It was a sad sight! I was sitting at an eye hospital along with my mother who was due for a cataract surgery. She had decided to have it in Chennai as two of her daughters were in the city. The various tests took ages, punctuated by long waits in between to see various doctors, and we were both reduced to doing Sudoku puzzles, reading and texting.
I went out to make a phone call as there was no mobile network coverage within the basement where we were waiting. As I was dialling, I saw a heart-rending sight. A young man in a red shirt suddenly appeared, holding the hand of an older woman, obviously his mother. He strode along authoritatively, as the woman hobbled along behind him. It was clear that she could hardly see anything, as she had dark glasses on. There were a couple of steps at the entrance and she stumbled over them as he did not warn her, and it was piteous to see her lifting her foot high up in the hope that it would encounter a step, where there was none.
The staircase loomed ahead, and again, she almost stumbled, as she said something in a trembling voice. The man pulled her on, as she tried to slow down, turning around only to rebuke her — impatience writ large on his face. She held on for dear life to the railing that ran along the side, terrified that she would fall flat on her face. Walking into a dark nothingness can be terrifying, an occasion when one needs not only a helping hand, but words of warmth and reassurance.
Wasn’t this the same mother who had helped her son to take his first fledgling steps, not allowing him out of her sight, and who had clapped when he had taken that first all-important step alone? Wasn’t she the mother who ran to pick him up when he fell, showering him with kisses and caresses when he cried? Wasn’t hers the first hand he grasped when he was unhappy, hungry, happy or excited? Could he repay the debt that he owed her, even if he had been the gentlest, most caring and loving son ever?
Yet, here he was, a brute who grudged his mother the time he had to spend on bringing her to hospital. His face was like a thundercloud, and every time he jerked on the old woman’s hand, it was as if he was exacting a sort of personal revenge on her.
Ironically, my mother in her 70s, who was also there for the same surgery, proved just the opposite. Feisty and independent, she strode ahead, leaving me running after her, shrugging off my helping hand brusquely. When she had turned 70, she had told her three daughters in no uncertain terms, “I can do things on my own. Don’t treat me like an invalid!”
Here she was at the hospital, and each time I tried to help her down the stairs, she would give me one of her looks, and make her way down on her own. When her surgery was over, she jumped off the bed, picked up her medical files, and walked to the lift on her own steam, black glasses and supreme self-confidence in tow!