Mom gets her home
Lalit Modi narrates how his mother got her desire for a permanent home fulfilled thanks to the abusive diatribe of a mentally ill woman!
My mom was a typical homemaker. In fact, she preferred to be a housewife and took pride in being one. Unlike the kitty party types, here was a noble lady, passionate about family values, who stayed out of the limelight. Her world comprised my dad, my brother, and me. Giving no room for complaints on the domestic front, she executed her household duties with passion and dedication. She hardly stirred out of the house except to buy requirements to keep us self-sufficient. She went about her housekeeping chores with incredible grace and dignity, while her humility endeared her to one and all. Possessing a frail frame and a soft voice, she was ever gentle and never spoke a harsh word to anyone. She would never, ever harm an ant or even a mosquito. She was religious and always grateful to the Almighty for His kindness.
My dad was a hard-working individual, employed in a private company. He could not afford comforts and luxuries but provided us with the necessities of life. However, his monetary constraints prevented him from providing us with a shelter of our own, and we had to live in rented houses for many years. But rented accommodations were not permanent as the landlords made us vacate their houses on some or the other pretext. We would protest when the time came to move, but Mom would pacify us and ask us to pack. We loved her too much and always relented, though shifting every two to three years was arduous and annoying. Considering the travails of our parents, we accepted the situation with mature understanding and moved on.
Time flew by, and my brother and I completed our education. We also got decent jobs, and being the eldest son, I got married too.
In the course of shifting, we landed in the house of a government officer. While he lived on the first floor with his wife and children, they rented us the ground floor. It was a typical South Indian construction with an opening in the centre between the two floors. As usual, our family settled down quickly, experienced by now in the art of shifting and settling.
There was soon an addition to our family with the arrival of my daughter, and we were upbeat. For Mom, the arrival of little Komal was a good omen and a harbinger of good things to come. Happiness reigned in our household after a long time.
The raucous landlady
A few months down the line, after moving into the new house, the landlady upstairs began giving trouble. For no rhyme or reason, she began abusing our family from upstairs. Her voice that came through the central opening became rough and raucous day by day, and we knew not what aggravated her. All four of us were of a peaceful mindset and disposition. When I approached the officer with courteous protest and asked him what aggrieved his spouse, he asked me to ignore her shouting. He assured me he held no grievance against us and liked our family very much. To me, it was an inadequate response. I sensed that the landlord’s apparent warmth was feigned and behind his calm visage there was some sorrow and something was bothering him. I knew him for years and was aware that he was a good human.
I returned, but the verbal assault of the choicest expletives accompanied by unbridled personal vainglory continued unabated. When confronted again a few weeks later, the officer confided that he had some problems in his office and his job was at stake. He further revealed that his wife was mentally ill, and since she did not take the medicines prescribed by her psychiatrist in time, she could not control herself. When I informed Mom of the landlord’s plight, she felt sorry for him and the landlady.
The onslaughts increase
Soon the officer lost his job and the landlady became more aggressive in her verbal hostility which lasted the whole day every day. My timid mom was caught in a frustrating situation, and Dad requested her to be a little patient and tolerate the landlady’s verbal abuses for some time. She did so, but the unrestricted verbal onslaughts and rancour affected her health. In fact, most of the family members were outdoors throughout the day, and she and my wife had to endure the brunt of the verbal assaults. My mom’s body and mind could not withstand this onslaught, and she stayed in her bedroom for most of the time and prayed for peace. The offensive continued, and my little child too could not sleep peacefully, while my wife was distraught. The sustained attack of verbal terrorism grew and gnawed away the peace of our family and increased my mom’s woes.
The only alternative left for us was to move to another rented premises, and the landlord told me to look for another accommodation, though he had no objection if we wished to continue staying in his house. My dad philosophised that being nice was equivalent to being foolish and moving on was not an option but a necessity.
The uncontrollable conduct of the landlady turned Mom’s life into an unending litany of stress and depression. Her concentration during puja (worship) time began waning, and the time she could spend before Krishna became shorter. When finally informed that we had to look for alternative accommodation once again, she got disturbed.
Last straw on the camel’s back
One Sunday, after her power prayer at the altar, she took refuge in her bedroom. The landlady’s vocal cords continued to emanate bitter words. One by one the family members gathered around Mom, and, for the first time, saw tears in her eyes. Pain replaced the calmness on her face. Behind her endearing looks hid an enduring sense of being wronged. Looking at Dad, my brother, and me, she spoke just two sentences between sobs and a choking voice: “Throughout my life, you have made me live in rented houses. At least let me die in my own house.” Having said this with immense pain in her heart, she wept unabashedly. Her heart had reached its emotional threshold. We were jolted out of our reverie by this plaintive impassioned outpouring of her pent-up emotions. We just gaped at each other while an emotional shock gripped our hearts.
A tsunami of insights
I sat by her side wringing my hands, looking upward to see if the Creator had her words. A deluge of thoughts and emotions got triggered in my being by the lament in her two sentences. I realised that even a bird built and lived in its own nest. A lion too lived in a cave it considered its own. Even the mouse found its own independent hole to live in. The banyan trees, the mango trees, the palm trees, and their counterparts grew deep roots at the spot where their seeds fell, never to migrate from there but perish in the same soil they originated in. The sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, the oceans, and the rivers also had a permanency in the scheme of things as designed by the Divine.
Cavemen had made little dwellings and settlements of their own. People living in the slums fought for their right to have their own shelter till the government offered them permanent alternative dwellings. It also dawned on me that my grandparents too had residences of their own in their respective villages. Mother Teresa provided permanent beds and wards for people lying in the gutters of Calcutta. They finally died peacefully in her ‘home for the aged’ they called their home.
Turning more philosophical and inward, I reflected that even the soul is housed in a body till the latter perishes, and once it finds another body, it remains intact therein till that body too perishes. And after the atman (soul) has cleared its karmic indebtedness, it takes everlasting refuge in the Paramatma. I further ruminated that till we surrender at the feet of our guru or the Divine we are living in rented space, and till we live in that rented space we will not find peace. Infinite peace can be found only by total surrender. I thus concluded that it was the law of nature that both body and soul seek and aspire for a permanent abode of enduring peace.
A new resolve
I surmised that Mom’s grief and agony were just. The simple desire of this desireless lady shook me to the very core. I figured subconsciously that my mom wanted a home and not just a house. From my mother’s emotional outburst, I realised that permanency is an important factor that can make a house a home. We all require comfort, safety, and security. Mom was tired of living a nomadic life like a gypsy. For her, a home had a deep and unique emotional meaning because it defined her family and brought peace.
I felt that to sit and brood about how unfair things had been would be a waste of time, and, therefore, to kick start ‘MISSION HOME’ would be the proper direction to adopt. Dad, my brother, and I embarked on the journey to provide a permanent habitat for this noble lady of our household. The issue had to be addressed with a spirit of perseverance, failing which her words would haunt us for years to come. The ruthless verbal carnage had left Mom devastated and robbed her of the peace she deserved, but it was all a blessing in disguise. The ways of the Lord are amazing.
Mom gets her home
Mom was ushered into her permanent home five years later. Dad, my brother, and I worked hard to mobilise the required funds for a spacious 2BHK flat on the outskirts of Pondicherry. A promoter cum builder allotted me this flat on soft and easy instalment. I had started my own chartered accountancy firm. My savings from my practice went directly to him. My brother who had completed his CA in the meantime, left for Nakuru in Kenya for a job. He too contributed generously.
Dad too chipped in with some funds loaned to him by his employer.
The point that I wish to emphasise is that till Mom uttered her painful words of pathos, we were all complacent and did not have the courage to even think of acquiring a house. It was her pain that triggered the very thought of getting her a home of her own; and that we did with élan.
On the day of gruhapravesam (housewarming ritual), Mom’s joy knew no bounds. It fulfilled the need of her soul. Cosmic justice of the Divine stood out in all its glory and Mom got a home, thanks to the anguished landlady for whom Mom had always prayed for to be cured of her ailment. It was a clear-cut case of opportunity in adversity.
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