The Journey Part 2….

Mohan was back by about nine in the night after having spent the whole day with his mother. On reaching home he told Sagarika very categorically that she would also have to put her ego aside and mend fences with his mother. He further told her that his mother had invited the two of them for dinner the following weekend and they were going to go for it. Sagarika wasn’t really excited about meeting her mother-in-law but she hadn’t been given much of a choice. So it was with a lot of trepidation, doubt and misgiving that she went to her in-laws place the following Saturday but was pleasantly surprised once she got there. It seemed as though her mother-in-law had decided to let bygones be bygones and move on. In fact, they all had a fabulous evening which was a prelude to many more of such times.

Life moved on and Mohan and Sagarika’s family expanded to include a son and a daughter. The daughter came first bringing a lot of happiness and joy into her parents and grandparents lives. Being the first grandchild she was pampered silly by her grandparents but strangely only by one set of grandparents and that was the paternal side. From the maternal side, it seemed as though only the grandfather was excited about meeting her, spending time with her. The others never seemed to have any real desire to see her. Sagarika also discovered a hitherto unknownand selfish side to her mother’s personality. Though always there to offer her suggestions and advice she didn’t really want to spend a lot of time with her grandchild. Any kind of affection shown by her seemed quite superficial and just for appearance’s sake. If ever Sagarika wanted to leave the baby with her to go somewhere she would flatly refuse whereas her mother-in-law would happily drop everything to accommodate her. Even her siblings’ attitude surprised her. She clearly remembered putting aside everything for them when they were children but they on their part seemed to be too busy to bother about her or her children. The one whose behaviour hurt her the most was her brother for whom she had been like a mother. He had with time become quite indifferent and too caught up in his own world to bother about anyone. The situation remained the same even when her son came along. It was quite strange for her to discover that her family especially her mother was not really a very loving person. It seemed that she could be loving or giving when it suited her to do that but could never go out of the way for anyone. Sagarika had probably never noticed this as she had never had a point of comparison. But now that she had she realized that her mother was sadly lacking in the love and affection department. She came across as a cold and unfeeling person. It made her wonder if that was the reason why her father had had to look outside.

With time Sagarika’s siblings also got married and settled down in the conventional sense. As luck would have it they all had to move outside Delhi and she was the only one left behind. And so it became her responsibility to take care of her parents now that they were growing old. Therefore both she and her husband had to take care of both sets of parents. Here also Sagarika realized that herin-laws did not bother them much and would trouble them only if it was absolutely necessary. In fact once when her father-in-law suffered a stroke her mother-in-law didn’t inform them till the time she could manage on her own which meant taking him to the hospital and getting him admitted there. It was only then that she informed them. On the other hand, her mother never had any qualms about calling her at the drop of a hat and expecting her to drop everything and rush to be with her. Because of this, she would sometimes get really angry with herbut the calm and collected Mohan would pacify her and persuade her to do what was necessary. But even when she went her mother would go on complaining about one thing or the other. Now Sagarika loved her mother but she wasn’t a very patient person. Also, she was outspoken,  so more often than not they would end up having an argument. Another puzzling aspect of her mother’s personality was her burning desire to know how much time or money Sagarika and Mohan spent on his parents. This was something Sagarika couldn’t understand or accept. Though she had started out on a wrong footing with her mother-in-law, now they got along fabulously and she didn’t see any reason to share anything with her mother who in comparison she couldn’t tolerate any longer. She found her to be too intrusive. In fact, it was her father now who managed to pull her to them. He always had nice things to say to her and wasn’t really demanding. Sagarika couldn’t help thinking as to how her relationship with her parents had changed. She was so much closer to her father now as compared to her mother.

In fact, she knew that it was due to her husband and father that her outspoken, frank and on the verge of being rude nature had been toned down. But she was still a strong headed person who found it difficult to accept other people’s point of view. It had to be always her way and heaven help the person who dared to oppose her. Her decisions were final with no questions asked. But what she realized with time was that though Mohan never questioned her eventually he ended up doing what he wanted to do with a minimum amount of fuss. He would never get into an argument with her, would quietly listen to her and then turn around and do exactly as he pleased. It left her wondering many times if all that exhibition of lung power had been worth the effort!!

Nisha couldn’t help thinking that this once again proved that ‘ Still waters run deep’.She felt that this showed that aggression is not a sign of strength rather it shows weakness. People who are inherently strong don’t need to prove their strength by their words. It is evident from their actions. And in this lay the difference between Sagarika and Mohan.

Time went by, the children grew up and life was good. But as they grew up Sagarika could see shades of her own self in her daughter Nidhi. Though both her son and daughter were fairly independent in their thinking, it was her daughter who gave her a lot of grief. Nidhi had a mind of her own and didn’t like anyone intruding into her space and telling her what to do. Sagarika being the control freak that she was loved to poke her nose into everything, wanting to know the details of her friends, her life which Nidhi didn’t want to share. So there washardly a day when the two of them did notget into an argument and then it was left to poor Mohan to pacify both of them. Many times Sagarika realizing her mistake would try and stop herself but controlling others was so much a part of her persona that she just couldn’t help doing that. And now that Sagarika was on the other side she could see how difficult a child she must have been for her parents and especially for her father. But whenever she complained to her father about Nidhi he would give her a knowing smile and tell her to be patient and tolerant. Now that he was not in the thick of things he could be objective about them and also with time had learnt that reacting to a situation could never help. One had to respond taking one’s time rather than reacting immediately. And then he did have a soft corner for his granddaughter who had taken over from her mother in that respect. In fact, the grandfather was like a confidante to his granddaughter who shared a lot with him. So it was but natural for Nidhi to be heartbroken when her confidante decided to bid adieu to this world. It was as though a part of her had been snatched away from her. Had it not been for Mohan it would have been extremely difficult for everyone as always to pull through.

Nisha couldn’t help marvel at the man’s rock-solid presence and his ability to keep everyone together.

Their son Raghav, on the other hand, was a dream child who never opposed his mother, never got into an argument with her and largely did what he was told. But if he had a point of view that was contrary to hers he would do what he thought was right but with no fuss at all much like his father.

What struck Nisha at this point is how life has a way of getting back at us.  Her daughter had done to Sagarika what she had done to her father. Their reasons may have been different but the end result was the same.. tough time for the parents. But then can people join the dots and realize their mistakes. Or is it easier to blame someone else for the tough time?

When Nidhi fell in love with Saurabh it did give Sagarika a feeling of déjà vu but her anger was directed at the boy in question. Nidhi had met Saurabh while she was in college and with time they had fallen in love with each other. Saurabh belonged to a small town in Rajasthan and had moved to Delhi to study there. Though his parents were decently well off they weren’t the kinds one could boast about in society. Now Sagarika was okay with the two of them being friends. But when she figured that things were getting serious she decided to intervene and put a full stop to the relationship. Easier said than done as she realized.  In any case, she should have known that her daughter was not likely to pay any heed to her objections and would carry on with the relationship. In fact, the more Sagarika tried to stop her the more adamant she became. This rang bells but Sagarika was not going to give up. Over the years what had happened was that Sagarika had started thinking a lot like her mother-in-law and therefore had started attaching a lot of importance to family, reputation, background etc. She had dreams of getting her daughter married into a wealthy, well-known family and Saurabh of course, the poor guy didn’t quite fit the bill. So she didn’t want Nidhi to have anything to do with him. But Nidhi had her genes and she wasn’t prepared to listen so every day there would be fights, arguments, doors being slammed and a whole lot of unpleasantness. And the person who had to bear thebrunt of all this was once again poor Mohan!! No matter how hard he tried, no one was prepared to listen.

Listening to this Nisha couldn’t help wondering if Sagarika had understood what her own mother-in-law would have gone through. But obviously, she couldn’t ask!!

And then Nidhi dropped a bombshell!! To say that her parents were shocked would be an understatement.

Sagarikawent on to relate how the situation came to a head when one day Nidhi announced that she had decided to move in with Saurabh. Since by then both of them had started working they were pretty independent financially and didn’t need anyone’s help. Sagarika was flabbergasted at this development but Nidhi did not give her a chance to react. She announced that she would be moving out over the weekend and obviously no one could change her mind. Mohan tried talking to her but she refused to even discuss anything and walked off. The result was that  Mohan and Sagarika had a huge fight with Sagarika blaming her husband for being too soft with their daughter. Though Mohan was also quite taken aback by  Nidhi’s decision he felt that shouting and screaming werenot going to get them anywhere. They could only try and explain their point of view to her after which they had no choice but to let her take her own decision. He also felt that they were facing a situation which was pretty similar to what his parents would have faced when they had wanted to get married, so maybe they were getting it back. Though a part ofSagarika agreed with him she was too egoistic to admit it.

Her bigger problem was how to face the world. She tried compromising a bit by telling her daughter that she would be fine with the relationship as long as the two of them got married. She told her that she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a live-in but Nidhi had taken a decision and she wasn’t going to budge. She told her parents that she was not interested in taking the risk of getting married until she was absolutely sure about Saurabh. Since both of them were on the same page regarding this, that was what they were going to do. She accused her mother of being old fashioned and asked her why she couldn’t be as liberal as Saurabh’s parents who though belonging to a small town had been able to see their point of view.

So, much against her parents’ but in particular her mother’s wishes Nidhi moved out and started living in with Saurabh. For the first few months, Sagarika in her anger refused to see her or let her visit them but gradually she had no choice but to give in. She had to accept the relationship if she wanted to see her daughter.Though it wasn’t easy she realized that there was no option for her but to acquiesce. Things got better between mother and daughter but she still did not like Saurabh a lot because she found him to be not very sophisticated and a little rough on the edges most unlike someone she would have preferred to be a part of her daughter’s life. Moreover, she wanted the two to get married too but that didn’t seem likely at all. This went on for about five years during which time their sonalso got a job in the US and decided to move there. And eventually much to her relief and happiness Nidhi after having moved to Mumbai decided to get married to Saurabh. They were expecting their first child at that point and that was the reason why Sagarika was going to Mumbai.

Since it had become quite late by then and both of them were feeling very sleepy, they decided to call it a day and carry on the next day. But whether it was the desire to share or the fact that the sleeping arrangements were not very comfortable, both of them got up early, ready to take up from where they had left the night before. This time it was Sagarika’s turn to listen. They settled down with theirmorning cuppa and Sagarika looked towards Nisha waiting for her to begin.

Nisha began by sharing details of her childhood. She revealed that her parents, Raj and Chaya had both been doctors working in a reputed hospital of Delhi. They had met while they were in college and had decided to tie the knot. It hadn’t really been a smooth sail for them as in those days love marriages were fairly uncommon and on top of that,they were from different parts of the country. While her mother was a South Indian her father belonged to a Punjabi family, so there had been stiff opposition from both sides.

Raj’s grandmother, in particular, had gone on a fast in an attempt to pressurize him to drop the idea of marrying Chaya. There had been a lot of drama but ultimately the grandmother had to give in as Raj had stuck to his guns. Not to say that Chaya’s family had given in very easily. Her father, in particular, had been horrified at the prospect of a North Indian son-in-law. In the first few days, he had even refused to acknowledge the presence of a North Indian in his daughter’s life. But then hetoo had to give in eventually because if he was a stubborn person, so was his daughter. And though she wasn’t the kinds to kick up a fuss she still was going to remain at it and not give in. So ultimately the desire of the young peoplehad prevailed and the two had got married.

Other than having to cope up with each other’s extended family which did get trying at times, Raj and Chaya were pretty happy with each other. Both were busy in settling in their professions and so led pretty busy lives. Chaya was working with the government hospital whereas Raj had set up his own practice, because of which his hours were pretty long. But both were extremely supportive of each other’s careers and life was good. Though a lot of people around believed that Chaya should take it easy with her career, Raj was very clear that she should put in her heart and soul into it and make a name for herself. All through he believed that women should always strive to be independent and self-reliant in every possible way.

Like every other couple, they had had their share of ups and downs and getting used to the other person’s ways had not been easy. What had made life more challenging was the fact that their backgrounds were very differentbecause of which they found some of each other’s habits very strange.Like for instance, Raj’s day could not begin without a nice hot cup of tea whereas Chaya always wanted her filter coffee to kickstart her’s.Their food habits were different, she wanted rice all the time, he wanted roti. There were little, little things which could have become irritants and they could have escalated to become bigger issues but they never let that happen.They never let anything come in the way of their happiness.

Two years into the marriage and their elder daughter Medha was born followed by Nisha who came three years later. Their cup of happiness was full though apparently,the world’swasn’t.The fact thattheydidn’t have a  son was not something that Raj’s family was prepared to accept. But did he care!! His grandmother couldn’t help blaming the alien South Indian blood for it but it made not even an iota of difference to the couple. They were happy and that was what mattered.

Chaya’s parents by now had realized that their daughter had a wonderful marriage and in Raj, they had a wonderful son-in-law who loved their daughter to the moon and back. They couldn’t quite believe their luck. Though they lived in a different city, they regularly visited their daughter and loved spending time with their granddaughters. Every summer vacation they would wait for theirgranddaughters to visit them when they would take them around, make them meet friends and family with a lot of pride and joy. By now Chaya had become quite senior at the hospital which also gave an immense amount of happiness to her parents. The girls also loved visiting them and spending time with them. Chaya’s father loved to read, listen to music and go for plays and he would make it a point to expose his granddaughters to all of that.

With time even Raj’s parents had also come around especially after the passing away of his grandmother. Thoughtheyhad initially found it difficult to accept Chaya, over the years she had turned out to be an ideal daughter-in-law, in fact, more of a daughter who was always there for them. They were also very closeto theirgranddaughters and doted on them. On many weekends they would all get together for a meal or a movie and have a really good time. With time they had all come to appreciate each other, respect each other, the initial differences having been forgotten.

Raj and Chaya though busy with their respective careershad always made sure that their daughters were their topmost priority and had never shied away from missing out on social orwork-relatedengagements if their daughters needed them. They had tried to bring up their daughters in a liberal environment where there were rules and restrictions but no stifling of views or opinions. So whether it was academics or friends or going out, everything had to be done at the right time and in the right manner. This had ensured that the girls had grown up to be level headed, confident young women.

Sagarika was quite amazed to know this. She couldn’t help comparing Nisha’s childhood with her own which had been so full of restrictions, arguments, tears and a lot of heartaches. She could see that  Nisha hadhad a wonderful childhood and she couldn’t help envying her. To her, Nisha’s parents sounded very progressive and forward thinking. She felt how wonderful it would have beento have grown up in that kind of an environment.

Since the girls had grown up knowing that they had a voice which would be heard they had never felt the need to go against their parent’s wishes. If the parents had high standards for their academics the girls had bent backward to make sure that they delivered.  As it is both the girls were exceptionally bright and so thathad never been a problem. Both had been toppers, had got into good colleges where also they had done very well.Eventually, Medha had followed her parents to become a doctor while Nisha had joined the corporate world. Since they had both been given the freedom to chose their careers both had ended up being very successful and very happy.

With time the two sisters had met their life partners and got married. What struck Sagarika was the fact that it didn’t seem from Nisha’s story that her parent’s had ever pressurized their daughters into doing anything in life. Yes, they had had to follow certain rules, certain norms but that was it. They had been reasonable about everything. Even when they had decided to get married to boys of their choice it had been a smooth sail for them.Other than making sure that everything was okay with the boys and their backgrounds the parents had not interfered much and left the decision to the girls.

Medha had been the first to get married to a boy who belonged to a business family and had been a patient of hers. Nisha related how this had been a big joke in their house and their father had never missed an opportunity to pull her leg about it. His only concern had been whether his daughter would be able to pursue her career after getting married. But Varun, their prospective son-in-law had assured him thatthere would never be a problem in that area and that was that. The wedding had been fixed and the two of themhad got married. And with time Medha has become a very successful doctor with her husband supporting her at every step.

In about a couple of years, Nisha had also got married to Naren who was also in the corporate world. They had met at work and fallen in love. He belonged to the same city and came from a similar kind of background as hers. The families had liked each other and so were happy when the two of them had decided to tie the knot. Though they had known each other for almost two years before getting married there was a side to Naren which Nisha discovered only after getting married. She figured that he wasn’t a very patient person and was also very short tempered.He could fly off the handle at the drop of a hat and Nisha found it difficult to get used to this. Coming from an environment where the father was a super cool person who would never get ruffled, no matter what, she found her husband’s behaviour quite strange and many times unacceptable. He would get upset about little things like the driver not coming on time or his things getting misplaced. He was like this spoilt child who always wanted things his way but when they couldn’t be that way he would lose his cool. This explained his outburst at the station. Nisha related how she had got late at work because of which they couldn’t get to the station on time. He had been ready and waiting to leave and so had got angry with her. But since he was otherwise a loving and caring person, Nisha accepted his temper as being part of the package.

Sagarika had been a witness to Naren’s display of temper at the station and she couldn’t help wondering how Nisha could be so seemingly unaffected by it. She was very clear that she wouldn’t let anyone speak to her that way. She had found his tone to be quite demeaning and insulting. Being the outspoken person that she was she couldn’t help asking Nisha as to how she a modern, career woman allow her husband to treat her like that. Did it never bother her?

Nisha looked at her and said that it used to bother her a lot in the initial years. But with time she had become used to it because he didn’t mean a lot of what he said and always said things in the heat of the moment which he regretted later on. Also, she looked at Sagarika and said that one cannot ever judge a person’s personality by focusing on one behavioural trait. Yes, that one trait could be annoying, could be unacceptable but only that one trait is not that person. He/she is a collection of traits and therefore it is only fair to judge a person in totality and not fret about one aspect. This made sense to Sagarika but she wondered if she could be like Nisha. She didn’t think so!!

Nisha continued with her story after this brief exchange. She went onto relate that she and Naren had two children, a girl named Nikita and a boy named Nikhil. Since she and Naren had a nuclear setup they had had their share of issues in bringing up their children. With busy work lives, it hadn’t been easy to juggle between various duties and responsibilities. On many occasions, they had had fights and arguments when they had been hard pressed for time. But it hadn’t been as though one of them had had to sacrifice more than the other. They had made sure that whenever the children needed them whoever could be there would make it and do the needful. Luckily they had never had any ego hassles over that. She remembered one instance in particular when her son had fallen down while playing soccer and broken his arm. Naren had been overseas and she had been stuck at work. The children had been alone with just the maids. It had been her daughter’s presence of mind which had enabled her to go to a neighbour’s house to ask for help. The neighbour had been good enough to send her a message and then take Nikhil to the hospital. She still remembered how she had panicked on reading the message. Though the meeting had been critical she had had to request her boss to let her rush to the hospital.Had it not been for the neighbour her son would not have been able to get timely medical attention.

Though both sets of grandparents lived in the same city she and Naren had always tried to manage things on their own. And the grandparents also had never interfered in their lives though they had always been there when required. So Nisha always had that feeling of security and had never felt alone.

Life had been going smoothly for all of them till the day a mishap gave them a jolt. Nisha remembered the day having been otherwise normal with her being busy at work. A phone call and it had all changed… Varun, her sister’s husband had met with an accident and had died on the spot. It had been so unbelievably shocking that to this day it gave her goosebumps thinking about it. He had been in his late thirties and was on his way back from work when this had happened. Her sister, her two boys and their parents had been devastated. But after the initial shock, the entire family had risen to the occasion to help Medha in every possible way. She had moved in with her parents who had volunteered to take care of the children so that she could fully focus on her work. Medha had with time taken over from their father and had become the sole In charge of the clinic. Nisha could not hide the pride in her eyes when she told Sagarika that Naren had also done everything possible to help his sister-in-law whether it was in terms of helping her two kids with any school-related work or chipping in when she faced issues in her clinic to even including them in their family holidays. As a result, the children had become very close to each other and her daughter always felt that she had not one but three brothers. When her parents had passed away  Naren had again stepped in to make sure that everything that had belonged to them would now belong to Medha. He had never once shown any interest in their property or money. He was content with what he had. This had made Nisha respect him more than ever before. They were all now one big family who had each other’s back all the time.

This revelation made Sagarika quite envious of her because her siblings had never really cared for her or for her children. But she realized that was life. You can’t get everything right.

Nisha went on to say that with time her children had flown the nest to pursue careers of their choice. The son was in Australia and the daughter had moved to Switzerland and they were both doing very well for themselves. They had had their share of issues while growing up but Nisha and Naren had never imposed their will on them. Since Nisha herself had grown up in a liberal environment she had wanted her children to get the same. They had both studied what they had wanted to. The parents had been there to guide and support them but there had never been any compulsion of any kind. The son had joined a consultancy firm and the daughter had studied to become a doctor. And Nisha and Naren had been very happy with their career choices. But then their daughter had also dropped a bombshell. Though doing very well in her chosen field she had after a while lost interest init and so had decided to become a life coach. It had been quite a switch!! Nisha still remembered the day when she had announced her decision to that. To say that they, as parents had been dumbfounded at this decision, would be an understatement. They had not been able to relate to her decision at all. They had never been able to understand how or why would someone throw away a flourishing career to get into unknown territory. But she had been adamant and very clear about her choice so eventually they had had to come to terms with it.

While Nisha was relating this Sagarika was thinking of how she would have dealt with a similar situation.  She knew that she would have almost killed her daughter if she had done something like that. Somewhere she also did not agree with Nisha and her husband’s style of parenting as she felt that they had given too much freedom to the children as a result of which her daughter had taken such a drastic decision. But then she kept quiet because she felt that it was not her place to say something like that. For a minute she also wondered how she could control herself because under normal circumstances being her usual outspoken self she would have said something to Nisha. But she had refrained. Maybe she was growing old!!

Nisha went on to tell her that once she and her husband had given in to Nikita’s wish, they had gone all out to support her in every possible way from recommending the right kind of courses for her to pursue, to introduce her to people in the life coaching space who they knew. And now as a result of all the hard work she was doing extremely well for herself. She had tied up with a company which was into the business of life coaching and was travelling the world with them. And of course the parents couldn’t stop beaming with joy whenever they saw her name in the papers or on the social media as gradually but surely she had made a name for herself in that field. So ultimately it had all worked out well.

Another thing which Sagarika found puzzling was that Nisha had not once mentioned the marital status of her children. When she couldn’t hold herself any longer she broached the topic herself. Looking at her Nisha told her that both her children now in their thirties were not so keen on getting married. They had both been in relationships which had not worked out and so now they were in no rush. And as far as they as parents were concerned they had let it be and never questioned their decision. Nisha told Sagarika very categorically that with time one has to learn to respect the other person’s opinion even if it didn’t match one’s own. It is the happiness of a person that should be of prime importance and nothing else. And the fact that her children were happy in their lives was what mattered to her and to her husband.

Their children visited them regularly and they also took time out to be with them. They had fun times together and because they never questioned their decisions and in fact respected them, the children also shared everything with them and kept them involved in their lives.

Sagarika wondered if her habit of questioning everything had led to her children becoming very private and wary of sharing things with her. She was aware that they shared more with Mohan than they did with her. She also wanted to know about Medha’s children. Nisha told her that the older one had got married and was living in Mumbai but the younger one hadn’t still found anyone.  The boys had grown up to be responsible, loving boys who treated their mother with the utmost care and respect. Medha also kept quite busy at the clinic. She missed Varun but had learnt to live without him. Chaya also now in her late seventies lived with her.

The Mumbai Rajdhani was slowly approaching its destination and so were the  two women. The train journey was about to end. But the journey of friendship had just begun. For life?? Who knows??

Different people different journeys…but somewhere they meet…

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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