“Why, it is running alright?” replied Sarasa with certain asperity in her voice.
“Yes it runs but very slowly and no air is coming” said the old lady
“Ok, let me see but not this month as we have many commitments like school fees, insurance etc. May be I will get a new one next month or the one thereafter.”
“This is midsummer. The weather is very oppressive. That is why I mentioned” she said hesitantly.
“What can I do for that? All of us are suffering. I am unable to stand in the kitchen even for five minutes. Keep the windows open” Sarasa replied as she hastily went out.
She saw her 15 year old daughter Lavanya standing outside the door with a glass of chilled coke in her hand. She asked “When did you come from school? How long were you standing here? You are perspiring a lot”
“I just now came from school. Heard you talking to grandma and so came here” Lavanya replied
“That is alright.Go to your room, switch on the AC and rest a while. I will get something for you to eat” Sarasa said.
“Amma, I don’t want anything. But I want you to permit me to go on an excursion arranged in the school for three days. Mummy, please do not say no.”Lavanya pleaded.
“Which place? How many days? How much you are required to pay?”Sarasa asked
“Three days at Kodaikanal.Just Rs1000, Tomorrow is the last day for payment .All my class mates are going and our teachers are accompanying us. It is safe, amma” Lavanya said.
“It is okay. I will just mention to your dad. You can pay the money tomorrow. You are lucky as you will escape this hot place for a few days at least. The woolen sweater you have is old. It will be cold there. We can buy a new one this evening” Sarasa said.
She expected the girl to jump in joy and hug her. Instead Lavanya looked at her with derision and left without one word to her room. She switched off the AC that was running and switched on the fan and adjusted the regulator at the minimum speed.
When Sarasa who was perplexed at the strange behavior of her daughter entered the room with a plate of sandwiches, she saw Lavanya on the bed with her face buried on the pillow. “Why have you switched off the AC? The fan is also moving at snail’s pace. What is wrong with you? Aren’t you happy that I permitted you to go on excursion? You behave in a strange manner” said Sarasa
“Amma, leave me alone. You don’t have to switch on the AC or increase the speed of the fan. I will keep the windows open and rest” the girl said
Sarasa did not fail to notice the taunt in her voice and was certain the girl must have overheard when she was talking to her mother-in-law. “I know what you are alluding to. You are not behaving as young girls should do. I hate people eavesdropping the conversations of others” admonished Sarasa
“I did not eavesdrop. You were talking so loudly I could hear you even from the living room. Whatever it is, I hate you. I am not going for any excursion. I don’t need your money when you have so much of commitments to meet” said Lavanya with tears trickling on her cheeks.
When Sarasa looked at her daughter in disbelief, the girl continued saying “You cannot bear your daughter to be uncomfortable even for a few minutes and want me to have the AC and the fan at full speed. But you are so insensitive to the great discomfort grandma is experiencing both day and night. You did not think for a minute before you offered to pay me the money I asked for the excursion and also get a new sweater. But when it came to grandma, you were weighed down by the commitments. I never knew you can be this hard hearted to an old person. I am ashamed of you.”
Sarasa felt overwhelmed with shame and guilt at her behavior with her mother-in-law. She rang up the electrical stores and asked them to send a new fan immediately with a mechanic to fix it.
She went to her mother-in-law and touched her feet pleading for a pardon. The old lady was perplexed unable to understand what brought about the change. She however ran her hand on her head and said “Don’t be silly. You did not utter anything hurtful. You only pleaded for more time to change the fan. I am accustomed to live even without fan as I have spent many years in village without electricity. Wipe your tears and go happily”
Sarasa came out of the room teary eyed but chastened by the experience.