“You’re getting cool in your old age, mum,” I teased, as I led my mum out of the eye clinic, where she had just gotten a cataract operation done. A spanking-new lens fitted into her right eye, the world was bright and clear, and the ophthalmologist had given her wrap-around dark sunglasses to help her new eye adjust to this unnatural perspective. The shades could give Oakley a run for their money.
Drops and pills and instructions for post-operative care in hand, I put her into the car carefully. And then I turned to help my aunt, my mum’s youngest sister, get in as well. She had found out about the operation and showed up unannounced at the clinic.
“I’m here,” she declared. “I know I won’t be much use, but I’m going to wait with you nonetheless.” Saying so, she planted herself in one of the chairs in the patients’ waiting room, and settled in for the next few hours.
Before she came, my cousin had met us. Her own Ayurveda clinic was across the road, and since she knew the ophthalmologist personally, decided to chip in her support. She waited with us for a couple of hours, none of us doing anything, while the pre-operating tests and procedures were carried out.
By the time we reached home, post operation, calls had come in from sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, cousins, more siblings, neighbours, friends, and more. In the evening, in person visits started, with family, extended family and friends of family dropping in, bearing biscuit packets and fruits. Another sister travelled in from her neighboring town to take care of my mum, for as many days as may be needed.
“I’m not really a patient!” My mum protested. “It’s just a cataract operation!”
Indeed, cataract operations are as common as they come nowadays, and it’s not a big deal. It’s almost like the common cold of surgery.
So it’s all the more startling that such a wide network of friends and family around here still rally when one among them is brought down, to big or small extent. The sense of belonging and bond throbs vibrantly, with frequent and regular communication to have a deep check on the family’s pulse, where family is defined broadly. News travels fast, without dampening its significance, as calls stream in from people with two and even three degrees of separation.
I’m struck by this. The kinship I’ve witnessed here in Aurangabad, being closer to the villages and towns where my mum grew up, suggests that bonds have not grown weaker in the crucible of modern life. It feels anachronistic, to see people care like this, find time in liberal quantities, and act with timeliness and generosity of spirit.
I’m learning to engage with this way of being, as I am not used to the abundance of time, being used for nothing that feels functionally useful. Yet, I see the effect of caring and nurturing. Slowing down, that seems to be the hidden virtue, very much strongly held in a small town.