The Golden Years
The Golden Years
Martha had just stepped into the eighth decade of her life. She had weathered resolutely the ups and downs of the years and looked back not with nostalgia, but with relief that she would not have to sail through the tumultuous days again, which like an expanse of murky ocean, had now become blurry in the distant horizon. She wrapped the silk Stoll round her shoulders. It was the month of August, and there was no reason for her to feel cold in Kolkata, yet she felt that if it had been a light woolen shawl, she would have been more comfortable.
She wanted to bake a cake, not only to break the monotony of her humdrum life, but also because her heart was over-flowing with love, and the desire to do something for others, which would give happiness, On the other hand, she wondered whether she could garner up enough confidence to do so. As the years were rolling by, somehow or the other, she always hesitated to do anything without the help of the youngsters, three in number, the grandchildren she had brought up, so that her daughter and son-in-law could get their foreign qualifications as doctors. She used to be adept in cooking and could turn out mouth-watering dishes by the touch of her fingers, but now the surreptitious doubt always made its presence in her mind; what if the item did not turn out well, and sapped her confidence. Though now she needed the psychological support from others, she was always hesitant to ask for help from the youngsters; they all had their own field of interests, and the consideration that perhaps they would be getting irritated, though outwardly they would not show it, had a deflating effect. But temperamentally she was not the one to be deterred by any challenge. She mashed up the bananas with gusto, in a determined effort to bake a banana cake. She did everything perfectly as instructed on YouTube but, a very big ‘but’ cropped up. She just could not remember whether she had put two spoons of baking powder, or four. It would be a calamity, if the cake turned out hard or bitter, with two much of the ingredient. It could have also got inflated like a balloon ready to take off into the air! Luckily the family ate it with a straight face! Martha’s muscles which had got tied up in a tight knot, finally relaxed. Her heartbeat too which had accelerated with tension, normalized, and with renewed grit and enthusiasm, she started planning her next venture, only to come up against a blank wall, when the grandchildren uttered in unison, “No, not another cake, Granny!”
Gone were the days when people were patient to give a hearing to whatever she had to say. This was something she really missed, being a teacher all her life, when students listened to every word she uttered in pin-drop silence, with wholehearted attention, as if they were the dying words of a person who would never be able to speak again, hence precious, and worth cherishing. Now she noticed folks were in a hurry to get her off their skin. They invariably cut her short or even rebuffed her. In mortification, she would withdraw into her shell, now a habitual retreat! She would thank her stars, if they did not snap at her for airing her views, as something ridiculous, or out-dated. She was always prepared with her ammunition, which was free-flowing Adrenal, which gave her strength to fight back at least mentally, in the reclusive shelter of her mind. Martha felt betrayed, by her own family, whom she had raised up with such love and care, and to whom she had devoted all the precious time of her life. Her son was a Chartered Accountant in a foreign country, who would call her sometime when he was not too taken up by his multifarious commitments. Her daughter, an eminent doctor, had presumably too little time for her mother, as the priority now was to her career, patients, and self. Martha wondered whether it had been wise to invest all her time, energy, and hope in her children. Her hope had burnt out like a melted, dripping candle, with hardly a remaining stub. Her time was a thing of the past, which could never be retrieved, gone to the depths of oblivion, drowned by the surging waves of years. Her energy was dwindling day by day, like a jar of rich honey, from which so much had been extracted that she was left with nothing for herself. She winced at the thought of people terming her period of life as the “golden years”; rather it was a span of life for the aged to be regarded as that of “Golden Tears” when they became surplus, or superfluous, and nobody actually cared for them. Even her grandchildren whom she had nurtured with so much care and affection, exhibited their attachment only for their parents, after missing them for years.
Martha felt like the Ugly Duckling. Her Daughter and grandchildren had friends and attended parties with so much fun and frivolity. But she had lost all contacts and missed out on everything. If her husband had been living, she could have had his company, but now she was like a rudderless boat, being tossed about in the middle of a riotous ocean, groping for support, and security, but being thrown violently from side to side.
Martha, the steel-willed, had a spirit that wafted in the realm of Challenges. The best in Martha was triggered into fruition whenever there was a formidable obstacle, or hurdle barring the way. Whatever seemed to be a difficult task, was what invited her to take up the baton, and she was out to fight a royal battle. In her younger days, being an avid lover of beauty, she used to capture on her canvas everything beautiful which caught her eye. But now her hands shook, and her brushes proved to be recalcitrant, refusing to give expression to her innate urges. Yet she still persisted and insisted on giving vent to her gushing emotions, and moods, through the applications of paints. Her instinct for creativity now found an outlet in her paintings. But there was no one to appreciate, no one to admire, and no one to encourage her. It was like having a conversation with the wall; with no reaction, and no response!
The golden years were tarnished indeed and had lost their luster. There was hardly any gold in it. If she wanted to read or sew, she found it difficult to focus, as her eyesight had become weak. She could not figure out what made folks term these years as the “Golden Years”?!
As mentioned before, Martha had a big heart, figuratively, not biologically! It so happened at this juncture of her life, she came to know that her second cousin had lost his parents. So she rushed to his side to offer condolence. There she encountered the unexpected. Her cousin was in bad shape. He looked like a Sadhu come down from the Himalayas. He had grown a beard and mustache and sported shoulder-length hair. He was dressed in a ragged white shirt and pajamas. He could hardly comprehend what was being said, a typical replica of a zombie. Her heart went out to him, and all of a sudden she found meaning in her existence. At least if she could make the broken, shattered soul, a pathetic apology for a human being, realize the value of life, her mission in this world would be achieved. His one repeated sentence was, “I don’t want to live. I should have gone to God with my Mother.” Martha would make the impossible possible, and whatever she made up her mind to achieve, would bear fruit sooner or later.
For Martha, it was like discovering an oasis in an arid desert. So far in her lonely, dreary life, without any ray of hope, she had been subjected only to the harshness of the weather, without the sustaining water of life, the awareness of being needed and loved. From her whole heart and soul, she wanted to give; she had so much to offer, but no recipient. Frustration and dissatisfaction paved every step of her life.
Martha had to bring back life into the zombie. Her subdued, stifled, pent up desires as a dormant volcano erupted, and like hot melted overflowing lava, deposited all her love and care on the hapless soul. Her buried emotions took wings, and once more she found herself ecstatic in having got the opportunity to give.
But no one understood her. It was difficult for people to understand that a woman may love from other aspects than one. Generally, they presumed that, when the persons were from the opposite sex, it was a love affair. The tragic part was that such was the case even with Martha. Poor lady, she had to endure a lot of tongue-wagging even in her sunset years, even when her cousin happened to be thirty years younger! But Martha knew if she had to be influenced by what people surmised, the zombie would remain so the rest of his life, and a promising young specimen of humanity would be prematurely destroyed.
The end result of her focused determination was that her cousin Ron is now a happy top Executive in an International Firm, and Martha is no more the morose, morbid Octogenarian, as she now knows that her life is not futile and meaningless; perhaps she will still be able to bring sunshine again in somebody’s life in the future, even in her Golden years.