Thunder and lightening were playing hide and seek with the dark clouds. To a person with a critical eye, it looked like it was raining cats and dogs. But to a nature enthusiast, it looked as if the clouds were filling themselves up with rain just like a baby would scrunch up its face before crying.
Unaware of nature’s beauty being unleashed around me, I stood on the steps of my school Vidyabharthi where I was a Std 8th student. Shivering in cold I looked at my watch again and noted that Amma was late by 45 minutes today, surpassing the usual delay of 15 to 20 minutes. My friends and classmates had already left and the school wore a deserted look. Though I had a raincoat on, I longed for the warmth and comfort of my home. Getting angrier by each passing minute, I wondered as to when Amma, who worked as the Chief editor of a famous magazine would turn up.
No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, when a Maruti car screeched to a halt in front of the school gates. Amma got down from the car holding an Umbrella in her hand. She was wearing a pale yellow Saree that always reminded me of Sunflowers. I picked up my school and lunch bags and got into the car without greeting her. Amma sat down silently behind the wheel. On the way home, to the ‘How was your day?’ and ‘How are your lessons progressing?’, my reply was stone silence.
On reaching home, I went straight to my room and slammed the door shut in typical teenage fashion. By the time I finished my homework, it was time for dinner. When I entered the dining room, I noticed that Amma had prepared my favourite tomato rasam* and onion pakodas*. As I started eating, Amma sat down in front of me and said “Putti, I know you are angry with me. But, just as I was about to leave the office, some last minute work came up and I had to stay back…”, before she could finish her sentence, I pushed away my uncompleted dinner, stood up and glaring at her said “Please, enough Amma. I neither care about your office problems nor your expertise in solving them. I am fed up of waiting for you and having to bear the sympathetic glances from my friends at the school everyday. Earlier I used to feel proud that my mother is a working woman, but now I just wish that you would give up your job and be as attentive and caring as my friends’ parents’ are”. Saying so, I went to my room and slammed the door shut.
“It’s time” Appa said softly. I woke up from the daze of the hurtful memories of the past. “I’ll be down in a minute” I replied. As Appa left the room, I looked down at the pale yellow Saree on my lap that I was stroking lovingly. The Saree still carried my mother’s scent. After folding it carefully and placing it inside the cupboard, I went down and sat inside the car. Appa followed, folding his Umbrella as he sat down behind the wheel. It had been raining continuously for the past 4 days with not even a glimpse of the Sun amidst the dark clouds.
It’s been 33 days now since Amma left me and Appa all alone in this world. I am surprised that I could remember this detail for my mind has been completely blank this past month. Leaning back against the car seat, I thought back to that fateful day when the Principal of my college had called me to his chamber saying that there was an urgent call for me. As I picked up the phone and my aunt delivered the news, I stood like a statue for God knows how long, refusing to accept what I had just heard. The details of the events that followed that phone call are still hazy. I shed no tears when my relatives howled in pain over the loss. I ate only because my aunt had taken it upon herself to feed me since her words of coaxing were having no effect on me. I don’t remember going to bed to sleep because being awake and being asleep were no different to me, I didn’t know which day of the week it was or hell, even where I was but after 2 weeks, due to Appa’s coaxing I once again started attending the college. I was only physically present, I ate food and drank water not because I felt the need to do so, but again due to Appa’s coaxing.
It was today that I finally gathered up the courage and told Appa that I wanted to visit Amma’s gravesite on our farmland. He agreed thinking that it was time for me to face the reality. I hadn’t entered Amma’s room since that fateful day. Many a times I stood in front of the room staring at the closed door, the thought that if I entered the empty room would force me to finally accept what I was refusing to do till then always made me turn away from the room. Today, when I entered the room and saw the neatly kept dressing table with her many bindis still stuck on the mirror, the ironing table with her Saree still on it, the earthen pots on which she had hand painted ‘Radha-Krishna’ so beautifully, her laptop on the bedside table that she had a love hate relationship with and the carefully arranged pillows on the bed that according to her neither Appa nor I knew how to arrange properly, I couldn’t hold my pain anymore. I collapsed by the bed clutching her Saree knowing that she would never be there to welcome me home from the hostel with her warm smile or pamper me by preparing my favourite food when I was feeling low or admonish me when I showed bad behaviour or just support me in silence when I shared my troubles with her. There won’t be any more of those days when Amma and I would sit in the balcony sipping tea and eating onion pakodas, watching the rain as she told me her childhood stories. There will always be this empty space inside me that will never fill up no matter what, they say that time heals everything but I doubt if even time could fill up this chasm inside of me. And I could not enjoy the sweet memories of her for I was haunted by the memories of all those times when I was so mean to her, if only I could go back and change the times when I gave her pain knowingly or unknowingly.
I wiped away my tears not wanting Appa to notice who was having enough trouble as it is navigating the car in the pouring rain when suddenly I saw it, sun-rays piercing through the dark clouds. It was as if Amma had sent me a message to always hold your face up to the light when swallowed by darkness. I’ll always beat myself up when I remember all those times that I was cruel to her, but from now onwards, I’ll also make sure to remember my good times with her, like when she was sick and I was taking care of her, how she forced me to play guitar every night making a puppy face till I agreed and had that content smile on her face as she slept halfway through my playing or when I encouraged her to take that trip to Europe with her friends when she was hesitant to leave Appa behind and had a fabulous time abroad or when I was the loudest person to cheer as she went onstage to collect her prestigious award or when she turned to me for fashion advice for her office parties or when I would massage her head with warm coconut oil on the weekends I was home from the hostel, lovingly admonishing her to take better care of herself. I vowed then and there that I won’t allow pain, regret or anger come in the way of the fond remembrance that I have of Amma.
Rasam- a South Indian dish prepared using tamarind juice as a base, with the addition of tomato, pepper, cumin and other spices as seasoning.
Onion Pakoda- Onion fried snack