Begin Again

Begin Again

10 mins

DAUGHTER: bye amma

SON: bye amma

AMMA: Achaa…bye, message me when you reach; WITHOUT FAIL.

She kept repeating, until their shadows disappeared, leaving her all alone at the door. Pretending to clean the invisible dust on the door bars by her pallu , she kept staring into the emptiness ...her teary eyes mirroring the range of emotions she was feeling at the moment. She had always known this day would come but never anticipated it would come this early. Still at the door, she could not gather the strength to move,scared she was, she felt as if her legs were deceiving her and moving away from that door would distance her from the kids,whom she just wanted to hold on.The kids had grown up so fast; only yesterday, she used to drop them off to school, their little hands perfectly fitting into hers like some lock-and-key model…a hint of smile now adorning her face, as she recollected the days the kids were younger .

Her husband had failed to keep his promise of spending seven lifetimes with her; he could not even make it this single lifetime. His passing away had shooked her, brought her out of her dreamland and had roughly thrown her into a world she was not ready for. How could she be…?.Ashok was her strength, her partner in crime, the man who had promised to grow old with her, to tease her when all her teeth would fall and she would become all fat and wrinkly. With Ashok, she had led her life in a cocoon, all carefree that no matter what he was always going to be with her. She had made her small family her only world, and never bothered to reach beyond it. But it was all too good perhaps….since it was taken away. She however was not allowed to become vulnerable, to cry and to give up. Her two kids needed her, the three of them had to stick with each other now, they were a pack. She carried on with her life, her goal now to see her kids well educated and settled. Her husband had saved up some money which helped them to some extent and the rest she gathered by taking tuition (she was thankful to her father who had insisted that she complete her graduation). There were times when she had to borrow money from her friends and family, which her kids disliked. She wanted to explain them how hard it was for her to feel so helpless, to see pity in their eyes …she always had hated that. A life of a single mother was hard, she knew that, but all she wanted was respect and not sympathy, which she had striven all her life for.

Somehow battling the rocks on her path she stood today at the door, waving goodbye to her kids, who now had their new jobs, their new friends and their new world which sadly had no place for her. She felt the same emotions she had felt when her husband had left her.

“Rama aunty, Rama aunty, Rama aunty’’….the voice brought her back to the present. Her neighbour's four year old was pulling at her pallu as if pulling her out from the wilderness of past she had got lost into.

“Rama, are you all right? …her worried neighbour enquired”

“Oh yes yes…I am absolutely fine (she lied as she always used too)”

Putting a latch on her emotions, she smiled and closed the door behind her. However, today, she sensed, the house was sad, grumpy and unwelcoming, as if it too was mourning the emptiness the kids left behind them.

“I can’t waste time, have to wash the vessels, haven’t even put the cooker on yet, too much work”…Rama mumbled to herself and went into the kitchen. She engrossed herself in her daily chores, the radio playing…”“zindagi kaisi hai paheli…haaye” and the thirsty crows, were her only company.

The sound of the azaan from the nearby mosque started echoing; she had finished her chores, her pooja and sat down for lunch. She glanced at her mobile, which her kids had gifted her for birthday, how surprised she was. From being technologically challenged, she now had achieved quite an impressive grasp on the thing called MOBILE. She ate her lunch while scrolling her WhatsApp good morning messages that she had time to reply to after the morning had already passed.

She had no hurry today. There were no tuitions since the kids had just given their exams and were on vacations. It was a vacation for her too but it made her feel more lonely. The tuitions were not only her source of livelihood but her escape from the glaring silence and solitude.

Some reading and a short nap later, she switched on the TV, even her favorite program failed to cheer her up today. As a kid, she had always been a talkative and a social person. She loved mixing with people, getting to know them, she felt protected; perhaps this might be the reason why she was so scared of being alone and her fate had given her just that…poetic justice(she laughed)

Ting tong…..ting tong….the bell rang twice.

“No tuitions today, who will come at this hour?”…mumbling, Rama got up to open the door and was pleasantly surprised to see her friend Asha at the door.

“Oh my god Asha, after so many days”…Rama was genuinely happy to see Asha. Asha had helped her a lot during her hard times and would call her up frequently to ask her about the kids. She asked Asha o sit down while she made them some tea.

Asha worked for a library and would often suggest Rama books, which she thought she would like.

“Rama, actually today I have come to ask for a favor”

“Oh please Asha, do not be so formal, tell me how can I help you, I would gladly do whatever I can”.

“Rama, as you know I work at the public library .It is now going to expand after receiving some grants, which is a good thing. However I won’t be able to continue working there.”

“But why Asha, the library has been your life, why do you want to leave it?”….Rama asked her

“You know me so well Rama, yes, the library is everything to me but today my mother needs my time more than my work. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Rama. I should have paid more attention towards her. She used to forget numbers, some names, but we ignored them thinking it might be a sign of old age. A few days ago, she got lost and could not even find her way back to the apartment she had been living in for the last forty years. The incident has completely broken her, I have to be with her Rama”…..Asha teared up. Rama consoled her and wondered at the uncertainty of life which she had felt many times, which everyone had to face sometime….fight or flight…it is the only way to survive it seems.

Rama had known Asha and her family for quite a long time now and her mother, she remembered, was a very independent and a gutsy woman. To witness such a woman losing the pieces of her memory and not able to do anything was heartbreaking.

It is often said that you don’t know how strong you are unless being strong is the only choice you have. Today, all these three women were standing on the crossroads, getting ready to fight a new battle fate had put in front of them. Asha’s mother, a strong, fearless woman was battling with time to somehow keep her memories from fading away. Asha, a woman devoted to her job and career, battled the painful decision of leaving it all behind and take on the responsibility of her family, who she knew needed her more. Rama on the other hand was fighting a battle of her own where her biggest enemy was solitude.

“Please tell me Asha, how can I help?”…..”Please come to work at the library Rama.” Asha continued…” Being one of the oldest employee and looking at my credibility, the library has allowed me to find a suitable replacement of my choice. And you are my only choice, you are perfect for the job, you have already volunteered many times in the past and helped me with the workload, so you know most of the work. I will train you before I go. The pay is good too and you love books Rama, you love books. Please give it a thought”…Asha really wanted me to take the job.

I was surprised by her words, how can she trust me with such a big responsibility, I have helped her with her work in the past but that was different. She was there with me, to correct me but this was not the same. She was not going to be there now, I will have to be alone, the staff, the customers, the crowd, so many people, I have never done anything like this before, the people didn’t scare me but their expectations did. All sorts of thoughts whirlpooled in her mind ….this had been quite an eventful day.

“Rama, Rama”…I jolted out of my thoughts and looked at her, “Asha, I feel so honored and happy that you thought of me for this job, thank you once again. But…”But what, Rama?”

“But I will need some time to think about it. I will have to ask the kids, my father-in-law…he is too old now. if I go out he will be alone in the house, what if he hurts himself, who will serve him food ,his medicines, kids will need me .I will need some time Asha.”

“I have to answer them in a week Rama; I will not force you but please think about this seriously. Call me once you make your decision.”

“I will”….and Asha left.

“Zindagi kaisi hai paheli…haaye…..kabhi yeh hasaye kabhi yeh rulaye, the morning song suddenly felt too real as if describing the moment I was living now. I was happy that I will no longer have to feel the way I had been feeling,incomplete.Sad or perhaps worried thinking how will everyone react, what will people say. They will obviously ask me why did I need to do a job now that both the kids were earning well. My mother-in-law had asked me the same question when I got married and desired to work. No need to do any job since my husband earned quite well… of life. The evening azaan woke me out of my reverie again. Kids will be home anytime now, they will be hungry.”

We were all having dinner together; all of us sharing with each other what each one of us did during the day. They seemed so happy, telling me their office masti. I felt disconnected at that moment and a little bit jealous too. I told them about my meeting with Asha, her offer.

“Oh my god Amma, it’s so awesome, wow you should take the job Amma, please, you will have something to pass your day and you love books so much Amma. What have you decided?” ...asked my son.

“Do what you feel like doing Rama, yes we will be happy with whatever you choose”…said my father-in-law. I was crying now, I had been worried for nothing. We were still a pack, and a pack always stays together no matter what.

I dialed the number and said…..”YES, I WILL DO IT ASHA”

A few days later….

Rama Ashok Reddy, standing in front of the mirror, she whispered her name, her own way of consoling her rapidly beating heartbeats that everything was going to be alright.

“Bye amma

Bye amma

Don't get nervous. Everyone will like you. Just relax…message us when you reach, WITHOUT FAIL”

Sharing some lines by NIDA FAZLI....

Besan ki sondhi roti par,

Khatti Chatni Jaisi Maa,

Yaad Aati hai Chauka-baasan,

Chimta Fukani jaisi Maa...

Baas Ki Khurri khaat ke upar,

Har Aahat pe kaan dhare,

Aadhi Soi, Aadhi Jaagi,

Thaki Dopahari jaisi Maa.

Chidiyo ke chehkar mein gunje,

Radha-Mohan Ali Ali,

Murge ki aawaz se khulti,

Ghar ki kundi jaisi Maa.

Biwi, Beti Behan Padosan,

Thodi Thodi si sab mein,

Din bhar ek rassi ke upar,

Chalti Natni jaisi Maa.

Baant ke apna Chehra Maatha,

Aankhen Jane kahan gai,

Fate Purane Ek album mein,

Chanchal ladki jaisi Maa.

Fate purane ek album mein, chanchal ladki jaisi maa….A mother, who is like every little girl in the album,eyes full of dreams, not bound by expectations or rules,who just wants to live her life by being the hero of her story and not just an audience. Let each and every mother feel this way again, let them be the girl in the album, just let them be…..


Azaan- call of prayer

Masti- merriment

Zindagi kaisi…..- lyrics from a popular Hindi song

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