Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chapters From My Nostalgia: “I Cried For You Today, Maa…”

(It’s strange how certain moments of our lives stay with us even if they might not have beeen of the greatest consequence. The incident I narrate here happened more than 20 years back, but for some reason, it has stayed with me. Over the years, I have looked back at this episode on countless occasions; often just to smile at the innocence of it all. However, I have realized that the reason I cling to it is because deep down inside I still have this tendency; of this emotion which I have elucidated here. Whatever I have described happened almost exactly the same way it has been recounted.)

Calcutta, June 1995

I was oblivious to the mad cacophony around me. The school bus motored along while all the inhabitants of the vehicle animatedly discussed their adventures of the summer gone by. Sitting by the window seat at the end of the bus, I gazed unenthusiastically at the street outside; men and women of all kind were busy with their everyday chores.  

The bus came to a halt as the signal turned red at the M.G. Road crossing. Just to the right of the bus, construction was in progress for the Metro railway; the project – to be inaugurated in a few years time – was to completely revolutionize the transport system of the city. There were a few labourers there, who were sipping tea and chatting among themselves. Perhaps they were recharging themselves before their morning work began. I wondered if they too would have had any summer holidays or if they too felt even remotely close to what I was feeling currently.

“What are you staring at? Tell us how your summer vacation was?” came a voice from behind me. It was Abhimanyu Daga, my class-mate, a rather loud and smug fellow, who was presently sitting on the opposite window seat from me and eyed me with his beady eyes. Apparently, he had had an exciting time where he received a lot of gifts from his uncles in Bombay this summer. The others near me too had narrated the tales of their thrilling holiday and were now looking at me in anticipation.

“Um, it was nice,” I said, “But…I am really missing my mother.”

Abhimanyu sniggered at that comment and said, “What are you, a Kindergarten student? You are in the fourth standard now. Stop behaving like a child.”

His remark stung me and I chose to remain silent. While Abhimanyu and the others chuckled at my expense, I turned my head around and continued looking outside. Sighing to myself, I closed my eyes and placed my head on the window bar.

My heart felt increasingly heavy as I wondered how the summer vacation went by so quickly. All of those days began coming back to me now. Gulping down the ‘Rasna’ excitedly that she had made for me; sitting in the kitchen with her and listening to her talk about her childhood days in Udaipur; watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ together where she would clap like a child and laugh uncontrollably at times; eating food from her hands where she would desperately try to get me to eat more; all of those moments were now invading my mind and gnawing at my insides. All I wished was to go back home and snuggle into her lap. But the school bus took me further and further away from her to a place where now a long battle lay ahead of me.


The din in the classroom instantly ceased as Banarasi Lal Sir entered. Without giving a second glancing to anyone, he nonchalantly strode over to his desk and sat. A rotund man in his fifties, Banarasi Lal Sir- our Hindi teacher - invoked a lot of fear in everyone. Currently, there was a hushed murmur around the room as we waited for Sir to begin the class.

“Open your books to page number 88,” he said lazily.

Everyone followed his orders immediately, while I, still lost in my thoughts, took my own time in doing so.

“Bhavesh…you read the poem today,” said Banarasi Sir all of a sudden. I was startled to hear my name being called out and saw that everyone’s eyes were now on me, including Sir’s who peered at me from behind his thick spectacles with his expressionless eyes.

Without saying a word, I picked up the book and stood up hurriedly. This is not what I wanted today, I thought morosely as I turned the pages of the book to number 88. All I yearned for was some peace and quiet, where I could sit silently in a corner and recollect my summer days with her. But now, as everyone in the class waited for me to begin, I felt miserable.

The moment I turned my attention to the page of the book, my heart froze. The title of the poem was: "Maa". Perhaps fate was playing a cruel game with me or perhaps it was just a strange coincidence, but presently I just stared at the title; momentarily numbed.

I suddenly realized that Sir was now looking at me; waiting for me to begin. I took a deep breath and decided to start.

However, with every word I read, my discomfort increased. The poem was about a child expressing his love for his mother. Every word, though, was like a dagger to my heart. The boy said how his mother feeds him every day with her hands, how she takes care of him whenever he gets sick, how she tutors him every day and how she kisses him on his forehead every night.

My breathing became heavy and it became increasingly difficult to complete the stanzas of the poem. It felt like I was reading out aloud the flashes of my past few days before the entire class.

My eyes then fell on the illustration accompanying the poem. I had missed it earlier but noticed it clearly now. The image was of a young boy lying on his mother’s lap, his eyes closed peacefully, while the mother affectionately ran her hands over his hair.

I began choking up. My lips trembled and my eyes welled up with tears as I struggled to read the remaining lines of the poem. I wanted to burst open the dam that was now crushing against my chest. But in the back of my mind I knew that I was standing in front of my entire class. I knew if I shed even a single drop of tear here, then I would not be able to live with myself.

I hence fought with my emotions. I concentrated hard on the words in front of me and put all my effort in stopping the teardrops, which desperately wanted to escape my eyes, from coming out.

“Bhukh lage to tere paas aata…
Dar lage to teri god me chip jaata…”

I managed to read these lines and then stopped. I could not continue anymore. Everyone in the class turned towards me. My face felt hot and I knew that I was on the verge of bursting out.

Banarasi Lal Sir looked away from the book on his desk and peered at me again. I had lowered my eyes and did not want him to gauge the wave of emotions going on inside me.

“Do you want to go to the bathroom?” he asked me politely.

I was taken aback at this question and looked at him. I saw that his expressions had softened a little. Perhaps, he understood. Perhaps, he realized…

“Yes…” I said.

He nodded and then turned to another boy, “Aditya, you continue the poem.”

Without wasting a second, I quietly put my book on the table and walked out of the classroom briskly. I was relieved and grateful to Banarasi Sir for releasing me from this ordeal.

My head swam as I walked towards the bathroom. I could hear faint noises around me from different classrooms. But I did not register them and neither did they matter. I just wanted to get away from it all. All I wanted was to find some solitude and drown myself in it. For now, the bathroom seemed liked the ideal place for it.


Home had never been so welcoming before. Exhausted by the day’s events, I felt relieved as I entered my home in the late afternoon. Now all I needed was to see her.

When I reached my room, I found it empty. For a moment, I was confused. Then I heard a voice. A female voice, singing a chant from somewhere nearby. I instantly knew where she was!

Flinging my school bag in the room, I moved towards the source of the mellifluous voice – a small ‘temple room’ in the house.

Yamuna keri paro bole shree krishna sharanam mamah
Vraj choraasi kosh bole shree krishna sharanam mamah

Kund kund ni seediyon bole shree krishna sharanam mamah
Kamal kamal par madhukar bole shree krishna sharanam mamah

The words had an almost cathartic effect on me. I now crossed our hall and came to the verandah where the ‘temple room’ was located. The door was open and I looked inside.

There she was! Sitting on the floor, her eyes closed as if in a trance and singing the chant with all her heart. She was facing the temple and had her back to me. I could look at her from the mirror inside the temple. The late afternoon sun cast an orangish hue on her face from the open window above her while she kept singing dedicatedly. She looked divine.

I knocked on the door of the temple room to get her attention. She opened her eyes and looked at me from the mirror.

“Have you washed your hands?” she asked, pursing her lips.

“Yes,” I lied shamelessly and entered the room.

She narrowed her eyes, understanding instantly that I was lying. “You do realize that you are looking like a bhangi don’t you?” she said.

I smiled, for the first time that day, and sat down on the floor behind her. Everything seemed so normal now. The misery of a few hours back felt like a distant memory; albeit a bad one at that.

“How was your day?” she asked me casually.

I couldn’t answer. I wanted to tell her everything. About the poem, about my longing to see her. I wanted to tell her, “I cried for you today, Maa…” But I didn’t. I wasn’t comfortable in baring out my deep sentiments to her. I never did that.

“It was fine,” I said, “I am just very tired.”

“Hmm…Let me finish the puja and then I will make something for you okay?” she said kindly and patted my cheek.

“Okay,” I said and then kept my head on the back of her shoulders. I did that often. It gave me some strange kind of a solace.

“You finish your song,” I added and took a long breath. The knot that was tying my chest through the day was now being slowly unlaced.

She continued her prayer.

Daal daal par pakshi bole shree krishna sharanam mamah
Vrindavan naa vrikshon bole shree krishna sharanam mamah

Gokulya ni gayon bole shree krishna sharanam mamah
Kunj kunj van upwan bole shree krishna sharanam mamah

Each word had a soothing effect on my soul. As if like a balm for the burnt pieces of my insides. She clapped rhythmically with each word and her body swayed along with it. My head too moved back and forth with her and I enjoyed that. It was like being cradled like a child.

I turned my eyes to the open window above. The sun was now about to bid adieu to the day. Birds chittered clamorously on the trees and I could hear the commotion of traffic below. But none of that mattered. My head firmly resting on her back, I could now sense her voice reverberating from inside her as she continued her chants.

Kesar keri kyaari bole shree krishna sharanam mamah
Akaashe patale bole shree krishna sharanam mamah

The torment of the day had now ebbed out and peace had completely enveloped me. The clamor of the outside world began to slowly fade away. My eyes fluttered and then closed.


Find the other chapters of this series below: 

Chapters from my Nostalgia: Sealed with that ‘Timeless’ six

Chapters from my Nostalgia: The First Crush


  1. Childhood can be a bliss :)
    Very well captured!

  2. Can't stop my tears......... Masi would b so proud of u....not only masi but we all r so proud of u.....lucky to have a brother like u...i think god must have thought something before making me only child of my parents coz agar koi aur hota tho shayad apke liye pyaar kum ho jata.....aaj tak mom dad ke alawa kissi se bahut saccha pyaar kiya hi na tho wo aap aur sirf aap ho....aage b sirf aaphi se pyaar karange

  3. Very Well Captured and written....It was really a well written piece by you Bhawesh...An Atheist like you is able to remember each shlok of our dear Mom word by word which still resonates in our ears...Hats off to you...Well Done... Regards, Jayant

  4. @BHAVES ...main bolna bohot kuch chata hoon but shayad bol nhi sakunga..bas itna bolunga ki ye jo likha gaya hai ..kafi strange hai coz,,iske kayi portions mere life se match karte hain..i think humme se kayi log is se connect kar sakte hain.. ye sach hai ki aftr a long vacation school jana achcha nhi lagta tha..aur maa wala baat to kya bolu... bolna nhi chata but haan mere meri mom ke sath emotional baat chit yaa meri mom ne kabhi ustarah pyaar se khana wagera to nhi khilaya but jis tarah se woh care leti thi aur jiss tarah se main unke sath close hoon...main bata nhi sakta... last two years mein mujhe aur bhi zyada patra chala ki maa kya hoti hai... aur ek kahawat jo bachpan mein suni thi wahi bolna chahunga ki bhai maa ki jagah koi nhi le sakta... maa kya hoti hai woh har insan ko life ke kisi ek stage mein zaroor pata chalega... anywaz bohot hi khubsurat likha hai aur... kalko paise mile mujhe to iss concept pe fiolm kyai bachcho ki aisi hi story hai m sure....

  5. Amazing ..... I could visualize the childhood , the classroom, the scenario and could feel the emotions running ..... Thank you Bhavesh for making it nostalgic and I could see myself in it . ��

  6. such a beautiful sensitive piece, so loving and you can touch others' hearts by sharing your own memories of what it is to be a child attached to his mother

  7. The imagery you create is amazing. Beautiful post.

  8. What a narration! Loved the detailing of the Kolkata crowd from a bus! You have developed the feelings of a homesick child to the core. I experienced similar feelings when I went away from home for the first time. I was a bit older than a 4th standard kid. I was in first year of engineering in hostel. Proves the point that there's no age for missing one's mother.

    Loved the story!

  9. No one can capture emotions better than you because this is something that has come straight from the heart and nothing can beat that. Extremely emotional and compels the reader to be emotional too. Really a very good job. Keep it up :)