Pension Payment Order
Pension Payment Order8 mins 16.8K 8 mins 16.8K
It was a long wait in the government office. She couldn’t help going back in time right to her early marriage days. Married at the age of 20, that was now more than 40 years back! Time had flied with its ups and downs.
Life was not exactly easy in that generation to have married against your family’s culture to someone way outside your caste. It did not matter if you were a topper in class/college/university all through, the moment you did something like that, you were an outlaw with immediate effect. The same people who had beamed with pride on your educational achievements now looked at you as if you were a criminal.
It was a very bold thing to do but she had taken the plunge believing the divine force she felt around her due to her association with Sri Aurobindo ashram and her deep faith on “The Mother”.
Not to mention that she was still in the final year of her graduate college. She still remembered the odd feeling of going to the college, now suddenly married, though only few knew about it, the marriage being a quiet affair in the ashram.
College funding was immediately cut off from her family. Her eyes felt wet when she remembered waiting for the postman to stop but he seemed to always speed up instead in front of her house.
He did not have a job too, having completed graduation and looking for one still. All that they had was the combined scholarship money from Govt. of India. But that came at the end of the year. How important were the other close friends and relatives in her life who had helped then? Would she have been what she is today without them? Probably not. How often were her kids surprised to know that Bunu Mamu as they called him, was not her real brother but instead a batch mate who she had helped academically and he had felt indebted to help her at that crucial juncture?
The scholarship money of both and some help from others was just enough to pay the house rent of Rs 100 somewhere near Vani Vihar in Bhubaneswar and barely meet monthly expenses. Thankfully college fee was zero. And this was just the beginning…
“Namaskar Madam", the lady said who had taken the nearby chair, as if I recognizing her well.
"Namaskar," she said with a smile.
"Madam, you were my daughters' professor in RD Womens college all through, she has spoken a lot to me about how you have helped her."
"Oh I see, I am glad to hear that. I am sure she deserved every bit of it.”
Just when she had got used to the new life after marriage, Utshuk was on his way, her first child. She remembered the day when Utshuk, rightfully named so later, started kicking prematurely to come out. The hospital was not exactly nearby. Contacting the doctor was a task in itself. Cell phones? Well it was 1976. Landline? The queue to get one was longer than 10 years. And not that there was money to afford one. She remembered the face of the BSNL guy in the neighboring house who came as a god’s grace and climbed up the telephone pole to hook his machine and call the ambulance. The symptoms confirmed Utshuk wanted to see light of the day. By the time she had made it to the hospital apparently he has slept again! He was born a day later and after many hours of labor. That sight had taken away all her pain for the past 9 months and she had a reason to be happy again.
Despite Utshuk, she had decided not to stop her earlier dream of further education and had continued her post graduate course in her favorite subject. And he still did not have a job, and hence the designated baby sitter of Utshuk. The next year would be their toughest year of life. She cannot forget the day when she had mortgaged her ear ring to be able to buy Amul. That thought of guilt came again to her mind as it had many many times earlier, that Utshuk still does not like milk or any other milk products because he was brought up drinking Amul, thanks to her PG classes.
He had finally got a job in Uco Bank. She could not control a smile when she remembered that he had taken a bank job against his aspirations of becoming a teacher because that was the only job he was getting in her home town Ranapur. It seemed like life would take a good turn.
“Madam, what brings you here?" the lady interrupted.
"I got retired, so some paper work in this office."
"Oh I see, these offices are very slow, now they will go out for lunch too."
"Thats fine, I am in no hurry. I am, well, retired like I said”
And indeed it had. Looking at Utshuk, the parents had forgiven her. Financial conditions had improved. Utshuk’s father had quit the bank job and taken a more rewarding job of a lecturer. She got a government lecturer job soon after as well. However, as life is, one problem solved leads to another. Being in a transferable government job there were years when she had had to live in another town. Utshuk’s father’s biggest achievement till date was probably managing him in her absence while he was at the Paradip College. He would take him to the common room and leave him with other lecturers while he took classes. The common room was Utshuk’s playschool and lecturers his friends. Those lecturers still treat Utshuk like a baby even though he himself has a daughter of 7 years old now.
She could not help remember that one birthday of Utshuk when she was late coming back from Cuttack to Paradip. Utshuk had burst into tears as soon as he saw her, complaining that Baba did not do poori aloo for him. For him, the definition of birthday was poori aloo for breakfast.
Despite the long distance relationship Utshuk soon had 2 sisters, Mama & Fuji. And as luck would have it she was posted in Cuttack along with him for many years. Life was complete at this time.
“Where are your kids Madam?"
"Oh, my son is in Bangalore. My both daughters are right here in Bhubaneswar."
"Oh you are lucky to have two of them in same place."
"Oh yes, definitely," she said thinking inside that "but I get to see them hardly anyways.”
The kids had grown faster than she could have imagined. At the same time, her relationship with their father had probably taken the mid life crisis syndrome. While love was never a problem serious incompatibility issues cropped up from time to time. Being a working woman didn’t help. Men will be men, she thought, and they had their share of jealousy, sense of insecurity. Sometimes she wondered whether it was better to be an uneducated housewife in this country?
Dynamics with the in laws money sharing was not a problem. But smaller things like spending decisions, active relationships with her brothers and sisters (who had helped them so much earlier), outstation trips, all seemed like perennial marriage issues, despite the special relationship they had. Things had got ugly at times to the extent that the thought of quitting had crossed her mind. But the kids had kept her motivated and committed.
On the bright side the government’s UGC scheme had boosted both of their salary and they found themselves to be able to fulfill most of the kids demands except may be Utshuk’s willingness to marry Tina Munim while he was still 10 years old.
It seemed only yesterday that he was born, but the day had come for Utshuk to head for residential engineering college. Followed by Mama for her medical college. Fuji the youngest was the only one to have found her options in town.
The phase of kids being away from home had begun officially.
“So do you go to Bangalore often, any grand kids?"
"Yeah once a year during summer vacation may be. Now that I am retired may be more often."
"Is he planning to come back?"
"Not really, he is settled there.”
Do all parents go through this? She continued thinking. As in, once kids are self dependent, are parents not important anymore? Do priorities change? Or do the kids still love their parents but it just doesn’t show with time? Does marriage change things, especially for sons? Is it possible that kids forget all the sacrifices we went through to bring them up? She was retiring as Head of Department of Philosophy and she taught these philosophical things for years, she was well aware of other cultures where kids and parents are totally disconnected after kids are 18 and felt lucky to be in a country where these things still had some value. Yet she was a mother and her heart lounged for more attention from the kids.
Utshuk especially, had grown up to be the mechanical boy who hardly expressed his emotions directly. She had all doubts that his wife would dump him in 3 months. And yet she would fight with him if he hadn’t called in a while. It was difficult to be a mature person and a mother at the same time.
End of the day she remembered convincing her always that everything was just fine, its just how life progresses from one phase to another. And that all that happened in her life, was just how life was after all.
“Token number 23, Sarojini Pattanaik” shouted the clerk at the office.
My Mother gathered her thoughts and slowly walked towards the counter to collect her Pension Payment Order.