Friday, April 5, 2013

A Mother...for Generations

A Mother....for Generations

Her seventh child had been a still born one. Yet every year, she still prayed that his soul rest in peace. She still set aside a bowl of rice everyday-which would later be kept on the terrace, for the innumerable crows that swooped down the minute she disappeared...

Her maternal instincts were quite raw when her first child was born. But she couldn't turn to her mother for help-for she was dead long before. It was only by the time the fourth child was born, that she began to enjoy the bliss of motherhood. She could feel the tenderness of the baby's head, the brittle little fingers; She could observe each tooth as it appeared and straighten the unwanted curls in the baby's hair. When the fifth and sixth children(twins) were born, she even managed to run the show alone-what with four other kids already demanding continuous attention.

The eldest was 6 years,when the twins were born. Three daughters and three sons-it seemed all so ideal.Each day was special in its own way. When the first kid entered school for the first time, the fourth had written his first alphabet on the slate.When the second kid spoke into a recorder for the first time, the twins were learning to walk-one holding the wall for support,and the other holding the twin. When the twins could finally walk, the family had a group picture taken. The picture still hung onto the brick wall in a corner of the house. Mother looked rather worried in the picture. It was because the second son had threatened to break the tripod once the photo session was over. He had a tendency to break stuff- he had grown up to try and break the household too...lucky they had survived the jolt!

 Mother had had her share of worries too. The eldest was not academically bright, but was extremely virtuous.She feared for him for he was too gullible.The second son was dead opposite. The daughters all turned out to be middle-class stereotypes.Mother raised them under her watchful eyes, giving them what she felt was just the right kind of exposure.The youngest daughter was a talented athlete. But then, Mother never allowed her to blossom. What would people think, if her daughter started participating in a running race and travelling to city after city? She ensured the third daughter married first. Today, she regretted the fact that she had discouraged her daughter. Not that the daughter ever complained.It was probably the fact she did not complain, that made Mother feel guilty. The third son was rather detached.Never too involved with his siblings. But he was exceptionally talented with the violin.Mother had spent a lot of time listening to his third son play. His first violin still lay in her trunk, long after he had moved out of the country after marrying a Japanese-whom he had met on one of his world tours.She could still remember the days when he was bedridden with jaundice. Mother had spent 3 whole weeks by his bedside, neglecting the other 5 children. To think he had forsaken his Motherland, let alone Mother....

Mother was on the verge of 50 years when all her children entered family life. Her husband died just as their first grandson was born-a coincidence that had been almost an inherited trait in the family. He was probably prepared for that-Mother felt, when she recollected her husband's behaviour towards the end. The Mother- children equation changed ever so slightly after that. The eldest son and his wife moved to what was formerly the parents' bedroom. Mother was relegated to a single cot room on the other side of the home. She took it gleefully. When he finally learnt to walk, the grandson would come to sleep next to her. Mother would narrate all the stories she had learnt from her grandmother, adding a detail or two of her own along the way.

Soon, a second grandson was born to her second son.He too wanted to sleep next to granny and cried when the elder grandson already slept snugly next to her. Mother would wake up in the middle of the night to find one grandson sleeping next to her, and the other with his head near her feet. It was a sense of attachment entirely different to what she had felt for her sons.

It was when the second son wanted to migrate to Bangalore, that the problems had started. He wanted his share of property. The elder son outwardly opposed to this division, but Mother knew that he wanted a sense of independence too. There had been many occasions when the elder son had been forced to ask help from his younger brother. Mother could sense his self-respect pricking every time. And she also knew her second son would go to any lengths to achieve his ends. So rather than opposing the partition, she led it. It was probably the toughest decision in her life. But she felt it was better if her children would live far away and stay united, rather than stay together and be separated.

The partition, to her fortune, left all her children happy. She only feared how her third son would react when he returned from his world tour of 4 years.But then, he had returned with a Japanese wife. It was a rude shock when his eldest daughter-in-law opened the door one morning to see this odd pair smiling at her. Mother quickly recovered from the shock and even blessed the couple. In the week she stayed at their home, her Japanese daughter-in-law had tried her best to impress all of them. The family's first granddaughter, born to the eldest son, had grown particularly fond of her. But that was probably it. The elders lacked the broad mindedness of the kids. The third son refused to take any share of his property and transferred it to his Mother. Mother silently asked him if she could keep his first violin with her. To this day, she felt she had seen a drop of tears at the corner of his eye when he left for Tokyo. But then, he had never been one to show any negative emotions. Or perhaps, only his Japanese wife knew more about him....

Years passed, with the Mother reliving her motherhood tending to her two grandchildren. She now had 8 grandchildren totally.All of them would make a beeline for their grandma's home during summer holidays. Mother laughed with them, played with them, cried with them, learnt from them. She would regale them with stories from their parents' childhood and their pranks. The children, in turn, would teach her how to operate the latest phone or read English newspapers. Mother started discovering herself in a whole new way every summer. Yet, in some corner of her mind, she always thought of her son in Japan, whom the grandchildren fondly called Violin uncle.....

So it was mixed feelings that she tore open the envelope containing her air-ticket to Japan, couriered by her third son, one Friday morning. He had called two days earlier and conveyed that he would send the tickets. On the one hand, Mother was thrilled at the chance of meeting her son. On the other, she was not sure she could conduct herself well enough in foreign land to meet her son's expectations. Her eldest grandson, as tech-savvy as any young kid these days, Googled Japan and fed all  the knowledge to his Grandmother's greying head. How she wished she could take him with her!!

She had the time of her life in Tokyo. His son was no longer the detached person he had been, years earlier. He fussed over his Mother's comfort. He had made sure that there was a wooden Puja room constructed for his Mother, even before she had arrived. Her Japanese daughter-in-law was a darling, she felt. She dispelled any misconceptions Mother would have developed about her,in a month of her stay. Mother had learnt broken English from her grandchildren in India and the daughter-in-law broken Kannada.Yet, there was probably no communication gap between the two as Mother spent a happy 2 years in Japan. Even her "Indo-Japanese" grand-daughter developed such closeness with Mother, that she cried through the night when she came to know Mother would leave next morning.

Mother travelled back to India. She was getting used to her usual life again, when she was diagnosed with cataract. Her elder son and daughter-in-law took wholesome care of her. As did her two grandchildren. The other son and daughters shared the expenses, but couldn't make time to take care of her. It was then that she decided that she would spend 4 months in each of the sons' homes and the 4 months of  a year in her daughters' homes. She knew life would never be the same again, once she started travelling. But then, she knew she had to-in the interest of her elder son, who had uncomplainingly taken care of her all these years.

Life appeared in an entirely new light for her now. Each of her children's homes had a culture of its own. And she adjusted to it without a complaint. She had to learn English from one grandson or eat Pizzas with a granddaughter; She had to watch cartoons with a third one or even play on the computer with a fourth one. Through all this, one thing remained common-her ability to accept what came her way. All she probably thought was how her grandchildren resembled her children. She noticed that one of her granddaughters had an inclination towards music and insisted that she be enrolled in Violin classes. It was probably the only out-of-the way request she made to her son.

Mother's 80th birthday was celebrated with a lot of energy. Her third son had also flown down from Japan with his family. Mother finally felt proud of herself. Her decisions, at crucial times, had made the family stay united. Her second son had mellowed down somewhat. Her first son was financially very stable-thanks to his ambitious, hardworking wife. Her third daughter's daughter was a leading athlete in the state-Mother felt her daughter was living her dreams through her daughter, and silently asked her to forgive-a thousandth time perhaps.What warmed her heart most was the sense of camaraderie between her grandchildren. Nobody could make out they were cousins. The time they had spent together in their childhood had led to the forming of a bond that couldn't be broken easily. Mother silently looked at her husband's photograph hanging on the wall. "I've done all that you probably wanted me to do..." she said silently. She thought she saw the photograph smile.

It probably did. At the end of the birthday celebrations, her eldest grandson walked up to Mother with his wife. They prostrated before her. After seeking her blessings, the grandson said " Ajji, she is carrying now. Due in 5 months. If you could please stay with us..and help her in this difficult period...." the rest of his words were drowned in the din caused by the whole family cheering the news.

Mother looked at her husband's photograph again. She was sure he said "I want you to stay there...and be the Mother of one more of my generations..." 
                                                                                               -5th April 2013

-Wonder why it's always Ajji mane(Granny's house) and not Ajjan Mane(Grandpa's house) :)

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