“Have you finished your lessons or you need beatings?” I could hear my mother yelling from the kitchen as I chose to ignore my lessons and dress my little dolls instead.
“Last warning, I need those algebra sums within next fifteen minutes and if you are still busy with your dolls then you will have it.” My mother threatened.
I was used to her threat techniques but still looked at those silly numbers. I knew Maa (Mother) won’t beat me but deep within I was still scared I might fail in Algebra. Rubbing her hands in that green towel Maa used to sit next to me with her knitting kit to keep a watch if I am actually doing my lessons or am still playing with my dolls.
Maa was excellent in knitting and it was from her I learned knitting. I used to knit sweater for my dolls when suddenly I thought I will knit a woolen wear for myself. I stitched my own woolen shrugs for me. My mother taught me the designs and I would do the knitting by myself.
My parents were academicians but apart from studies they were people of high caliber. They played guitar and me dancing with the riffs. I was a little girl of four when my mother enrolled me for dance classes. I learned dancing from my tutors but for my songs I waited for my mother. She taught me several songs of Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and some folk songs as well. Very often she sang this song: “Lal paharer deshe ja, ranga matir deshe ja lal paharer deshe ja, ranga matir deshe ja he thak tuke manai chena re ikke bare manai chena re lal paharer deshe jabi, hari aar madol pabi lal paharer deshe jabi, hari aar madol me moroder ador pabi re o nagor o nagor”.
Gradually I started loving this song and then I even performed in a local function where I danced with this song.
There were several episodes of me chewing the pencil stub, aching to watch movies and my mother trying to teach me. My mother was my teacher, she was the one from whom I learned my first alphabets, though she was a professor of Philosophy but still it was her who taught me Maths and Science and I fell in love with these two subjects.
“Why don’t you take go for tuitions, you will learn Maths better?” my mother told me time and again and instead of replying I used to cuddle in her lap and smell her. She had a motherly whiff and I always loved that.
I was her shadow; wherever she went I followed her. My parents had a transferrable job as they worked for the central government and I used to be scared and pray to God and say “Please God let my parents not get transferred. I love this small town and my friends and I don’t want to lose them.” Strangely God answered my prayers. Neither they were transferred nor did I lose my friends.
Since childhood I had seen my mother ailing. She had hyper tension and also suffered from menstrual cramps. As a little girl I could never figure out why those three days every month my mother had to suffer so much, so again I had to talk to God but God wouldn’t listen either. But she had other problems as well which she ignored that we chose to give a blind eye to that ailment. She had a nagging pain in her chest. The pain used to start on the left side of her chest and travelled to her shoulder with a stinging pain in her left arm. She thought it was arthritis and we thought the same and she would pop in a pain killer to ease her pain. Those days she would collapse completely and the pain refused to leave her body. I came to know much later post her death it was nothing but she suffered from heart ailment Angina. So she had a weak heart but for me she was my pillar of strength.
Never in my life I could imagine I can leave without my mother, just like any other child would want to. It always haunted me how people can keep their parents in an old age home and I used to ask that question to my mother “Maa is old age home a better place?”
My mother used to smile and say “Yes, they are sometimes, do you want me to stay there?”
I used to wail and say “No, never, never, why do you say so, maa I cannot stay without you”.
“But one day I will go to some other place and that day is not very far, so why don’t you practice to be yourself” she would reply me gently stoking my hair with her tender fingers.
Years passed by and one thing my mother failed was to drag me to the coaching classes. I still preferred her. Her knowledge on Maths and Science wasn’t good but still I craved that she sat with me as I studied. I was a very wicked child, I ensured I watch all the movies and I did that even during my exams and all my mother use to do was to chase me with a cane so that I could study. Sometimes she panted; she could no longer run with me. I never understood it was her heart which was struggling to pump the blood.
At twenty I left for a different city with a new job and with a high salary. My parents came along with me to the mega city to bid me a farewell. Clutching my mother’s saree I wept like that little girl who wept on her first day in school when I was only two and a half years old. My mother wept too hugging me. I begged her not to leave me. Why did I do that? Was it an indication she will be leaving me forever?
Exactly ten years down the line she fell sick. That pain in the chest, she could no longer bear it. She kept on saying it was arthritis and we believed as she was really was a patient of osteoarthritis. Being a science student how could I be such a fool to believe heart and knees are two different parts of the body. Then one day it happened. By that time my parents had shifted in the city where I worked. I received a call from my father “Come back, your mother is in delirium, she has collapsed”.
I was in the local and immediately got down. In the past my father had been admitted several times but I never felt this nervous as I felt when I received this call. It was again a two hour journey back home and I was unable to control my tears. I felt feeble. I reached home and saw my little toddler waiting for me suckling her thumb. In broken words she tried to explain me her grandma had fallen sick. I saw my mother lying on the floor, struggling hard to breathe. I managed to ferry her to the hospital. She was diagnosed with kidney problem; the pain killers had affected her kidney. Another blow for me was Dr Om Shrivastav who had been treating our family was abroad and I had to deal with new doctors though they were equally experienced and empathetic. Within a span of one and a half year my mother fell sick several times, there were numerous hospital visits, numerous tests her body could bear. I could see those x rays’s where the plate showed a shadow on her rib cage and I knew it was the heart.
Each time I took her to the hospital my mother cried to me and pleaded “Don’t bring me to the hospital please. It is an old age home. I don’t like this prison” and I replied “If I don’t bring you here you will die, you need to remain here till you get alright.” The doctors sometimes said it was the kidney, sometimes they would say it was heart, sometimes they would say diabetes and the list was endless. At work I remained tensed and anxious that a call will come and I would have to run back home.
Gradually she could no longer walk and she was completely bed ridden. This time I prayed to God saying “Dear God, maa is suffering and I don’t want any tests to be done on her. You can always cure her of her ailments”. I guess God was smiling up there and was wishing me luck. The last time I took her to the hospital she told me “Take care of yourself, I will be leaving soon and you need to take care of your father and your daughter, my heart aches for my grandchild but I have to go, take care, please take care”.
I asked her to stop. I looked at the doctor for an answer; he didn’t smile but told me to take my mother to her home. He also said that I need to come back to him after one week for a detailed heart diagnosis. This time I was sure I will not bring my mother to the hospital anymore.
I left the hospital with my mother. She couldn’t walk anymore. I brought her to her home; I brought her to her granddaughter. She was lost in her own world. My father and our helps attended her and on weekends I tended her. The stories which she told me when I was a kid I started telling her those stories. She looked at me, took my hands in her and all I could see were tears that welled her eyes. I sang that song to her “Lal paharer deshe ja, ranga matir deshe ja lal paharer deshe ja, ranga matir deshe ja he thak tuke manai chena re ikke bare manai chena re lal paharer deshe jabi, hari aar madol pabi lal paharer deshe jabi, hari aar madol me moroder ador pabi re o nagor o nagor” she listened and asked me to dance again.
This time I couldn’t dance, I smelt her again, that fragrance I loved in my childhood. My toddler crept beside me; in her broken language she too sang that song. That night all we did was to sing to my mother and she kept listening to us but not for once she could sing. She tried but her voice chocked.
I was elated, I thought my mother has recovered; the heart is pumping blood and oxygen. Next morning I woke up early, gave my mother her medicines and kissed her. I told her “Maa I will see you in the evening, be good to all and try to walk on your own”. Her eyes told something else; she did not smile but touched my hands and planted a kiss on my forehead. I smelt her again, I kissed her again and I asked her to kiss me back. She tried but she couldn’t.
Evening while I was returning from my work I received a call from my father. He said “Maa is cold and she is not moving”. I did not reply, I hung up the phone. I felt a load lifting from my chest. I knew I lost my mother. I did not cry. My mother now is free from all miseries. Now it’s me in charge, tears in my eyes I see her all over. She is near yet so far. I am there to live my mother’s daughter.
I wanted to say her “Thank you maa for bringing me here. For gifting me everything you had. Wish you lived a little more maa”. I couldn’t. I got down from the local. I didn’t feel like walking back to my home. I chose a different route. My cell kept ringing, the familiar number of my father. I didn’t pick up the call as I wanted to be alone with my mother. That was my last goodbye I bid to my mother. Sixty five years of pain, sixty five years of silence, sixty five years that are gone forever and will never come again.