Kunti Bai, never really bothered Jija Bai, since they lived in different eras. But one wonders what would have happened if Jijabai was Kuntibai’s mother-in-law. Anyway this time round Jijabai was clear she wanted a cook, and hey presto Shivoba hired a cook. Now Shahaji had retired from wherever he was, and they all moved to live with Shivoba.
Shivoba, all these past years lived a rather relaxed life, a mercurial wife and two wonderful children. The government office that he worked in, didn’t really bother too much if people worked or not as long as they were present for tea. Then there were these charming colleagues, the Santabai’s and Kantabai’s and like ‘Wagle ki Duniya‘ Borde ke Duniya was idealistic with the politicially-socially-economically-Marathically proper answer for all situations.
Shivoba’s tranquil world lost its homeostasis with the advent of Shahaji and Jijabai. It was the inability to cope up with mercurial cooking of Rukmavati or rather Rukmabai who happens to be Shivoba’s wife. Knowing Jijabai the way I do, I think it is more to do with her inability to bully Rukma.
However in the mean while Rukma has become the follower or Ma Mahashwanamati… who proclaimed by her devotees as the astral projection of whichever divinity they please. Then there are also the intellectually inclined who call her the female manifestation of Jaggi Vasudev, poor Sri Sri Ravishankar must be feeling left out. Anyway, Mahashwanamati does seem to do a lot of good in the world of Rukma. However Rukma came to me with problem for which is actually forcing me to think.
Apparently Rukma on her way to her school… she teaches in one of the government aided school nearby had told the cook not make any daal or roti since both were already there is adequate volume. She had also instructed the cook not make a very simple vegetable as she wanted to try out a more elaborate in the night. Apparently cook added more pulses so the daal not only increased in volume it also thickened and Shahji took umbrage at Rukma who was in the house
“But Narbatiya the cook told me that daadi instructed her so”
‘We do not tell her anything, we do not even instruct her, if you lie like this I swear on this food I will not eat” thundered Shahaji.
“But I had told her not meddle “said Rukma in her defence.
“You should tell me, not the cook, or leave a message in writing for her” was Jijabai’s observation. Rukma has a point Jijabai has been systematically ousting Rukma from her kitchen and alienating her from Shivoba. But that was not what bothered Rukma…
She kept asking me,
“I knew that one of the preconditions for them to shift to our house that there should be a maid and a cook. I heard Shivoba’s brother GangadharBhauji tell me on the phone. It had slipped Shivoba’s attention that the phone was on speaker and I was in the car”
‘How does that come into the picture’ I asked since I wanted to fill her blanks between her sobs.
‘I’ve been putting up being told everyday that I’m incompetent, my daughters have joined Shivoba and his parents in this, still worse they don’t call me or talk to me anymore. Of course they do only to tell me, that I have not performed a task. I’ve worked hard now I’ve reached a stage where I have accepted that my ties with this family are over.”
‘Then what is the problem?’ I asked.
“It’s my lack inability to handle things”
I must have looked confused for she continued, “I should have very elegantly told Shahji, you wanted a cook, your son got one. This is what she cooks, you eat it. That’s all there is to it where do I come into the picture… but no sir, I rush to defend myself as if I have cooked or instructed to cook to cook something inedible. I still get triggered about wife, mother responsibilities.”
Now why she did not turn the tables on Shahji and Jijabai I’m clueless too. Why she even stood there to serve them I’m don’t understand. Particularly it is not that they are bedridden. Jijabai stands by the kitchen stove and instructs Narbatiya to cook whatever she feels like eating. Jijabai has Shahji pick up dried clothes and fold them. The only time age shows up is when they have to drop the plates in which they have eaten into the sink. It is still demanded Rukma does it. I asked why don’t to tell Jijabai to put her plate for wash.
‘Shivoba gets nasty. He is very smart he does not physically beat, but he is verbally abusive and he does it in a loud voice, I don’t want the neighbours to know.”
“Coming back to telling them that cook was their decision, like I’m saying serves you right rather than well its your action and you are responsible for the consequence.”
Rukma also has borderline nutrition issues, so as her doctor I asked her why don’t you eat properly. ‘If I have breakfast before Jijabai they she begins to taunt so much I rather eat at work. Most of the times I’m eating leftover food, there is no joy in it”
Looking at Rukma I wonder how many more Rukma’s are out there. with increasing senior citizens and their relocating into their middle aged children’s families there is a serious need for counselling and opening communication channels. Particularly between partners. If Shivoba took time to appreciate Rukma, maybe took out once in while the pain and rejection Rukma feels might not be so much.
If any of you have practical suggestions for Rukma you are most welcome to share it.