My parents will be celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow.
I'm trying to imagine them that many years ago.
My father was just over twenty years old, both his sisters were married, his brother was nine years old, and his mother was seriously ill. There was really no one to take care of her. An English surgeon had demanded ten thousand rupees to operate upon her. That kind of money was an impossible sum for either my grandfather or his father-in-law to raise. They could only try to make her as comfortable as possible.
A good daughter-in-law seemed to be a practical solution, although my father had wanted to study further, to establish himself before entering matrimony. They knew my mother's family, and a match was arranged.
My mother was barely fifteen-and-a-half when they got married, sixty-five years ago. At an age when most youngsters are struggling with their tenth grade board exams, she got married and spent several months looking after her mother-in-law till her demise a few months later.
I've known my parents all my life, obviously, but I cannot imagine them at a time when they were not my parents- as a young couple with just one son for nine years, till my sister was born.
They were ahead of their times in wanting to have just two children, but since I was written in the kismet of the Sometimes Resident Engineer, I was the accidental child who had to happen.
And who became the cherished youngest child.
Sixty-five years is a lifetime of memories which now only they share. So many of their seniors, juniors and contemporaries are no more. They have lived a decent, middle-class, simple life, and have cared for and educated us to the best of their ability. They live with me now, my father almost bed-ridden, my frail, delicate mother looking after him with a fierce independence that will not allow me to employ a home-nurse.
My mother usually wears house-coats all the time now- dressing in a saree for an expected visitor is a great effort that she may or may not make. But, despite the gowns, she is still always neat and tidy and looks well groomed. She has become very absent-minded but can laugh about it, keeping her walking stick very carefully, and then forgetting where she's kept it.
My once always well-dressed, dapper father lives in pyjamas and soft, worn out shirts. Each new shirt I get him is worn once and rejected as not being soft enough.
They have plenty of books, lots of music.
What do you get as a gift for people whose lives are, willy-nilly, simplified beyond recognition?
If only I could get for them their good health and independence. Sorry, not possible.
As much loving attention as I can give them- certainly.
Something to eat that they enjoy, which must also be easy to digest- definitely.
Some material object to commemorate this day, so many years ago, which was the beginning of so many lives- of their three children, one of whom has sadly pre-deceased them, and several grandchildren. Yes, but what?
Cards, yes, flowers, yes. A brand new tray and bright new mugs for their morning tea. Tiny chutney bowls for the non-spicy coriander chutney I will make tomorrow. I hope that they like these small gifts, and that they have a bright and sunny day, full of joy and laughter.