Laxsha Natraj



Laxsha Natraj




9 mins

Vinod and his sister Ananya were too excited. Ananya said, "After coming from the US, these 14 days quarantine, wait to see our mother was just an impossible punishment" As she giggled both their spouses also smiled understanding the bond between Ananya and her mother.

As the door opened they all screamed together and hugged their mother in unison and said," Oh, Mama finally we are here at home" Their father Mandar too joined the group. They became busy showing the hundreds of photographs of their children, staying in the US and UK. Their mother Sarala and Mandar were eagerly looking at the pictures wide-eyed, gushing out nonstop comments about their favourite grandchildren, with whom they have spent so many happy years

After half an hour Sarala got up and said, "Let me make some Tea for you all" Vinod said, "Oh what time is it?' and looked up by years of habit, at the clock on the centre of the wall. He just stared unbelievingly at the clock. The clock showed 8.30. To make sure he looked at his wristwatch. It was 5.00 PM. He called out for his mother and asked, "Mama, this clock has stopped. You did not see that?"

Mandar silently looked at his son for a few seconds and said softly, "Sarala, now never bothers changing the battery of the clock. See that calendar that is also not changed, and neither she allows me to change them" Both brother and sister looked at each other too shocked. From their childhood, the one thing their mother could never tolerate was the clock or the calendar not showing the correct record. Even if there was just a few minutes difference in time, Sarala will climb up the ladder and correct the clock. Vinod had got much time firing from her when he had not changed the calendar on the 1st of the moth itself. Her favourite quote was, "Time never waits for anyone. So learn to respect it" Vinod still looked a bit dazed unable to understand the change in his mother.

Ananya got up and said, "I will go to the kitchen and help Mama" As she got up her sister in law Radhika also joined her and both walked to the kitchen.

Ananya found that her mother had kept the water for boiling. She announced, "Mama today I am going to make the tea. It is months since I made tea here" Sarala started busily discussing something about her grandkids to Radhika.

Ananya thought that she will pick up the Tea and sugar bottles on her own. She walked to the side cupboard where Sarala always used to keep the tea powder. First bottle tea, then sugar bottle, then biscuits- this used to be the strict order of keeping.

But the tea bottle was not there. Instead of asking her mother, she thought she would search and find it. She thought that the bottle might have got just misplaced. But she was in shock again. All the bottles in the cupboard were placed in total chaos. There was a round ceramic pot of Tamarind, (which used to be in a shelf under the kitchen platform, along with masala). Surprisingly there were some medicine bottles, next to that were masalas bottles, then there was an oil bottle. Oh, God, is this Mama's cabinet or anyone else is working in this kitchen? After some feverish searching, she found the tea bottle, tucked behind the Rice Dabba and the sugar bottle was placed in the lowest rack along with the washed vessels.

Without asking anything to Mama, she managed to make tea. Sarala brought an unopened biscuit pocket from a basket on a corner. They all came back to the hall and all had tea.

When they were returning Ananya asked her brother and Radhika to come to her house and said that she has to discuss something serious with them. Both the sibling and their mother all lived in the same complex in different towers.

As they all sat down Vinod started, "Ananya, did you see the clock and calendar in Mama's house? I could not believe my eyes at all" Ananya replied, "Vinod you saw only the hall!. I went around all the rooms. The clocks and calendar in all the room, even their bedroom, had all stopped. Not only that, you know how mama used to be so well organised and everything in the kitchen used to be kept exactly in an allotted place. Now the kitchen was a total mess. I could not understand how Mama can cook at all in that kitchen, and how she managed to find the things she wants"

 Radhika said, "Yes Ananya when our children used to be there in Mama's house, I remember that how she used to insist that they keep their shoes, schoolbags everything so well organised. Both of them used to be so happy then. I think they both are missing the kids a lot".

At night when Vinod went to bed, he repeatedly though about the arrangement years back. Vinod and Radhika, similarly Ananya and her husband all held high posts in their companies. Thus all of them worked late and came back by nine or ten in the night. Luckily all their four kids were in the same school and travelled by the same bus. But the school was only up to 3 PM and the children used to return home then. Brother and sister thought of a good idea and then onwards the children coming from school were directly going to their grandparent's house. As Sarla was in the same complex it became easy.

The children had their evening snacks and attended their special classes like swimming or football etc. in the complex itself. Then they had their dinner and also finished their homework etc. in the same place. Both Sarala and Mandar helped them with their home works and even their science projects work etc. The parents collected their kids around 10 PM. Sometimes if they were very late, the kids used to sleep in Saral's house itself and go in the morning to their house to get their uniform.

Thus starting from KG until they finished their degrees, nearly 13 to 15 years, they spent most of the time in their grandparent's house. Just one year back, one by one all of them migrated to the US and UK for their higher studies. Now when Vinod and all three of them were visiting the US, UK, to see their wards, they requested their parents to come with them. But Sarala refused to join them as Mandar's health was not so good.

Hours passed but Vinod could not sleep. He kept tossing. He felt guilty that they were responsible for their mother's lack of interest in life itself. He decided that he would meet Ananya next day, and find a solution to Mama's lowliness.

Next day he informed Ananya about his coming. He reached the reception area. He was about to walk through the exit of the tower to walk to the next tower when his eyes fell on the cubicle room. There was a cubicle like full glass-walled room, next to the reception, inside every tower of the complex. This was meant for any casual meeting for the residents. Anyone can pre-book that room and use it for some meetings or friends gathering etc. 

Vinod was surprised to see a group of about a dozen girls, all wearing the corporation school uniform, sitting and studying in this room. Before he started asking, the reception security said, "Sir, these are the children of the maids who are working in various towers as help. Since the schools are closed now, their mothers bring them here while coming for their job and the children sit there the whole day reading their old books. They go back with their parents back in the evening or at night. The maids have taken permission from the Secretary of the towers, and all the tower children come here in this room and wait"

Vinod looked back at the girls and wondered. These girls were staying in the close by slum, just at a walking distance. They were not very young kids but all were teenage girls. Then why they have to sit here instead of their own homes?

As if understanding his thought process the security lady whispered, "Sir you know what happens at every corner of the town nowadays. Parents do not feel that their teenage girls will be safe at home all alone. That is the main reason why they are here, just for their safety"

Vinod stood looking at the helpless girls for a few seconds and then started walking across the garden. Deep inside something was hurting him deeply. He thought. "Most of we people sitting at the comfort of our houses, still crib about the lockdown and our problems! These poor children are so deeply affected, and no one had even thought about them"

He reached Ananya's house. His wife Radhika was already there. Vinod talked about his worry about their Mama and then the girls waiting in the small cubicle for 8 to 10 hours"

Ananya and Radhika were both shocked. Radhika said, " They are all teenage girls and if they have to wait for minimum 8 hours, there is no washroom facility also there"

Ananya said," They must be using the common toilet meant for all drivers and security personnel. The girls must be feeling so embarrassing to use a common toilet"

Vinod started, " I got an idea" Then for three hours they discussed many points. Some more friends were called and there were lots of What's up messages. In the end, they had collected about 10 cell phone and 5 Laptops given by other members of the towers.

Sarala was surprised to see her children with some technicians. They just told her they are going to do some alterations in the master bedroom, which was the largest room in the house. Sarala and her husband always used the smaller bedroom as the grandchildren used to read or sleep in the master bedroom.

By one hour a powerful internet connection was made, TV tested and all the cell and PC were tested. They told Mama that they will be back again the next day.

At nine the next morning, Sarala was speechless as she stared at her children and a group of girls dressed in uniform. The children all seated themselves on the carpet each having either a cell phone or a pc. After ten minutes the TV became alive and a retired senior te able to log in, with their teacher. A lesson on Science started. All her four children stayed with girls helping them- if they get logged out, or if they wanted to ask some question.

Sarala and Mandar just watched the kids, their happiness, and their eyes became moist with pure joy. Her children's lo9ve for her had wiped off the emptiness in her life. Days rolled by and different residents from the towers volunteered with er teach or to help in the class. The children were served lunch too and they stayed till 4 Pm and later went down to the garden to play

Vinod rang the bell. Sarala opened the door and signalled with her finger across her lip, not to talk as the class was on. He smiled and came inside and sat. By habit, he looked at the clock. The clock was alive now going on a tic- tok, and all the calendar showed the correct day. 

He felt happy. One idea, intelligent thinking, on their part had changed the lives of the kids and their dear mother.

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