move. She was always found glued to the sofa and sat in a comfortable position. I thought it to be her routine to be there and interact with the visitors and after all she was such an engaging personality that no one would even bother to observe it.
Vimala and I had become friends by now. She would share most of her problems and ‘secrets’ with me. We both belonged to the same generation moreover, we worked in the similar profession. She had a lot to share. This time I had come to invite them to have dinner with me and spend some quality time with each other but at my place. My house wasn’t very far from theirs. You see the houses in Shimla are closely knit and were could be paced down easily. According to Vimala’s descriptions of Mami’s past, she seems to have been an active lady who would go up and down the valley for work and other chores.
The moment I invited Mami started avoiding and making excuses though Vimala instantly accepted the invitation. I asked Mami why was she refusing. There was silence in the room but Vimala spoke.
‘Mom come on! She is a family now. Don’t show your tantrums to her. Let us go. It has been so long you haven’t gone out of this house’. I was shocked to hear this and felt quite strange about it. Since we had family relations now, I boldly asked her the reason for all this show. This was the time the truth hidden for a decade form me was out. She said that Mami hesitates walking lest she should fall. I found this reason quite ridiculous. It was such a petty reason. In order to convince me, Vimala took me to bedroom and asked Mami too join in for tea. She gestured me to observe her mother. Goodness gracious! It was unbelievable. Mami initially threw tantrums and asked Vimala to send tea in the living room itself. Vimala was adamant. She wanted Mami to walk till the bedroom. When she saw no sign of movement, she went to the living room and helped Mami come down. What I saw brought an innocent smile on my face. I saw Mami literaly taking baby steps. While walking towards the bedroom Mami winked at me as if to say ‘so now you know my secret’. I was really amused. There were several questions unanswered about Mami’s fear of walking fast which later did get clarified.
It was the last day of my stay when I received a note through my maid which read
‘Please meet me before you leave.’ Your Aunt.
As instructed, I was there in Vimala’s house. Mami called me closer and asked me to sit. She began, ‘I know you are surprised at my behaviour. It is obvious for anyone to be so. I am sorry I was stubborn yesterday. I don’t know how long I may live child but whatever days are left I want to enjoy to the fullest. I am healthy, by God’s grace. My daughter takes good care too. It is just that this fear of walking fast does not leave me.’ I asked her how she came about this fear. She told me that it was a decade ago. She was on her usual errands. ‘You know one has to be quick on hills as it is not a flat land. I was used to walking fast and never had any problems then. Unfortunately, you can’t trust what your fate the next moment gifts you. I was gifted with this fear. When I was returning from my normal schedule, I stumbled upon a school boy who was walking in the opposite direction. We had a collision. I tried to protect this child and lost my balance. The result was I fractured my leg and the boy escaped with minor bruises on his hands. Thank God he was saved. My daughter looked after me very well. I know what difficult situation she underwent. She managed her school, my broken leg, household chores quite well. Her care called for a concern. It was at this time I promised myself when I get well I shall change my lifestyle. I still fear walking fast but not with my ‘baby steps’. They at least help to avoid accidents and give less trouble to others.