By Urmila Chanam
It was so clear to me what my ageing parents needed when I took out some time for them.Until that moment, my eyes wore a dark glass that got more fogged the busier I got. They only needed love and an assurance that I cared for them. Everything else they had in abundance and could easily buy or organize. The world over, this is the only thing that parents in their ageing years cannot trade it for any amount of money. The world over, this is the only thing that their children are finding it increasingly difficult to give- their time and their love.
When I landed in Imphal, I was disheartened by my short holiday of just a week that I would spend at home, a bungalow built by father after his retirement. The few days of holiday I was entitled to in a year either went in sick leave or accumulating them to go to Imphal for a longer stay. This resulted most often in not taking the trip home when I wanted to. A lot of waiting sometimes deprives you of the real pleasure of surprise visits and spontaneous re-unions.
Our home in my father`™s leikai is a home which stands on a foundation of several loving memories. Leaving our ancestral home where my grandparents lived with their army of grandchildren, their several sons and their wives was an end to one era and witnessing the transition of our new home from one room to the several rooms was the beginning of another. The walls that were yet to be plastered and unpainted windows that did not open completely owing to the concrete sediments at the window sill to the time we had beautiful windows and lace curtains to adorn them, my parent`™s home and a visit to see that home remains my favorite holiday destination till today.
My work remains unpacked in my suitcase along with my clothes that ordinarily go to hang in the wardrobe the moment I get home. `I don`™t want to waste any time,`™ I told myself. Mother and father asked me if I had any meetings during my stay. Oh, I cannot tell you the joy I felt when I could say, `I have no work this time. I will be home all the days with you.`™
I could sense another personality take over my parents. It is almost like they chose to share a whole new set of things now that they knew I had time. This also troubled me to recollect how my own preoccupation could have blocked such precious communication in previous accounts.
I learnt that mother had some help available with her house chores and she was no more burdened with them, we had electricity almost throughout the day, that Impact TV agent in our locality never quite responded to her request for taking subscription and she wanted me to lodge a complaint. I also noticed father was not going for golf as often as he used to before.
I also found myself put on an altogether different personality in response. I switched over to different kind of accomplishments I wanted to achieve- simpler and more meaningful and it all revolved around my home.
It did not take any thinking to decide what I would be doing in the next few days-spring cleaning! I summed up the paraphernalia of buckets, mugs, wipers, Colin spray, detergent powder, wood polish, brush and broom as I set to wipetable tops, huge wooden cupboards that you find only in Manipur in Meitei households(I wonder why cupboards are so big, heavy and immovable in my community), paintings, lamps, bed posts and other pieces of furniture. The curtains and upholstery went for a wash, the carpets for drying in the sun and a lot of stuff needed to be just thrown away.
The wooden cabinets containing old books were the best break in my cleaning project as I would peep into a book every now and then and end up reading paragraphs all the while standing with a broom leaning on my knee. I also came across a very tempting product pamphlet from Oriflamewhich made me make mental notes of what I could order only to find that it was a brochure from the year 2008!
Father on seeing the commotion in the house offered to change the batteries in the wall clock that stood in the living room. Mother served rounds of tea with freshly made pakodas. My daughter`™s contribution was running around happily and putting on music for us. It was like how it used to be when I was growing up. None of us had forgotten how it had been those days.
Both my parents appear so happy and jubilant. So much information is coming forth from them about themselves. I know so much more about them in these few days than I have known in the last few years I was chasing deadlines. I have drawn so much closer to my parents.
The cleaning is all done now. My parent`™s home might have not needed it much for the onlooker`™s eye but to a daughter, the corners that need young hands to reach to clean were so visible.
As the day for me to return to my city is drawing closer, I let out a deep sigh of contentment. How wrong I was to think that seven days is too short to do anything worthwhile! In this little time, I could express to my parents, who live all by themselves,that I care for them and I would chose coming home to going anywhere else for a holiday.
(Urmila Chanam is a consultant of knowledge management in HIV/AIDS working for a multilateral organization, FHI 360, managing a USAID project for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children. She also heads a global campaign `Breaking the Silence`™ which is about menstrual hygiene management and banishing taboos around menstruation.Arecipient of the National Laadli Award on Gender Sensitivity in 2015, she has been working with agencies like World Pulse (USA), WSSCC (Geneva), Voices of Human Rights (USA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),World Bank and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). Her singular effort in all her work is to connect with the grass-root and take forward real issues to a platform from where she can influence policy decisions.)