“Bittoo”, I called out to my son. “Maa, please don’t call me by my baby name anymore, I am a grown up now!” So said my son to me when I addressed him the way I always loved too.
What an irony! The young are in a hurry to be and be considered as adults, and adults wish to go back into their youth and childhood.
“Beta, you may grow up to be a 100 yrs, and if I am still around, you will still be my Bittoo,” I said. But I don’t think he quite understood the emotion. Perhaps most youngsters don’t.
We, mothers, are a different breed altogether. At times children may forget about certain incidences about their childhood, but we mothers have a certain niche in our hearts where we store each memory about our children like precious gems, be they good or bad! And going over them, we even experience the same emotions every time. Strange, isn’t it?
Today is Mother’s Day and it also happens to be my darling Bittoo’s birthday. Memories of him as a little boy crowd my mind. Among all, I particularly remember this one which makes me wince even today……….
Bitto was just 7 years old. “Maa, please buy me a pair of sports shoes, my old ones can’t be repaired anymore.” He requested. “OK beta, no more repairs”. I replied. “Promise?” He asked in disbelief. “Arre haan beta, we shall go this evening” I reassured.
It was financially one of the most difficult period of my life when every penny saved was a king’s ransom.
Come evening, true to my promise, I called out “Come on Bittoo, let’s go for your shoes.” He came running towards me, thrilled! He had waited so long, now he was finally getting a new pair.
Instead of taking him to a good shoe-shop, I took him to the shoe stalls, where they were cheaper. “Oh No Maa, not these. Please buy me a pair from that big shop.” He cried. “Beta, please don’t be difficult. Look, these are the same shoes, but at the stalls, they are cheaper.” “No Maa, they are not the same” he insisted.
“Beta, you either take these or you get none,” I said firmly. My little Bittoo quietly accepted. I could see his disappointment. Anyway, the shoes were bought. I was oblivious of the blunder I had made.
A few months later, it was my turn to buy shoes for myself. I was not prepared for the shock I was in for. I went to the same stall and started trying on some shoes. The first one hurt, the second one hurt, the third one also hurt bad and they felt so hard on my feet. “Give me a better pair, these are so hard, and they hurt,” I told the vendor. “These are the best I have, else you have to go to the shop and pay double for the softer ones,”
“Oh Maa, what did I do!” Tears of remorse filled my eyes as I abruptly walked away without buying any shoes.
I rushed home. Once there, I just sat and wept and wept and wept. “Why did I not listen to him? And I forced my Bittoo to buy such hard and painful shoes.” I admonished myself. “And my poor baby even accepted them eventually. Oh Maa, how could I be such an insensitive and cruel mother?” I was overtaken by guilt. I could actually feel those tiny feet hurting and paining. My Bittoos disappointed face was before my eyes. “Oh No Maa, not these. Please buy me a pair from that big shop.” His words echoed in my ears.
Impatiently I waited for Bittoo to return from school. “Bittoo, just leave your bag, remove your shoes and come here!” I said, the moment he walked in. I held his tiny feet, they were sore at some places. “Ouch,” He winced as I touched them. “Ahhh!” I blurted. I could feel his pain. My eyes welled up as guilt overtook me again. “Let’s go,” I said turning my face the other way. “Where Maa?” surprised, he asked. “Just let’s go, it’s a surprise, you will soon know”. I said, secretly wishing the pain of his feet and the memory of those horrid hurting shoes to miraculously vanish from his mind.
Entering the shoe shop, I asked the attendant to show a good pair of sports shoes for Bittoo. He looked up at me surprised. “But Maa, but you recently bought me shoes” “It’s OK, you just try them on and see if they feel good,” I said “No Maa, my shoes are fine, not broken, don’t waste money,” He insisted. “Never mind,” I said, “select any which you like. You may even take 2 pairs if you like.” Little did my baby realize, it was me who needed to buy the shoes more than him. I had to rid my guilt and atone for the sin I had committed. That day I would have even sold myself to buy new shoes for him.
Happy he certainly was, with his 2 new pairs of good shoes. Bittoo said as we walked out of the shop.
Soon after we reached home, Bittoo once again wore his new shoes and came up to me, “You know, these feel good and soft on my feet.” He squealed with joy, but was soon shocked to see what I did next. I picked up his bad pair of shoes, threw them in the dustbin, hugged him and said, “I am sorry Bittoo, I am so sorry. I will never ever buy anything from the stalls for you. We shall always buy things from a good shop.”
Bittoo now, is grown up and has a family of his own now. Yet, even to this day, when I remember this incident, and even while writing this my eyes well up. I can feel the pain of those tiny bruised feet. Pangs of guilt shake up my inner being. I even spoke to Bittoo about this. He just brushed it away. Laughing indulgently in a tender tone he said, “forget it Maa. You did it because you did not know, and you were only trying to save money. You bought me new shoes when you realized your mistake, don’t think so much about it. So, says he! But can the mother in me ever forget it, I wonder!
– By Mina Tilakraj