The alarm clock woke up Neerja in her usual time of 5 a.m. She was feeling lazy and a bit uneasy. But she knew she couldn’t rest. Her kids Rashi and Ratan had their school, her husband Suraj had to go for an urgent meeting, and her mother-in-law needed her morning medicines on time.
She woke up and went for a bath. Her mother-in-law had strict instructions of not entering the kitchen if she hadn’t taken a bath. So despite being feeling feverish and the fact that it was cold Delhi winter morning Neerja had to take a bath. She went in the kitchen and like a robot made separate dishes for breakfast and tiffin for everyone. She woke up everyone at 6:30 a.m. Nobody looked at her face or asked her how she felt. By now, after all these years, she was used to it. By 9 a.m. she felt as if her body was burning and felt dizzy too. She just went and lied down on the bed. She wanted to cry, wanted to feel loved.
Just then she saw her school friend Seema’s number flash on her mobile. Seema was her friend for more than 30 years now. Neerja confided everything in Seema. Neerja picked up the phone and in a glum voice said, “Hello”. Seema immediately realized that something was wrong. She told Neerja, “Just wait, I will be there in half an hour.” Within half an hour, she reached Neerja’s home and was startled looking at her condition. Neerja was having high fever with chills and vomited thrice after Seema reached there. Seema immediately called the doctor and technician to collect blood sample.
The doctor suspected Neerja as having malaria and started her on medications. Seema was with Neerja the whole day. She gave her food, she even served Neerja’s mother-in-law who had not once bothered to ask about Neerja’s well being. By evening Neerja’s husband and kids had also come home. They went into their respective rooms and simply yelled, “Mom/Neerja give me something to eat.”
Seema had enough of that crap. She went in the living room and called everyone. In a calm but firm tone she said, “Do you guys even bother to know whether Neerja is dead or alive? All you want is a servant to serve you guys. What kind of a family are you? So selfish? Aunty, she takes care of you so much yet despite knowing that she is unwell you didn’t even bother! Suraj, Rashi, Ratan how can you be so cruel? Here a woman is slogging day in and day out for you and you don’t even bother to ask about her well being? Neerja has been detected with malaria and she will be on bed rest for at least 20 days now. Now go figure how you guys will manage.” Seema stomped out of the room and went to Neerja.
She calmly and lovingly talked to Neerja. “Neerja, its good to take care of your family but don’t try to become so sacrificing and devoted that you forget your own existence. If you are not well, you need to let your family know about it. If you are sad, tell your family about it. No point in trying to make everyone else happy but yourself. You have made your kids selfish too! They are learning it from their dad and grandma that its okay to take you for granted. Don’t bother about how your family will manage in your illness. I will see to it and you will see to it that they take care of you. Once you are alright start showing your emotions, involve the family in household chores as well as in your happiness and sorrow. Its okay to express, its okay to be human. Take care.”
Neerja could hear the family struggling in the kitchen. She had an itch to go there and help them, but she simply closed her eyes and rested. She needed this rest since a long time.