Losing To Mom One Last Time
Losing To Mom One Last Time11 mins 42 11 mins 42
The first loss.
Anand was in a hurry to finish playing chess. His mother will allow him to watch TV only after the game. Winning the game gives him an hour of TV but losing means only 30 minutes of it. That day he wants to finish the game soon. It was already time for his favourite cartoon TaleSpin. The game was going on for more than an hour by then. In the hurry, Karthik moved his queen forward and announced check. His mother, Sandhya, asked was he sure. He was not in the mood to think any more and said "Yes". Sandhya took the queen with her knight, one more move and it was checkmate. Karthik lost the game but he ran to the TV for the title song of TaleSpin. But he promised himself he will not lose to his mother again.
Win or a loss?
Anand was at the final of the world chess championship. He was about to move the queen forward for a check when he recalled his mother's words. "Do you want to make that move?" He spent a little more time thinking before making the next move. He won the game and world championship that night. The mother was watching the game on their small Black and white TV. She knows what exactly made him change the move. She knows every move he ever made and not made. She remembers even the first one he ever made, moving a knight as a 3-year-old.
Anand came back from Russia after a few weeks. He brought a gift for his mother, or so he said. It was his then-girlfriend and future spouse, Tatiana Pavlova. Tatiana was a grandmaster herself. The love blossomed during the Anand's championship run. The mother did not expect this move. She did not doubt his move this time. They tied the knot soon after. The whole family were there to bless the new couple. Post marriage Tatiana started to get to know her mother-in-law. Tatiana and Sandhya started to play chess together. Tatiana never expected Sandhya to beat her. It is not that Anand did not sing praises of his mother. But Tatiana never expected Sandhya to be that good. The time spent together brought Tatiana and Sandhya closer. In the process, Tatiana was also slowly warming up to the spicy food of India.
That morning Anand was getting ready to go to Russia, to defend his title. Tatiana too is packed and ready to accompany Anand. The mother was helping Anand packing things for the trip. Anand was asking her mother to come with them. But she declined to go with them. Sandhya was packing a few spices and dal for Anand. Even for a short trip she always packs him. Anand says he loves to explore food in other countries. A few days into the trip he starts missing the home food and starts cooking. He asked his mother to come one last time. She gave him the same answer. Sandhya finished her packing and verified one last time if she missed anything. She noticed the Knight that Anand carries everywhere was still on the night table. She was about to put that in one of the boxes. Anand stopped her from packing that. He wanted to carry that with him. Sandhya left the room and headed to the kitchen to finish cooking sambar. Once done she called Anand for lunch. Sitting down on the dining table Anand noticed the Sambar. He knew he is not going to have if for a long time to come. He had all his lunch that day with Sambar. Before long, the cabs arrived to pick Anand. Sandhya walked with Anand to say her goodbyes. Anand and Tatiana got into the cabs and left for the airport. Once back at home, Sandhya started to clean up and organize the home. That is when she noticed, the Knight was still on the night table.
Anand was playing well before he moved his Knight and got into big trouble. Watching him play Sandhya had the tough 5 minutes of her life. The Knight Anand left home was sitting on the study table in front of the TV. Sandhya thought it was a bad omen. But Anand somehow got his game back. Anand won his second championship. Sandhya was very happy for her son. But she is not the one leaves the things to luck. A thorough mother she was, she started to go through the moves Anand made to understand what went wrong. She could not figure out why he moved that Knight at that point. She spent long hours without any answers. She concluded that she must wait for Anand to come back to get the answer. Anand came back home early than expected. He came alone Tatiana was not with him. As a mother, she wanted to ask many questions. But first things first, there was nothing for him to eat. So, Sandhya quickly cooked some lunch. She was waiting for him to finish lunch to ask him the question about his move with Knight. But she cannot ask now, there is something different about Anand. Instead, she asked Where is Tatiana? Anand replied in a dry tone that Tatiana stayed back in Russia. Anand and Tatiana decided to stay in Russia and train. Anand came to tell that his mother and go to Russia. She was already puzzled with the move he made with the Knight. The new one just made her lose completely. But a strong woman she was, she asked what Anand needs to get ready for the journey. Anand without considering his mother feelings said he did all the arrangement and will go in a week. The day came sooner than Sandhya was expecting. The cabs picked up Anand, and Anand left. Walking back Sandhya noticed something. The knight was lying on the ground and was looking for attention.
A year went by and Anand was playing the championship game. Till then Sandhya had very few chances to see her son. Especially playing the game and making moves no one can think of. She was busy looking at his moves and did not notice Anand had changed a lot. He started wearing bigger sweaters and started to cover his head with a cap. Anand was about to make a move and Sandhya knew already what the next move is going to be. She does not want him to make that next move. Not because he is going to lose, that move means he will win soon. Which means she cannot see him play or see him for much longer. He made the move and he was crowned the world champion the third time. Sandhya's eyes were glued to the screen when the phone rang. Sandhya thought it was Anand. She thought, he called to tell her he won. But the call was not from him.
A few more years had gone by and few more championships were won by Anand. Sandhya still had no companion except the Knight left by her son. She never questioned her son or questioned herself what went wrong. As per her, nothing was wrong. Her son wanted something, and he went to get it. As a mother, she had no right to stop him. However, she felt betrayed by Tatiana. Not because she took her son away from her. But Tatiana never thought of giving a call and asking what is going on. Again, when Anand could not call her how can Tatiana call. She moved on and kept living her life, or whatever left of it.
That morning Sandhya was watching the repeat of the championship game. This time her eyes are glued on Anand. Out of nowhere, there was a knock on the door. A lonely woman she was she had no guests. She was surprised by the knock. She opened the door to find Anand. He had nothing but one thing to say to her mother "I lost mother" and started to cry. She did not understand what was going on. She looked at Tatiana for a hint, she too had silence and drops of tears as a response. She asked them to first come in before telling her what is going on.
They stepped in and Sandhya noticed the TV was still running. Champion was flashing with Anand being handed the trophy. She finally asked you won your fourth championship what did you lose? He removed his cap and the heavy coat. Sandhya noticed that Anand lost all his hair and the body seemed very weak. She was puzzled by what was going on. Tatiana started to speak. Anand had cancer for the last four years. He was getting treatment in Russia. He wanted to come back only when he was cured. But after four years the doctor's said they cannot do anything anymore. Anand now has only 15 days to live. Anand decided to move to Russia so that he can remain a winner to her mother. That day he was ready to lose just so he can spend a few days with his mother. Sandhya had nothing in response. She asked them to fresh up and headed to the kitchen. Anand came into Kitchen and asked don't you want to ask me anything. She replied, "You have very few days left. I want to use this time to take care of you, nothing else. No questions, no answers, and no regrets". Anand hugged his mother and cried his heart out.
Anand was searching every one of the bowls on the dining table. There was no Sambar. Surprised he looked at her mother. "I know, you cannot have any spicy food", said the mother. The schedule for the days to come was made. His mother was there for every moment. The doctor appointments, the exercise, the medicines. Tatiana gave room as she understood what Sandhya had gone through for 4 years. They spent their time playing Chess. Anand told everyone of the experiences he had in Russia. The games, the trips, the hospitals, the radiation everything. The mother was acting all strong on the outside. She only knows what is going on with her. That night after losing one more game to her son she stepped into her bedroom to sleep. On the nightstand was the Knight, she picked it up and her tears started rolling for the first time.
The final loss.
Next day was almost the same with the exercises, doctor's visit etc. Anand, however, had a request for that day. He wanted to have Sambar, even a less spicy one. Tatiana and Sandhya tried to stop him. But he was adamant. A mother cannot take it when her son wants something, and she cannot give it. So, she made Sambar that day with zero spice. Anand was ecstatic seeing Sambar. But his tongue could not make any difference. The taste buds are already gone. Sandhya knew that day the end was near. They finished the dinner and the game time as come. They started playing. Anand asked her mother during the play if there was something she would like to change. She replied " I should have let you win that day. If not for that you never would have wanted to win this much against your mother" and laughed. What she did not tell him was she regrets that she last four years because of the promise Anand made after losing that day. A few moves later Anand made a wrong move. Sandhya asked him to do you want to make that move. He did not realize the mistake. He lost the game that day. Anand was finding reasons for the loss. He said he was dizzy from all the medicine and distracted by his mother talk. A mother she was Sandhya was happy to see childish adamancy of Anand after so many years.
Sandhya went back to her room to sleep. She picked the Knight and held it in her hand. She slipped into her sleep with Knight still in her hand. In the middle of the night, she was woken up by someone shouting for help. It was Anand, she ran to his room right away. Anand said "Mom, I cannot sleep. Can you stay with me for a while." Sandhya's eyes welled, and she sat on the chair next to his bed holding his hand. Anand noticed the Knight in her hand. "I want my Knight back", said Anand. "Here it is, take back your knight, I cannot look after it anymore", said Sandhya.
Sitting on a chair next to the bed Sandhya asked Anand does he remember the story of the Knight. Before he could reply she continued talking. "I always had this crazy old wooden chessboard. You were three and you wanted to play with your mother. You were not even making full sentences at that time. I explained to you how to play the game. Your father was laughing when he heard the care, I was taking to explain the game to you. After 15 minutes are so I made the board. You had the whites and your first move was the Knight and you placed it perfectly. Your father said it was a fluke. I did not believe him. That day you broke my board and every coin but the Knight. We bought many more boards after that, but we had only you and the Knight from that day. Anand slept with his hands holding her mother's hand strong. The next morning when Anand woke up the mother's hand was still in his hand. She tried to wake her up. But she did not wake up.
The loss he faced the day before was the last he thought. But he lost to his mother one more time, this time in death. He held her tight and started to cry until there were no tears left.