Goodbye, mum, have a nice life


Published: Wed 18 Mar 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 19 Mar 2020, 1:00 AM

This is a story told to me by a doctor who confirms he has met the lady in question. Even if it is not entirely true, shedding parents like snakes shed skins is a lot more common now. But this one takes the cake for sheer crust.
Air India Flight 101 leaves Delhi for JFK at 0135. Passengers usually arrive by 10pm, because not only is it a complex boarding procedure from Gate 3 but also very slow. It is a long flight too, so the goodbyes are tremulous and drenched in emotion. Students saying goodbye to parents, newlyweds leaving their shores, businessmen threading their supercilious way through clumps of hugging humanity, friends on a holiday returning to their Overseas Indian status, see you next year.
They got off at Station 5, which is the entry point for those catching international flights. Father, mother, three children and his mother. They walked past the two elevators to the first police-manned checkpoint at the entrance. The queue at Counter B was quite long so he asked his elderly mother (we presume) to sit down alone while he waited in the queue with the rest of the family. She found a seat about thirty odd yards away at Gate D.
Freeze this tableau right here. Three hours later, the lady is still sitting in that airport chair sipping water. A military policeman holding a 9mm stun gun realised that this is a long wait. She probably reminded him of his mother back in the village and it struck a chord. He went up to her and asked her who she was waiting for. She told him she and her son and his family were en route to America. She had no passport with her but we presume since she entered the airport her son had one made for her. Which was with him.
The policeman did a quick check and learned that AI 101 had left an hour ago. It transpired later that the son hadn't booked her in on the flight so there was no risk of no show. Six people at the gate, a typical family with a senior citizen and the officer on duty hadn't counted heads.
It wasn't some spontaneous decision to dump Mum. It was planned, and the horror of it is that all five (kids included) would have been party to this conspiracy.
So the special services people came and carted away the bewildered old lady to some ashram or old folks home, her mind incapable of wrapping itself around the dereliction by her son.
And I am listening to this rendition and I am thinking, how is this guy living with himself. This is the woman who gave you birth and tickled your tummy and nursed you when you were sick and gave you unconditional love and you leave her stranded at the airport. Thing is, there is no law against leaving your mother at the airport; you cannot be legally charged.
Okay, convention assumes the wife could live with it seeing as how it isn't her mother, but still, where is human kindness? And the kids, are they watching a movie on the flight, giggling over having diddled grandma? The son, ordering dinner, leaning back and sighing with pleasure over a job well done. Managed to get rid of the old woman, guess someone will look after her. How would you justify this thought process, let alone the actual abandonment? That you have a new life in America and Mumsie is in the way.
So I ask the doctor, why do you think the family even bothered to bring her to the airport, why not just leave her where they were?
The doctor shrugs. They probably couldn't leave her in a rented space or hotel, there would have been time to track them before departure. This way they were able to shepherd her to the very end, no blowback.
How does he live with himself?
Very easily, says the doctor. In our hospital, we see 'left over' parents every day, a mother, a father, a grandparent, no one comes to collect them the day of their discharge, so we then have to call the old people's home and have them taken away.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, we are cruising at 31,000 feet, enjoy your flight.

By Bikram Vohra

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