I got married into a very beautiful home, with wonderful people and a doting husband. My new family also had a helper, Basant mama, who had served them for more than two generations! We didn’t know his real age but he must be nearing sixty then.

He would prepare our favourite adrak ki chai. We used to have chai together at 5:00pm and I would ask him to narrate stories of his youth. His voice was so soothing just like a lullaby. Soon I began developing a fondness for him and took care of all his needs.

Meanwhile, my life revolved around my household chores, immersed in books with loads of reading as there was no Facebook or Insta feeds.

As years passed by, I began teaching in a pre-school. My life brightened up as I saw those cute and lively faces. It was a delight teaching and learning from them and cuddling in warm embraces.

A few years later

We didn’t have someone to call our own but my adorable nieces were always around and so was he. At times, I did feel the void but there was this acceptance of the will of thee. What I truly missed is the warm hug of a child where the hands are tightly clasped around you. I longed for many of those, though I did receive a few.

Then old age hit

Two decades passed by. He turned 80 but was still very active and worked with the same speed. A few years ago when we shifted to a new home, this beautiful soul moved in with us.

Now he had a bent back, his movements were slow. With time, his health deteriorated. Now he is unable to walk. We often cheer him up, engage in light banter, address him as ‘baby’ and help him stay enthusiastic despite his medical issues.

Locked in emotionally

Moreover, during the lockdown, there is no staff to attend to him. So I feed, bathe and clean him, give him a clean shave every second day and comb his hair. Though it made me tired, the nurturer in me enjoyed this care usually reserved for one’s child. I felt like a mother to a newborn child. My heart used to brim with happiness when he would give me his million dollar smile.

One day, as I was bathing him and making him ready in a vibrant t-shirt, he looked at me with tears rolling down his eyes. As my eyes met his, I saw him folding his hands in gratitude. We hugged each other In a tight embrace, feeling all the love. The energy felt so light and renewed.

Suddenly, the hugs which I had missed all this while from a child were right in front of me —in my 90-year-old toddler, dressed in a yellow tee!

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Payal K Talwar

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