One morning I received a phone call from a friend who said, ‘Arre yaar, Mummy pagal ho rahi hai’ (Mom is going mad). My mind instantly raced back to last year, when the same friend had lost her Father. His death had taken everyone by surprise and most of all Aunty (friend’s mother). Aunty had been dependent on Uncle for everything and I assumed the loss may have disturbed her to the extent that she must be suffering mentally, hence my friend declaring – Mummy Pagal ho rahi hai.
My friend urged me to call her Mom and I did so. Aunty answered my call in a very chirpy voice. When I politely asked her how she was doing, she told me she had never felt better. I was taken aback. She laughed and asked if her daughter had made me call her and I sheepishly admitted with the affirmative.
Aunty asked me to cut the call as she would call me again immediately. She did, and it was a video call! I was surprised as Aunty used to own the oldest model of a mobile phone and it wasn’t even a smartphone! I accepted the call, and when I saw Aunty on screen I couldn’t recognize her at all. She was glowing! She had cut her hair, colored it, and was wearing a pretty salwar Kameez! I had only ever seen her draped in crumpled cotton sarees all these years!
Seeing my shocked expression she let out a gleeful chortle! ‘Tumhein bhi khabar mil gayi ki main pagal ho gayi hoon’ (have you been told that I have gone mad?) Aunty asked. I nodded dumbly.
Aunty started talking and I listened. Ever since Aunty has got married to Uncle he controlled everything. She never had any money of her own, never ate what she liked, never had a say in any matter, and couldn’t visit her home when she wanted. Slowly she got cut off from her side of the family and found herself spending all her time in the kitchen, the only place no one laid claim to.
When Uncle passed away last year, Aunty was left shell-shocked, wondering how she would cope. Relatives left after a while, the children got back to their lives in other cities and Aunty was left alone. She didn’t even know how to order a Gas Cylinder she told me, grief flitting across her face.
That’s when she decided she would learn, everything. And she did. ‘Beta, my children gifted me this smartphone and this phone became my best friend. My neighbor’s daughter taught me to use it and now there is nothing I cannot do.’ ‘Uncle’s death also reminded me how fleeting life can be, so I decided to do all that I have always wanted to. I gave away my sarees and brought Salwar Kameezes. I cut and colored my hair and changed my kitchen into a modern one. I have always loved cooking, so now I take orders from others. I am going to learn to drive next year. I don’t know how long I have on earth, but whatever time I have I want to live it to the fullest.’
I couldn’t stop thinking of what I learned from this priceless and enlightening conversation with Aunty. I understood that not only are most people unnerved by change but are also uncomfortable when people begin to think for themselves, giving no prominence to what others think of them.
When you liberate yourself from the shackles of others’ opinions, views, and judgments chances are you could be labeled ‘Mad’. When you decide to live your life your way, without being answerable to ‘society’, you could be called ‘Mad’. When you make decisions that go against what ‘society’ deems right, you are probably ‘mad’. When others can’t make sense of what makes sense to you, you are probably ‘Mad’.
Are you a ‘Mad Woman’? I know I am!