It has been almost thirty months since I last saw you. And yet, I remember your smile as if you bid me goodbye yesterday. Funny, how the mind works. I can’t seem to recall what I studied today afternoon, but the moment my eyes close, all I see is you.
At night, when it becomes silent except for the steady patter of the rain and the mellow chirp of the grasshopper, my heart automatically aches for you, Ma. My arms itch to hug you and never let go. My eyes are desperate to behold your moon-like countenance and never set sight on anything else. If it were possible, I would become blind just to see you, once more. My tongue seeks to voice out, just for one more time, the greatest synonym of love, ‘Amma.’ How I long for all of this! I hold on to this intangible hope foolishly, for it is foolish indeed, to expect something that cannot be recalled.
Anyway, before you passed on, right in front of my eyes, I didn’t know what to do. All of seventeen and all alone in this world, in a strange vehicle with two complete strangers fighting for your life. When I knew that your last breath of what I continue to breathe was approaching, I wanted to do something for you. Telling you goodbye wasn’t an option. For someone who had lived their life just for me, a simple goodbye was surely not enough. So, I sang Ma, I sang to you. I sang to you, your favourite song. I sang to you that one song which you made me sing like a broken record player, because you enjoyed hearing me sing that. That song, of which I had grown so tired of, suddenly came flowing out of my mouth, along with my tears. My voice was choking and the brine from my eyes filled my mouth, but still, I continued to sing. “Hey Govinda! Hey Gopala! Raho Charan Hamari! Ab To Jeevan Haari!” (Oh Lord! Please protect us! My life is now approaching its end!)
At that time, I didn’t know the meaning of the song. Only later, did Aunt J tell me. That’s when I realised what a deep song it was. I think it must have been comforting to you, to be told it’s okay to let go of this pain and enjoy eternal peace. I only hope you were able to listen to it subconsciously, Amma. I want them to be the last words you would have heard.
Me, on the other hand, I don’t even recollect what you told me last. All of it was so sudden. Who expects to see the person with whom you had cookies ‘n’ cream ice-cream, with whom you fought over the laundry, with whom you discussed with passion the beautiful comparison between God and Mathematics – to die a few hours later? I am glad I don’t have to relive that day again.
But that day wasn’t the worst day of my life. Do you know which one was? It was my eighteenth birthday, which fate had cruelly placed ten days after your demise. That’s when I realised, you were truly gone, never to come back. The situation was ironical in many ways, as if fate was trying to test me. Firstly, it was the anniversary of my birth, the day you had brought me into this world, and we were performing the final death rites for you. Secondly, everybody was there for this birthday, for your death – uncles, aunts and cousins who hadn’t seen me after my first and yet, you were not there. I even had an exam (Chartered Accountants’ Foundation exam) that evening, but that isn’t the point. Remember when I had asked you a few weeks earlier, whether you would wake me up with ‘Best of Luck’ (for the exam) or with ‘Happy Birthday’ on this day? And you responded without missing a beat, “A Happy Birthday for a long, healthy and successful life, Chellam. What else could be more important?” Those things, they hurt a lot now.
Anyway, as you might know, I did clear the exam with distinction. I did proceed to the next level of the course. I cleared the second-level (Chartered Accountants’ Intermediate) examinations as well. And now, I am on track to write the Final examinations in 2019. And with your ever-lasting blessings, I hope to clear it as well.
Sometimes, I hope all this is just a dream. I hope that it is me who is suffering a coma and dreaming up all this nonsense and when I wake up, you will be there. Sometimes, I am so desperate, that I eagerly scan the heavy traffic on the road for a spotless white Maruti Suzuki 800. At times I am rewarded, only to find an old feathery man at the wheel. Sometimes, I also wait for the doorbell to ring at seven o’ clock, so that I can welcome you home from your evening walk. I am still waiting.
But you know something, Ma? Even after your death, you’ve been there for me, when I needed you. Every time I needed your words of advice, I received them. Call it my wild imagination, but when you appear in my dreams, I truly believe, you visit me. In them, just your very presence is oh, so very comforting. When I wake up, my problems seem very small and I am ready to take on them. And I am indeed, very thankful for that.
As I said before, it has been nearly two-and-half years since I touched you. I am slowly moving on with life for though time heals, it waits not. I realise that in many ways, your death was a sacrifice to save my life and such a sacrifice should never go waste. I intend to make it worthy of it. Remember when I was smaller, you told me that you would be happiest when you watch me become successful? That you would be the happiest when you see me being saluted and respected? That you would be the happiest when you see me become powerful and I use that power to bring about peace and prosperity to everyone? And then you told me one more thing. You said, “Even if I’m not alive my love, I will be watching you from the skies and be so proud of you!” I hope I am making you proud, Amma. I sincerely hope.
Though I have tried to harden my heart, there are moments when your loss becomes too heavy. When I watch a mother and daughter chatting away cheerfully with tubs of ice-cream in front of them, I feel jealous. Or, when I go shopping to buy some clothes for my birthday or a festival, I remember, there’s no one to tell me whether I look like a baby elephant or an elegant peacock in that dress. And sometimes, there are no reasons at all – none whatsoever.
But you know what, Ma? When I miss you too much, I remind myself that you are in me. You live in my genes, my blood and my heart. I think like you, I talk like you and I write like you. I look at my fingers and realise they are just the same as yours. I look at my ears and realise they have the same ‘bitten look’, just as yours. I look at my handwriting and realise that the slants of the ‘t’s, the circular tittle of the ‘i’s and the thin curves of my ‘g’s are exactly the same as yours.
And then I realise, you were never truly gone. In some form or the other, you are always there for me, Amma. Though I may not be able to hug you again, I am content with knowing that you will always be there for me.
Just one more thing: if you are reading this Amma, please reply. It is very much awaited.
Until next time,