Tag Archives: sad

Broken window and all that

It’s amazing how something that’s been shattered can communicate so many unexpressed emotions. It fills me with sadness and guilt. Sigh. And its additional burden that I don’t need to carry. Really…

One fine afternoon, a few days ago, my daughter M and I were coming back from her school. Happy in our world. Full of stories from school. As we got out of the car, the broken window caught my eye. It stopped me in my tracks. I looked at my watchman and he gestured – silently communicating that there had been a fight.

Now this window belongs to the home of the depressed lady that I had written about here and here. She lives in that home with her invalid mother and her bread winner brother. The broken window belongs to the bedroom where the invalid mother usually rests. On several occasions we have heard her feeble lament while crossing the spot.

Now the bed by the window was empty.

M instantly had a zillion questions to ask. How did the window break? Why did they fight? Who broke that window? Did anybody get hurt? Can it be repaired? Who will repair it? What will they do until it is repaired – we can all see into their home?

Even as I tried to answer her patiently, I thought to myself. Yes we could look into their shattered world…

The broken window reminded me of the time the lady came weeping to our home. Her whole body shaking. It seemed like an explosion of emotions. An anguished scream. A volcanic eruption of constantly bubbling anger and frustration.  It reflected the helplessness of the 3 members in that unhappy home – all bound together by fate. The unwell mother who has nowhere to go, nothing to do except wait for redemption by death. The mentally unstable daughter who finds it frustrating to take care of her sick mother day after day after day. She is simply unable to find a source of happiness and hope in her dark, cavernous mind. The brother who works hard all day to earn his daily bread and then comes home to these unhappy women.

That broken window gave me a glimpse into their unhappy, disturbing world. It made me feel like a bad neighbour as I scurried past avoiding those sad eyes. It made me guilty that I was doing nothing to help them – despite subconsciously wanting to do so.

This morning when I came down I saw that the window had been repaired. I saw the sick, old lady’s palm resting on the new window frame. I heard her wheezy breath and her silent lament.

But the window was closed. Their world shuttered again. Like a body neatly sutured after postmortem. I sutured up my guilt too. I have my own burdens to bear. Right?

One Saturday morning

It dawned as Saturdays usually do. Lazy and purposeless. The alarm rang and I woke up with the regular thoughts about what-to-pack-for-lunch-and-snack.  Then I remembered “ah…no school, no office…no hurry” – time to cuddle the child sleeping blissfully next to me and drift back to sleep.  I  drifted in and out of sleep until, I finally woke up at 6:30 am. The silence around the house greeted me like an old friend. I held its hand and set about the happy task of making my morning cuppa. My tryst with solitude was rudely broken by the sound of the doorbell. I was startled! No one generally rings our bell this early in the morning. Even the milk lady has been instructed to just leave the milk packets and go. Who then could this be? I hesitantly walk to the door. The peep hole of our front door is made to the height of the rest of the family (who are a good one foot taller than me…humph!) – so of course I could not see who it was. I opened the door slightly to see my neighbour from downstairs standing. Tears were streaming down her face. She was wearing a torn sari, the tip of which she was using to wipe her tears. Her whole body was shaking. Totally perplexed at the sight I opened the door, let her in and settled her into a chair. She wept uncontrollably and did not answer any of my questions regarding her state. Hearing the mayhem, my MIL (mother-in-law) sauntered in looking as perplexed as me. We exchanged ‘eye language’ over the woman’s weeping head as I shrugged to tell her I did not know the cause for this outburst. We of course knew that the woman had an ailing, bed ridden mother – we thought that perhaps the mother had passed away.

But when MIL asked her that she shook her head. And then she said in true filmy style (much like the well endowned Tamil heroines of 60’s era) “Don’t ask me what happened. My life itself is a mess. I’m a wasted and unwanted creature.” She said and wept even more. (The original dialogue was of course much more dramatic since it was in Tamil!)

MIL and I exchanged more bewildered what-the-hell-do-we-do-now looks over her weeping head. Finally MIL took charge and told the woman in her sternest tone to stop weeping. I then scurried to the kitchen to make her a cup of tea. My husband chose the moment to drift out of bed. Totally unaware of the drama he lazily walked into the living room, gawked at the still weeping woman and dashed back to the security of the bedroom, back into the sheets and back to sleep. Perhaps he thought he was having a bad dream. Laughter bubbled up to my lips – but how can one guffaw with this woman weeping for God-knows what.

The tea calmed her down. We watched as she drank with shaking fingers. And eventually she spoke. Apparently she had had a big quarrel with her brother. Just for a little background – the woman is a divorcee and her two daughters are studying, staying in a hostel somewhere. She stays in Chennai with her unmarried younger brother and her sick mother. A depressing household that smells of the sick. I remember writing about it once before over here. The lady looks depressed all the time and her sad eyes follow everyone everywhere. Her sickly mother is an uncooperative patient and does not make life any happier for her! This being the background – the woman sniffed and told us that her brother had forbidden her from going out anywhere and in the quarrel that ensued he had actually hit her with a stick. We were full of sympathy for her and my MIL went on to cheer her up by telling her what a great service she is doing by taking care of her mother.

Eventually the rest of the household woke up. My husband too woke up to realize that this was not a nightmare. She was there for real!

The woman had tea and then settled into our home. Refusing to go. If my MIL walked into another room the woman followed her. So my poor MIL relegated herself to the living room and kept making small talk – all the while throwing big hints that it was time for her to leave as we had our own chores to do. The woman refused to take any hints and our sympathy quickly turned to irritation as we felt caged in our own home.

We surreptitiously had breakfast and debated whether to feed the woman or not. Mercifully our watchman came in just then and announced that the woman’s mother was looking for her. She left then – reluctantly. And we all heaved a collective sigh of relief.

Our peaceful Saturday morning lay in tatters – filled with the tears of the woman. With the sadness of her life. The helplessness of her situation. We were guilty that we wanted her to leave. But relieved that she had left!

The watchman came back to tell us the other side of the story. The woman is prone to depression and her brother was having a tough time trying to balance a sick mother and a depressed sister. Sigh. Life is so unfair sometimes. I tired to see how they could make their life better. They could maybe – if they tried. After all happiness is in little things. A walk in the park. A happy book. A relaxing hobby. Anything to keep the sadness at bay. Finding that happiness within ourselves is easier said than done  suppose.

For now all we do is avoid the woman when we see her standing downstairs. We certainly do not want another day like that Saturday. No way.