“Sita madam, it is nearing 1pm. Won't you have your lunch?” asked the nursing attendant.
Sita continued to stare at the roof without reacting to the question. When the female attendant gently touched her shoulder, Sita shrugged her hand away. The attendant quietly went to the kitchen to bring some food in a bowl to feed her. She normally ate what was given in her hand.
Sita was nearing sixty and was born mentally retarded in a rich family. She was otherwise quiet and mostly silent. She never talked to any of the inmates of the destitute home and mumbled to herself occasionally. There were no tantrums thrown. She was trained since young age to go to bath room by herself. For all other things she needed to be told and helped.
It was a destitute home for girls and women who were sick incapable of taking care of themselves or old women afflicted with dementia or other serious ailments with none to look after. The home accepted whatever they could pay.
A brief note about Sita, the main character in the story, may not be out of place. She was born to a lawyer who commanded a lucrative practice. The couple were devastated when they realized their daughter was not a normal child. They left no stone unturned in prayers and pilgrimages to make her normal when doctors could do little. Her sad but disciplined mother patiently trained her to attend to her basic chores.
The couple had a normal son three years later who turned out to be bright and compassionate. He would not go out to play as a young boy but spent time after school hours with his sister making her smile with his pranks. He shared with her what all he got though she was in no position to use them. He took her out carefully to the temple close by unmindful of the stares of others.
In due course, Chellappa, as the boy was called, completed his IIT and IIM went to US and in a few years started a startup and became extremely rich. He fell in love with an Assamese girl who worked with him and married her. But he never failed to visit his parents and his sister every year. She had grown tall and charming to look.
As years passed by, his father passed away and his mom took care of Sita with assistance from domestic helps. They lived in a large house in the heart of the city. In five years his mother too followed his father after she accidentally slipped in bathroom and hurt her head.
Chellappa had Sita admitted in the destitute home and requested the NGO who ran it to move the home that was in the outskirts of the city to his spacious home. Before relocating, he had the home renovated and remodified to suit the requirements of a destitute home by providing for several rooms with a large common hall and dining hall and a spacious kitchen.
Sita was given a large room to be shared with another woman of normal faculties with Parkinson’s disease, while other rooms had three or four inmates depending on size. More inmates in the waiting list were admitted in the commodious home. Chellappa supplemented the income of the home with periodical remittances. They also received donations from philanthropists.
Lakshmi, the Secretary of the home, was a kind hearted lady who sincerely ran it with efficiency and with great care. Chellappa donated a van and a car to the home for its use. He came once in two years or even earlier to spend time with his sister Sita. He would sit by her side and ask her who he was.
All she could do was to call him ‘Chellappa’ and rub his hands, feel his head and keep staring at him. She did not remember much about her mom except repeat parrot like ‘Amma’ and giggle when Chellappa spoke about her. It was a pathetic sight for Chellappa as tears would flow from his eyes.
With great concern, she will wipe his eyes with her pallav and remark, “Why crying like baby?” She would put her hand around his shoulders and mumble something incoherently. When he got up to leave, she would hold his hands and refuse to let him go. It was unwillingly and with great difficulty, he would wrench himself from her as she broke into crying. This was a routine each time he visited her.
A few months back, Chellappa got a mail from the Secretary of the home expressing her concern at Sita falling sick repeatedly with respiratory problem and doctor’s prognosis that her heart was very weak and she may not live long.
When he spoke to the Lakshmi, she told him, “You know Sita is not well.I am told and have also personally seen her often mumbling ‘Chellappa, Chellappa’ even when her eyes are closed. I personally feel you must visit her as early as convenient. I am sure it would bolster her sagging spirit.”
“Thank you for suggesting. I will surely come this week itself. She was born on Tamil New Year’s day and she would be completing 60 years in less than ten days. I will surely be there. Money is no concern. Give her the best treatment,” said Chellappa
As ill luck would have it, she died two days later. Chellappa was there with his wife in time for her last rites.
After a fortnight, it was the day of their departure and flight was late night. He was at the destitute home talking to the Secretary and the other office bearers thanking them profusely for taking care of Sita.
Lakshmi, a dignified lady with kind heart, with lot of hesitation started saying,” Sir, we are beholden to you for the invaluable help you had rendered all these long years. Now that our dear Sita is no more, it may not be proper on our part to expect to continue here. This place would be worth several crores. My humble request to you would be to give us three months to look for an alternate accommodation in the outskirts of the city. Kindly agree.”
Chellappa instead of replying her request stood up abruptly and said,, “Excuse me. Let me go round this home and have a look before I leave,” and walked out of the office room.
The bewildered Lakshmi followed to watch him entering each room greeting with smile and folded arms every inmate and bending to touch the feet of older people. He was seen wiping his tears repeatedly and telling them “You are all my sisters like Sita. You gave her good company that I could not except make a fleeting visit once a year. I am not sure how I can repay the debt of gratitude to you all except assuring that you will continue to have my full support till my last breath.”
Taking leave of them, he came to the room hurriedly along with the Secretary. Turning towards Lakshmi, he spoke,” You need have no cause for worry about new accommodation. I have already transferred the title to this place to your organization, specifically for use of this place as a destitute home. The lawyer would hand over the registered documents in two days. Here is his card. I will continue to support the home as before and would always be available on mail or phone. I have one small request. Is it possible to name one block of this home after my sister’s name?”
All those present were seen nodding their heads and sobbing touched by his caring and benevolent nature.