My parents were still working in MUmbai when I got married. So after 40 yrs of service when they decided to settle down in their native place, they chose a quiet yet affluent area. They had to pay through their nose to get the 10 cents land on which they built a moderately comfortable bungalow! It was my first trip to this new house (which was purchased 3 yrs ago) during the summer time. Not being able to visit your parents often was something I was reconciling with since attaining the NRI status since marriage. It was a partly cloudy evening, I decided to explore the area and surroundings a bit and possible make some new friends. Also there was a selfish motive, my parents lived on their own and it would be helpful in case of an emergency to keep the contact numbers of some good neighbours . I passed by a few houses and exchanged a few pleasantries over the gate with a few ladies. I was about to end my exploration, when I spotted a big mansion at the end of the lane "huge, isolated, partly run down to its west side". For some weird reason the novel "Wuthering Heights" came to my mind, I had read it several times as a child. My curiosity got the better of me and my steps hastened towards this structure. In my muse I failed to notice the enormouse dark clouds which had started gathering in the evening sky heralding a heavy rain. I could spot a speck of light at the east wing of the house, also some smoke curled up the old chimmney"who in this age would cook on fire in this affluent part", I spoke my thoughts aloud. I had this creepy feeling and at once turned back ; Lo and behold by now it has started pouring cats and dogs, ruining my brand new, gorgeous "Nine West Sandles''. No way I could walk back in this downpour and also it was approaching nightfall. I rang the bell of the cracked teak wood door of the once upon a time a luxurious mansion.The ground was covered with dry leaves and a few dried up rose bushes. No answer, I repeated my action. Again no response, I used the solid cast iron door knocker this time. I guess it was real loud this time. I heard feeble footsteps and after a minute of struggle with the latch, the door was opened by a old man who must have been in his late seventies. He seemed reluctant to let me in, I told him that we were new in the neighbourhood. By now another frail figure appeared, she must have been 10 years or so older than the man. After much thought and eye signals between them I was invited in. I told them I would leave after the rain subsided to which she looked disapprovingly through her thick glasses. She offered me an ancient phone (a real beautiful antique piece) to make a call home so that somebody could come and fetch me. We started chatting, nice hot balck tea was poured into dirty faded cups, tea-stained from inside . She offered me some buscuits which smelled of mould, "we bought them some time back, I dont know if it still tastes good". No way I would eat them-hospitalization was sure!!!:drowning Over the cup of tea she told me that her husband used to be a doctor in the Army, he had passed away 40 yrs ago. She had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. All well-read professionals, married and well settled in Europe/US who visit her occasionally. Initially it was once in 2 yrs and gradually as their responsibilities increased the visits became less frequent. All the children were educated in the best universities world wide. Now she lived with the old man who used to be their driver in good times. She never had any visitors, except the local priest and the local doctor who always called before stopping by. That was the reason of her reluctance in opening the door as she never expected anyone today.The old man ran her errands like shopping, paying bills etc. Cleaning was done once a week by a boy who was also the church Sacristan. Her only connection with her family were through the phone which rang occasionally and the portraits/pictures which hung on the long ago whitewashed walls with plasters coming off in bits and pieces. By now my father had sent the car to pick me up, I thanked them for their courtesy and promised to come back again to visit them. I returned twice the following week with some home cooked delicacies! We had a good time. I told them I would leave to visit my husbands folks for a few weeks and will drop by when I come back. For some reason I felt her eyes moist as we said good bye. I had a good time at my in laws. As I returned to my parents home we approached the nearby junction, there was a traffic jam with all expensive cars jam packing the narrow roads. Strange, I thought, traffice jam at noon in this part wasn't expected. On inquiries we found that the "old women down the lane had passes away" peacefully in her sleep 5 days ago. Today was the funeral with most of her children flying in from different parts of the world. It was a befitting elaborate funeral with all the VIPs in the locality present and an elaborate band playing. I had a glimse of the funeral procession; everyone at their best prim and proper, lots of flowers and many priests. A few tears rolled down here and there. I alighted the car and joined the procession. Somehow, somewhere there was a feeling of emptiness, grief within me. Was it grief for the departed soul, was it for the few hours I spent in her company or was it my own feeling of guilt??????