Amma Please...21 mins 22.1K 21 mins 22.1K
Janvi’s kitchen was looking like a factory. She was struggling and controlling five points of the kitchen at the same time. Dense steam rose from the vegetables and rice was getting cooked too. The sound of the running mixer-grinder added its own sound to the existing noise.
Her husband Bala, peeped inside the kitchen and said,”Amma, will it take more time? I have to leave a little early today.”
Janvi smiled brightly and said,”No, not at all. I just finished your chatni. Give me one minute and I will pack your tiffin.“
Bala had high blood-pressure and the office canteen food did not suit him. Janvi had to cook special food for him with less salt.
As she was packing the tiffin, she glanced at the time-piece kept on the refrigerator. It was 8:15 am. She heard high-pitched voices of Aswin and Bhuvan—the front room engaged in some serious discussion. She raised her voice and said,“Bhuvan, you are getting late for the college. Get moving please and you Aswin, have you finished your bath?”
Aswin said,”Amma, can you please give me half a cup of coffee before I go for bath?” Bhuvan’s voice joined in,“Amma please make a cup for me too. There is no time for tiffin now.”
Janvi started making coffee, maybe for the eighth time since morning. She forgot the count too. Apart from all her work, her routine also included reminding her children of the time. No one ever looked at the clock. Luckily her youngest son Kirti was not in town. Otherwise, she'd have one more member to attend to. She brought the tiffin box for her husband and placed it on the table where Bala was wearing his shoes. She went back to the kitchen and brought the coffee for her children.
Aswin her eldest son, was a doctor and taught in the Medical College. Bhuvan, was a College lecturer. As both started drinking the coffee, she asked as usual,“Is the sugar right? Is the coffee hot enough?” Bhuvan gulped the coffee and handed back the glass and said,”Oh Amma, you make the best coffee in the world. Why do you ask every time?” Aswin joined,“Of course! There is no second opinion on that issue.”
Janvi, smiling, took the empty glasses and started going back to the kitchen.
Then it happened.
Bala was putting on his shoes smiling at these small talks. Bhuvan was checking the cash in her purse. Aswin was pulling the towel from the cloth-line. Amma had walked just two steps towards the kitchen with the glasses in hand. Then Janvi suddenly collapsed. The glasses and the tray fell down and glasses rolled on the ground making a metallic noise. Everyone stopped for a second on their trail.
Then Bhuvan and Ashvin rushed to their mother. Bhuvan knelt beside her mother and said,“Amma what happened? You slipped on something?” She tried to help her mother to get up. She thought that her mother must have just slipped on some water on the floor. But Janvi did not respond. She did not hold the extended hand of Bhuvan. Instead, she just lay there. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was heavy. Bhuvan was now alarmed and she looked back at her brother who was standing near her, and screamed,“Aswin, look at Amma, she is not speaking.” Bala also now came down with one shoe on and just stared at his wife. Aswin said,”Bhuvan move over. Let me see. I think she has fainted.”
As Aswin examined Amma, Bala and Bhuvan looked at his face with anxiety. Aswin said,”I think there is something seriously wrong with her. We have to take her to the hospital. She is in shock because of acute pain.”
Within fifteen minutes an ambulance rolled inside the compound. Amma was moved in a stretcher and the ambulance started moving, blaring its siren.
It was now three hours since Janvi was admitted to the hospital. Bhuvan and Bala stood at the door of the operation theater. Aswin was inside the theater along with other doctors for the operation. Earlier on entering the hospital, Janvi was examined. CAT scan, sonography and blood-test were all done in the emergency situation and then she was rushed in for an emergency surgery. The door opened and Aswin and the other surgeon came out.
They followed the surgeon to his room and he said,”Well, the operation is over. But I am sorry to say that Mrs. Balakrishnan’s condition is not very good. She is extremely anaemic and weak to withstand the operation. I am afraid that we cannot say anything till she comes out of the shock of operation.”
Bhuvan asked in half-choked voice,”Doctor, Ashvin said that Amma is having something like an ulcer. Doctor what's really wrong with my mother? Why was an emergency operation needed when she is so weak?”
The surgeon said,“Your mother has a bad ulcer in her stomach lining. It punctured the stomach wall and the entire internal area was getting filled with blood. It was an emergency and to save her life there was no alternative but to operate and mend the puncture. Otherwise, she wouldn't survive.”
Bala asked in a feeble voice,”But Doctor, how can something like this happen so suddenly? We know that she was a little weak. But…”
The surgeon threw a meaningful look at Aswin and said,”No sir, this is not something which happens very suddenly. This has a long-standing history. Your wife should have been suffering from acidity for a long time. She must have been ignoring it for a long time and it has turned into an ulcer now. We have to thank God, that the ulcer did not burst. In that case, we could not have saved her life.”
Aswin said, ”...but doctor my mother never complained to me about any stomach-ache. Ulcer should have given her acute pangs of pain crippling her for a short time. But she never told anyone of us anything.”
The surgeon, who was also Asvin’s professor’s ex-teacher, smiled gently and said,”This is what happens when a doctor is present in the house. You did not see her in pain because you had not paid any attention. Can any one of you vouch that your mother was taking proper food and on time?” All three of them looked at each other. They all remember Janvi always beside them serving them at the dining table. But when did she eat? No one knew!
By evening Janvi’s condition turned critical. She was given two bottles of blood. But she did not show much response. The surgeon informed the family that they had to wait for the night to pass. Till then, nothing can be said about her. Kirti, Janvi’s youngest son, was in Nagpur and was informed about Amma before surgery. He took a flight and landed in the hospital by the night. Now the family sat in the waiting room—their hearts aching with their own memories. Janvi lay there in ICU, battling for her life and the family sat there helplessly.
Bala Krishnan talks:
“I walked to the ICU door and peeped inside the room through the glass. My Janvi was there, on the bed, covered with white sheet. She was connected to a mesh of tubes and the monitor near her bed, traced green lines rhythmically on the monitor screen. I just stared at her. In fact those heartbeats were not hers! They were my heartbeats fighting a battle for life! My vision blurred as my eyes got filled with a tear. As I stood there watching her still body, memories of years came flooding in my brain. I still remember the first day I met Janvi thirty-five years back. Twenty-twoyear- old Janvi was very pretty and looked just like an angel. Her milky fair skin and the large lovely black eyes were not at all a match for my brown skin or my average looks. But our marriage was fixed. Before marriage, I met Janvi in her school and I told her in a matter-of- fact tone,”Look Janvi. I want to make some points very clear before our marriage. I have three sisters and an ailing mother. After marriage, you have to take care of my sisters and help me get them married. You also have to take care of my mother who is not keeping very good health. Besides this, you have to continue your teaching job because I need the money. Please think of these things before going ahead with the marriage.” Now when I think of all these things—not only just the content but the way I talked to her, I feel ashamed of myself! But Janvi smiled sweetly and said,“It is OK with me. I will take care of your family and I will continue working.”
Janvi was an angel who brought prosperity into my life. Getting up very early, she worked like whirlwind, cooked, washed, and looked after the needs of everyone and then went for her job. My mother and my sisters were well looked-after. Evening, when everyone relaxed, she slogged in the kitchen. Even when my mother said that my sisters could help her in the kitchen she firmly refused to say that,“Maaji, they are college-going children. Let them do their homework and concentrate on their studies.” When everyone went to bed she sat on the cold kitchen floor correcting her school notebooks, or examination papers. Years rolled by and Janvi managed the house very well saving every penny possible. She got all three of my sisters married in good homes. Then my mother passed away happily, seeing all her children well-settled. I became the father of three children. My position in the office improved and I could educate my children comfortably. But nothing changed for Janvi. After retirement, I had picked up a part-time job and gave her additional work—to cook special food for me every day. Have I ever cared as to how her health was? Have I ever made a cup of coffee for her? All this time we always thought that she was a superwoman, who can never fall sick. Poor thing! God knows how long she had put up with the pain! For a long time, I had got used to referring Janvi as Amma along with my children. Now I prayed,“Amma please, come back, don’t leave me. I promise I will take care of you. Give me just one chance to prove myself. Amma, please...
Every moment of my life is woven with you. How will I ever live without you? Lonely, and helpless! Oh God! I dread even to think of such a day. At least, let me make you happy for a few days so that I won’t have this guilt in me. Please Janvi please. As I burst out and cried openly, my body shook with pain. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up. Aswin was standing by me.
“Papa, please, don’t! Amma cannot leave us. She loves us too much. She will be alright soon.” He said in a soft voice.
Amma’s breathing became shallow and she struggled to breathe even with oxygen. Her pulse started falling rapidly. The doctors rushed in. They gave her two or three injections and added some more medicines to IV tube and buzzed around her. After half an hour she became calm and breathing became normal. When others sat outside, Aswin sat near his mother watching her. Though as a doctor he had seen deaths every day but today he was very nervous. Because unfortunately unlike others he exactly knew what was happing inside his mother’s body and what were the chances of survival of his mother!
As I held my mother’s hand in both of my hands, memories filled my heart. From childhood, I was a sickly child and I demanded more of Amma’s time than others. Often, I was bedridden for one or other ailment. I can never put up with pain and I raised a hell for swallowing a simple tablet. On those days Amma used to sit beside me patiently and coax me. She used to say,“Aswin, you are a brave boy. You are going to become a doctor and give medicine to others, so you have to eat the medicine, otherwise who will eat your medicine?” I'd gulp the tablets without any more talk. She had an angel-like voice and when she talked people listened to her. I remember the day I had chicken pox. It was examination time. Amma had to correct her papers. But I insisted that she sit beside me. Whenever I woke up at night I used to see her sitting near me in an uncomfortable chair and correcting her papers. The moment I opened my eyes she would come near me and ask,“Aswin, Want anything? Want water?” Years back, one day, when I was appreciating the nice Rangoli she had drawn, I remember she told me that she always wanted to learn canvass painting. But could never make time for it. I advise so many of my patients who are retired that they should take up some hobbies. In my own house, I did not think of my mother or her relaxation! What a shame! Now I recall that once she did tell me,“Aswin, sometimes I get a bad stomach ache.” But I hardly made any attempt to find out about her trouble. How will I ever forgive myself for all this neglect on my part? I looked at the face of my mother, tears gushing out of my eyes I promised,“Amma please, this time forgive me. Please Don’t leave me. Amma please…” Swallowing my tears I got up and walked out of the ICU.
As Aswin came out of the room wiping his tears I was alarmed. I rushed to him and asked,“Aswin, is Amma...?” I could not say more. My eyes asked the question which I was afraid of asking. He tried in vain to smile but failed. He nodded his head and said,“No Bhuvan. No change. But her system is all stable and functioning normally. This is a good sign. I am optimistic that she will wake up in the morning.” As he went back to his chair, I walked to the window of the ICU door and peeped. Amma looked peaceful. The nurse near Amma was quietly sitting. Maybe Aswin is right. I walked back to the window of the waiting room, outside which was a garden. The night was silent. The garden, bathed in the lights, looked calm. The whole world seemed to be peaceful but my heart. The memory of Amma’s pale face haunted me. I remembered that dark chapter in my past life, unknown to anyone in our family, and how Amma saved my life! I was in the Junior college when a biology professor Mathur joined our college. He was very handsome and young, and in my age of ignorance I fell madly in love with him. I knew that he was married and he promised that he was divorcing his wife to marry me. I was too ignorant to understand anything and believed everything he said. He planned to take me on a trip to Bangalore in the pretext of specimen collection. Just two days before the trip I was studying in my room. It was ten thirty in the night. Amma came to my room and pulled a chair near me and said,“Bhuvan, are you busy? Do you have a few minutes?” I looked up, a bit surprised by her question. Amma never came to our room and if she had to talk to us, she mostly did it over the breakfast table. I was too nervous to look at her eye to eye, and stammered,“No Amma. What is it?’ Amma, still looked at me steadily and said,“Bhuvan, you are studying too hard? You don’t eat properly. Is everything all right?”
Now my hands were shaking and I held the table edge to hide it. I said,“No Amma, it is just that I wanted to get good marks, get a merit rank.” Amma smiled and said,“ I know Bhuvan you are a bright girl. Ok, tell me what were doing with your Biology Professor Mathur in the ice cream parlor yesterday?” Her voice never showed the slightest trace of anger or harshness. It was the same loving tone as she used to say when making me drink milk. I blinked. I swallowed hard, unable to talk. Then I burst out and in a second poured out everything. She said,“Bhuvan I am not against love marriage or marriage of your choice. But this is not the correct person. He has fooled you.” “But Amma…” I went on to explain the true love of Mathur. She said,“OK Bhuvan, Let us give him a test. Just do as I tell you.” She picked up a bag from the cupboard and filled it with some dress. As I watched her totally confused she said,“Come let us go.” Our house was quiet. My brothers were in their rooms. My father was on tour. Amma softly opened the main door and we walked out. We took a taxi and we moved. On the way, she told me what to do. We parked one block away from Mathur’s house. We kept the taxi on waiting and moved near the door. Amma stood a little distance away and said “Bhuvan go.” I climbed the steps, holding my bag and rang the bell. A sleepy Mathur opened the door. Seeing me with the bag he blinked. I said,“Mathur, my parents have fixed my marriage. They came to know about us. So I left the house. Please let us get married.” Mathur’s expression hardened. He said,“You silly girl. When did I say that I will marry you? Who asked you to leave the house? Go back immediately.” I said,“But you told me that you love me.” He sneered,“You, young girls, want to flirt. So it was okay for me. Why are you blaming me?.” Before he finished the sentence, there was thundering noise as my mother slapped Mathur in the face. Before he could recover, she hit him hard again and said,“You are a shame to the very teaching faculty! When you should be guiding the younger generation, you indulge in such filthy games?” Mathur stammered,“Who are you? And why did you...” Amma said,“ It is immaterial who I am. But you better learn that a report has already been made to your Principal. Submit your resignation tomorrow or you will face the shame of termination.” She held my hand and said,“Come Bhuvan”. We came back home and She gave me a sleeping tablet and said,“Forget everything Bhuvan. Mistakes happen! Wise people are the ones, who correct them.” Next day she took me out on a weeks vacation to Mysore. In every minute of that vacation, she bathed me in her pure love and care. Not a single time did she mentione about my mistake. We came back. Papa asked,“Amma, you never go for a vacation? Why such a sudden decision? How can you be so partial that you take only Bhuvan and leave the young Kirti at home?” Amma smiled and said,“We women require a break sometimes. So did I.” Till today Amma had not mentioned about my dark secret to anyone. It is a surprise to me that how Amma gathered information about Mathur and how did she reach my principal, but I never asked. After this incident, I totally concentrated on my studies and passed all examinations in merit. I am a lecturer today. What would have happened to me, if I was not rescued by Amma? That too, she handled it with such a skilful method? Amma, a simple soul, worked all the time—and thought all the time only about all others in the family! What did I do to you in return?” Shame and guilt filled my heart,“Amma please give me a chance, don’t leave us. Give me a chance to show all the love we cherish for you.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and upon turning found Kirti. He said, “Bhuvan, Amma is very strong. She won’t leave you.”
When I was busy in the office I received the message from Bhuvan that Amma is sick and is in the hospital undergoing a surgery. I could not make head or tail of what she said. Luckily I could get the evening flight. I walked to the ICU door and looked inside for the hundredth time. There was nothing else to do. Yesterday morning a smiling Amma had packed my bag and had sent me off. Now she is in a critical condition. We don’t know whether she will wake up or not. How can I believe this? I was the youngest of Amma’s children. Though Aswin and Bhuvan were good in studies from childhood, I hated the very name of the school. Even though Amma was a teacher, she never pressurized me to score first class marks. Whenever I complained that I hated studies she'd patiently tell me,“Kirti, education is not the end but only the means. You can become a sportsman, an artist or anyone you want to become. But a basic education is needed for everything. This, will also give you the time to know what you want to become in life.” As she predicted, by the time I finished my school I became smart in studies and went for an MBA. My friends never believe me that I was the last rank- holder in my eight standard. Maybe if Amma had forced me at any stage I may not have become so successful. Habitually I used to demand the attention of Amma and would pester her all the time. My things would always be misplaced and I would scream,“Amma did you see my red file?” She'd come from the kitchen and within seconds would locate my file or my mobile. The worst thing happened six years back. At that time my father’s earning was not so great and all of us were in college. Amma was managing the house with difficulty and with that limited income. I was planning to go to Pune on my motorbike. I had Rs. 50,000/- with me, to be handed over to my friend’s family in Pune. Amma repeatedly asked me to leave in afternoon. But as usual, I was lazing around and left the house only at six o'clock in the evening. Around eight o'clock, when I was halfway through, on the Mumbai-Pune express highway, I saw a man lying on the deserted road and there was an upturned motorbike near him. I thought that it was an accident. I stopped the bike and went near him to see what was wrong. Within seconds a gang of five to six people with choppers surrounded me and snatched away the money and the bike. By early morning I managed to come back home by hitchhiking. The moment I saw mother I started crying like a child. My mother said,“It is OK Kirti. At least you were wise not to put up a fight and get hurt. But, what about your friend’s money?” I said,“Amma I will explain to my friend. I am sure he will understand. I will pay him back his money in installments.” Amma said,“That is not right Kirti. It is unfortunate that you had his money when you were mugged. But he wanted the money to reach his home and you have to do it.” I looked at her and said,“But Amma, how can I manage this much money so fast?” She said,“Leave that to me. I will make some arrangement. Now you take some rest.” Next day when I was leaving for the college Amma said,“Kirti I have sent the money to your friend’s house by courier.” Surprised I looked up,“But Amma, how could you manage?” I asked confused. She said,“That is not your problem. Now don’t worry.” Next day my friend met me and said,“Thanks Kirti for the help. You know, that money was urgently needed for an advance payment for my father’s operation. Thank you so much for the help.” He was not aware of the robbery. I always came late and ate alone at night. That day night when Amma was serving me dinner I noticed the jingling sound of glass bangles. I looked up at her hand. There were four glass bangles in her hand in place of the four gold bangles, she was wearing for years. I held her hand and said,“Amma this...” I could not talk more. She smiled and said in a matter of fact voice,“It is okay Kirti. Anyway they were very old and I was thinking of changing them.” Now it's been four years that I am earning such a fat salary, but it never occurred to me that I should get her back those gold bangles. I said a silent prayer in my heart,“Amma please give me a chance. Please come back. At least let me put those bangles back in your hand.”
Early morning-birds made a chirping sound and filled the air with it. The hospital woke up for the next day. The nurse from Amma’s room came running and said,“Dr. Aswin, your mother is awake.” Everyone rushed inside.
Amma was pale but her smile was bright as usual. She looked at the faces of every member from one to other. She looked around and could make out what would have happened. She looked at Bala and asked in a feeble voice,“You were all here in the night? What did you all do for your food? Aswin did you get anything for your father to eat? You know he cannot remain hungry for a long time?” Bhuvan ran near her mother and hugged her. One week later Amma was discharged from the hospital. As she came inside the house she looked with surprise at the tidiness of the house and the new curtains. Bala beamed with pride and said,“I am the housekeeper now.” Aswin said,“Amma we have a little surprise for you. Come this way.” She was lead to a side room, which was closed and the big red ribbon was tied at the door. “Amma please inaugurate this,” Bhuvan said and handed her the scissors. Amma looked from one face to another and said,“But this is Kirti’s room.” Kirti said,“Amma, here after Aswin and I will share the same room. This is your room.” Amma cut the ribbon and everyone clapped. She opened the room hesitantly. In the center of the room, there was big easel. On the side, there was rolled up canvas, paint brushes, and paint. Bala said,“Amma here after you will spend your major time in this studio, doing the job you always loved to. Here after the kitchen will be managed by the cook whom we have already hired.” Amma’s eyes were filled with tears.
Next day at the breakfast table, Bhuvan kept the idlis in Amma’s plate and said,“You start first Amma, then only we will start.”
They all now knew the value of Amma. She was the axis of the house without which the house could not work. They realized how precious she was for all of them.