A Mother's Love
A Mother's Love
It was 5pm by my watch. I was walking on a countryside road to reach the town which was around 15 kilometres away. Suddenly, the wind started howling and the sky was rumbling loudly. But as soon as I heard the crackling sound of thunder, I realized that it was going to be a long night.
Suppose you are going through sheer depression and at that moment, you are angry at everything in this world, and then this type of storm - it is surely going to gear up your anger; so did happen with me that day.
I had a quarrel with my mother early morning. A twenty-three years old boy needs to have some independence. But she never understood that, instead she always accused me of being so irresponsible. Sometimes she even used to force me to get married by her own typical emotional way: bringing tears into her eyes and explaining how lonely she had become after my father’s death. All I was seeking was a little bit of inner peace. On this, she used to say, “Wait some more days my son, you will get peace when I die”.
I was sick of all these things; I decided not to return home that Saturday after my office-work so that I could get a little bit of “me-time” – a little bit of peace. But looking up at the sky, I realized that this had been a very bad idea. The rain was making the situation worse than ever.
It was becoming darker and darker and I had to find a shelter very soon or else spend the whole night under a banyan tree. So I was looking for a shelter, but there was nothing like that. As far as I could see, there were only sugarcane fields all over the area surrounding the only banyan tree under which I was standing.
Fortunately, God seemed to be kind seeing I was struggling. I saw a dim source of light nearby. It was a small wooden cottage. I knocked at the door, expecting someone who would let me stay there for that stormy night.
An old woman, holding a lantern in one hand, opened the door with an unexpected excitement saying, “Babu, Babu! Is it you? You’re so early today… Here. Come inside.”
She mistook me for someone else, so I said, “No, no! I am not Babu. I am Prateek.”
As soon as I uttered the words, the excitement on her face vanished. “I was returning back to town. But I am stuck because of the storm”, I said, “Can I stay here for the night only?”
She was kind enough to let me in. But I was all wet and already sneezing. She noticed it and gave me some clothes saying, “The weather is very bad, my boy, you may get sick. I have some of my Babu’s clothes. So it’s better to change your clothes as soon as possible.”
I hesitated initially. However, my condition was bad enough to become seriously ill anytime. What other option I had?. Without wasting a minute more, I changed the clothes and sat on the only bed in the house listening to the sound of heavy rainfall.
Sitting near the window, I could feel the cool watery wind and it really felt so refreshing and peaceful.
The old woman was cooking something. She came back to me and asked, “Would you like to eat something my boy? It seems you’re hungry.”
I was very much delighted with the politeness of her voice. It was soft enough to touch anyone’s heart. It was so magical that I could not decide what to answer. But surprisingly she could read my thoughts.
“Silly question! Of course you are hungry”, she said bringing a generous smile on her face, “Just wait, while I quickly prepare a nice dinner for you” and she rushed towards the kitchen.
I was getting bored sitting alone near the window, so I followed her to the kitchen and sat on the kitchen floor to accompany her. She was cutting the potatoes and preparing ‘dal’ on the stove.
Seeing me in the kitchen she said, “Were you getting bored there sitting alone?”
“Yes actually…” I said with a little bit of hesitation, “So I thought it’s better to accompany you here in the kitchen”
Listening to my words she smiled and said, “Babu always does this. Even last Wednesday, he accompanied me while I was cooking.”
“Is he your son aunty?” I asked, being curious.
“Yes, my only son”, she said proudly with a smile, “He will be returning soon. Perhaps he is stuck in the rain, just like you were.. ”
She took the ‘dal’ off the stove and then started frying the chopped potatoes.
“So do you like fried potatoes Prateek?” she asked, looking at me eagerly, “Babu likes them very much”
“Yes, I do aunty!” I said.
She kept on saying that her son worked in the city which was around 40 kilometres away from the house. Hence, it wasn’t possible for him to return home every day. So he used to come back only on Saturday evenings and stay the entire Sunday with her mother and then go back to work again on Monday mornings. It was only on Sundays that she used to cook her son’s favourite recipes.
Soon it was 9 pm. But still there was no sign of stopping that pitter-patter and also Babu had not returned home. She thought that I was hungry, so she served me dinner with rice, dal, fried potatoes and mango pickle, but she did not have her dinner as she was going to wait for her son.
The time was passing by listening to the stories of her son. She asked me, “How old are you, son?”
“I am twenty three, aunty!”, I replied.
“You are just two years younger than my son”, she said with the same pleasant smile on her half wrinkled face.
After that she, being excited, told me everything about how naughty her son was, how he used to draw on the walls, how he learnt to ride bicycle, how he fell in love and then his marriage. Rubbing her hands gently on the wall she showed me those childhood drawings. Her emotions were so deep that I could feel the love between two of them.
The rain was pelting the window and battering the roof. The wind started flowing more furiously, and the lightning bolts were creating an unnatural nocturnal effect.
Suddenly, I noticed that she was crying and it was not out of happiness, rather it was the tears of pain. I felt she was struggling for something.
“What is it!”, I asked desperately, “Why are you crying?”
“Life always changes its colour my son!”, she said, “It never gives you the opportunity to stay happy. It always snatches every bit of your happiness”.
I felt those words were coming out of somewhere deep inside her heart.
“It’s been two years now. That was also a stormy night”, she continued, “That was the cruellest night ever – due to heavy downpour all the roads were water-logged, trees fell on the streets, furious wind, crackling thunder and …”
She paused for a moment, may be because of the clear visualization of that dreadful night.
“And then an accident”, she kept on saying, “They were returning from the city – my son and his wife… and then the accident. Somehow my son survived but his wife died… This incident eats up my son every moment from inside… and…”
She did not complete her sentence as she noticed that I was becoming emotional. Quickly wiping off her tears, she tried to bring back that happy smile again, which she could not, and told me to sleep as it was already late. She was going to wait for her son.
It is my general tendency that I wake up late in Sunday morning. The exception did not occur that day also. It was 9am by my watch when I woke up smelling the delicious smell of ‘aloo ka paratha’, my favourite breakfast.
The rain had stopped. But still there were dark patches of clouds in the sky.
Soon I realized that the train towards the town will be leaving within 30 minutes. So I had no time for anything else – I just had to run.
Still I could not suppress my curiosity to meet her son. So I asked “Where is Babu? Has he returned?”
Before any further words, her sad face made me understand the answer. It was clear that she was worrying about her son as he had not returned yet.
“He always returns late”, she said, “But he has never been this much of late. I hope he is not in any trouble!”
But, at that point I felt something weird about the entire thing. A mixture of sadness and hopelessness was peeking through her eyes. I realized that there was no recent sign of any person other than herself in that house. "Is her son alive at all?", the question flashed in my mind, "If yes, where is he?". I could feel that there was something that she was politely trying to hide from myself. But I had no idea why she was doing that. Her pain was real and deep that one could sense clearly standing in front of her looking into her eyes. I wanted to talk to her about it. I wanted to bring her the relief that she deserved to get, no matter whatever had happened. But I did not know whether I am capable of doing that. I might have even hurt her by bringing something hurtful right back into her mind.
“Don’t worry, aunty. Perhaps it’s because of the rain. It’s hard to get a bus in such a terrible stormy night. He will return soon”, I replied preparing myself to leave as soon as possible.
I informed her that I was already late and I had to reach the station as soon as possible. She remained silent. It was time to say goodbye. That precious smile was absent there on her face that time.
Surprisingly, when I was going towards the front door, she handed over something packed with banana leaves and said, “I had prepared this breakfast for my son. I hope you will also like it.”
I could see her eyes were a little wet. I tried to say something. But what could I have said? All my words were gone. Simply bidding her goodbye I left the house.
I realized that life is not that bad after all. Well it makes you cry sometimes, but it also brings you wonderful memories to cherish, and most importantly, you never know how you can become so close to someone you had never known before.
There was a rickshaw under the same banyan tree where I had been waiting last night. I hopped on it to reach the station.
I was ashamed of myself. How could I quarrel with my mother and leave my house? I was worried and also desperate to reach home.
On the way the driver asked whether I was new in that village or not. I smiled and explained how I had got stuck in that terrible storm and how the kind old woman had helped me.
But surprisingly, the driver pitied her for her fate and said, “I don't know how she manages to live here after her son... It is a shame."
Being curious, I asked him, "So, What happened to her son?"
"Nothing!", he replied, "he lives with her wife in the city. Happily."
"The old mother said that his wife had died in an accident."
"Oh! That's long time ago!", said the driver, "It's been seven years now to that incident. The son used to accuse her mother for her death. Everyday they used to quarrel among each other. Then one day, the son left his mother alone and went to the city to start a new life. He married to another woman and they even have a son, I have heard."
The last utterance stunned me. For the first time i understood how cruel the world is. I was not able to stop thinking that how could a person do something like this to someone who loved him blindly. But, the next moment, I felt terribly guilty as I found myself to be in the same position. "How different are you", my inner-self asked me. I just wanted to tightly hug my mom as soon as possible - and tell her that I missed her a lot.
"The son never returned home after that", the driver continued with his satire tone, "Who remembers the old ones after all sir? Nobody."
We reached the station in time. The train was already on the platform and about to leave within five minutes.
Somehow grabbing the window seat, I went on thinking about this incredulous episode. I could not resist myself asking the same question again and again, “How can she do that even after everything that her son did to her!” I can never understand how deeply she loved her son. It was something way beyond my imagination.
Suddenly, my thoughts were disturbed by someone shouting, “Babu, Babu…” Hearing this term, I shockingly looked out of the window It was the rickshaw driver. He was running towards my window with that packet of parathas in one hand.
“Babu, you left this in the rickshaw”, he said giving that thing in my hand. The train started moving.
It was running through the mustard fields piercing the wind. The sky above had no more dark patches – it was bright and blue. The warm sunbeams were falling inside through the windows lighting the entire compartment. But those delicious parathas in my hand, wrapped with banana leaves, left me speechless. The only thing I could smell was the aroma of a mother’s love.