Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Losing Amma

I do not know why I am thinking about this now...
 
It was a narrow sharp bend. But vehicles were at a premium 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. On the opposite side was the SBT Munnar branch, our temporary abode till we found a jeep to take us around the town. But right when we were in the middle of the road an auto-rickshaw sprang out of the curve at great speed. I jumped back 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 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 Mamma's boys?" she asked again. 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 ask myself, as I scratch my head, 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 is it that every time I think of the Munnar accident, I get this feeling that it happened very recently? Why was it never an event of the past?
 
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.
 
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 her sandals, 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. 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 less on she continued to stress upon while my brother and I were growing up?
 
I am 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.
I am at my mother's house in Palakkad now and 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 last 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..."
 
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 has 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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