The Taste of Green Peas

Vickram Sethi - Taste of Green Peas

When children forget how to love and care for their elders, what does one do? By Vickram Sethi

A true story from the 1960s. Two friends, Arun and Jagat, lived in Delhi around Rajendra Nagar. Arun was a civil engineer attached to the central government, and his wife Shakuntala was a successful gynecologist. Jagat was a chemical engineer, and his wife Kamala was a homemaker.

Shakuntala had inherited a flourishing practice from her parents, who were doctors as well. Slowly her practice grew,and she became a gynaecologist in great demand around Patel Nagar and Rajendra Nagar areas. She kept herself abreast of the latest technology and helped couples in conception. As the practice grew, she had two assistant women doctors whom she trained and ran a small hospital with 10 rooms. Arun in the meantime, retired and helped in the administration of the hospital.

Arun had two sons. As life went by the boys grew up, and Arun bought two plots of land 600 sq yards each in the new upcoming colonies of New Delhi. With Jagat’s help, he built four-bedroom houses with a lawn for each of them. The boys got married and had children of their own. Jagat had three children, two boys, and a girl. Both his boys worked for the Indian railways, and his daughter was married at an appropriate time.

Shakuntala had decided that she would retire at sixty, and both husband and wife would go around the world on, as most Punjabis say it, a “world tour.” It wasn’t easy to shut down her hospital, but slowly, she reduced the number of patients and passed them on to her two assistants. Somewhere she fell ill and as a doctor she knew that something was not correct in her body. After various tests and X-rays, she discovered that she had cancer, and from that day, she shut her practice and moved to Mumbai (Bombay) to the Tata Hospital. One of Jagat’s sons was posted in Mumbai (Bombay) Arun and his wife stayed with him. Shakuntala realised that the cancer was not curable and the doctors gave her six months. She convinced Arun that whatever time was left for her, they would spend it in Delhi in their own home at Rajendra Nagar. It was a slow and painful end, but morphine eased the pain.

Once all the rituals of death were over, Arun decided to sell the Rajendra Nagar house and move in with his boys. Arun and his wife had spent a considerable part of their savings on constructing and furnishing the houses for the boys. He planned to transfer the sale proceeds to the boys so that after his death his children would not have to pay estate duty. Shakuntala had a large holding of gold from her parents. Arun received a central government pension which he reasoned was enough for him, his medicines and his club expenses. He held back the gold. Jagat was dead against this move and reasoned with Arun that after his death the estate duty payment should not bother him since it would come out from the sale proceeds of the house. Besides Arun had given his children enough and an estate duty payment would not be such a big deal. However, Arun felt this was a selfish view, and he would be happy living with both his boys six months at a time.

The boys welcomed him and were delighted that he was with them. Grandchildren and his daughter-in-laws doted on him, and Daddyji as he was called was a loved figure. Arun got into a routine of life going for a walk, reading his papers and listening to the news. At 4 o’clock in the evening he went to the club, played cards and returned home by 9 pm for dinner; an hour later he would be asleep. During winters, Arun spent the morning sitting in the sun, soaking in the heat. His spot was below the kitchen window. He ate a little bit of dry fruit and some jaggery sweets.

Years passed by and he was pretty much happy spending six months with each of his boys. Both of them lived within a mile of each other. One day he told his elder daughter-in-law that there were fresh green peas in the market and asked her to get some. A week went by, and he gently reminded her again about the green peas. Two weeks later there were still no green peas on the table. The third time he told her and asked her why she hadn’t brought them. That morning he was sitting outside the kitchen window, and the younger daughter-in-law came over to meet her elder sister-in-law, who was in the kitchen. The conversation which Arun heard pierced a spear into his heart. The elder daughter-in-law said, “Budhdhe ke muh me daant nahi hai par mataron ka swaad nahi gaya” – the old man has no teeth but can’t get the taste of peas out of his mouth. Stunned, he could hardly believe what he had heard. He got up and went to his room and cried, remembering Shakuntala. He asked for lunch to be served in his room, but the peas tasted like poison and Arun flushed them into the drain.

Jagat and his wife were in Mumbai (Bombay) and returned a week later. The next day after they were back, Arun went over to meet them and narrated the whole story. It was obvious that he had outlived his hospitality. Lots of conversation ensued between the men and Arun left with a heavy heart.

Jagat and his wife usually took a Kothi in Dehradun to get away from Delhi’s scorching heat. It was a normal thing that a lot of Delhi families did as the men hatched the plan.

Somewhere in the middle of April Arun got a letter. His grandson brought the letter to him, and Arun said, “Just read it for me, my eyes are giving me a little problem.” The letter was from Jagat, saying that the tenant of his Dehradun property was ready to vacate the house and wanted Rs 4 lakh whereas the church next to the house would buy the entire plot for Rs 8 lakh. Seemed like a good deal and Jagat enquired whether he would like to confirm this. Arun kept quiet and went about his daily routine without mentioning the letter. Sunday, his younger son came for lunch, and the topic of the Dehradun property was raised at the table. The elder son asked him, “Why didn’t you tell us about this?” Arun replied that he didn’t have Rs 4 lakh to pay the tenant. In an instant, both the boys said that they would contribute Rs 2 lakh each and Arun should write to Jagat confirming the deal. A week later Arun left for Dehradun… Both the men couldn’t stop laughing.

On his return, it was “Daddyji Daddyji” all over again. A couple of years later, Arun passed away and after the rituals of death were over Jagat invited both the boys and their wives to come for tea after which they could go out and resume their life. “I have his will and I would like only the four of you to come” said Jagat. The boys and their wives went, and Jagat gave them the will where everything had been left to various charities. Beyond the Rs 4 lakh there was another Rs 6 lakh from selling Shakuntala’s jewellery. They were in a state of shock and in the most polite manner, Jagat told the daughters-in-law the story of the green peas.

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37 Comments on “The Taste of Green Peas”

    1. Yes, this story is a part of the reality. The other part is, there are children, including daughter- , son-in-laws, who lovingly care their parents at old age.
      Generally, knowingly or unknowingly, children learn from their parents’ attitude towards their grand parents at old age .
      So, let’s be good examples and time will prove our worth.

      1. Fully in aggrement as I have a similar story at home where I have my parents and inlaws (mother in law expired a year ago) all above 85 but we love the same as we believe that they cared for us when it was needed and so is ours now .The satisfaction is more pleasing that wealth.This is my personal experience and view

      2. Yes I agree with your point of view, as I always belive what you give you get, as a child always follow their parents, so we must always set a right example.

      3. Yes agree Srinibas Ji,
        My parents lived and showed the right way which I followed to the best extant. Now my
        Sibling do take care of me in their won
        Ways.
        What sow we reap.

  1. After all sons didn’t do anything wrong. And if at all it’s the daughter-in-laws. Why then not give it away to your grand children. After all they are also a part.

    Giving away to charities is S a noble idea but can part with a part of it if not all of it.

  2. Yes. Sr. Citizens should be extremely careful about their money n assets which should be used to take care of their sunset years. Only after death should d assets devolve on their offsprings by way of will.

  3. I think for every such sad story there are many stories of wonderful caring children….. Let’s share those stories too….. So we build trust not distrust between parents and children…..

  4. Very few parents have carrege to do such things. Normally they forgive their children and pass their balance life on mercy of children.
    Thank for such artical this might give some carrege to someone .
    Very good work. Keep it up.

  5. IT’S MY FATHER’S ADVICE TO NOT TO DISTRIBUTE THE WHOLE PROPERTY TO THE CHILDREN TILL THE TIME YOU ARE ALIVE.
    HELP THEM ONLY WHEN THEY NEED.
    SECONDLY DO NOT LEAVE YOUR OWN EARNED PROPERTY & MOVE TO STAY WITH THE CHILDREN, INSTEAD YOU ASK THEM TO STAY WITH YOU.
    THE THIRD & THE MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT THE WAY YOU TREAT YOUR PARENTS WOULD BE REPEATED BY YOUR CHILDREN TO YOU & THUS YOU WILL HAVE TO FACE IT AT ANY COST BEFORE YOU DIE.
    MAY ALLAH KEEP MY PARENTS HAPPY IN THEIR GRAVEYARDS & REWARD THEM ON THE JUDGEMENT.

    1. I FEEL AS A SENIOR CITIZEN TILL LAST BREATH OF OUR LIFE WE SHOULD STAY IN OUR OWN HOUSE AND SHOULD KEEP ALL CASH, ASSETS WITH OUSELVES AND AFTER DEATH THEY SHOULD BE TRANSFERRED TO WIFE. WE SHOULD AVOID SPENDING HEAVILY ON ANY SINGLE DAY FUNCTIONS AND KEEP THE MONEY FOR OUR GOLDEN YEARS OF LIFE.

      1. Dear Sir
        Visit our website for Elders Home and we assure for their repectable deginifed life for those who are;
        1. Deserted by Childrem
        2. Unfortunately Donot have children.
        3. They have children but are settled in abroad for betterment of their life for any reason.
        Our elders home is based Under Private Family Trust on NO PROFIT NO LOSS BASIS.
        Any deserving elder can contact to have further details.
        Namaskar
        Heman Tilokani.

  6. Good.We have to understand that we should have enough money for our old age.Never depand on our children.If possible should go to nice old age home where we can enjoy our past life.

  7. Touching story. Wish more parents could understand their own requirements, before it is too late. Most often, blind love for children prevails over wisdom.

  8. It is the reality for many of the Seniors they are in a dilemma on how to react to such situations, You need children, you need company, you need someone to take care, medication, food etc.
    It is only God’s blessings on how it unfolds for you.
    The realization comes to the children only when they are in that age,
    It is back to the same old story.

  9. Instances like these are becoming the norm, rather than exception. And in almost all cases, it is the daughter-in-law who is the villain. These days, newly married girls do not want parents-in-law to live with her almost immediately after marriage. More so if initially newly weds are living in a different city separately (due to son’s job etc.) and parents-in-law join them after their retirement. Seniors need to accept this reality and do not transfer their nest egg to children in their lifetime.

  10. All comments are one sided. Think about the present conditions. Is earned money is to meet all expenditures and responcibilities. Instead thinking of self be one amongst junior family members and enjoy the present culture. Why one has to be fixed setof mind and expect others has to follow. Instead be with a grand children like a child and enjoy.

  11. Good one. May be a couple needs to have a plan to spend in their old age, independent of loving children. Children will have their own life to manage.!!

  12. Sudipta
    I agree totally with your thinking.
    Most children do look after their parents & in laws & very well at that.
    Seniors must realise that grown up children have their own priorities also.
    Happiness will prevail only if equiation works both ways
    Dr Sudhir Gupte

  13. If this is going to the trend, the quality of society will decay. There are enough laws to protect the dignity and welfare of seniors. There’s no point exchanging such emotional stories and sympathise wuth the seniors. Neglecting parents, seniors is a non cognisable offense. This is a catch 22 situation. Parents, elders can’t ignore their children’s welare . They have to support them to make a career, education etc., This mandatory support of parents have to be properly reciprocated. If chindren abuse them, Cheat them, ignore them, they have to punished by the law. Ignoring seniors is not only a crime bit an unforgivable sin. A crime can be corrected, punished. Bit a sin is #unpardonable. Chimdren at their enjoyable age may not realise this. It’s the collective duty of the state and seniors to ensure a dignified life. Let’s be practical than sentimental.

  14. Children learn many things from us by observing our behaviour. We should set an example by taking proper and loving care of our parents. Then they follow.

    Whatever we earned, we should share with our children to the extent they require it. It is not that important to have a long life rather than family values. If they are self sufficient, we need not bother much to transfer our property to them when we are alive.

    Whether it is daughter in law or wife, they take more care of their parents as men do.
    Present trend is to keep away in laws or illtreat them. It is wise on the part of elders to stay independently as far as possible. Now and then, they can visit their children. This helps to avoid many embarassing situations.
    Joing in oldage homes, if somebody wishes, is not a sin.
    The above suggestions/openion is based on individual experience. We have to move with times and practical rather than theoritical assessment of which is good or which is bad.

  15. Beautiful, touching story …. Parents do all possible in their right and might but sadly children forget everything conveniently…a well deserved end….

  16. Very sad to know about this .. but such stories and movies like baghban are increasing sense of insecurity and creating misunderstanding in the parents mind,which is nor good for them and their families…
    I disagree for the promotion of such stories.

    1. This is a true story and also an eye-opener for senior citizens. If you like our content to share it with your network and ask them to subscribe to Seniors Today by giving a missed call on 7406469469.

      Thank you

  17. Moral of this story is remember you have enough money to buy peas or medicines for yourself than depend on your kids, grandkids. Not all daughter in laws are like his but yes there are always two sides to coin. Make sure you have a room for yourself, enough money to pay electricity and food or catch up with your friend. Let’s hope this story is an eye opener and we learn a lesson that one day we too will get old and may have our wants for peas or something else. Thanks for writing this lovely story as we can all see people have stooped to low morals, selfish interest and greed. Today whatever we are is because of our parents.
    Regards
    Rajnish Sharma

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