“Where did I keep my glasses?”
I cannot seem to find a single thing nowadays. If only my husband and son kept things in the places they were meant to be! Though I complain, I must admit the house seems empty when they leave in the morning- Krish to school, and Anand, to his office.
The pressure cooker whistles, reminding me to resume my chores. The air is fragrant with crackling cumin and spluttering mustard. The scents and sounds remind me of my mother’s kitchen and her warm embrace.
I decide to take a break and sit at my favourite spot, my wicker chair. My blue China teacup brims with hot tea, the steam misting on the lid. The same cup that my son presented me for Mother’s Day, last year. It’s already looking worn-out.
‘To the Best Mother in the World,’ it says and has a picture of Krish and his impish smile imprinted on it. If only I could take that smile and capture it in a box, to keep safe forever.
I gulp down the soothing tea, enjoying the sharp notes of the ginger and the richness of the cardamom. When I try to get up, a sharp pain shoots down my knees, reminding me that a visit to the doctor is due. My mother has knee problems, and I’ve probably inherited them. The next time she calls, I should ask her what Ayurvedic medicines she takes.
The plants by the window have wilted. It’s probably the heat. I water them, humming some song. I can never remember the lyrics, but the tunes? They are imprinted on my heart forever. The watering can must leak, for there is a puddle on the ground. I must mop it up before Krish slips and falls. He may be eleven now, but at times, he acts like a baby.
I remember the day he twisted his ankle during cricket practice. He returned home wincing in pain. It was so bad, that he had tears in his eyes. I held him in my arms, and said softly,
“Hush, I’m here. It’s going to be OK.”
And it did turn out OK. After all, children are resilient. Mothers less so.
My eyes fall on the trophies we display proudly on the mantlepiece. Mostly Krish’s accolades, but there is one of Anand’s too. The prestigious ‘best employee of the year award’.
We attended the function where my husband got on stage and was felicitated. I had draped my orange Kancheevaram saree and braided my hair with jasmine. When we returned home, I placed the trophy right in front.
Only now, it seems to have taken a backseat, overshadowed by Krish’s cups and medals. Above the mantelpiece, is our family portrait. I’m all glowing and radiant in it. Perfectly content.
The doorbell rings. Is it evening, already? Krish must be back from school. Anand will return soon too. I open the door.
A young man with a perturbed expression stands there. He looks familiar, yet I can’t place him. My heart panics.
Did something happen? Are Krish and Anand safe?
As the door opened revealing the septuagenarian lady, Krish trembled with trepidation. He had performed this feat hundreds of times; yet every single time it broke him. He ardently wished that it would be the nurse, or the cook opening the door. But it wasn’t either of them.
It was her. His Amma.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
He hoped against hope she would remember. But like every day, she showed no trace of recognition. He lied that he was a passer-by, wanting a glass of water. She would never deny water to a thirsty stranger. That was the person Amma was.
He noticed that her saree was wet. Had she spilled water, or had her bladder lost control? He would admonish the home nurse for not keeping a close eye.
Krish followed Amma in. She hobbled to get a glass. Her hands shook, making a mess. He accepted the glass from her, and led her to her favourite chair. She looked at him bewildered; her grey-blue eyes filled with confusion.
“Amma, it’s me, Krish.”
She recoiled as though someone had hit her.
“No! How can that be? My son is eleven.”
Krish took her frail hand in his. He revealed the name of the ailment that robbed her mind and held her frozen in time forever. He reminded her of the years that had passed by, and how he was thirty-four now; no longer eleven.
Amma protested and insisted that her memory was as sharp as ever. Krish pointed to the wilted plants, the chipped China, and the trophies gathering dust. He led her to the giant mirror in the hallway and guided her fingertips to its surface. She gasped when she sighted the wizened woman staring back at her. She wondered how that creature could be her.
“Anand!” Amma screamed. She would believe it if she heard it from him. Anand never lied.
Krish braced himself. He gently broke it to her. Her husband, his father, had died of a heart attack, years ago. He reminded her how strong she had been. How she had held it all together for him, for them. Until her mind started playing tricks on her, forcing her to live in a make-believe world, one that existed only in times bygone.
She shook her head in denial and kept calling for her husband. Krish waited patiently. The minutes ticked by. Suddenly, she wailed like a lost child, one that has realized that there is no way back home.
Krish put his arms around her, just like how she used to.
“Hush, I’m here. It’s going to be OK.”
He stood like that until she calmed down; the son’s and the mother’s roles now reversed. He sighed.
Tomorrow he would have to do this all over again. But today, he was going to be there for her, assuring her that she wasn’t alone.