Usha
This neighbour's house is being painted and these days she seems very busy and active; normally there is a lost look about her when we meet during the evening strolls. Yesterday she was glowing as she told me that her son from the U.S. was coming on a holiday after 5 years - she was bursting with the news and it seemed like she wanted to announce it to the whole world. Humouring her I said, "Ah, now i see what's with the painting and all" and she told me how she had been waiting for this all these years and how she has not had the enthusiasm to clean the house or decorate it or cook special things ever since he left. Every day of her life in the past 5 years has been spent only waiting for the day he will come back.I am happy for her but I am more worried about her return to misery after he leaves. For a while she would show us the photographs and the gifts he brought her , the home videos and all that and then slowly she will sink back into a void, steeped in her memories oblivious of the present, suspending the whole process of "living" until another visit from him.

This is the case with most people who shrink their lives into roles - defining them in relation to another person in their lives - a parent or a spouse or a child. The minute the other goes out of the scene, you cease to exist for yourself. It is like he / she rolled up your life and walked away with it.

I was reminded of Mrs.Ramaswamy, one of the customers of the bank branch I was managing. She was 65, drove an old fiat and very well read. I used to wait for her visits to the bank and our interesting chats. Our pet peeve was the horrible Bangalore traffic (and this was still 1988!!) She was 35 years my senior but we could talk about everything as if we were contemporaries. Her husband had died some years ago and her children were married and lived in different cities. She chose to live alone in the charming villa in Indiranagar. First time she called me over for tea, frankly I went more out of sympathy for the widowed old lady living alone seeking company on a quiet afternoon. But what greeted me was an elegantly furnished house with a cheerful garden- no signs of emptiness or depression. Even her sons' rooms were kept in order as if they lived in the house. A cook and a young maid lived in the house and the meals were simple and tasty and varied whether she had visitors or not. She explained it during one of our conversations:"You cannot stop living because people have gone away to have their lives or your partner's time has come. You have to go on living until your time comes." She is thrilled when her children and grand children visit her but does not go into depression when they leave. She has her own life - a full and meaningful one that is not dependent on anyone else, even her children.

She is happy to play her roles by them but she wont let them walk away with it. She is firmly in control of it.
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8 Responses
  1. WOW! Great observation, great post, great lesson! Thank you!


  2. Vaish Says:

    I loved this post, Usha. While reading it, I thought of so many people who really should read it and learn something from it.


  3. Anita Says:

    lovely post, usha. so very well expressed and true as well. especially in our context, where parents tend to live through their children, especially later on in life. they become 'parents' and don't seem to have a life extending beyond it. in fact, when people ask you to have kids, this is the primary reason. so they can "look after you" in your old age, which is pretty sad. but i do hope things do change over time. in fact, i am optimistic that things are changing and people are beginning to live life on their own terms too.


  4. jax Says:

    Came here from Vaish's blog. Really nice post."You cannot stop living because people have gone away to have their lives or your partner's time has come. You have to go on living until your time comes." Thats a lesson I wish most people around me learnt. It saddens me at times to look at their suffering. Kudos to your 65 year old friend!


  5. WhatsInAName Says:

    How very true! Life is much larger than people or the materialistic things that we attach importance to and it has to go on... so why not make the best of it. That reminds me of another post by you which talks of "letting go".
    And yes, like Anita says, I guess we, as parents, need to change our mentality


  6. Usha Says:

    WIN: Particularly now when the children leave home by the time they finish school, we need to be prepared to occupy our time otherwise and not keep brooding over an empty nest.


  7. That's how my mom, 68, lives. She has friends, her work, her driver and help etc and she has made her life not just comfortable, but also very busy.


  8. shail Says:

    Don't I just love someone like Mrs. Ramaswamy!!
    You are so right about "..most people who shrink their lives into roles - defining them in relation to another person in their lives - a parent or a spouse or a child." It is more true of many people. The worst part is it is considered scandalous in many parts if you don't do this shrinking of your life!!!
    "Ahh you must be missing your sons." "You must not be feeling like cooking!!" "You must be bored" "Don't you feel sad when your husband leaves for work for long periods??" I hear them all. It is almost an accusation for not 'shrinking' my life. Well, I go on regardless. :-)))