My Mother – A Poem


First Published in Le Zaporogue XVI by various authors

 

My Mother

 

He sat beside me

silent as a breath

memories of that summer

wrapped in the wet crumpled tissue

that lay on his lap, his wrinkled hand

resting on the walking stick,

and then he spoke;

“Your mother’s hands were brown and soft,

just like the phulkas she made, she was

an earth woman. I often closed my eyes

when she sang, her songs rose from the

soft rhythms of the water wheel, the tinkling

of bells around the bullock’s neck, the

sweetness of the mustard flowers, and

the crackle of the wood fire of her stove, they

carried with them the scent of damp earth.

Often I would quietly slip in and listen

to her sing as she went about

doing her daily chores, her wet hair

rolled in a towel or loosely tied

in a bun with one or two tendrils

framing the face.

It was a cruel summer that year,

the river had dried and the cattle

kneeled and bowed their parched

heads to the river bed pleading

for a tickle of life, the fields

turned brown and the leafless trees

stood naked and exposed, as if

atoning to their unknown sins

under the merciless sky.

It was on such summer day I

found her hanging from the cross-beam

in the ceiling, the wood was old and

rot riddled but it held her weight

well enough. Her hair, shorn off,

lay in a jumbled pile on the floor,

next to it were the clothes she had worn,

the milk on the clay stove and boiled over

and dried, the milk bottle smashed against

the wall, the house smelled of rage,

lust and struggle. In the courtyard,

the clothesline had collapsed under

the weight of sorrow, the swing lay

dismantled and chained, a lone witness

to her shame. The makeshift hammock

hung limply from the tree,

a kind neighbour had quietly

whisked you away as the town burned.

Clasping your infant body

 like a broken doll and a

picture of your mother in my pocket,

I took refuge at a patchwork of shelters

that had sprouted on the smoldering land.

A few of us sat under a small covering

of rags, tarpaulin and sheet metal,

holding whatever was left of our

precious belongings, somewhere

a man sharpened the knife on a stone,

click clack, click clack,

the blade glistened in the dark,

another one sang, his low mournful voice

made the night bleed with absence and loss,

but the sun rose just as it always did,

bearing no sense of loss, and with it

we too rose carrying our wounded

identities and slipped into the folds

of anonymity.

A few days ago I walked through that part

of the town where I lived and loved,

where she sang her songs, our old haunts,

the old well, our ancestral home,

nothing lives there anymore,

even the ghosts have moved on,

but the river now flows to the brim and

in the fields the mustard flowers

bloom in abundance, the earth, they say,

still sings the songs of estrangement, in

memory of that summer and

 the sky pours it rains.”

I Am What I Am Mamma Thanks To You(Indus Ladies mother’s day blog contest entry)


impressions

The telephone rang in the morning.

“Can you come over this weekend to help me pack?”

“Help you pack? Are you going somewhere?”

“Yes, I am off to Greece.”

I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Then my initial disbelief turned into a smile. That’s my mom, full of tremendous courage, sense of adventure and a never-ending passion for life.

It was an inspiration and a joy to watch her child like enthusiasm. She had always dreamed of traveling around the globe.

Not at all concerned about her frail health, her age factor, or traveling alone or any such issue she went on to live her dream and came back beaming with excitement and fond memories of the two countries she visited Turkey and Greece.

We were happy for her and thought that now that her desire to travel has been fulfilled we can relax. But within a year she was packing for her sojourn in china. I asked her if she had any more surprises up her sleeves. She laughed and said, “Life is short and there is so much to see and enjoy”.

Recently the whole family had gathered to celebrate her birthday. The laughter, sighs and animated voices filled the house as my mother narrated stories from her life and recent travels. Working in the kitchen I smiled as I imagined the 78year old graceful woman, full of life and joy surrounded by her teenage grandchildren.

I wondered why it took me so much time to really understand and know my mother and the answer was simple enough, maybe I never looked at her beyond the image of a parent. I felt a wave of regret pass over me thinking how much I had missed in life

I went and kept my head in her lap trying once again to be the child whose life completely revolved around her mother.

I had always admired the inner strength and courage and her belief in herself that she had all through the life but it was amazing to see her so full of life even with declining health and old age.

Eldest amongst her five siblings, Ma was born in an average middle class family of educationists. She spent her early years in Theosophical Society Banaras. Her parents supported her in pursuing higher education. She had a very sound cultural background and always mentioned that she was fortunate to have been born and brought up in that time and place.

She had to share the responsibilities of taking care of an ailing mother, younger siblings and had to work from an early age. She taught in residential schools at many places away from her family for a long period of time. Marriage and children added to her responsibilities as she singlehandedly managed home and work.

Nine years after her first child she could finally afford to have another baby. I was born under difficult circumstances. A complicated case of Placenta Previa put our life in danger with nil chances of survival especially for me. As they say destiny is nothing but the strength of your desires we both lived and there in my mother’s arms we reassured our bond that would last a life time.

Ma wrapped up all her dreams and desires and although she had many opportunities she made us her fist preference.

At the age of 60 she retired from govt. service and was just picking up the loose ends of her life when my father fell ill. For the next 10 years it was a test of her mettle and took a toll on her health but even in those adverse circumstances she never gave up.

My father passed away and suddenly there was a vacuum in her life. Tired and broken from the struggles of life she intended to live quietly in some old age home but we insisted that she start her life afresh.

Slowly the spark which had got weighed down by work and responsibility became a flame again and her passion for life returned.

Once again we saw the glow and child like curiosity and sense of adventure in her. Even now people find it difficult to believe the kind of enthusiasm and zest she has for life.

After 17 years of marriage and becoming a mother myself I realized I had lost myself somewhere and felt empty from within. Ma constantly encouraged me to find my place in the bigger scheme of things and do justice to my existence on earth. Her attitude toward life inspired me to become what I am today.

I learned to fight my own battles, to speak for myself, assert my individuality and un-warp my dreams and realize them. Protecting and nurturing me, she gave me courage and unconditional love and support to rise above the challenges, just the way she herself did.

Now at the age of forty one, with my boys grown up, I too have decided to follow my passion to write, to explore the possibilities that lie ahead of me. I am now truly proud to be my mother’s daughter in every sense of the word.

She helped me become a better human being, a much more confident woman and a responsible person.

It is such a joy to watch her take on life with so much zest. At her age she is one of the most daring mothers I have come across. Always ready to try and do something new. She even enrolled herself in a Spanish language course lest her wanderlust should take her to the land of Flamenco dancers.

I closed my eyes as her soft fingers caressed my hair. Slowly a tear tricked and slid down my cheeks. I wrapped my arms around her and snuggled closer.

I could still hear the continuous rambling of the four friends around me and now it was her joyous laughter and children’ chirpy stories that filled the evening air.

“Did you have a blogger mom and a net savvy super cyber grandma, Nani?” My little one asked her.

“I have.”

I heard the pride and affection in his voice.

Oh yea, Net savvy all the way I smiled to myself. She signed up on Facebook and Orkut to communicate with people of different places and learned the tricks of cyber world in no time.

It is with a very warm feeling of pride and love that I write about her today. A mother every girl would want to have, a grandmother whom the grandchildren treat like a friend and above all a woman of substance that even the Creator would feel proud of.

The treasure of life and the small things that I learned from her about living life have enriched me and made me what I am today.

I wish her good health and many a glorious years ahead.

IL Mother’s Day Competition