You never existed for me. As far as I was concerned my mother was Poonam.
Poonam and I were the only people inside my circle, which i had just learnt
to draw. Everything else was out. Not only me, even my friends and little
cousins thought so. I would run to her if I was hungry, had a bruise to be
fussed over or had to get my unruly hair to behave. I would see you silently
going through the chores of life with strange silence. I remember crying
myself hoarse as a toddler who had just learnt to walk but not enough to get
down the flight of stairs, probably hungry or just hungry for attention. The
steps divided my world from yours.
And you went on sweeping the court yard as if I did not exist. To me you
were someone living in our house who was just there. The why and the
wherefores did no trouble me.
I found your silence strange. You would never show emotions, no smiles, no
anger, no pain, nothing. You would not chatter away with other women. Always
the same pale expression busy with household work. I was four years old and
I hated Holi for some weird reason. You had tucked me in your arms with my
body resting on your waist. Someone came and colored your face a dirty blue.
I just bit you on your neck, probably showing my anger for making me a part
of this bizzare ongoing. I waited to be scolded, thrown down or shouted at.
You tugged me closer and execused yourself from the scene citing my
discomfort as the reason. This cleared one doubt in my mind. I did exist for
you and you cared about me.
The 1984 riots were too complex for my mind to comprehend. The schools were
closed. I had all the time in the world to think who you were. I would lock
myself and imagine you to be the house maid or may be a wicked queen who
wanted to kill the good prince. One day I found your sindoordaani. May be
this is the wicked magical powder that made you so cold. I opened it and
wondered what this red powder was that only you religiously adorned. I don’t
know how I spilled it all over me. The mirror showed an ugly red incarnation
of me and I was scared. You just walked in asked me to leave and cleaned up
with the same silence I have begun to hate so much. I wanted you to say
something, anything for that matter. I learnt another thing, it was not the
red powder but something else.
It took me another fifteen years to understand to what it was. That you had
just started to "live" with your husband, my father, after twenty years of
your married life. Twenty years of separation and ill treatment at your in
laws place had made you numb. It aint easy to be giving birth to one girl
after another, and yet another. You were fighting chronic depression and a
host of other diseases related to stress, emotional trauma and malnutrition.
To me you were just a hypochondriac or plain lazy, responsible for passing
to me my maddening migraine in the name of heredity.
I gave up my efforts to attract your attention and somewhere down the line
accepted the fact that you were my mother and Poonam, my eldest sister.
Though it did not change anything, but it certainly made my repulsion and
hatred for you more strong. What kind of a mother is she? Never calls me pet
names, never cuddles me, does not even cook fancy things for me. What a
contrast she was to other mothers I knew. I envied my friends. I ignored
you. I did not need your attention or approval, I resolved. I would be
embarassed if my friends came home. You would be in a crumpled saree, hair
in disarray, going about your work. A far cry from my friends' mothers who
would be impecabbly dressed, with lipstick, manicured hands and offer us
fizzy drinks and muffins!
You would never serve anything. All you had to offer was your sweetmeat,
which i secretly liked, but could not bring myself to say so. How could I
I hated you for not being fluent in English. You could not come to my PTAs.
How many times did I join my dad in poking fun at your sad english. We would
laugh at your daily pooja and weekly vrats, even your home remedies were
scorned. I hated your penny pinching. Now my dad was also inside my circle.
It took another twenty years for me to realize how you managed a family of
five on a small govt. salary my dad earned. I failed to see only you could
have seen me through my expensive schooling which was almost 50% of what dad
earned. Only you could have put Gangajal in my dying pet’s mouth and only
you could have accommodated the faceless laborer couple in our backyard when
they lost everything to fire.
I had found a companion in dad who I guess was also embarassed by you. But
you still did not react. You snatched my friend, my dad also one day. The
grinding stone fell on your feet and you could not get up. I stood there
amused, laughing my head off. My dad snapped at me. That day I was convinced
you were a witch who had won over my dad.
Sometimes, I saw the glimpses of the mother in you. How you dreid my tears
and taught me division when I had scored a measly 3 on 20 in Maths. I was in
class third. I never failed a single test after that. Still it was not
enough for me to forgive you.
I was thirteen and more irritated by you now when you considered my
menstrual cramps as food poisoning and offered me the obnoxious Pudin Hara.
I don't know why I conviniently forgot that you did the laundry when I had
stained my bed for the first time, without even grumbling. Or how you rushed
out to get me a pack of STs, when I had ran out of them and was writhing in
pain. “That’s not the brand I use,” is all I had said. Too embarrassed to
let you help me. To me you were no one. I would swing in and out of the
house without bothering to inform you. Threw food and tantrums much more
than a normal teenager. But you never reacted.
How I hated you for not taking a stand, so many times. To my adolescent mind
conditioning, patriarchy and subjugation were alien words. You always cried
How much venom I had when you had refused me to go to Delhi and study on my
own. Who were you to tell me? You had no place in my life. Soon my teenaged
arrogance and shallowness, gave way to logic and I began to comprehend who
you were and why. But again you were never first on my priority. First
friends, then boyfriends, then job. They kept playing musical chair with my
priorities. My circle of life grew and shrunk but it never accomodated you.
You never figured. I was busy now. You calmly accepted your daughter's bad
marriage, her death. You even made way for another widowed daughter and
calmly went ahead to raise their two children each. You found it difficult
to differentiate between my friends and boyfriends. But never asked. You
calmly accepted my choice of my life partner with enthusiasm and never spoke
a word about him after I stopped mentioning him.
I did not hate you now but I never stopped to give you what you deserved.
Not even when I returned home drunk one night and you were up waiting to
have food with me. Not even then when you found a cigarette in my bed.
Now you have once again become the pale ghost and frail copy of what you
were when I was a little child. Weak, limp, hairless and stone like. You
have closed your circle and I dont find myself inside it.
Please speak to me. I know chemo drains you. I know you are in pain but ma,
please spare a look. I travel miles to see you. But you look through me. I
cant come back now, ma.
How could you do this to me. Why did you have to turn yourself in a
blackwhite picture? Oh I hate that garish maala on that picture. Ma, please
say something, anything...
Failed to edit it to 300 words... catharsis is a long process i guess.