Being amma's daughter

Being amma's daughter

I can still hear her voice chid-ing me to devote more time to mothering than writing.

“My daughter has come,” a friend of mine informed me  over the phone. “Great! You must be having whale of a time chatting with her and going out,” I congratulated. But the reaction was different, actually, contradictory!

“The modern generation have no time for us old people yaar,” she complained. “One month has gone, and I can count the number of times she has spoken to me; too busy catching up with old friends, meeting cousins, attending sales, marriages, etc. In fact, I knew more of her and her family while on Skype! Funny isn’t it? Though beset with all the problems of a maidless household in America, she made it a point to devote some time for me. But here? Being old, will I be there for her the next time she comes?”

That last sentence set me thinking. Even I would visit my mother’s place every summer. No, not from abroad, but from Bangalore to Mysore. What a warm welcome from amma! I still remember that benignant smile which only a mother could give – a smile that wiped away all traces of my tribulations and the apprehensions clouding my mind. But I took it all for granted.

I can still hear the gentle voice chiding me to eat well, not to neglect my health and to devote more time to mothering than writing. I would get irritated at that last piece of advice, but I can understand her concern now, now that I am a grandmother.

What were her words? “You are the loser, missing out a rosy period of your life – today the child needs you and you alone, but will it be the same when it is on its own? Won’t your feelings suffer?” I had laughed then, but no longer, as view and share the loneliness of peers around. The shadow of regret that lingers is hard to erase.

Appa being an erudite man, his room was a mini library, transporting the likes of us to the realms of Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Dickens, Wordsworth, Tennyson etc. Yes, I do feel a pang of remorse to admit that that was one of the main reasons that I went so eagerly to tavarumane (mother’s house for daughters ).

Most of my days spent there would find me rummaging among the books, conversing with the characters  therein,  and making notes. Finding me too engrossed even to come down for coffee or snacks, the cook would bring them to the study room itself. I would meet my amma only during lunch and dinnertime. Poor soul, with what eagerness she must have looked forward to my visits!

Confined to four walls due to infirmity, undergoing the loneliness of old age, how she must have yearned for company, for news of distant relatives, and for tidbits of gossip! Hankered for outpourings of love, and also for the respect she was entitled to from the younger generation as the figurehead of a deeply-rooted family which was slowly disintegrating into nuclear ones!

Now, the books are still there, very much there, aye more, but amma? Gone, where none of us can reach, while words unsaid, questions unanswered, feelings unexpressed, haunt me as I struggle to come to terms with the void staring at me. If only I could go back. “Alas, time in its swift sprint of ages bygone, pauses not even for a second its pace,” I muse in mute regret.

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