The Significant Mother
The Significant Mother10 mins 287 10 mins 287
The rain seemed to have called it a day, but the trees were still raining. Manoj always loved the music of raindrops falling onto the ground from overhanging leaf-tips. There were still some dark clouds at the far end of the western horizon. Looking at them, he felt the clouds were sad that they could not reach the earth. As he was thinking about the leftover clouds, a drop fell on his eyebrow; smart drop that slipped through his thick eyebrow and started rolling down his cheek. He could not resist thinking about how smartly the drop avoided getting into his eyes.
Manoj was coming back from his day-long learning, or whatever you call the happenings at a school. He was quite upset that today also Sneha avoided him and did not allow him to sit with her on the bus. What a drastic change because till last summer she was the one who always insisted that he sat with her. Just a few days into the new academic year and such a drastic change in attitude! Somehow he could not digest such behavior on her part. He thought it was indeed weird behavior from a girl who used to be with him through all the adventures and misadventures till the day summer vacation started.
It was always a happy walk towards home from the school bus stop. But till last summer, the walking was always holding Sneha's hand. Today, Manoj felt all lonely, walking home was not so happy. Or was it really a pain? He felt closer to pain.
The rain had left a number of small puddles along the narrow pathway. Evening sun rays created a shadow of Manoj reflected in the puddles. Many frogs enjoying an evening nap were disturbed and started jumping towards the other end. For the first time in life, Manoj was not interested in the jumping frogs; in fact, he felt kicking one of them sitting on the edge of the pool. But just one look at the bulging eyes of the frog and he felt sorry for such a thought. He stopped close to one of the frogs, who was still unsure about his intentions, and tried to catch it in his hands. Though the friendly frog, he was sure he knew her, allowed him close proximity but jumped into the pool, dove through the water to reach the other side. She, Manoj was sure it was a girl frog, looked at him from the other side of the pool. Was there a smile on her face? Manoj felt so. What stayed with him was the reality that Sneha did not smile at him today.
The clouds in the sky were preparing to come down again, He was all for it as it would be a great opportunity to walk in the rain – remembering Charlie Chaplin’s emotional statement, “I love to walk in the rain so that nobody can see my tears.”
But if nobody notices the tears, what is the use? Manoj felt he could not agree with the great actor. If no one is there to notice your teardrops, what is the purpose of the drops? He was more worried about Sneha ignoring or not noticing the teardrops that might get dissolved with the raindrops.
His mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick on his lips. Both startled. "What are you doing with my lipstick? It's new...I haven't used it so far. Couldn't you have waited?" He handed it back to her with a smile.
"I forgot to tell you I am playing Draupadi in our college play - rehearsals start this evening."
“Fine, tell me about three important characteristics of Draupadi, that will help you portray her.”
“Arey maa tu bhi” (oh mom, you...), I know who Draupadi was. Actually I admire her, but feel she was a victim of the actions of her trusted men, victims of the so-called dharma.”
“That’s ok, Manu, you think that I believe you're Draupadi in college play story?"
Manoj knew his mom very well; rather they knew each other well. It is a tricky situation, he turned to pluck dried leaves of the peace lily on Sonali’s work table. “Mom, it seems you are no more interested in this peace lily, it’s drying up. At least you should water it twice in a week,” Manoj tried to sound like an expert gardener.
“Manu, will you please allow the peace lily to be at peace.” Only Manoj understood the hidden smile on Sonali’s face. They existed in their own world of care, pain and understanding.
“Oh my dear Sonu Mom,” typical Manu tried to say something special that would be appreciated only by his mom. Manoj’s eyes were brimming, nothing to do with pain, shame or happiness; beyond all that. Sonali felt the meaning of the momentary silence, a talkative silence between her special son and herself.
“Today is our group’s show of strength at Gandhi Chowk; we are expecting few hundred people supported by a number of non-government organizations.” Sonali knew intuitively that he would be part of that proposed show of strength by LGBT people.
“So you are going public?” Sonali could not resist asking the question. The mother in her was overpowered although they had had some heated discussions on the need to come out of the closet and create a space for people of different behavior.
“Of course I am going public, not just public! I am going to lead it. Mind you, mom, if you think what I am going to do is not the right thing; please don’t forget that you are also a party to the wrong thing.” Manoj looked at his mom with a smile. Sonali always felt that whenever Manoj smiled at her, it was beautiful.
She vividly remembered the day when she realized the truth that her son Manoj is different from other boys of his age. It was a cloudy day. But a dark cloud also has a positive side to it; it rains and makes lots of people happy on this earth, even peacocks dance when it rains. She remembered her childhood stories about the dancing peacocks and the Chatak bird that longs for the dark clouds the whole season to drink directly from the clouds.
Sonali had learned the art of being happy, she never allowed anyone else to interfere with her right to be happy. Manoj liked to be a girl; he hated the tender line of not so dark hairline on his upper lip. He wanted long free-flowing hair. Sneha was his best friend but she betrayed him by refusing to sit together on the school bus. Manoj was not able to understand the sudden change in Sneha’s behavior; till they were in class seven, they were friends, played together, sat together. Just one summer and the whole world changed. Manoj cursed that summer and every summer became a culprit, taking love away from friends. Sonali noticed that even today, Manoj got restless and found excuses to get away from the summer.
Sonali, of course, had had a tough time understanding Manoj, made more difficult being a single parent. Of course, Nainesh had his own reasons for leaving her and the 12-year-old Manoj to settle for something that was more orderly and reasonable. Sonali still had no idea what was reasonable and orderly; she just wanted to be independent and needed a space to help all the three to grow up. Maybe there was a misunderstanding about the space; a space that was enough for all to grow together, be happy. Maybe Nainesh never heard about or learned about such a space, and Sonali could never explain the beauty of interdependence to him. Sonali took a deep breath and let go of the thoughts that reminded her of a break up that happened 11 years back.
“Mom, where are you?” her son’s soft voice brought Sonali back to her room, and lipstick.
“Ok, so I am a party to what you are going to do today, let it be like that, Manu. I am happy about it, being party to the right thing that you are going to do.”
“Mom, that is the difference. You are not a mean mother; you were never a mean mother. But you must know that the world appreciates only mean mothers.”
“But my world is you and I. Just tell me whether you appreciate yourself, if you do, you can appreciate me. Then who bothers about the world outside”.
“Mom, I know you loved me enough not to ask where I was going, with whom and what time I would be home. I know you loved me enough to be silent and let me discover that my new best friend was not normal. You loved me so much that you never let me see anger, disappointment, and tears in your eyes”
“Manu, my dear, you know how to express well now.” Sonali was a bit nervous hearing him praising her role in his life, though it had the typical touch of sarcasm. Manu and she always played with sarcasm that helped them understand the world around them better. The newly bought lipstick smiled at both of them, as she reached for it, Sonali felt it was smiling back at her.
She was not very sure whether the lone house gecko sitting on the corner of the room wall was listening to their dialogue, but she felt it was. She did not like that feeling and opened the door wide to guide the gecko to the outside world.
Manoj was not in a mood to stop. “You loved me enough to let me assume the responsibility for my not so normal actions, even when the penalties from the keepers of the society were so harsh they almost broke your heart and most of all, you loved me enough to say yes when people all around me said no. Mom, those were the most difficult battles of all, the battles within me and the several ones I fought the world outside. I am glad I won them all. And I am sure in the end, you won too because I am happy today and you are happy knowing that I am happy.”
Sonali thought for a while and decided something. “Now will you please stop your gospel? Here is the lipstick, you use it first, I have no problem.” Manoj could see the overflowing concern in her eyes.
“No mom, you use it first, I will use some of the old ones”
“Hmm, I will use it first, if you take me along with you to the campaign rally”
Manoj took a split second to believe his mom’s demand, “But mom you are not like me, then?”
“Manu, I am not like you and you are not like me, but we always cherished the similarities. And celebrated the differences. I will join you to express my solidarity. Why not?”
The suspicious-looking house gecko was back inside the room to witness the all-compassing hug of mother and son. No one knew whether the shrill sound it made was in solidarity or not.