I was still under the shock given by my girl friend Namratha, she had announced that her family had finalized her marriage plans and she is getting engaged during the vacation to some Kiran Sharma who belongs to some big business family. We had been very close, and I was hoping that we will eventually marry. But there was another reason, a far bigger reason, because of which I had not gone home for the last 1 year.
I wanted some time to get over all this and had called home, and got mother on the line. The purpose of my call was to tell them that I will stay back for 2 weeks to do some “reading at the library”.
Mother had "Of course, but you'll be on your own…… ." I was sure that she knew the other “far bigger reason” why I did not want to get home.
I told her it would be fine and I just needed a bit of time to myself. Of course I couldn't fool mother, I never could. She knew there was something more to it than simply wanting to study more, but as always she didn't probe. I remember she once said that if I ever need to talk she was there, but she'd never be pushy.
For the last two years she hadn't "been there" because I had left home to take up a job interstate. Since then I'd hardly visited home, and my main contact had been via an occasional telephone call.
If that doesn't sound like the behaviour of a devoted son then let me correct that and say it was behaviour of a too devoted son.
The day Namratha has dropped the bombshell, I swore there would never be another woman in my life till I finish college and PG. Well I had made similar commitments to myself once before.
Staying alone was ok for the first 3 days, then it became boring as I really did not have any
‘reading’ plans/ By the 4 th day I'd just about resolved to pack up and go home, when something happened that turned the whole situation around.
It was around 12. noon I was lazing around reading a paperback, when the door bell rang. Thinking it will be some vendor I took my time to go and open the door.
Imaging my surprise when I saw the last person on earth whom I expected to drop in at our flat, …. My mother.
For a moment I was stunned, not sure if she really was there or was a creation of my imagination. I stammered, "What...you...what...?"
She smiled at me and said, "Surprised to see me Karan?"
"Yes...I mean, Ma, you here,,,,...you never said...mentioned...even yesterday morning when we spoke"
"No, I only made up my mind yesterday evening. Why dear, are you not pleased to see me?"
Was I please to see her! "Yes...yes...I've wanted to see you Ma.. its is just..."
"Then why don't you welcome your mother properly instead of just standing there."
We came into each other's arms and hugged and kissed. I was so relieved to see her; the one person I'd least expected – not that I'd expected anyone – and at that moment I felt in a sense like a child again in my mother's arms, knowing that everything would be all right now; although it hadn't been all right a couple of years back.
She was warm and soft, just as she had always been, the goddess that mother's often are for their children. In her embrace her warmth seemed to enter me and start to melt the darkness that had pervaded me since Namratha.
She stood back, and let me collect her bags. I set her things in my room and saw her looking at me. "Karan, you look terrible, is something wrong...have you been eating properly...no, you haven't, you have lost weight. Just as well I brought some decent food; and you haven't shaved and your hair needs cutting. Let's me make you a cup of tea; then lunch or may be breakfast”
I think I almost burst out laughing at that moment. It was so typical of mother, fussing over me and then offering tea.
"Oh Ma, I had bread, but I would love to have a cup of tea." I said.
She got busy in the kitchen and I just looked at her, dressed in a fashionable salwar suit, she looked so good, I always marveled at the grace and beauty she radiated.
We sat the kitchen table as mother poured.
"What brought you here mum?"
"What do you think brought me here?"
"You needed a break?"
Patiently, as if talking to an idiot, mother said, "It's you that's brought me here."
"Me, but what about the business?"
Ma ran a garment shop in Mumbai and it usually took a bit or organising before she could get away from it.
"Oh, Sharma and Kumar can run it while I'm away, they're both quite competent."
"How long are you staying?" I asked.
"As long as you are."
"But I'm staying for a fortnight."
"Then I'm staying for a fortnight."
"Oh...you said you've come here for me."
"Karan, don't play games with me, we've had enough of that in the past. I knew there must be something wrong, I could tell it from the sound of your voice on the telephone, and anyway you've never wanted to be here on your own before."
"Am I that transparent?"
"Yes, you always were to me, as you should know by now."
I tried to make a joke of it. "I'm transparent to you even when you can't see me?"
"Karan, you're trying to be humorous, but you don't feel humorous, so stop it. I've come here because I felt you were in trouble."
"No...no...not exactly trouble it's just something that..."
"I don't really want to talk about it."
"All right, I won't pry, but just do your self and me a favour and go and have a shower and a shave, and for God's change those filthy clothes, and then I'll you should get a hair cut”
Obedient as ever I trotted off for my shower. Under the influence of the warm water I got my first erection since Namratha left me. I don't think it was only the warm water, but I realized it was Ma’s presence; things always seemed to be all right when she was around. But of course, there was a bit more to it than that, in fact there was a lot more to it.
When I'd finished I put on my towel and headed for my bedroom. To get there I had to cross the hall and Ma was there and she saw me.
"Oh Karan, you hair is all wet, In this climate you will catch cold dear” she said, following me to the bed room. She opened her bad and grabbed a towel.
"I will dry it Ma”
“Sit down Karan” she said in her stern motherly tone,
"Yes, I know, you will you lazy fellow” she admonished me as her scrubber my hair…
Obediently I sat, and then I saw her boson in front of me, undulating with the movement of her hands….. old memories started to flood my mind.
"Ma, I am not a kid"
“To me you are Karan”
She stopped scrubbing and gave a good head massage. It felt so good
“There, that's done, and don't you feel better?"
I had to admit I did feel better.
I rose and gave her a quick hug and said, "What will I do without you Ma"
"I got lunch ready while you were bathing " she said, "so let's sit and eat it now."
"What?, so soon"
"I've got some stuff from home, and cooked rice"
“You are a wonder Ma” I said as we went to the hall.
As we sat eating she asked, "Have you been sleeping properly?"
"Mmm, it is Namratha isn't it – sorry, said I wouldn't pry."
"It's all right, you might as well know. She dumped me."
"Yes, I though I will asked her to marry me, once I complete PG, but she wasn't so serious, she got engaged to some rich industrialists kid."
"Did you really think it would work out with her even if she'd said yes?"
"You already know the answer to that."
"Yes, I do, I had told you once dear."
“Forget it Ma” I said. “It is good to have you here’
I licked my fingers as I polished off the chicken curry and rice.
"That's the first proper meal I've eaten since...since..."
“Last time you were home” she smiled.
“Even at home, the last few days that was how you were before, remember? Not eating, not bothering to shave, you had me worried sick, but I suppose it was mostly my fault."
"Not your fault Ma, it was me who started it; that's why I you know, I never came home during the last 1 year"
"Yes, I understood."
There was a long silence. Mother had finished clearing the dishes, and had come and sat down again at the table, and seemed to be staring into space, or perhaps it was some inner image of the past that she saw.
She rose abruptly and said, "I'm going to have a shower”.
She stood looking at me for a few moments, and then turned and went to my room.
I suddenly felt very tired. I know it sounds pathetically childish, but now mother was here everything was okay, I could eat and sleep again, and oddly the thought of Namratha didn't hurt nearly as much as it had.
As if to confirm my infantile condition at that time I did something that had been a frequent habit since my early days. I stretched down on the divan in the hall, using one of the cushions as a pillow.
I think I was asleep in seconds.
How long I slept I've never been sure. I was awakened by a sound and the room was dim which indicated it must have been after sunset.
The sound proved to be mother coming into the room to see if I was still sleeping. I could just see her standing by the bed looking rather like a grey ghost.
I sat up and she said, "Ah, so you are awake; how do you feel?
"Fine," I said, "I haven't felt as good since...it must be your influence."
She laughed softly and switched on the tube light and I could see she had bathed and changed to a nice housecoat.
She came and sat on the divan. I was sitting up, my back against the wall that ran along the back of the divan.
She took my hand in hers, and for a while we sat in silence.
After a while she said, "You know why I've come, don't you?"
"I think so."
"Has anything changed?"
"No, I told you it never would."
"Not even when you were with Namratha?"
"No, that was different, I had to have something...had to have a future. But I didn't even have that, did I? Has anything changed for you?"
"It died then...I mean, you...you don't feel the same way?"
"Yes darling, I still feel the same."
"So what's changed?"
"Do you mind if we don't talk about that just yet?"
"Not if you don't want to but...but what do you want to talk about?"