Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Losing Amma

I do not know why I am thinking about this now...

It was a narrow, sharp bend. A blind curve where you wouldn’t see the vehicle until they were right on your face. But vehicles were at a premium that day after a local party had called a strike. Amma was catching my hand (or was it the other way around?) as we crossed the road. Opposite side of the road was the SBT Munnar branch, our temporary abode till we could find ourselves a jeep to take us around the town.

When we reached the middle of the road an auto-rickshaw sprang out of the curve at great speed. I jumped back a couple of steps to where I was standing to avoid the on-coming auto. 

The next thing I remember is seeing my mom standing there in the middle of the road, her newly-bought rain sandals, stuck under the auto's front wheel. Thankfully, the auto driver had applied brakes right in time to avoid an accident.

She looked at me and asked, "Why did you leave me there like that?"

I do not know why I am thinking about this now. But it's a recurring thought – something that has bothered me at odd hours throughout my life. Back in school, when the incident had happened, it had affected me so badly. I had, at least according to the naive minds of a third standard student, performed the unforgivable sin – give up on my mother.

"Heightened odepial years", my girl friend remarked, when I explained to her on a casual afternoon in bed some years back. She went on to explain how young men often thought of their mothers while they were with their partners and it was nothing unique. I did not want to disagree with a psychology graduate, though at that time, the idea had completely disgusted me. There was certainly an explanation beyond a 'sexual desire for his mother' to what had happened that day. 

It happened again on an Onam day few years later. I had changed cities and was trying to make new friends in Bangalore.

"Mallu?" she asked.

"Yes, hence the mundu," I replied.

"One of those Mumma's boys?" she was persistant.

And suddenly, just like that, I thought about the incident in Munnar again. There was my mother looking at me and asking why I had left her.

"Hahaha, how predictable have we lot become," I remarked. But my mind had already logged out of the conversation. It had gone back to contemplating why I had left my mom there on the road. I had seen the auto... I could have pulled her back with me... Or I could have stayed with her... Why did I choose to do what I did?

"What does it all mean though," I asked myself, while looking at the candle melt slowly in front of me. Did it signify something? Why was the incident so alive in my mind? Like it had happened only an hour ago. Why was it that every time I thought about the Munnar accident, I got this feeling that it happened very recently? Why was it never an event of the past? Why was I living it?

Have I let her down somehow? Have I constantly been letting her down? Was that why the image of my mother always remained contextual? But how and why? Did she not know that I chose to stay in India because I wanted to be there when the family needed me. Surely she did. Did she not approve my decision to stay alone, away from marriage and family and everything fundamentally ‘normal’?

Or was I missing the whole point?

She simply looked at me and asked, "Why did you leave me like that?"

But strangely there was a sense of calmness on her face. She wasn't angry. She did seem let down, yes. But it looked like she was shocked. She was startled this had happened. That I had let go off her hands to have my own way. She gave a nod. But it was to herself. An acceptance of sorts. She took the sandals in her hand, crossed the road, and from the other side, looked at me.

There was certainly more to this. 

Why had I not recollected the entire sequence ever before? Suddenly I was devoured by an overwhelming desire to be with my ex-girl friend. I missed her subtle ways of explaining things with psychology, although it never made sense to me. Was my mind re-playing this image of mom, this incident, which probably had no meaning as a stand-alone event, as a signifier to a lesson that was taught to me by her? A lesson she continued to stress upon while my brother and I were growing up?

I was suddenly bombarded by a torrent of visions...

My father hits my mother while she stands next to the bed, her hair untied. My brother and I watch, our excessive anger canned up by an unparalleled fear.

We are in the kitchen now, slightly grown up. My mother is holding a knife, pleading my father to end her life.

Suddenly, I’m at Paakkad, in mom’s house. It is about to rain. I am staring at the palms trees swaying to the wind as my mother searched for lice in my hair.

"You know what the problem with your father is?" she asks, clearly concerned about what her son had witnessed the previous night. "He hasn't learned to accept us as family. His family is back in Kannur. His mother...his relatives... The problem is he doesn't even realise this," she said. 

"Do not be like this kid. Your family is what you make. Not the one who makes you.."

Have I been interpreting the incident incorrectly all this while? It made sense why I thought about it when I was around women, especially ones I like. Maybe this was never about how I failed to live up to her expectations. Nothing to do about being with women my mother wouldn't approve of either.

No. This was a creation of my subconscious mind. It was trying to remind me of a lesson that had its roots in domestic violence. A lesson that my mother took pains to teach. A lesson on families, relationships and how, as men, we should approach them. 

There was an explanation afterall... A closure that I had wanted for a very long time.

I stood there staring at the tomb stone. "I wonder if you even remember the event mom. I don't think you would have crossed that road and smiled at me," I said, unable to suppress a giggle.


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