It started out by gently nudging me as early as last Friday.
“It’s in a week, Padma,” the voices in my head chorused. How my mind suddenly got a wind of it, still beats me. But that’s the way the universe works. It’s a mean selfish place.
Have you ever noticed that it’s the gentle waves that break the heaviest at the beach? These gentle “nudgings” gradually swelled to occupy the best part of my brain over the last one week. And the waves crashed today. Yup, it’s her birthday.
It’s hard to believe that even three years back, we had celebrated my mum’s birthday like it was her last. It did turn out to be her last, but who would have imagined?
I still remember the morning of April 28, 2015. I was eagerly waiting for my mum to wake up and take notice of a shabby little something lying next to her. I had spent the better part of the night clumsily wrapping her gift in old notebook covers and pamphlets but was pretty confident that what lay inside would more than make up for it.
And, I was right. She undid the packing to reveal a letter and a saree. The saree was something she had been searching for, for ages – a Kanjeevaram in lotus pink with a deep brown Zari border. I never explained the struggles of finding it despite her many requests. There was no need.
But oh boy, the letter was something different altogether. Seventeen-year-old me did not realise that a shoddy letter inked under the influence of drooping eyes would spring rivulets of tears from their creator’s eyes. She hugged me tightly and promised to always be there. So much for promises.
It was a fun day at the mall. We gorged on ice-creams like as if they were going to be banned from the next day. A matinee show and an all-you-can-eat dinner rounded up her birthday. Her last birthday.
The same date, today, it’s nothing. Nothing at all. And yet, I cry, for nothingness is cruelly heavy. Absence is heavy. Sweet light memories are heavy.
She is no more, but time, the so-called healer of such wounds, rubs salt into them by presenting me with this date every twelve months. It’s no more a birthday. It’s a birth anniversary. I had always thought there was hardly any difference between them. But now I realise the difference is life-sized.
My dad and I went out for lunch to a posh restaurant today. Many thought it was disgraceful that we should be eating out on the birth anniversary (how I hate calling it that) of our mother/wife. But, I think, a person’s life must still be celebrated even if they are not there. She may be dead, but her life has touched so many others and such a life must still be toasted.
Happy birthday, Amma.