“She is a good cook. . . .,now that your husband is away on work; you do need such a companion; Being slightly deaf, she won’t be able to hear your phone-talk and report it back to me”—With that, Mother-in-law walked away installing MAMI-an elderly lady in my kitchen.
My! What a colorful companion she made! Where on earth did mother-in-law pick her up?
“ No onions in the house -I just can’t stand the odor!”- Thus commenced Madam’s reign!
Alas, I love onions!
“They are sage Vishvamitra’s creations. . . . .”-She started narrating.
Epics having no fascination for me, I beat a hasty retreat.
My! What a ghastly sight on the morrow! My spick and span kitchen in a topsy-turvy condition, with water trickling down joyfully from the tap, forming pools!
Hey, don’t come here!”-Mami ,who was sweeping, brandished the broom-“ Don’t go there! Don’t touch that! Don’t stare at me so!”
Am I a dog to be scared away thus? Out of my own kitchen? No way!
Determinedly stepped in-lo! Mami literally flew at me, ladle- broom and all!
“Don’t you know I am ‘MADI’? (Extreme sanctity).Now, don’t hurt an old woman’s feelings. . . . . . . . .”
Unceremoniously dismissed thus, I shifted aimlessly into the pantry.
Good God! There again the same earthquake! The containers arranged so artistically by me, now helter- skelter! Bottles once arrayed neatly, now grinning foolishly, with their lids off! Now, where on earth were the lids? Here and there, everywhere, with swarms of mice-flies-lizards, whatnot- playing hide and seek over them.
“Look here, kitchen and pantry are my domain; don’t you interfere”-Mami was emphatic when I voiced my protest.
Gradually, her domain seemed to stretch even further!
“Cloth, cloth, cloth! Dirty clothes everywhere to hamper my movements!”-She snorted viewing my much prized door curtains with distaste-“How can you have the heart to waste so much cloth on lifeless beings when so many children are running naked in our country? Gandhiji said. . . . . . ”
I did not wait to hear what Gandhiji said; simply took off all the door-curtains, window-curtains, and yes, tablecloths as well. . . . . . . .
Gandhiji’s soul should not suffer.
Her next topic was ‘Vastushastra’. The importance of it was dinned into my brain, resulting in a lot of meaningless adjustments, and expenditure; Remodelling an old house is akin to taking an aged woman to the beauty parlor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Gradually, our very movements began to be monitored by the major-domo’s superstitions like ‘Yamagandakala, Rahukala, Tuesday-Saturday, Dhanurmasa- Ashadamasa, what not! Helplessly watched my rational-minded children also becoming addicts. . . . .. . . . . . .
One evening I was in for the shock of my life when I returned home from some work; Simply stood frozen in the doorway. Frogs,dragons,lizards,crocodiles,Tigers,monkeys,mice,mirrors,bells,dancing lamps-laughing Buddas, what not, were strewn all over the living room ! Good God, had our house been turned into a menagerie or worse, museum?
“Hush, Fengushi !”-Mami whispered reverently-“It was in a bad shape when I came here first, so ad an expert called in to rectify; Now money will flow like Ganga.”
True, money did flow like water when she presented the heavy bill.
Children were thrilled by the strange spectacle.
Tried to play with them, but the great lady stood guard like a constable! When I protested, warned me –“ Hush! Even an inch of displacement may spell disaster amma!”
Noticing her intense interest in cricket, I succumbed to her ardent wish of watching the T.V sports channel once a while, thereby inviting headache, for in no time our T.V became her sole property !Tuning full volume, (So that she could hear it even in the kitchen), she would direct Tendulkar, Ganguly, even Dhoni, as to how to bat! And also advise Kumble on bowling methods; In between, instruct the populace(In the T.V) whom to vote, and lecture the presidents, prime ministers of all nations as to how to rule.
I shuddered to think of the consequences!
Deprived of their favorite programmes, the kids began to protest.; To escape from their trauma, I presented the good lady my old mobile-a sort of ‘stree Dhana’(Gift from parent’s house )thinking it would divert her from the T.V.; That act of kindness was the end of my mental peace. She would be always on it, pacing throughout the whole house-except the kitchen, and began avoiding even small requests of us by walking away with the ear glued to the mobile. ”Is she really speaking to persons, or just to the mobile?”-We wondered, for who really had the strength or patience to strain their throat at the other end?
We planned to take it from her, but no, it stuck to her like Karna’s kavacha, accompanying her even to the bathroom ! This, plus her deafness irritating my throat, I resorted to the language of signs; Fun-loving children also followed suit instead of creating bedlam. But Ram Ram, they overdid it! With consternation I found the whole household operating under curious signs! Aye, even the cradle-baby, unable to grasp any other mode of communication.
“I have no relation”-Mami had sort of wept one day sensing my vulnerable mind-frame-“I am a born-orphan.
“You will never be an orphan as long as we are here”- I had assured her with a sudden burst of goodness.
Suddenly, a horde of relatives appeared on the scene, sisters, brothers,c ousins–borrowed aunts, borrowed uncles (except borrowed husband) etc, showering Invitations for this-that ! Everyday there seemed to be a function-beginning from birthday to funeral! I literally became a house-sitter !
“This is too much mummy!”-The children started protesting-“You can’t take us to pictures, picnics or even to the park nearby as before! You have to put your foot down. . . . “
“You are right”-I agreed, and was racking my brains as to how to deal with the problem, when my husband’s unexpected return after quite a long period took me by storm.
“How is it the household expenses have increased so much?”-He came straight to the point, throwing the bills at me—“Who drinks so much coffee? Your ladyship?”
M…a..mi”- I faltered.
Mami?”-He raised his eyebrows.
“Who is consuming so much ghee-sugar? Not the children I bet-they are allergic. . . .
“M..a..mi”- I smiled sheepishly.
“Daddy, the T.V is not working !”- The kids bellowed, as though Tsunami had flooded our house-“Get it repaired immediately, we have to watch the cartoons-
That Mami damaged it, not us”-They were careful to explain before their father could bang them.
“MAMI ! MAMI!- Who is this Mami?”-He yelled—“Bring her-I will teach her the lesson of her life. . . . .This is what happens when you allow entry to every Tom Dick and Harry! You are a real dunce, wife amma!”
“She has been installed here by your loving mummy”-I informed him quietly.
Immediately, all the ferocity vanished!
‘MUMMY’S SON’ that he is, silently sank into the nearest chair, (Thank God there was a chair), while ‘thud,thud,thud,’ mami’s footsteps resounded outside..