Sunday, August 26, 2012

The test

Vimala will be 79 in two months. She had moved to this high class senior home on the outskirts of the city five years back with her husband. He drew good pension and was financially well off. They had no children. They did not wish to be alone in their big house depending on domestic help. They had their own suite at this home that had all facilities and everything they wished at their beck and call.Mami’s husband died about a year back but she continued to remain in the same suite.

Initially after they moved here, some relatives dropped in occasionally. But distance of the senior home from the city was a deterrent. Over a period of time the trickle of relatives who visited dried up completely. In fact she had a host of close relatives like two younger brothers, three sisters and many nephews and nieces from both her side and husband’s side. Initially she participated in functions when invited. Even contacts by phone became nil unless mami herself rang them up. This never bothered her as she had many good friends here. She also knew that everyone had their own priorities and things to attend to.Mami’s best friend was Kausalya who lived in the adjacent block. They spent major time together sharing their personal matters.

One day mami’s relatives received the following email from her while some got letters post.

Dear relative,

I am addressing this to all my close relatives and not individually. I will be having a hip surgery very soon. I am assured by the doctors that I would be back to normal. I would be discharged from hospital within a week and thereafter will be able to move about with crutches for a couple of months. I should be able to take care of my needs without much help from others. While I can return back to home where I command all facilities, I would be missing the ‘homely’ atmosphere. I wish to spend about 6 to 8 weeks with any relative who is willing to accommodate me. I can even have a help at my cost. But the ambience of a home and the company of people who are related to me would be mentally invigorating.
Please let me know whether anyone of you would be willing to host me. I would try not to be an imposition on your time or regular schedule. But I will not be offended if it is inconvenient to have me. I would however expect a line in reply at your earliest


Here are the mails she received

Brother 1:

Vimala, How is it you have not kept me informed about the details of surgery to take place? I would not have been able to be of much help even if you had. We are leaving for US this week to be with our daughter who has bought a house in Cupertino and wanted us for grihapravesh.We will be back after five months when I will meet you. Meanwhile stay in touch by mail. Best wishes and God speed for your early recovery, affectionately Mani

Sister 1:

Vimmu, I am sorry to hear that you need a hip surgery but feel assured that these days they are done with expertise and patients are back to normal soon. You (and athimbertoo) were always independent and managed your affairs single handed. At a rare occasion when you have sought my help, It pains me to be not in a position to invite you. My daughter from Dubai and son from Sydney are coming with their families during that time and have some vows to be discharged at the temples. We may be away too. I hope someone of our siblings would come forward, always yours, Raji

Brother 2:

Vimala, I can only tell you in extreme confidentiality that my wife is unwilling and exhibits the same hostile feelings towards my side of relatives. I feel ashamed in not being able to help you when you have approached me for the first time. I am sure you will understand my helplessness. I wish you the best. Tell me where the surgery takes place. I will try to visit you without her knowledge. Siva


One sister did not reply even after a reminder. The other one wrote
Vimmu, I am myself staying as a dependent with my daughter who is not in very comfortable financial position with her daughter and son both in engineering college. I pray you get well soon. I hope one day I am able to meet you, Jalaja

One niece

Athai, Glad you could think of us at least now when you need our assistance. Take care. I wish you well. I am sorry I may not be in a position to host you due to other preoccupations
Another niece
Mami, I am in UK with my daughter to help her in her delivery. Best wishes for successful operation and speedy recovery.Priya

One nephew

Periamma, You never bothered about us when we were passing through troubling times. By God’s grace we are all well.But we cannot forget the taunts so easily, Sundaresan

Vimala knew the kind of response she would get but the reality shattered her. She was sullen and dejected. Even when Kausalya asked her about her glum mood, she did not divulge. Two days later she received an inland letter. It was from Lakshmi, her late eldest brother’s daughter. It read

My dear athai, I am sorry to hear the need for a surgery. Please inform me the place and date when it is to be done. I will be there with my husband to be of whatever help and as a moral support.

My doors are always open to you. You were very dear to my father. He always spoke with affection for you and he would be happy if I am of little help to you. As you may be aware we are living in a housing board two bed roomed flat. Still we have ample space for you in our hearts and house. My children have decided to set apart their room for you exclusively. Accustomed as you are to rich comforts, you may find the house small and cramped. Luckily the toilet in your room is Western in style. You can stay with us as long as you wish. Please decline any other offer and come to my place. I will soon meet you at the hospital. Awaiting your confirmation.

Affectionately Lakshmi

Tears trickled from Vimalas eyes. She knew Lakshmi’s husband had a small job and her children were in college. Yet how generous and kind they were, she wondered. Such good nature is not related to ones financial or other circumstances. Kausalya entered the room and saw her friend happy .

Vimala said “I have asked my advocate to come next week for making a will. I have decided to leave a major portion for charitable causes. Still I wished to see whether I should mention some deserving relatives in the will. I kept a small test. I have found to my great satisfaction the answer” and gave Kausalya the inland letter


  1. Relatives today are selfish, self centric, unaccommodating & uncharitable. Lakshmi, though not so well of, is far richer than the others. I am sure Vimala willed a generous amount to Lakshmi.

  2. Lakshmi deserved it. Nice story.

  3. Nice story depicts the state of relatives very well.

  4. Nice one KP. Yes all of us are preoccupied with our world, but there should a connect from within to realise our moral responsibilities. In reality this hardly occurs.

  5. Lovely. Very real and beautifully written.

  6. in today's world people have no time for their next kin...nice of her niece.........large hearted...but yes there are people like these also ....just a few though

  7. Very true, KP. Seems the whole world is materialistic, money matters and nothing else. I really pity Vimala. There are senior citizens worse than her, living on mere handouts, prisoners in their own homes. So sad the younger generations have no time nor kindness left for the elders:(

  8. I was worrying that Vimala would really be left alone after her surgery! Thank god, it was only a test. Very well depicted, KP. It is indeed true that the less wealthy have a bigger heart even if they have smaller houses.

  9. I enjoyed reading this. You're at your usual story-teller best with this one. Interesting.

  10. oh what litmus test!!! showed the true color of people, neatly penned. The Old age homes I used to visit had so many such people waiting for their own relatives to come down... Sort of remembered that!!! as usual good one KP

  11. really exposing the reality of these daysvery touchy may be i will also be one like vimla who knows

  12. This is the hard reality, and I have seen it with my own eyes and felt it. After my dad passed away I have seen some very dear relatives and friends turn their back .. As this was the oppurtunity perhaps they were waiting for.

    It is sad that we have become selfish in todays day and age and are all very busy in our own little worlds.

    shame such is the situation...


  13. This happens in many families and had been happening for many years. Earlier people were in joint families and thought that it was their duty to take care of older people at least for fear of abuses from other relatives. Now, being nuclear families, everybody is busy in their own world. Still, some are like Lakshmi, god bless people like her.

    Nicely woven story.

  14. liked the way you've presented the letters... good one this!

  15. In this selfish world its sometimes strange to see generosity coming from simple people rather than those who can afford to be yet dont due to selfish motives. A nice story with a good moral.

  16. This is nice story describing how we have lost the harmony of joint family system. More of independency, intimacy is lost. Rare to see people like Lakshmi now a days.

  17. Since no more comments are expected for this story, I feel that the biggest irony is the fact that most of the above commenters might be ill-treating their old people at home/elsewhere and still writing here that the story is 'excellent' and has 'morals'.

    I just wish that this was a real story and other relatives get to know of this test. In reality though, it is difficult to get even that single letter.

    Destination Infinity

  18. While i might at other times have thought it was only a story, I do believe now, there are people like that in most families. Sad no?