Apart from mouth-watering food, proximity to Lalbagh has been my reason to move to south Bangalore. For the past few years, I have become a regular. Earlier it was all about running, which I have cut down and mostly into walking. The knee injury has been on and off.
Some faces, families in the park have become familiar to me. We will exchange pleasantries, ask about well-being and continue with the walk. On one of the occasions, I spoke to Radha and Satish, the elderly couple in their 60’s. They are regulars and would spend hours on the video call, sitting at the chair by the lake.
As we age, we need more company of people to talk and share our thoughts stories. I vaguely remember folks talking if the park will get closed due to COVID numbers climbing in the city and across the country. Satish told me about his son, who lives in Seattle, working for Microsoft. As a proud father, I could see happiness in his eye. Radha was silent. Satish also mentioned how he and Radha got married against their parent’s wishes and moved to Bangalore. He was sharp with analytical skills and got a job as a clerk at Canara Bank and, life changed for good. I told them I am from Bihar and, the conversation took a turn where Satish mentioned his stay in Patna during Lalu Raaj. I told him I was too young to have known about it. Radha said she misses her son as it has been over two years and, they had not seen him. His work him too occupied.
Last month I was back in Lalbagh, I saw Radha sitting on the same bench beside the lake. A girl in her late 30’s was sitting next to her and, Satish was missing. I exchanged pleasantry and got to know about the demise of Satish, COVID and, his pre-existing heart complication got him departed. Radha was crying and, the girl introduced herself as Laxmi was holding her. It was their daughter, about whom Satish had nothing to mention in our earlier conversation.
Laxmi mostly stayed away from her parents after graduation because of the transferable job of Satish. She got married to her classmate against all the wishes of both families. Intercaste marriage was unacceptable to them.
Radha told me that it was her daughter who was beside her in the tough time. It was Laxmi and her husband who went hospital to hospital for bed availability or buying oxygen cylinders. Nothing could save Satish. It was them who did the last rites.
Radha was grateful that even after abandoning her daughter, she came to take care of the elderly during COVID. Her son could not come because of the suspended flight operation from the USA.
Laxmi and her husband want Radha to live with them in Mysore, but Radha does not. The old patriarchy, social construct comes back as a gatekeeper.
How could she live with her daughter’s family when she has a son?