Saturday, December 31, 2016

See you on the other side, Maa


“So, will you miss me?” she asked while quietly pouring water from a small copper vessel on the Lord Krishna idol. She bathed the idol lovingly, as if it was a six-month-old baby in her hands.

I remained quiet, feeling awkward. Instead, I inhaled the delicate smell of sandalwood which had filled the temple room. The rays of the morning sun were streaming in from the glass windows above us. It was a serene November morning.

“I know you won’t. Both of you are useless,” she said, feigning annoyance, her eyes still on the idol in her hands.

“Maa, you are just going away for a week,” I finally said.

“But it’s the first time I am leaving you two,” she said and looked at me from the mirror in front of her, from inside the little temple. I was sitting behind her and avoided her gaze.

“So this is the first time you are visiting Mathura, isn’t it? I am sure you will enjoy it there” I said trying to change the subject.

“Well…,” she said while gently wrapping the Krishna idol with a saffron dress having golden borders, “It’s your Mama’s wedding you know. It will be tough for us to find time to enjoy the city. But we will try.”

She then placed the idol on its proper ‘throne’ inside the temple and picked up Radha, His partner. It was her turn to be bathed now.

“But you two don’t fight the whole time I am gone, okay? Just stay nicely with your brother and the others in the family and do your schoolwork properly. Your class 7 mid-terms will begin in a month,” she stressed.

“I am not the one who fights. It’s he who always…”

“Chiku,” she cut me short, albeit tenderly, “He is your elder brother. He just has a short temper. But he loves you a lot, too.”

“No, he doesn’t. You always take his side…” I said getting annoyed.

She sighed. Placing Radha next to Krishna, she said, “Both of you are the same to me. And if you fight like this, I will never have peace of mind.”

I remained quiet. I felt angry and looked outside the window. The sky was bright blue now.

“You are my Shravan Kumar, na?” she turned around and kindly rubbed my cheeks with her palm.

I did not say anything. But my anger subsided immediately.

“You are my mature son. Promise me you will not fight with your brother. Promise me you will always be with him.”

I did not know what to say and just smiled.

Convinced that I meant well, she turned back to her temple and began tending to her idols.

“I will be glad when this trip is over,” she said while arranging her gods and goddesses with deft precision inside the little temple.

“See, both of you can easily live without me. But I can never live without you two. Never…”


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31st December. For most of you this date, obviously, signals the end of the year and gets you into party mode. But for me, it always has meant one thing primarily: my mother’s birthday.  

While our family never really celebrated mother’s birthday as such, I always ensured that I do something special for her at least; howsoever inconsequential it might have been. As a child, I used to draw her cards. Being the artist that I was those days, I would buy a little, white blank card from the stationary store nearby and then draw her something random on the front page: a cute cartoon, a beautiful scenery or the picture of a pretty little girl. I would then find a good poem from somewhere and very stupidly write it on the inside of the card to present it to my mother. She would accept it gleefully and safely keep it in her almirah.  

I continued the card tradition for a long time. Only when I was well into my teens did I ditch it. Maybe I shouldn’t have. But, nevertheless, I did make sure that I always got her something on the 31st December. A deodorant, a showpiece and, later on, a cake would mark her special day. Late into my teens, I remember getting up on the morning of the 31st and going straight to the kitchen, where my mother would usually be. I would disengage her from whatever she would be doing and give her a tight hug while she would giggle like a bashful child.

Even now, while she isn’t anymore in my life, I can never really let December 31st be just a normal end of the year day. And while I do nothing special as such, I always do get a cake in the evening. I never tell my father why exactly I buy it, disguising it under the garb of the end year celebration, and then quietly munch it under the stars, raising a toast to her wherever she is.  


**

10 years is a long time. And it feels weird, surreal rather, that it’s been 10 years this year since my mother passed away. Those days with her…They almost feel like they were from a different life…Of a different time…

Life has obviously changed considerably these past ten years. And it would be a lie to say that it has been all bad. No, in fact, I have had some really fine moments in the past few years. Without sounding too pompous, I think have developed myself for the better, both professionally and as a person, since the time my mother knew me. But I have never forgotten her. I have never let her go…

Yes, I have never let her go. And perhaps it is because of this reason that somehow a few good qualities - or habits to be precise - of my mother have just been imbibed in me. For starters, I have become a stickler for cleanliness: I tuck in my bed sheets tightly and never let anyone crumple it, to the point that people get annoyed; I arrange my clothes and my books very neatly; I relish dusting my room and nitpick if anything is disarranged. I wasn’t like this before but somehow have taken up this trait of hers.

Then, there is another queer habit I have picked up of hers: of watching my father from the balcony as he walks away from the house on the way to his office. I don’t know when I got into this habit, but I just did. So every morning, when he leaves the house to go for work, I stand at the balcony, just in a position so that he doesn’t see me if he turns back, and then watch him walk away right until he disappears past the turning of the lane.

And lastly, I have developed the habit of praying to the sun after taking my bath. My mother, after her bath, would always perform a ‘surya namaskar’ and keep chanting ‘Om Surya Namah’ with utmost dedication. What I do instead, is just close my eyes and imagine her performing the surya namaskar. I visualize her smiling face in my mind and then I pray and imagine myself touching her feet.

Most of the times, I ask her to take care of my father and my brother. At times I pray for a troubled friend as well. I also ask for her forgiveness for not being able to provide her a good life and hope that wherever she is now she is much happier. Most of the times, I just seek her blessings for the most mundane of things: like giving me the strength to complete an article or some other writing I am working on. I plead her to bless me so that I keep negativity off my life and continue working hard and develop myself further; that I can become a better person and learn to take care of my father.

I have been doing this every single day since my mother passed away and have never given up on the practice. Suffice to say, it’s something that I look forward to doing every day as I find the exercise quite therapeutic.

Because it’s just nice to think that someone is watching over us…Taking care of us…Isn’t it?


**

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been if my mother would have been alive and healthy today.

When she passed away, I was 20 and never really got the opportunity to buy her something from my own earnings. That is the one thing I imagine myself doing plenty of times. I envisage moments like me taking her to a great vegetarian restaurant or for shopping in a swanky mall.

I would surely have shown her my published articles and would have read out many of the stories I have written. I am certain she must have been pleasantly surprised as she never really had known that I had a knack for writing back then.

I would also have taken her to the theaters for new movies and would have given her a big collection of all her favourite songs which she could listen to all day – things which she relished a lot but couldn’t do much in the later part of her life. 

I have heard and read in several places that there is an alternate dimension out there; an alternate reality in a different timeline which has the same versions of us but with some minor differences. I wonder if this alternate dimension has my version as well. Perhaps in that timeline, my mother would be alive, healthy and happy. And even at this precise moment, I would possibly be sitting behind her in our temple room, my head resting on the back of her shoulders, listening to her chant “Shri Krishna Sharanam Mamah” rhythmically and with all her devotion. 

It's a nice, comforting feeling, really. 


**

The uncomfortable truth that I am unable to openly say or share with anyone is that I have never really been able to get over my mother’s death. Her last few days at the hospital, where her body had completely transformed for the worst, and where she suffered horribly, keep haunting me from time to time. They gnaw at my insides at the most unexpected time…They cling on to my soul like a morbid virus hell-bent on destroying my inner being completely. 

I see her in my dreams, fairly regularly. Most of the times, I see myself with her from some moment of our past where she is talking to me all hale and hearty. But in the back of my mind, I know that her time is limited and get panic-stricken. I fear what will happen when I will lose her and how will I face it. The panic and the fear then force me awake, many times at the wee hours of the morning. So terrified I become that I can feel myself gasping for breath and breathing heavily.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to get rid of these disturbing dreams. And they really break my spirit. It feels like losing my mother over and over again.

Yes, I have not been able to get over her death. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about her. In fact, she has been omnipresent in my life all these years.

I think of her when something good happens. I recall her fiercely when things aren’t going well. There are moments when I imagine her voice: chiding me for not wiping the table clean after completing dinner; laughing with me when I am watching some of her old favourite television comedy shows; clapping with me when India is winning a tense cricket match.

And then there is also the pain. When I look at my father sometimes, sitting or eating alone, my heart just breaks into a million little pieces. He is a simple man, my father. And I feel helpless at times wondering what he must be thinking. What he must be going through each day without the company of his lost life partner. I never ask him. I wish I could.

I also wish I could stop thinking about all this. But I can’t. I think of my mother. And how she wanted to live. About how her dreams and aspirations were taken away. I think of her zeal for life and how it was cruelly cut short.

I think and I think and I think. And there is a hole in my heart so big…I feel it will never be…healed…


**

I have spent years trying to decipher why exactly was my mother taken from me. Why did such an honest, sincere, kind and loving woman meet such a cruel end? But I never got any answers. Because there aren’t any.

The universe works in mysterious ways. Sometimes there’s no reason why things happen. They just do.

Bad things sometimes happen to good people…Lives are taken from this world with seemingly no reason…It’s all part of the mysteries of the box we wish we could see inside...But cannot…

All I wish to do now is to learn to follow on some of her traits. My mother had a passion for life. She was kind and giving. She was innocent, pure and vivacious. And even while living in the most adverse of circumstances, she learned to be happy and cheerful. Of the several things that I admire her for, the one thing that has stuck is that she found a way to be the best of herself all through her life. There’s a lesson right there for me.

I know now that I will perhaps never be able to come to terms with my mother’s death. But if I really want to honour my mother’s memory, I should imbibe her best facet: Of being the best I can be of myself.

I don’t know whether I will be extremely successful or if my name will ever hold any prominence. But I can certainly try to be the best of myself – as a professional and as a human.  

My mother has driven me these past ten years and I know her presence will be my guiding light for the rest of my existence. I shall prepare myself in the interim for my final meeting with her.

And until that time comes, I shall never let her go…

I shall keep recalling her in my good times and bad…

I shall keep praying to her every single day…

I shall meet her in my dreams…

I shall meet her in my soul…

I will keep her alive through my writings…

But I will never let her go…

And when I finally do meet her again, I would hope that she sees me not just with love but with pride as well. I want her to be pleasantly surprised with what I would have done with myself as a person.

I will also tell her, without feeling awkward or hesitant this time, that I do miss her.

I will tell her that I too can’t live without her…

Because in the end, all that will remain of me is the love she gave me and what I made of it.

And so, I will strive…From here on in, everything will lead towards that final encounter.

I couldn’t make her proud of me while she was here. But I promise that it will not be the case when we meet again.

Yes, we will meet again. I have somehow known this for a long time now. Because I know that I deserve another chance with her. It is my destiny… It is my karma…

So I will see you on the other side, Maa…I will see you on the other side…



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P.S. :

I felt like adding this 11-minute short film of mine here as it sort of suits the premise of this write-up.


Now I am no actor. It is not my passion, nor my future. But every now and then I dabble in some short films that my friend likes to make. This one here, in many ways, has become a very special film of my life. Why? To say anything more would be giving away parts of the story. All I want to add is that I had scratch some very troubled memories from my past, related to my mother, to bring out the right kind of emotions for my character in this film. Whether I succeeded or not is for people to tell. But this film will always remain very, very special because of the way I prepared for it and the manner in which I executed it on the final day. The feedback from close ones have been excellent so far, but I want more people to view this as it has a deep-rooted sensible message in it. 


Take a look: 









5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Sir! Pleasantly surprised that you took out time to read this. Really appreciate it. And thank you for your comment. It means a lot to me.

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  2. Brought tears. I can definitely assure that where ever aunty is, she will be proud of you.
    With rubbing the tears off my eyes, I wish you all the best.

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    Replies
    1. Vihsal, thank you so much for your kind words. I really don't know what to say. Quite touched that you took out time to read this and commented so honestly. Thank you brother. Really appreciate it.

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  3. Dear Chiku, I am really amazed by the way you have expressed your feeling towards our beloved mamma...this article brought back the flashback suddenly in front of me as I had almost forgotten her in the hush and puff of daily life...as days past into years those bitter sweet memories about mamma was almost forgotten by me with an exception of few moments when by sheer coincidence I recall her but unfortunately I always recall those last days of her when she was in pain and I had done nothing to bring smile back in her eyes...i have been a very poor son because I didn't took care of her at all and was just busy in my routine life and left her alone to fend off those dreadful days during her end. You were there by her side throughout those painful days and brought some joyful moments. No words to praise you...you have done exactly my opposite and still doing it while I still didn't even remember her birthday as sales closing is more important for me. Thanks for this beautiful and touching article. All the best....

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