I tried to sip in every sight of the city soaked in drizzles, from the car, on my way from the airport. It looked the same even after 10 years. As we crossed the TC Girls High School, I felt nostalgic. It was the place I visited every evening for years.
Cut to a few years back, rather two decades! It was another rainy day. A lady in a saree clasps a little girls hand and makes her way through a swarming crowd covered by umbrellas black, red, blue, and green. Wading their way through the puddles of water, a little wet, a little uneasy they climb onto a maroon city bus. Water dripped from their closed umbrellas. The little girl clung to her mother as their bodies moved back and forth each time the driver pulled the break.
Off the bus and a little walk through a black gate, they were onto a huge ground. Wet ankle length grass touched them, while the muddy water in between sucked in their slippers making a sloshing noise. At the end of the ground was the school. The closer they went sounds of a wooden stick beating rhythmically against a wooden base grew clearer.
The little girl entered the class while her mom waited outside full of anticipation. She smiled each time her daughter looked out.
Words cannot express a mother’s joy and enthusiasm when their children learn new things and get to do what they love.
After the class, they walk to a bakery to buy the little girl’s favorite cupcakes. They take an autorickshaw ride back home.
That was a scene I lived once.
Our car pulled down right in front of the house where the autorickshaw stopped years back. The house remained same except that the garden had new plants now but had grown old and needed more care.
My son pressed the calling bell. We waited. Sounds of footsteps down the stairway followed and then the pulling of a lash. There was mom smiling, beaming with happiness to see us. She was a little older but as lively as before.
Entering the house got back familiar smells and sights. With the passing years, however, the house had grown empty – it was not just the people who were no more but also things that disappeared. Mom never got a clue where things vanished or rather who made them vanish.
But there was bliss in this house, inspite of the stories that it had been carrying in every nook and corner, the memories that hid in every part of it and the joys and sorrows confined within its walls.
Mom had laid out our favorite lunch. The aromas of the freshly cooked food lingered all around mixed with the love she radiated. I was in awe of her enthusiasm and energy at 75. She moved around with a plate to feed by 6 years old.
Soon my sister-in-law, as planned, took me to Mother’s Home at Lasit Nagar.
I was excited.
It was a three-storeyed building. We reached the terrace where chairs were arranged under a tarpaulin.
I looked around. My excitement diminished. There were women aged 60 and above. We were said in total there were around 61 of them.
To meet us they had dressed in their best mekhela-chadars – neat and spotlessly clean. Some had coloured borders around the chadars, some wore bindis and most of them tied their hair into buns.
Some talked to each other, some sat aloof – lost in thoughts, some kept looking at us. I realized they were abandoned, mothers!
Our aunt, who had arranged this visit, asked me to help her serve those women who had not come upstairs. So I carried the bowls of ‘kheer’ with her.
In a room, a lady attendant was feeding an elderly woman, around 80 years old. Her hair was cut short; she kept pulling at her nightgown, spilled out her food and behaved like a toddler except that she couldn’t move from the bed. I was shocked and dismayed at the sight.
I was meeting mothers.
In another room there were five ladies or rather skeletons in short hair – two of them had shaved heads. They looked like living bodies devoid of human feelings; they listlessly gorged the food. The only feeling left was perhaps pain!
A bed-ridden lady lay in a position with a leg half bent, her body turning towards the wall while her head slightly tilted away from it. She gasped.
I almost froze as I looked at those mothers.
There were many of them. Some spoke to us, kissed us and thanked us for meeting them.
They were all mothers – mothers who raised their families once upon a time; who sacrificed their sleep for their kids; who taught them to walk and talk; who took them to school; who fed and cleaned them; who endlessly sacrificed their own aspirations for them; who toiled and hid their pain; who made their kids independent and self-sufficient; who were now valueless.
Those mothers were on a lonely journey now. The kids they raised had grown and left the nest. The kids they sacrificed their dreams for had gone far to fulfill their own dreams!
I wondered what was going on in their minds when they met us. Perhaps they stood in our position once! Do they feel pitied? What pain is hidden in their hearts? How does it feel to be abandoned by the kids they raised? How does a mother feel when she is repaid with hatred and ungratefulness? Or are their emotions dead by now?
My voice is stifled. I cannot erase their pain. All I have is prayers and love.
But now I’m even more grateful for a mother who still exists in my life. And I realize the value of the word ‘mother’ as I salute them!
Back home, speechless, I only mutter to my son, looking out for me, “I met mothers today”!
– By Punam Sharma