“Chakki, where is Ammachi?” I asked as I entered the kitchen. Chakki was taking the rubber sheets from the slats above the kitchen counter.
She jumped and screamed “Oh, you scared me Nina”
“Oh Chakki I am sorry. I was not planning to scare you. Where is Ammachi? I looked for her every where!”
“She went to the rubber estate in the morning”
“Kutten noticed that few of the trees have some sort of disease. Ammachi went this morning to check it out”
“Oh Ok. I will go there and see, what is going on!”
I started to walk towards our rubber estate which is another 3 KM away. I walked past Upadeshi Appachan and Fridge Ammachi’s house. As usual Upadeshi Appachan was laying down on the easy chair. I thought I might as well say hello to him
“Hello Appacha”
“Who is that?” I watched him lifting his head up and trying to see who was standing near the entrance of his house
“It is me Nina”
“Nina, Methran Thambi’s grand daughter”
I watched him getting up from the easy chair and walking towards me.
“My God, you have changed so much. What happend to the little girl, who used to hold her grandmother’s hand and walked? What are you doing now?”
“I completed pre-degree Appacha”
“Good, very good. So what are you planning to do?”
“Medicine Appacha”
“Medicine? Hmm,That is wonderful Nina, so Thambi’s grand daughter will be the first doctor from this kara (side of the land) eh?”
“Hmm, where is fri..” I quickly swallowed my saliva and the rest of the ‘dge’ “Where is Ammachi?” I tried to control the sheepish grin on my face. Upadeshi Appachan gave me that look, that said, I know you were about to call my wife Fridge Ammachi.
“She is gone to America, to stay with our son and help him take care of our grand daughter”
“Oh! So who is staying here with you?”
“No one Mole,(daughter). In the end the old man is all alone!”
“Why didn’t you go to America and stay with your son Appacha?”
ente kunjei(my child), I am an old man now. I can’t wear all those kappada (huge)woollen clothes and walk in the snow and eat bread for breakfast. This is my home. I built this home with my own hands” He lifted his hands and showed me.”These hands, each and every brick was laid with these hands!. I want to die here.”
“hmmm” I nodded my head. I suddenly felt uncomfortable thinking that, this man, who once spoke about God and his love is now waiting each day for death to come a calling.
“I will see you later Appacha” I walked off without even waiting to hear him say good bye.
As I reached the rubber estate, I looked for Ammachi. There was no sign of her. I thought of calling out to her. Then I thought. I will surprise her. I started to walk through the rows and rows of rubber trees. There was no sign of Ammachi. I was getting scared. All I had for company was rows and rows of rubber trees, each with a coconut shell tied on it to collect the sap. I checked the coconut shells, white colour sap was trickling in to the shell from the freshly tapped tree trunk. That means Kutten has already tapped the rubber in the morning and he will only come around 2pm to collect the sap. Dried leaves on the floor crackled as I walked and in the morning stillness, it sounded like a giant was walking.
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t find Ammachi and I am scared of snakes. What if a snake bite me? I am never going to get out of this place alive. ‘Why did my grandmother had to visit the rubber estate today?’
I wanted to go back home. I looked all around me one last time before leaving and on the right hand corner near the jackfruit tree, I thought I saw something white. I started to walk fast and the dried leaves under my feet were making so much of noise. As I reached the jackfruit tree, I saw someone getting up.
“Why are you here?”
I looked at my grandmother. Her eyes were red. Ammachi saw me staring at her eyes and she quickly tried to wipe the tears off from her cheeks
“Why are you crying Ammachi?”
“I am not crying. Who said I am crying? Have you gone mad?”
“Why are you crying Ammachi?” I raised my voice.”tell me why are you crying?”
I walked to her hugged her tightly and wiped her tears.” What is bothering you Thangamma?”
“Nothing” She pushed me away.”Come, let us go home” Ammachi started to walk
“I am not going anywhere, I am going to sit here,till you tell me, why you cried.” I sat down on the exact same spot where Ammachi was sitting.
“Go ahead. Did I tell you there are snakes there?” Ammachi started to walk.
“Let the snakes bite me. Let me die. Then you can live the rest of your life peacefully, knowing that, your stubborness killed your precious grand daughter”
“Precious? Who told you that, you are my precious grand daughter? I have 5 more grand children. You are not the only one!”
“ok. Bye Ammachi” I checked for ants on the tree trunk and leaned back and closed my eyes.
Time never moves faster, when two stubborn people are on silent war. Waiting with the eyes closed, felt like eternity. Eventually I heard the leaves crackling and footsteps coming closer.
“Move” Ammachi ordered.
I opened my eyes and looked at her
“Oh, you are back? How are your other 5 grand children?”
Ammachi didn’t respond. I moved my butt and gave her a little bit of space to sit next to me. Ammachi looked at me and at the space on the floor
“Oh ok. I got up from the floor “Your butt is huge. you should eat less chicken!”
Ammachi sat down.
“Come sit here” She removed the leaves on the right side with her hand. i sat down next to her. The tree trunk was not big enough for both of us to lean on. So I leaned on Ammachi
“How was your exams”
“it was ok. I will pass for sure. I won’t get distinction this time”
“hmm” I also mumbled.
“I am tired Nina”
“Tired? Ofcourse you will be. Who asked you to walk all the way here?. You should know you are growing old!.”
“If I don’t do all these, who will do it Nina?”
The realization hit me only then and I realized how stupid I was.
“When your grand father died, your father was a little boy, I raised him and your aunty all by myself. I was sure one day your father will grow up to be a man and take over the responsibilities from me. I struggled each day Nina, every single day and It never ends Nina. My responsibilities never end and I am tired Nina. My knees hurt as I walk. Somedays I can’t even get up from the bed” tears were rolling down Ammachi’s cheeks.
I didn’t know what to say. I have been taking for granted that Ammachi would forever be there taking care of our farm. I know the burdens my grandmother carried all these years, yet I never once offered her any help. I very much wanted to take over the responsibilities from her, but I wanted to do medicine. I wanted to live my dream.
Rubber trees

17 thoughts on “Responsibilities

  1. yeah, she must have been very much tired looking after things..! responsibilities.. we always tend to get away!.. they always follows us in one way or the other..

  2. Just what I have been feeling Sarah. I used to take my parents for granted and my trip to India this year and seeing them look older then I saw them last made me realize a lot of things.
    Maybe the grass for 50 bucks would have cheered your ammachi!

  3. I was introduced to your blog by a friend of mine. I have been following your story for a while now. The way you tell it is very good. Keep writing. Waiting eagerly for your next post.


  4. hmm.. two people in this article facing old age and loneliness. i think it catches us all sometime,, there is a saying that ‘love is like water, it always flows down, not up’. hope kids will grow into taking care of their parents when needed.. (well, it shud go both ways of course).

    hehe, i think people are still thinking that grass costs 50 over there..

  5. what visithra said also is right. one solution i found was to bring development and opportunities to kerala, so that most of the outgoing malayalis find job at home itself. helpful for at least people who are forced by situations to be away from home..

  6. Hi
    How many Upadeshi Appachans are under creation- even now? Unfortunately they did not plan for their old age those days….

    What one should do is buy a hammock, tie it in shade away from your small neat cottage, tucked away in the hills, where whispering clouds , a good book and a cellar full of wine …. the list goes on..

    Profound or dumb, I do not know.

    Who needs that land where all dreams have been killed and buried?

  7. Am facing the similar issue now Sarah. My mom is alone at home…and my siblings have settled down in the US. I wanna go have a great career and explore places… But thinking of how lonely my mom wud be …the dilemma is awful.. Thinking of how much she has given me… i cant go far.. yet when I see all other making it big…:(

  8. Sarah,
    Its the truth. After people atke pains in raising, most of us refuse to turn back, let alone offer help.

    “What goes around comes around.”

  9. Sarah,
    Happy Diwali to you and family!

    Finally I could catch up on your posts. Last couple of months have been busy as we moved back to India.

    One among many reasons for our move back was to be with parents in a place that is known to them. Our parents would have felt good initially in US but am sure after a while they would have felt as prisoners.

    So far we have had interesting experiences with the move back to India or Delhi to be specific, but am hoping that the good experiences will far outnumber the bad ones.

  10. Wonderful post. You’re right. We take our old folks for granted and we like to think that things will remain the same forever. Food for thought, everyone!
    Did your dad come back to take over his responsibilities from your ageing ammachi? It’s so sad how we follow our dreams and never give a thought to these elderly people and their sorrows

  11. Sujit: I wish I had seen that.. i wish I had known that.. somehow I was too happy in my cocoon..

    Shankari: She toiled that land..for us..and we never noticed it..never once appreciated it!

    Thanu: I can still see the puka coming from the stove and he rubber sheets hanging on the slats!

    Gini: I will… one day

    Visithra: She had no life out side our house.. She would have been the fish out of water.. Most youngsters think, that parents are idiots to still wanting to live in their villages..but I know, Ammachi would have never lived a day peacefully out of chengannur house..

    Anjali: Thank you for visitng my blog and am glad you like it

    Rocksea: There is no solution..none at all.. we are gentically programmed to find, bigger/better..etc.. we are never happy with what we have!…

    Madhavan Kutty: Who can leave the land, Where each tree had a story, each leaf had a story. even the wind tells you a story?

    Adrika: If I ever had a second chance.. I would go back to Chengannur and be the New Thankamma..but life is such that, you are never given a second chance

    Alex: More than the fear of the “coming back” attack.. it is the guilt of knowing that, I did nothing.. I was too selfish with my own dreams

    Dumela: I was the epitome of a selfish person..I didn’t do anything for her.. I followed my dreams..forgot about Ammachi, while I was climbing the pinnacle of success

    Ullas: thank you for the wishes..
    Am happy to know that, your move to India was succesfull..Good luck

    Techno: He did..One day he suddenly realised there was too much money in the land. He took the easy way out and I live each day, hoping that one day I will be able to buy back the land from the new owners

  12. Hi Sarah,
    Stumbled on to your blog today, been reading since then. Truly a remarkable post this one, I’m at at stage where I can make the choice. Whether to go back to the rubber trees, or do whatever else I want to do.

    The story has brought back so many memories, the rubber sheets above the “aduppu”, the way they smell, walking on the dry leaves to the jack fruit tree…

    Keep writing, and like someone said, a book. Waiting for more…

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