It was a routine day for Pooja, who worked at an old age home in the heart of the city. She worked at the reception for six hours and also helped in the accounts and inventory later. It had been a month since she had started working there, and she knew all the forty five residents of the home pretty well. She had just finished her graduation and wanted to do something in her free time. This old age home was a perfect work place for her. Within walking distance of her house and flexible working hours. She liked it’s architecture too. It was an old brown building with ground plus two floors with a small garden on the backside. Each floor had fifteen rooms with an attached bathroom. There was a mess on the ground floor adjoining the garden. There was also a TV and a carrom board kept in the mess. They had enough nurses and care takers to look after the residents. They also had a doctor visiting them every week. Although the place was in the heart of the city, there was a sense of calm when she entered inside. It felt very homey. Her desk was directly in front of the entrance which was flanked by rooms on either side. .
She was particularly fond of Jaya aunty, an octogenarian, who would talk non stop and entertain her from all the gossips of other residents. Jaya aunty had voluntarily left her son and daughter who had settled abroad and made this place her home. She always said that she could never fathom the western culture and so she came back to her motherland and decided to stay here as it was difficult to stay all alone at this age.
Then there was Sudha aunty, Ashok uncle, Joseph uncle, Laxmi aunty who were other gossip mongers; and others like Sarika aunty, Pradeep uncle who preferred to keep to themselves. There were many others who were in their late seventies or eighties, some of them came voluntarily whereas others were forced to. They all stayed like a big happy family.
Pooja had noticed a particular man called Sagar, who would come everyday even before she came and he would leave by 9am. He was always impeccably dressed in suits and always carried a laptop bag. And on Saturdays, a woman whom she assumed was his wife would accompany him. They would spend a good two to three hours with Sarika aunty, who was staying in the last room facing the small garden on the ground floor.
Being new to the place, she did not know the health problems that any of them had, but the ramblings of Jaya aunty had kept her updated. Today, curiosity got the better of her and she thought she would take a peek at what Sagar was talking to Sarika aunty. As she stopped by her door, she heard Sarika aunty laughing at something that Sagar was showing her on the laptop. Then he turned to her, took her hands in his and told her, “Aai, mi aahe, Sagar. Tumcha Sagar. Mulga tujha?” (Mother, it’s me, Sagar. Your Sagar. Your son?).
Sarika aunty looked at him and said, “Ha Sagar, majha mulga, tula kasa visarnar?” (Yes Sagar, my son? How can I forget you?)
Pooja felt that she was intruding on a very private moment and she decided to leave. As she was about to leave, she heard Sarika aunty saying, “Aapan kon?” (Who are you?). Pooja was frozen in her tracks as she thought Sarika aunty had caught her listening to their conversation. But when she turned around, she saw that she was asking the question to Sagar. A stray tear escaped Sagar’s eyes, but before he could say anything, Sarika aunty started laughing at something she saw on the laptop. And Sagar’s eyes met with Pooja’s as she mouthed ‘sorry’ and went back to her desk.
When Sagar came out to leave, he was met with the curious eyes of Pooja. She din’t want to sound imposing, and so she did not ask him anything. The next morning, Sagar came with a cup of tea and instead of going to meet his mother he sat with Pooja in the mess.
“She’s my mother.” He began. “Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years back. It’s worsening with each passing day. We used to stay together, all of us, my wife, my twin sons and my mother until last year when it was too risky to keep her alone. She would lock the main door from inside and forget how to open it. Sometimes, she wouldn’t let us inside our own house as she wouldn’t recognise us and think we were theives. At times, she would keep my car keys in the refrigerator and we would end up searching the entire house. So, for everyone’s safety and more importantly her’s, we decided to bring her here. She’s been here since a year and sometimes she recognises us, sometimes she doesn’t.”
Pooja’s eyes had turned glassy on hearing his story. She said, “She’s a very quiet lady. Hardly talks to anyone. I was surprised to find her so happy when you come. I’m sure deep down she knows that you are her son. It’s not your fault that she doesn’t remember you.”
“I know it’s not my fault. But every single day, I feel sorry for myself for the way I have always treated her. She wasn’t very fluent in English, and when I grew older, I have always ridiculed her for that. I used to be embarrassed when she would come to school. I used to tell her that she’s not my perfect mother. She doesn’t know anything. I used to yell at her, tell her to leave me alone. But she would always smile at me and still cook me my favourite dishes. I was never thankful to her. I hardly expressed my love for her. But when my sons were born, I saw my wife struggle raising them. I would help her, but not that much. My mother stood by her, and we sailed through. But I was too busy with my career to even acknowledge her for that. And by the time I realised that how difficult it is for a mother to raise her kids, it was too late. Today, when she doesn’t recognise me, I feel broken, but then I think that I probably deserve it for the way I have treated her. I visit her everyday for a couple of hours, I show her videos on my laptop of whatever place she wanted to visit but now cannot. I show her videos of my sons growing up. I feel very happy when she recognises me even for a few minutes. I tell her everyday that she is my perfect mother and how much I love her! And she smiles, she always does.”
With that Sagar left to move on with his day.
Pooja couldn’t grasp the emotions she was feeling. She just started sobbing, but realising where she was, she went back to her desk. Later in the evening, when she went back home, she hugged her mom and told her, “You are my perfect mother. I love you. Always remember that.” Her mom laughed at that and told her, “I love you too, you are my perfect daughter”.
There’s a perfect mother in spite of all the imperfections.
Dedicated to all the mothers
Author’s note : This post first appeared on momspresso.
Pic courtesy : Google images