“ Ammalu will alight the flight at nine o clock. It is already six thirty. You must hurry up.” Savitri woke up her husband.
“ I will be at the airport earlier than that and bring her home. Be relaxed and don’t worry. You are so excited of the arrival of your daughter and grand son that you could not sleep.” Padmaabha Rao tried to calm her.
Once he left to take bath, Savitri’s mother Lalithamma came into the room to give coffee to her daughter and said “ Savitri,! Have you brushed your teeth? Have this coffee and recline on the pillow. All the tasks will be completed in time. Don’t stress your self.”
“Amma! she is travelling with her toddler son. She must have had a terrible time. It is almost a year since I saw her last…” savitri got emotional.
“ She is coming all the way from Australia to see you. The very sight of them will give you strength.” Lalithamma said lovingly touching her daughter’s head.
“ Amma! Tell the cook to prepare green gram pan cakes for breakfast. It is Ammalu’s favourite. For lunch let her make drumsticks sambar and ladies’fingers curry. The little one might not eat these things. She will feed him noodles or pasta. “ Talking of her grand son brought a smile to Savitri’s face.
“ Ok. I will tell the cook. By the time they reach home it will be eleven o clock. I won’t allow you to wait till then without eating your breakfast. By 9A.M I will give you your breakfast.” Saying so Lalithamma turned to go back to the kitchen.
“ Amma! Have you had your morning coffee?” Savitri enquired .
“ I will have it after taking bath.” Lalithamma smiled.
Lalithamma got her luggage shifted from the second bedroom, which she had been using , to the store room. It was a small room measuring eight by eight feet . Since all the luggage could fit into the cupboards there was enough space. The one window which opened into the garden brought enough light and air into the room. She asked jubeda, the servant to spread the bed on the floor.
Savitri was pained to see her seventy year old mother getting ready to sleep on the floor. Her daughter coming from Ausralia with her little son would need the the other bedroom with king size bed. So she kept quiet.
After getting the other bed-room ready for her grand daughter,Lalithamma brought breakfast to Savitri.
“ why do you strain yourself amma? Gouramma will serve me.” Savitri objected.
“ Let me serve you this one month at least. See if the pancakes are crisp. If they are okay for you, your daughter too will relish them.” Lalithamma handed her the plate.
“ I feel as if my tongue is quoted with liquid copper or bronze amma. How can I know whether the pancakes taste good or not ? If I don’t throw up the food that is good fortune.” Savitri smiled.
Lalithamma experienced a heart wrenching feeling hearing her daughter’s words.
Till one year ago Savitri sported long and thick hair. Her cheeks had a healthy glow that belied her fifty years age. Her eyes were attractive.
Now she lost all her hair. Lalithamma felt very sad looking at Savitri’s sunken cheeks, listless eyes and the ghost of a smile on her face .
“Why do you say so? If you don’t eat, you will feel weak.” Lalithamma turned her face away so that her daughter could not see the tears in her eyes.
Savitri made an attempt to eat but left most of the breakfast untouched.
With in half an hour she called her mother again and said “ Why do these people take so much time to reach home? Ammalu must have eaten a long time ago. She doesn’t relish the food given in the flight. The vegetarian food they supply carry a few pieces of vegetables, two slices of fruit and a hard loaf of bread. Give me my cellphone amma. I will call my husband and find out whether they are on the way or not.”
In no time they heard the sound of car in front of their house.
Savitri, who could not contain her excitement got up and walked to the door.
Pavani, her daughter, got down from the car taking care not to wake up the child sleeping on her shoulder.
“You must have had a tough time taking care of the child during the long journey. At least now you should have asked your father to carry him. How long can you handle him? Your arms must be aching.” Savitri said taking a good look at her daughter and grandson .
“ Anil was throwing up all through the journey amma. He neither drank nor ate any thing. He is so weak . I don’t know how long it will take for him to be normal again” saying so Pavani carried her son carefully into the house and put him to bed.
Savitri was standing at the door looking at her daughter longingly.
Lalithamma asked the maid to fix coffee for them and brought two glasses of drinking water for her son-in -law and grand daughter.
She turned to her daughter and said “ why are you standing ? Come and sit .“ saying so she switched on the ceiling fan.
Pavani sat beside her mother and lovingly enquired “ How are you amma?”
“ I am alright. But you look weak and tired. Because of Anil’s upset health you look sickly.” Savitri stroked her daughter’s head lovingly.
Then Pavani turned her attention to her grandmother. She held her hand and enquired “ How are you grandma? How is your health? What about your knee pain?”
“ I am alright baby. As long as I have legs, that knee pain will be there. Let it be. If only God had given my good health to your mother …” Lalithamma ‘s eyes filled with tears.
“ Amma. Why do you scare her with your words? Pavani ! Go and fresh up. I asked the cook to prepare your favourite green gram pancakes . You look famished.” Savitri interrupted her mother and hurried Pavani.
“ Even if I go without food for two days it is alright amma. Anil could not stomach any thing during the journey. First I must feed him and then only I can think of myself.” Pavani replied to her mother and went to look after her son.
By evening Anil became active and playful. Pavani too felt relaxed.
She opened her suitcase and showed them the gifts like coffee- maker, mini-vacuum cleaner and electric shaver she brought for her mother and father from Australia. She brought a woollen jacket for her grandma.
“ Why did you spend so much dear” Savitri said.
“They are not very expensive amma.” Saying so Pavani gave a perfume bottle to her mother.
The next day Pavani went to warangal to visit her mother in law. Later Pavani’s brother Prasad came from Bangalore with his wife and kids to see Pavani.
The presence of both her children brought back the cheerful look into Savitri’s face.
Prasad asked his sister if she would stay for a month. Pavani reminded him that she joined in a new job and hence could get only two weeks leave.
“So you are going away before 25th of this month “ Prasad said to his sister and looked at his mother meaningfully.
Savitri’s eyes conveyed some message to him and he checked himself and said “ okay I will come again before you leave.”
That night Pavani enquired her father after her mother’s health.
“ They gave her chemotherapy thrice and that weakened her. Her operation is scheduled for twenty fifth of this month. Your mother asked me not to reveal this to you . You will be here I think.” Padmanabha Rao looked at her expectantly.
“ If you had informed me of this, I would have come after fifteen days. I have to complete the project I am doing by the end of this month. I can’t extend my leave.” Pavani said desperately.
“ Who ever is by her side, she is the one who has to bear the pain. We can not take her suffering.” Padmanabha Rao said morosely.
The next one week Pavani was busy meeting people, attending to dinners, shopping for things, and taking care of Anil.
Two days before her journey Pavani sat by her mother’s side and said “ Amma! Be brave. Nothing will happen to you. You will be okay. I will come again shortly. “ saying so she caressed her mother’s head lovingly.
Savitri smiled.” I don’t bother about my health. You are going on a long journey with the child. I am worried how you are going to handle him all by yourself all the way.”
“ I don’t feel like going amma. But I can’t extend my leave .” Pavani said sadly.
At that moment she heard Anil crying . He got himself hurt as he fell down . Pavani ran to him.
That night Anil had high fever. Pavani was so afraid that she could not get a wink of sleep the whole night. Early in the morning they took him to a doctor. The doctor suggested some tests saying it could be viral fever,gave an injection ,prescribed a syrup and advised not to think of travel for a week.
Pavani lost her cool and started crying as soon as she came back home saying“ why should such a thing happen now amma? “.
Savitri was worried and said “ It does not auger good to cry like that. He will be alright by tomorrow. You can’t even get leave. How can you travel with him all alone?”.
“ Until he is fully recovered no question of my travelling amma. I will get the ticket postponed. Job or no job – nothing is more important to me than his well-being.” Pavani declared ,her eyes welling with tears.
“ He was playing the whole day. This fever is the result of his being too tired and exhausted and a night’s rest will set him right.” consoled Lalithamma.
By that night the fever subsided. But still Pavani was sitting by his side the whole night.
The same night Lalithamma prayed God “ God! See that my daughter’s operation is successful and give her my longevity of life so that she would live long.”
The same night Savitri could not sleep. She went on praying “ Oh, God! Let my daughter go back to her husband safely with her son”.