Homage to God
- That day, as soon as we stepped out of the house, we sensed freedom. But the feeling was only short-lived. What lay immediately in front of us was insecurity and a long, long battle for dignity
Oct 8, 2017-I loosened my tie and stretched on my brand new swivel chair. It screeched and the noise echoed through my cabin. Followed by a pin-drop silence. I looked around. Books covered my shelf, and souvenirs from far and near graced the display panel. Ping! My chat-box chimed.
“Good job, Arav. The presentation looks fab.” I responded to my boss’ text with a smiley, and typed, “Goodnight, R.” I shut my laptop, closed my eyes, and smiled. I was ready to go home.
My phone chimed again. It’s an text from my mother. “Can’t wait to see you on Thursday. Take care, eat well, and yes, please stop smoking.” So far away, yet she felt so close. Her good-intentioned nagging and constant reminders through elaborate text messages and emails have followed me everywhere, always. I looked at her photo on my table—graceful and poised with a beautiful smile. A doting mother, she reasoned with me with such conviction that I always believed in everything she said. She is the centre of my life.
“My mom is great.” I remember making a crayon card for my ‘great’ mother for Father’s Day. The illustration represented my sister and me with our lovely mother. My teacher wasn’t really impressed and constantly reminded me that the card had to be dedicated to the father. But how could I have done that? My mother served the role of both my parents.
I would never forget. As a child, I grew up idolising my mom, but also trying her patience, a lot. I tirelessly jumped on the bed, sang nursery rhymes on the top of my voice, hid in the cupboard, and sat on her beautiful ironed saris that she wore to work. Even when she was mad she never thrashed her kids, though. She’d only call my name in a very stern voice—Arav!—and I’d understand. Her eyes would become serious as tiny wrinkles formed in her slightly crooked nose. As soon as I’d sensed it, I’d run to her and hug her tightly, and we reconciled.
She made me feel so safe, even at times when she wasn’t.
She used to tuck her children under the blanket and read stories of kings and queens who were kind and loving. If I learnt anything at all as a child, it was that love was the biggest strength a family could have.
At times, I used to pretend that I was asleep and steal glances of her resting her head on the pillow, reading either Danielle Steel or Mills & Boon. My mom was a hopeless romantic even when love didn’t come easy to her.
She had been married off by her parents, and the matrimory brought with it an abusive husband, a trophy joint family, and her nights were filled with pleas for a savior.
After one point in time, the fights grew louder and nastier. I used to close my eyes and hum a song to drown the noise from outside. But then, it was my mom. I knew she was unsafe, and I couldn’t overlook the fact. I cried every time my mom cried, and spent many nights praying to god for my mom’s safety and happiness.
My prayers were finally answered. My mom ordered me and my sister to pack our bags. We hurriedly threw our clothes, books, and toys into a big suitcase, and walked out of the house. We would never set our feet in that house again and our housemates couldn’t care less. The who’s who of the town that had been tagged to our family looked at us as if we were dead to them. Neither remorse, nor sympathy shone their faces.
That day, as soon as we stepped out of the house, we sensed freedom. But the feeling was only short-lived. What lay immediately in front of us was insecurity and a long, long battle for dignity. We were a family of three—a beautiful, young single mother and her two little kids. You’d think the society would be kind towards such a family, but no. My mother instantly became the subject of scrutiny as the gossip-mongers started spinning tales about how debased my mother was.
As my mom battled the society, I battled in school. Blemished by an abusive father, I always fled when they took the liberty of bullying me. I was branded as ‘weird’. I was criticised for not being into sports—they made me believe I’d never become a man. I had lost count of the number of times I had broken down in the toilet, unable to cope.
One night, my mother discovered a poem I’d written as a nine-year-old. She was obviously alarmed because the poem talked about how I wanted to ‘end it all’. I spent that night in my mother’s embrace—crying and confiding. And there she was saving me with her warmth and confidence.
“You are not weird. You are the most wonderful boy on earth and they are just jealous,” I remember her words.
Later I’d learn that my mom immediately took care of the situation. The bullies were reprimanded in no time. She was my hero. Since then, I never felt the need of a father.
My train of thoughts got interrupted by a text message from my sister.” She wants us to meet him at some temple. I am nervous!”
I smiled. My sister has always been the anxious one. “Don’t worry. Let’s talk once I get home.”
I took a deep breath. The street lights outside gleamed of hope.
I was going home for an errand that I hadn’t seen coming. The news came as a shock to me at first, but then it’s what mom wanted. Her happiness was all that mattered.
Jet lagged after a 27-hour flight, I was ready to crash but my driver gave me a gentle reminder,”Babu, we need to go to the temple now,” “Where’s mom?”
I looked to the direction my sister was pointing at. There she was, in her 50’s, still absolutely beautiful. She smiled and rushed towards me. “Babu!” It had been a long time, I realised as she took me in her arms.
“How are you? Are you nervous?” I asked. My mom smiled, and then blushed a little. “Are you blushing mom?” I teased her while my sister laughed.
“Are you fine with my decision?”
“Mom, I couldn’t have been happier!” I assured her. Her eyes moistened as she caressed my face with affection. “Thank you, Babu.”
“So, where is he?” I asked. My mom smiled then waved at someone in plain sight.
I looked at the man approaching us. Was he a good man? He must be, after all, my mother had chosen him.
My heart thumped harder with the very thought of her leading a new life altogether. What if this man turned out like the last—my biological father? Would she be safe? Would she be happy?
Anxiety gripped me. My mom looked at me and sensed my fear. She held my hand tight, as if to reassure that she would be okay. I took a deep breath, and approached the man who would soon be a part of our family.
Published: 08-10-2017 08:14