|English: “My Wife and my Mother-in-Law”, a famous optical illusion. Appears in Puck, v. 78, no. 2018 (1915 Nov. 6), p. 11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Today was one of those strange days which start out normally and end abnormally. I got up as usual, had my breakfast as usual and got dressed as usual.I was about to step out to do my errands as usual when things started becoming unusual.
An unexpected inquiry from my mother-in-law about the keys to the bank locker set off a series of actions which resulted in our going to the bank locker to check it out. Now the Bank Locker is one of those hallowed places that merits an annual visit much like a pilgrimage, mainly to pay the fees. Very occasionally, we make an extra trip either to get something out or keep something in. But we never visit it to check things out. So this unexpected trip to the locker was not only not factored into my day, but it was also unfactored in the scheme of things done in the normal course of events. And it really rattled me, to put it mildly, because to get to the bottom of what triggered this off would have meant peeling off layers of double entendres, innuendoes, slights, etc.etc.
There was a cold silence in the car, a silence so palpable that you could penetrate it with a pick-axe. The normal forty minute ride seemed even longer and the five minute delay before we could get into the bank interminable. What happened inside the locker was even more strange than what I had imagined or anticipated : we went in,opened the lockers, took out a few things, examined them carefully and put them things back. They were locked with a finality that spoke volumes and the ride home was so frosty that if we had returned home even a minute later I would have suffered from hypothermia.
No one questioned the reason for this unexpected visit and life went on as though nothing had happened. But the bad vibes still lingered in the air.
Later that evening, after we had picked up Wow Dinga for his scheduled night stay with us, we heard the news that my husband’s centenarian aunt who was ailing, had finally passed away. My mother-in-law came inside to tell me the news, Wow Dinga was happily clapping away and I didn’t know how to react. Should I express my condolences which are par for the course when someone passes away or should I feel happy that this old lady who had been there, done that, seen it all, enjoyed more than her share of four score and ten and who was eventually living in a world populated by ghosts from the past, sustained by memories of another time, whose physical pain was so excruciating that she could barely moan, whose organs were slowly failing and who one had described in the past few days as someone who was “sinking”?
Anyone who has lived in a multi-generational family spanning eight decades can identify with these odd days that somehow manage to crop up. Most of the time life goes on as usual, some days are different because something unexpectedly joyous happens and some days are different because something inordinately sad happens. Whatever it is, life in a joint family is interesting and at times stressful but never ever dull.
The joint Indian family which consisted of several generations spanning various branches of family has now shrunk to more manageable numbers but along with the numbers, the physical shared space has shrunk too. Houses are smaller, demands are more. There are times when living together is fun – you always have someone to laugh at and someone to laugh with; there are times when living together is stressful – you have to mind your p’s and q’s and not step on multiple toes; there are times when living together is convenient – there is always someone at home to answer door bells and phone bells, sign for courier deliveries, do bank jobs, pay bills and there are times like this when suddenly things spin out of control and you feel you are in a continuous spin cycle in the washing machine.
Today was one such day.