“Amma, you should not be lying on the bed all the 24 hours. You must sit on the chair and keep moving about a little once a while,” said, Radha, her daughter-in-law, a bit loudly.
“What can I do? My back is paining when I sit. I am unable to walk and this walker is more a nuisance than a help,” replied Chellamma.
“At this rate you would not be able to even walk to toilet in a few months,” warned Radha.
The old woman did not respond.A frail woman in her eighties, her vision had gone dim, hearing impaired and limbs so weak that she needed a walker to move about. Of late she was falling sick frequently with minor ailments like cough, cold or fever making herself dependent on others. She lay mostly in her bed watching vacantly the ceiling and the revolving fan. With her handicaps, she had no use for a TV or music system in her room. Loneliness enveloped her as the body became weak with age...
Her only past time was to revive old memories of years bygone. There was a trace of smile in her face as she thought of her younger days when she like a queen had ruled her sprawling bungalow consisting of her soft natured husband, who was a leading advocate, and their seven sons and two daughters. Her writ prevailed in the house and none dared to question her. It was affluent days with no want. She was kind by nature but never allowed her daughters-in-law to claim intimacy with her. There were many servants and two cooks in the large house. The front hall always bristled with many juniors and clients with non-stop supply of coffee and refreshments. She carried herself with dignity and was held in great respect. There was happiness in the family with all sons living together with their wives and children.
These days she lived in a small room at the rear of an apartment with her second son Rajappa as all the others were living separately. Both Rajappa and his wife Radha though caring were away at work in the day time. They had no children. She kept the food and coffee in a flask on a table adjacent to her. There was none to assist the old woman.It was silence and monotony all through the day.Even when they returned home, they did not talk to her much. Radha used to frown at the stench that emanated from toilet. Chellamma luckily never heard her snide comments but knew Radha was upset about something.
It was the ennui and loneliness that frustrated her.She saw no purpose in living and wished God to take her soon to heaven. The failing heath, perceived neglect and emotional stress of being dependent were unbearable. She became depressed and yearned constantly for deliverance. She was all the time praying to God
One Sunday she was telling Radha,” I am tired of being tied to bed. I hope my constant prayers to God to take me away.soon would be answered. I hope He would listen to my prayers and take me to heaven,”
“Amma, how do you think that the gates of heaven would be kept open for you to enter at your will? How can you be so sure that you will go to heaven? Do you have the key for it by any chance? asked Radha in a sarcastic tone.
“I don’t know all that. I pray to Guruvayurappan (Lord Krishna) daily that He should take me to Him. Wherever He is, it must be heaven” replied the old lady
Chellamma prayed that night intensely to God “Guruvayurappa, Narayana, don’t ditch me on any count. I have been praying all the waking hours. Please take me to your feet. I do not wish to live anymore..I totally depend on you for deliverance.” She went on praying and crying for His grace till she dozed off to sleep.This went on for three days pushing the poor woman to extreme misery and dejection.
It was on fourth day she had a dream in which Guruvayurappan appeared and assured her “Chellamma, do not worry.I have heard your prayers.The gates of heaven will be open for you and you will have the key before long.Trust me and have no worry.”
The lady woke up with a start and was greatly surprised and relieved. Peace and calm descended on her face at what she believed to be God’s message to her.
“Amma, what happened? You seem calm and happy? Have you got the Key for heaven’s gate or what?”taunted Radha in a smiling tone that night.
Chellamma did not respond but turned in bed and closed her eyes
It was past 8 am the next morning and Chellamma had not got up from the bed. It was getting late for the office. Radha came to wake her up followed by Rajappa.When she nudged the old woman, her hand fell on her side. Radha let out a shriek when it dawned on her that the old woman was no more..Intrigued by the tightly closed hand, she opened the fingers to find a clear imprint of a key on her palm..
Radha stood perplexed staring at the imprint wondering how the old woman got it even as she remembered her taunt about the key for the gates of heaven.Overcome by grief, she fell on Chellamma crying “Amma, forgive me. I am a wretch….,” with a confused and shaken Rajappa looking on in disbelief.