No Need to Save Me.
Upasna sits quietly in the rocking chair by the balcony, the gentle breeze wafting through the open glass doors as her hands knit methodically. Her white hair falls on her eye, making her wrinkly hand shoot up and shakily place it behind her ear. Cloudy eyes unreliably focus on her moving hands through her smudged spectacles, picking the wool strands and knitting them into a fabric that would later become her grandson's sweater.
"Nani!" her grandson, Anuj's, voice rings in the living room, making the long needle fall out of her hands. She sees her little prince rush towards her, and she sets the half-made piece in her hands on the table beside her, spreading her arms, "Come here, beta," she says gently, making the little boy jump on her frail figure and sit on her lap.
"Nani, Papa is fighting with Mummy," he utters, playing with his grandma's saree.
"Is he?" she says, kissing Anuj's forehead, "I'll go see, okay?" she says, lightly setting him on the floor. He nods vehemently to the suggestion.
She pushes up her body to stand and her legs experience a familiar pain, making her sigh. She walks through the sunlit room towards the faint sound of her daughter and her husband fighting.
"Well, she can't stay here!" Upasna hears her daughter's voice echo in through the considerably dark hallway. Her feet stop themselves, her ears perking up.
"She's your mother, Aanchal, she brought you up, she birthed you! You can't-" her husband argues but Aanchal interrupts.
"I got a job offer, Vikas. I can't accept it if I need to take care of my mother. You know that we need the money. Anuj is almost five. We need the funds for his education, especially when you don't earn as much. You know that, don't you?"
Upasna staggers back on her feet. Her daughter doesn't want her here. She looks at her mother as a liability, not family. Tears well up her eyes. Her mind flashes back to the days when Aanchal was but a little girl, her chubby hands always reaching for Upasna's smooth ones, her lips always finding her cheeks to kiss, her innocent eyes holding all the love in the world for her mother; just like Upasna did for her daughter. A tear trails down her cheek, her heart aching in her chest.
"I didn't even realise I was troubling my daughter," she thinks to herself, her hands wringing themselves in her grip. She stands up straighter, walking to the couple's bedroom and knocking on the closed door. The loud chatter immediately halts, and Vikas opens the door, "Mummy-ji," he says loudly, his eyes widened in guilt. He steps away, giving way for the white-haired woman step into the room.
"Aanchal," she says, her voice shaky. Her daughter stands up, her eyes lowered in shame.
"Did you hear that, Maa?" Aanchal asks quietly.
"If I had known that I was a burden on you, beta, I wouldn't have imposed," she says kindly, "I have lived so long and made you my first priority for as long as you have lived. Naturally, I thought that I could love you more if I stayed with you. I thought that if I made the food and took care of Anuj, that would be enough help to you, but I didn't realise that I was distressing you," she continues, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
She pauses to hear if her daughter had to say anything, but continues when she remains silent, "You know my friend— Asha aunty, do you remember her?" her daughter nods, "Yes, Asha lives in a senior care home near Dehradun, and it is very beautiful and comfortable. There's a view of the hills, forests nearby, and the staff there is very helpful and friendly." Aanchal opens her mouth to say something but Upasna continues, not heeding, "I am thinking of going there. Your father left me some money after he died. I thought to give it to you for Anuj, but I believe that I should use it for myself now," she completes and stands up with authority, leaving no room for argument. Her shadow falls onto the wooden floor and she faces the door, her silhouette illuminated by the evening sun.
"I won't be in your hair much longer, beta. You don't need to save me, I can take care of myself."