Posted Jul 13, 2006
Last Updated Jun 21, 2012

Gouri amma was living alone .Every one asked her why she was living alone. She had just one answer to tell them all “Mind your own business”! So every one stopped asking her the reason for her solitude. Although she was alone and needed some support to do even the daily chores, she was adamant .She kept no one near her and seeked no one's help.
At times, she ran short of her provision. That was when Gouri amma really wished she had her son near her .Yes, she did have a son. Somewhere far away he must be living happily, forgetting even his dear mother. That was how she often thought about him.
But she had no regrets what so ever about any thing that life was extending towards her .
There was a time in her life not so long ago, when every thing looked lively and full of hope .Gouri mama’s son was near her then .She did not feel the need to have any thing or any one .As ,her son was her world .Her husband Mahadevan had left her for a better and younger looking woman. But Gouri amma did not fight with her husband for her marital rights .What was the use of winning a hopeless case .Yes that was how she saw a cheating husband's wayward ways .Once her neighbour and best friend Leelamma asked her
“Gouri,haven't you admonished your husband from wandering towards that slut?’Gouri amma had a very calm expression then .Although she was not educated in the literary way ,she had an inherent awareness of the ways of the world as well as heart .A human mind according to her was the most adamant and disobedient aspect ever .If a mind decides that it has to turn it's course in such a direction ,it would go only in that direction .It was futile to forcibly distract it's direction .This was Gouriamma`s theory about life .Even in matters relating to heart and love ,this principle held good .
So she told Leelamma.”Dear,do you think it is easy to bring him back from that other woman .It is not .It is not as if I have denied him of any thing .But he has, a wandering eye .So he is gone for good .But ,one day he would realize the folly he has created .But then it would be too late .” That was all what she said .But Leelamma understood the interior meaning of her words .She really admired Gouri amma .She had guts
All that had happened twenty years back .At that time Gouri amma was just forty years old and her son Shankar was just six years old .She did not have any proper education to go for a white collar job.Neither did he have a family background to lean on to .All she had was a father who was neck deep in debts and problems..He was living out of the meager amounts she had managed to sent to him with out Mahadevan`s knowledge .Her marriage to Mahadevan was also a calamity .It was an arrangement between her father and him to relieve her father off some of his debts .At that time Mahadevan`s roving eye was fixed on Gouriamma ….She knew it well .But she thought she would be able to rectify him by and by .She failed miserably and that was how she turned very philosophical towards life. The house too was a part of her share, which came along with her to Mahadevan .But fortunately that house was still in her name.
Gouri amma was just relaxing with the comfortable life style that destiny had offered her .Yes she had a fine family .Although they were not very rich , they were comfortable .Her husband was a farmer .They had little ground behind their house .That land had been transformed in to a vegetable garden where they had all the necessary vegetables ,as well as some excess .Mahadevan at times went to work for other rich farmers too .Money was a problem then .But Gouri amma saw to it that they had an even life style most often. It was then that the catastrophe occurred in the form of a female form called Malathi .She had a bought a house near to Mahadevan`s

Even from the outset ,Gouri amma smelt rat ,with the outrageous ways in which Malathy mingled with all and sundry .But it was Mahadevan ,who had caught her fancy .May be he was her personified example of male looks…what ever it was ,it didn't take much time for Mahadevan`s roving eye to get locked at Malathi`s form .
Once Gouri amma caught them red handed … That evening she confronted him. “What is it that you are having with that next door bitch?’ An enraged, Gouri amma lashed out .There wasn`t any control over her verbal out pour!!”What do you mean”? Was all that Mahadevan could speak out as an excuse .How could he hold good, when she had already seen him.

Now sitting alone in a miserable hut with poor vision and a lot of rheumatic pains, Gouri amma did not regret any of her out bursts twenty years back.
She had just asked her husband to walk out of that house .Because she had every right t o do so .But little did she realize then that a house becomes a home only if there is a lot of happiness present . Every ounce of happiness had gone out of her house that day .Because Mahadevan was only too happy to leave her .He was enamored by his new found love in Malathi .She had no encumbrance what so ever……
At sixty,Gouri ama was a total failure .She had lost her sanity and reason for living ,when she found her husband cheating on her . From that day onwards, she vested all her interest in her son Shankar .But he was worse than his father in the matters of heart was concerned .Gouri amma had to sweat and toil a lot to make both ends meet .But she never lost her self-respect.
Shankar grew up to be almost like his father .He flirted with all the girls around there .But he was a good boy other wise .Every one had some use or the other of him. Gouri amma found it hard to control her son’s ways .She was lost lonely and hence sick.

One day she called her son to her side and said “Shankar ,I have a feeling that I am forgetting things faster than what is normal .I can't rest my thoughts on any particular thing for long .I think my health is faltering .”She stopped to see some kind of empathy coming from her son .But found none .Still she continued.”I am afraid for us especially for you .What would happen if I fell sick or died all of a sudden.” Shankar turned towards his mother .Yes his mother was right .she was indeed showing signs of falling apart .May be her single handed management and the lack of love and affection in her life was paying off .Poor mother .He was now 26.Man enough!!! So why should he depend on his mother for any thing and every thing .It is high time he started to be the bread winner of the family.
So he said in a voice full of remorse “Amma ,I can see that you are sick .But it is all my fault that I did not look after you well .I was too occupied with my way of living. I am sorry ,amma .From tomorrow onwards you don't go out to work .You are old and sick .I shall look after you .”Shankaran`s words were like honey to Gouri amma.

Shankar was already working as a plumber then .But he was never parting with his money .He was very fastidious as far as money matters were concerned .But now he realized that his mother was always looking after his affairs ,even by discarding her health .Now he decided to turn the course of the wind .But he had an ambition .An ambition to become rich as fast as possible .He was also impatient about it .But he told none about his ambition .He knew he would find a way to get rich fast enough .

Age and lack of love and hard work to make both ends meet had made Gouri amma very sick and an unhappy person .She showed traces of dementia – a state of forgetfulness. She was also having a partial blindness. It was all the out come of her disinterest to life . She was cursing all and sundry always ….Still she pined her hope ,if at all one could call it hope ,on her son Shankar …She wanted him to grow to be a very enterprising and good young man .She had wanted him to marry too .But he was all against the institution of marriage .If at all Gouri amma confronted him with that request ,he would lash back “what did you gain by marriage ?didn’t you dessert him at a time ,when I wanted him the most .?No amma I am not trying to blame you .It was not your fault that you deserted him .Yes I know that .I was just trying to pin point a fact .That is all “ Gouri amma was fed up of hearing the same point .So she decided to leave that issue at that .But that was also another reason for her sickness.

Shankar used to go away from house for long intervals. So when once when he was away from house for a fortnight ,Gouri amma did not see any thing amiss .But she was getting tenacious and jittery .That showed on her behaviour towards any one who happened to help her …”Don't you ever take me for a incapacitated person .I can manage very well on my own “was her crisp reply
One day after along pause, shankar came home in the middle of night and woke her up “Amma .amma ...Wake up ...”Gouri amma fumbled towards the door and opened it.”Hey son what is the mater .Even my poor eye sight can sense that you are tired and emaciated .Where were you all these days..?She was frantic.”Amma .just don't worry .I had some important work to accomplish .Now I am here. But I have to go away for a period .Now give me some food .I am very hungry ‘.
Gouri amma was wondering what he was up to, to have such a busy schedule .But she told him nothing .She just served him his food and went about her way …In between his food ,he called to his mother and said “amma ,now listen carefully .I have kept some important documents and some valuables in a box here. After I come back we can use it .You know, amma, this is the one opportunity I was waiting for.”He stopped .He looked very elated .Gouri amma was still very apprehensive.”But what is it that you have kept here that is so very important? And when are you coming back for it? Are you going to be away for long?” She was starting to get very jittery .For all said and done; she was not willing to be away from her son for long, however bad he was …”I will be gone for a week that is all .“ That was his curt reply………..

That incident happened 3years back .Gouri amma was still waiting .Waiting for that affluent life with her son, which he had promised her…But now she was an old dejected and morose woman .Life had given her just brick bats .She took it all in her stride with a pinch of salt .But the abstinence of her son had deflated her to such an extent ,that she was loosing her will to live …
It was then that Chandru entered her life .He was a boy almost as old her son ,may be an year or two younger .He was running a work shop just opposite her hut .He was not actually the owner of that work shop .But he had some important position there . The owner of that workshop liked him very much because he was a sincere worker.

Chandru used to watch the old lady across the street when ever he got free time .Some uncanny affinity was developing between him and her , even though he had not spoken even once with her . He did not know what name he had wanted to give that relation ship .But one thing he was sure .He wanted to help her .She looked lonely ,lost and tired to his scrutinizing eyes .
So one after noon, when there was not much work in the work shop, he crossed the road and went to Gouriamma`s at .The door was ajar .So he went to the door and peered in. There she was lying in the raw ground with her hands fumbling for some thing .Then he realized to his despondency that she was partially blind .”Oh God!!What a pitiable condition she was in .There were a few houses near by .Then how is that she was left alone to pent for herself.

“Amma”.He called softly.”Shankara” are you Home ?.It was a Cry ,rather than a statement .An anguished cry of a waiting mother .!Chandru did not know what to do or say .He said softly at last ..”No madam. I am a work shop boy .I have my shop just opposite this hut .I came for a glass of water .There is no water in our tap today .”He wondered why he lied to her .His addressing her as amma had set her tired brain working .But he did not want that to happen to her again .So he called her madam .

Gouri amma got up and started to cry .”I can’t find my way properly . Still if you wait for a while I shall get you a glass of water .My eye sight is poor .So it would take a few minutes .”She said thus and went slowly towards the kitchen .”Ok I shall wait “Chandru replied .Because now he was curious .
When she came back with the glass of water ,he took it from her hand and made her sit near him .”Madam.I am Chandru .Why did you mistake me for your son .Is he away since long “.”Yes, my dear .He had promised to come back with in a week .And that was three long years ago .I have no one other than him .I don't want to bore you with all the excruciating happenings in my miserable life ..But I am now the living example of all the bad things that has happened to me.” She gave a sigh and stopped ..Chandru was feeling very emphatic towards her .He wanted to some how help her .Because bad tidings were not a new thing to him too. So Chandru sat with her and consoled her by saying “Madam, if you let go off your swelled up emotions, you would feel relieved. I am also a victim of so many misfortunes ,even at this young age .So go ahead tell me your story .I am so very eager to hear it .”Chandru searched her face for some emotions .But all what he found there was a kind of bitterness .He was sure that once she was a beauty .But so many worry lines and poor health had marred all her good looks …she was just a remnant of the old glory that had turned very bitter and sour .

Gouri amma opened her eyes wide and peered into Chandru`s face .Her vision was fading .still she was able to make out an out line of Chandru`s face ,She said “why are you feeling so concerned ,son .Had it been some one else ,who had asked me this question ,I would have immediately shown him to the door .But not you …You remind me of my son .Yes he was almost your age when he went away from here” . She stopped as she was feeling choked .Shankar or rather his thought had become a permanent lump in her throat .

Chandru went back to his work shop that day .But he was not able to concentrate on his work .His thoughts went back to that lonely lady staying across him .Some where back of his mind he felt that he had to help her .Why did he feel that ?He himself did not know that ……….
That day he went back to his house with a heavy heart .Because he knew that the old lady would be all alone there with out proper food or company.

Chandru lived with his sick mother .She had a perennial cough ,which refused to leave her however hard they tried .Infact half of Chandru`s earnings went for her medication .Chandru and his mother were quite well of some time back .His father was a miserly man who worked hard for his family .But he was afraid of every thing .He felt that his money was never ever safe .He didn't believe in banking or any such kinds of money keeping systems .He felt happy only if it was under lock and key in his own house .He was a clerk by profession .But during his free times as well as on holidays he did so many errand jobs and made money .The present work shop in which Chandru was working too was a result of his dad's employment there once .The manger of the Work shop had hired Chandru`s dad as a part time worker ,solely due to the fact that he was a very enterprising hard worker . Chandru got that job when his dad died of heart attack a few years back.

Chandru`s life had been a bundle of grief. Because his mother lost her mental equilibrium, when her husband died unexpectedly. The reason why he died was because his hard earned bundles of currency notes were stolen .The theft was well crafted and so the police were not able to bring forth a good result .
Besides Chandru`s father did not live long to follow up that case .After his demise,Chandru and mother were literally paupers .It was due to Chandru`s good nature and positive thinking that he was able to convince the work shop owner of his mettle .And he was indeed a very good asset to that work shop. A kind of good Omen.

Next day morning he took leave from his work shop and went to Gouriamma`s hut .She was very sick and was hungry too.”Madam, I am Chandru here.” He announced as soon as he reached her side .Are you not feeling well “? “I am never well ,my son``was her despondent reply .But she sat up more enthusiastically .Because she was ,in a strange way, connecting Chandru with Shankar .To her sick and semi conscience mind every thing was in a jumble .She was loosing her sanity .But she was aware of a person’s kindness to her .Chandru sat with her and talked about a lot of things .How his father died of a broken heart man and how sick his mother was .”You know Madam .I was very much interested in studies .But what t o do .My state of affairs brought me to this work shop .Now with the little amount I get ,I am able to look after my mother .But I wonder how long she would survive .She is forever coughing .”Chandru was woebegone .Gouri amma sensed her son's presence then in Chandru .A kind of serenity came on to her She said lovingly to him “Chandru can call me amma, just like the way you first addressed .I had mistook you for my son .But still for a moment I captured that moment of happiness through you .I am happy .My son may or may not come back .I have-not given up hope .But for the time being you are my Shankar .I feel it in my guts .”Gouri amma went on and on about her Shankar .Time stood still for her .She did not want to loose the magic of that moment .Chandru sat there unperturbed. Gouri Amma ended her volley of words thus.”Chandru .I wish I could help you .But I am so help less . The sole property I have is this house .It is in my son's name now .I had written it off in his name, some years back .Other wise I could have done some thing for you “No Amma .your affection is more important .Some how I feel very close to you. I will make another suggestion instead .Why don't you come and stay with my mother and me in our house .There you would have a company in my mother .And she too would feel happy “
“No Chandru ..I am not moving out of here. I have a reason for being so.”She stopped then .She was thinking whether she should tell Chandru about the important documents Shankar had left there. She had given him her word of honour that she would keep it all safe till he came back to retrieve it .
Chandru did not press her further .

Then as if on second thoughts Gouri Amma got up and wobbled on to a dilapidated looking box near her .She opened it and fumbled inside for a moment and took out a cover .It was an envelope grown yellow with years .From it she took out a piece of paper .It was a stamped paper. “Chandru ..take it “ and read the matter in it .”She extended the paper to him .She was in a trance .Chandru took the paper from her emaciated hands and read it .In it was suggested that she be buried in the same house when she died .It was approved too by the authorities concerned . Chandru re read it..And when he looked up ,there were tears welled up in his eyes .OH GOD !!she was not loosing hope .May be she wanted to guard her son's documents even after her death. The wait was not going to end. Chandru was not able to control his tears now .He let it fall freely .Then finally he got up and went to sit near her .Then he did some thing which he had not done since his baby years .He hugged her ,holding her close and cradling her head in his arms as if she was a baby .Then Gouri Amma started to cry .Unending flow of all her hidden and suppressed emotions .He let her cry for awhile .Then soothed her .Chandru got up and went to the kitchen and made a hot black coffee for both of them .They both sat there looking in to nothing while sipping the coffee. The moment was pregnant with so many untold emotions .
Dusk was setting in. It was time for Chandru to go home .But he did not want to leave Gouri Amma there .So he asked her “Amma .shall I bring my mother here .We shall all sleep her tonight “?”No ,Son ..I am used to this loneliness .But your mother may find it inconvenient to sleep away from her usual surroundings.”
So Chandru went out and got her some food and then sat with her for some more time before he set off to his house .He was walking home with a heavy heart …
Next day was a Sunday .So he did not have to go to the workshop .So he decided he would take his mother to Gouri Mama's house and spend the day there. He suggested it all to his mother and his mother obliged happily .After all she was also anxious to meet Gouri Amma .

So by 10 `0` clock they prepared some break fast and set off to Gouri Amma's house . On reaching there they found a crowd gathered around there .A lightning flashed across his heart then .Oh no “ he screamed ,when he ran towards Gouriamma`s house .He rushed through the small crowd in to her room .There she was lying dead on the floor with a copy of the same paper she had given to Chandru,close to her heart .Even in death she looked determined .
Just as she wished ,she was cremated in the bedroom of that house .The room where she had spent most of her miserable life .No one raised any objection .Because that was the only tribute and respect they could pay her .A pit six feet long and a few feet broad was dug .Chandru did the last rites and laid her to her final rest in that house ..
Then Chandru called for one pick up van and loaded the mud that gathered up after digging the pit in to it .He cleaned up that room well and placed some jasmine flowers there on her grave .Tomorrow he would come back to make a monument for her ,he decided .He said a silent prayer and closed the hut and got in to the pick up van and took the entire mud to his house ..
The entire mud was unloaded in to his courtyard and then while he was rummaging and spreading the mud on the ground ,Chandru `s hands struck on small paper a bundle ..He took it out and looked. It was shabby cloth bundle .Slowly he took it in to his house and opened it. To his surprise there was a plastic bag in it containing a few bundles of thousand rupee notes. An amount that Chandru would not have been able to make even if he had worked for a whole lifetime .It was as if Gouri Amma Had welcomed death to help him….

But little did Chandru know that it was the same money that His dear dead father had kept safely in his cupboard and which Shankar had looted cleverly….!!!