Recently, both my mother, aged 87, and my mother-in-law, aged 78, decided to come and stay with us. They are gritty women but completely contrasting personalities. They have differences on the daily religious rituals, what is to be cooked and how, the ideal room temperature and the best programme to be watched on TV. The balance of convenience is, therefore, constantly fluctuating. Despite this, they have reached a peaceable companionship.
They remind each other that it is mealtime and that they have to take their medicines. They listen to music, share their favourite songs and, occasionally, even sing together. As they have lived in houses with gardens, they feel cramped in the flat where we live. They call our place central jail or old age home, depending on the mood of the day. They flout all diet rules, for they think it is pointless to avoid sugar or fat as they have lived long enough. They can, even with their not-so-sharp eyesight, spot a stain on a rug or the dust on an item on the shelf.
The TV remote is a point of common despair, as unwanted things like Google Play and Netflix appear suddenly. They refuse to accept the fact that they have pressed a wrong button and claim it’s a programming error caused by other couch potatoes in the house. However, they are tech savvy when it comes to using WhatsApp or watching YouTube videos on a smartphone. They both ask probing questions when we return late from work. Their dream is to see their respective grandchildren married. They lament at the irresponsible parenting of the present time.
The other day we took them to the park for a much-needed outing. We found a comfortable bench under an old tree for them to sit on. We decided to take a brisk walk while they relaxed. My mother-in-law chirpily called out to us to return soon and not abandon them. She had read about children leaving old parents behind in public places on the pretext of showing them around. She hoped that we had not hatched any such plan. My mother reassured her that there would be no problem as, in any case, they could return home by an auto.
When we returned after the walk, my mother-in-law was plotting how to take home a stem cutting of the Plumeria tree. She was least impressed when we told her that there were rules against this and that we could buy whatever we needed from the nursery. She claimed that there were no such restrictions, as there were no signboards. She was only going to propagate greenery and give a tree a new home. Finally, it was the realisation that we had place only for a few pots in the balcony which made her give up the idea.
There is not a dull moment in our lives. It’s an ongoing sit down comedy.