It was my mother’s birthday. I made it a point to visit my mother’s grave every year on her birthday, and light a candle there. I would say a prayer for her soul, and thank her for being such a good mother. I got late that evening when I was returning from the office. There was a traffic jam at the crossing of Esplanade, and I was stuck in the chaos for more than an hour. There was some political procession which had caused this disruption. I still had to buy flowers, and hoped they would be fresh, though it was so late. Besides I hoped the gate would be open, though the Management were very sticky about the rules and regulations.
It was about seven in the evening, when I alighted from the taxi in front of the graveyard. Luckily the gate was ajar, and there was no ‘Chowkidar’ or Security to ask too many questions. As it was January, it was a bit chilly, so I had draped a shawl round my shoulders to keep myself warm. I admit my teeth were chattering, perhaps because of the weather, or the environment and atmosphere of the place. I had to walk about half-a- mile through cobbled paths, in between the graves. Some of them were very well taken care of, with multi colored flowers, beautifying them. The tomb-stones were either marble; or just plain cement, which depended on the financial status of the deceased. Some of the inscriptions were written in gold; whilst at others, the names had become faded by the wear and tear of Nature. A dense fog had settled down making visibility difficult. I knew the number of my mother’s grave so I managed to find the place.
Just for a brief introduction, as to how my mother happened to become an occupant of this place! My mother’s name was Nandita. She was a wonderful person. I am not saying so, because she was my mother, but because genuinely she had some exceptional qualities. She was soft- spoken and gentle. Her hobby was to make people happy. Mother was patient and kind. She did not get into an arguments with anyone, and was submissive in her interaction with my dad. My Father on the other hand, got into raging fits of temper, and then he would bellow the house down. He treated my mother as if she were his slave. He was inconsiderate, and would bring in friends, every now and then without warning, and expected my mother to give them a royal feast, that too punctually, at the time set by him. But my mother never complained. Once it so happened that mum refused to entertain half a dozen of his friends because she was not too well. She was running a temperature, but as was her habit, she kept it to herself. In a fit of temper, Father struck her twice. My mother did not say a word, but just went, and locked herself in the bed room. When we managed to open the door, she was lying in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists with a blade, and life had given her freedom. We had not realized earlier, that under the cover of her goodness, there was a soul, seething from inside, because of the unkindness of an inhuman man! My mother might have had another fifty years to live, and enjoy in this world, but it was the corrosive treatment of one callous man, which caused such a grievous injury to her, and eroded into nothingness a beautiful life.
I stood in front of the grave, with tears brimming over my eyes, at the thought of never being able to be with my loving mother again. I deposited the bouquet of flowers, and lit my candle. I had brought incense too, but I could not find it, as it must have slipped too deep into my bag. Though it was a very still evening, with not a leaf moving, all of a sudden there was a gust of wind, which blew the candle off. The lights which were placed at intervals, dotting the graveyard, turned off too. I stood in pitch darkness, not knowing what to do.
The darkness was stabbing me. It seemed I had got entrapped in some dark dungeon, from where escape was impossible. I wondered whether I would have to spend the night in the eerie environment. Suddenly, I heard a loud screech, which sent a shudder down my spine. It must have been an owl. From nowhere, the creaking sound of a box opening, more likely a coffin; came to my ears. I wanted to run out fast, but how could I, as it was so dark that I could not see even see my own hand. But eventually the lamp posts lit up, and I and my Mother went home.
This is where the tussle started. I was very angry with my father for having treated my mother heartlessly, and because of which, I had lost her. My Father had become bed-ridden; and with the greatest difficulty, managed to go to the toilet. His eye-sight had also become weak. I considered then, that the opportune moment had come to hit back, and I felt my mother would also derive satisfaction to have him treated so. No, not my Mother! She was still the personification of goodness, and would tell me not to be so unforgiving, as to wreak my revenge on my aged father
When my Father would ask for a glass of water, I would purposely take my time. Then he would request me, three or four times, but I kept on delaying for full half an hour. Then if he complained, I would remind him, how he used to humiliate my mother in front of his friends, when she got late in serving dinner to his good-for-nothing gang. Now he could wait, as the leeches had dropped off after a good feed. So there was no one to add salt to the wound. Then, when he would ask for help to get dressed, I would tell him at his face that he should be able to fend for himself. I reminded him that he never helped my mother. But on the other hand, ridiculed her, and called her names to prove that he was the boss. How he used to trample on her feelings! This kind of interaction became a common feature between my Father and me. My Mother could not restrain herself from telling me to be charitable, and to give my father due respect, and love, like a daughter. Her voice would startle the old man, and puzzled, he would ask how he was hearing Nandita’s voice. This went on for some time.
But as was natural, his wife’s voice started to irritate him. Then it began to frighten him. As he knew it was his brutality which was the cause of her death, it played on his conscience day and night. He first became sullen, then distant, and finally slipped into a stupor for the rest of his life.
It so happened, one evening, it must have been after five years from the time my Mother had become a guest in my body, she whispered to me that her time had come to go and join God. So she was leaving. Before she left, she asked me to love and forgive my Father, for already he had suffered much. Besides I should always remember, after all, he was my Father!