Parvatha Vilas, a palatial building on a six ground plot, large and imposing was rightly named after the lady of the house, Parvatham. You might have not known her but you must have certainly seen Khubsoorat with Dina Pathak and Rekha playing admirably well the important roles in it. The lady of the house in the film was a no-nonsense, nose upturned type with no trace of smile in her face. Her writ ran large in the house and her wishes were commands strictly obeyed by all members of her family. The character in our story is no different but even slightly worse than that
Tall and heavily built, with a stentorian voice and hawk like eyes, Parvatham never took a No for an answer. She brooked no dissent and went into rage at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction to her diktats. Hers was a large and affluent joint family of five daughters and three sons. Three daughters were married and two of them live separately close by. One married daughter continued to live with her family at her parent’s place. The three sons who were all married continued to live in the house with their wives and children.
Subramania iyer, a capable lawyer with lucrative practice, while at home was a timid man with shifty eyes and of small build. He had stopped practicing since two years. Most thought he was henpecked but he believed in the dictum discretion is better than valour. He knew all his renowned communication skills and knowledge were of little avail against the harsh-tempered termagant. That she was disagreeable and evoked more fear than respect among her children, husband and servants is a fact none disputed. The evening dinner when all assembled as a rule was more a silent ritual of filling the stomachs than the bonhomie of family members eating together, exchanging good natured banters and laughing around the dining table.
Parvatham always decided what should be the daily menu giving scant regard for individual preferences, what dress to be bought for whom and what dress to be worn on what occasions, what courses the children should take in their colleges, what time the TV can be on and what serials can be seen by whom. The younger daughters and the grandchildren never liked her autocratic ways and detested her habit of checking their mobiles unseen or refusing permission for granddaughters to go out with boyfriends and insisting they are back home for dinner. She was in short a terror in the house running it at her will and whims. She was no doubt a well-intentioned lady though and being the only daughter in her house, pampered and spoilt, she grew to be a shrew. One gets somewhat the scenario of the house, if one can remember Mrs. Trunchbull of the movie Matilda.
Of late, she suffered from memory loss and would repeat the same instructions again and again. She would rebuke the servants for not carrying out her orders that had already been complied with. But she would strongly deny that she suffered even a trace of amnesia and none argued with her for fear of her foul mouth. The doctor suspected signs of onset of dementia though she managed her chores on her own. Nevertheless, her forgetfulness caused concern and fear to all.
It was on one such day when family members had gone to a function at relative’s place. When they returned in the evening, Parvatham was not to be seen. The servants had no clue when and how she went out of the house. Even the security at the gate had callously missed her slipping out unseen. Everyone scurried hither and thither searching for her in all rooms and neighbourhood. She was not to be found. They phoned and went out searching for her amongst friends and relatives but could gather no useful information.
The next day they lodged a police complaint for missing person. Two or three days had elapsed with no news about her whereabouts. But there was a total metamorphosis in the atmosphere at the house. One could hear shouts, peals of laughter, happy guffaws and joyful screams with many running about without fear of reprimand. The old man was before the TV watching WWF wrestling matches nonstop alternating in between to cricket and tennis. One could hear the buzz of mobiles nonstop. The dining table got totally a different fare with several items to suit individual tastes. TVs were installed in many rooms. They took the plates and watched TV sitting on sofas that was earlier strictly forbidden. They got up late, took bath whenever it pleased them. There was a total laissez-faire or anarchy depending on the way you look at it. There was a sense of freedom all around though they inwardly missed the old lady and pangs of sadness were felt.
At the suggestion of the old man, an advertisement with her photo was inserted in the popular dailies both English and Tamil.. Within two days, they received a call from a senior home.
“Sir, I am the Secretary calling from ABC senior home. Three days back some people who found her loitering aimlessly in the vicinity brought her here in the night. She seemed a decent looking rich lady from the jewelry worn. She could not answer our questions properly or realize her predicament. Luckily we saw the advertisement today. We wish you to take her away immediately. She is threatening all and ordering about the other inmates as if she owned this place. We understand that she is not alright. However, we are not running the place free. We collect 15000pm from each. We cannot keep her free here. Please come and take her immediately.”
The son who attended the call said to others who crowded around him, “Mom is safe at a senior home. She is suffering from amnesia but it seems her old imperious ways have not left her. They want her to be taken away immediately as it is a paid home for senior citizens at Rs15000 pm.”
There was some silence. One of the sons nudged by his wife spoke, “Mom is not well. We had problem even when she was in full possession of faculties. Now with signs of dementia, I shudder. Why not allow her to continue there? We can pay whatever money they want including the salary of an exclusive maid for her. We can visit her by turn regularly.”
The eldest daughter-in-law said, “We all like her though she acted as a Mother Superior of a strict convent. Let her stay there for some time for her own benefit and we can take a call later.”
When the son who took the call found there was no objection from others, he spoke to the secretary to tell him,” We will give you a ring shortly. Please wait”
“We cannot wait. We can keep her with us in our assisted living block on a fee of Rs. 20000 pm covering the expense of a maid also. Three months’ fee must be paid in advance along with a small deposit. If this is not acceptable, we shall send her by ambulance after lunch. Please convey the decision in five minutes,” said the Secretary.
There was another round of hushed confabulations and everyone looked at the old man after explaining that house now bore the atmosphere of a home instead of a hostel earlier and they be allowed to enjoy the freedom and peace for some more time.
Like the Oracle, the old man finally gave his ruling. “Let it not be mistaken that we have no affection or concern for Parvatham. She loved us so much that she was willing to bear the cross of being disliked by all. But it is a fact that she tread on the corns of everyone here. The house is now wearing a joyful atmosphere after years of stuffed feeling. She is also not physically and mentally well and needs some rest which I am sure this house cannot offer. Although the secretary’s words that he would send her here in ambulance smacks of black mail, we will not succumb to such threats. We would on our own accord allow her to stay in the Senior home for six months initially. We can take a call at the end of the period. Each one of you should promise to visit her frequently. Tell the Secretary accordingly and give a cheque for six months’ fee.”
There was great rejoicing accompanied by dancing to which the old man said “This is not becoming of us. We really miss her.”