She remembered the day when he had been born. She and Vinod had held the tiny bundle of joy wrapped up in a warm, pink baby blanket, his wide eyes taking in the new world around him. Her heart had filled with pride and her eyes had overflown. She and her husband had cried together over the miracle that now lay in her arms.
She remembered his first birthday as if it had happened only yesterday. He had put his podgy fingers into the black forest cake that they had ordered and had demanded to eat it immediately, before it had been cut. They had had a really hard time holding him back. She smiled. It had been a wonderful day.
She remembered the day when he had gone to school for the first time, looking cute in a little pair of shorts, a backpack saddled on his back and his favourite red water bottle slung over his right arm. He had been tearful throughout the car ride to the school. She had kissed his cheek and told him to a good boy. And he had obeyed. Like a good boy, he had waved to her and Vinod sitting in the car and had walked into the school.
She remembered the day when he had fallen down from the swing in the garden and grazed his knee. It had filled her heart with pain to see his face puckering and his eyes filling up with tears. She had cuddled his whimpering body close and had rocked it to quietness. She had whispered in his ear that it would be o.k., that it would hurt no more after she would take him home and apply antibiotic liquid on it.
She remembered the day when he had brought a ‘For you – Mother’ card home from school. He had fingerpainted it on his own. He had proudly given it to her and her heart had swelled with pride and happiness. ‘Thanks sweetheart” had been the only words she could say.
She remembered the day before his English exam, for which he had not studied at all. He had been in the 8th grade at that time. “Mom, I think I am going to fail this test,” he had said. She still remembered the worried look on his face. She had sat up the whole night, praying to God not to let him fail the test. She had lighted a ‘diya’ in the nearby Ganesha temple and not a single morsel of food had passed her throat till he had returned from school and said that he had done well in the exam.
She remembered the day when she and Vinod had bought him his bicycle. She remembered the look of pride and awe on his face as he rode his Street Cat to school for the first time. She had worried and fretted and fumed till he had come back home safely.
She remembered the day when the doctor had diagnosed him with jaundice. He had been in the 10th grade at that time. The doctor had said that his situation was critical and he would have to be admitted to the hospital. She had sat at his bedside for long days and nights together. She had fed him, cared for him and nursed him back to health. There was not a single temple in the city which had not visited after he came home safe from the hospital.
She remembered the day when he had told her, “Mom, I am confused about whether to take Commerce or Science. What should I do?” She and Vinod had talked to him for hours on end and had helped him discover his passion for accounts. Finally, he had chosen Commerce. And seeing him go ahead in his career, she had been happy that she had helped him in taking the right decision.
She remembered the day when he had got admission in the best Commerce college in the city. She would never forget the excited look on his face as he had come home that day, taken her by the arms and swirled her round and round till her head was spinning. “Mom, I’ve done it. I’m so happy,” he had said. She had wished him good luck as he embarked on his journey. He had gone on to scale great heights of academic excellence and make new forays into the world of commerce. She remembered holding Vinod’s hand excitedly as he stepped up on stage wearing a black coat to receive his MBA degree.
She remembered the day when he had got his first job – as Finance Controller in a multinational firm. He had returned home with a box of sweets in hand. When he had received his first salary cheque, he had bought her a beautiful saree and a shirt for Vinod. They had enjoyed a treat in his favourite restaurant in the evening – from him.
She remembered the first day when he had called from office to say that he would be late, to tell her that she and Vinod should have dinner and not wait for him. She had felt sad, disappointed. She had wanted to share fond memories of his childhood with him that day. She remembered how these delays became a regular feature in their lives. But she had always cheered herself up and reminded herself that her son now had a life of his own. She had chided herself for wanting him to be with her all the time.
She remembered the day when he had introduced her and Vinod to Anju, his colleague. “Mom, Dad, we want to marry each other,” he had said, “We want your blessings.” She had liked Anju on first sight. She knew that Anju would be perfect for him. She was glad that he had found true love in life, but couldn’t help the wave of sadness that rose in her heart at the realization that he hadn’t confided in her the first time he had met Anju. Somewhere along the way, there had been a rift in their relationship. Something had changed, something she couldn’t quite place her finger on.
She remembered the day he and Anju had left for America. He was being sent by his company. She and Vinod had gone to the airport to see them off. Both of them had kneeled down and touched their feet. She had watched them till they were out of her range of vision. She and Vinod had returned back home with heavy hearts. Later, she had cried her heart out in Vinod’s arms. She had missed him like anything. The only consolation had been being able to hear his and Anju’s voice when they called on the weekends.
She remembered the day when Vinod had had a heart attack. She and her neighbour, Mr. Rathore, had rushed him to the hospital. She remembered calling him up and breaking down while apprising him of the situation. He had tried to calm her down, “Mom, don’t worry. Dad will be just fine.” He had been wrong. It had been a massive heart attack and Vinod had left her forever after a week of suffering in the hospital.
She remembered how he had lit the funeral pyre of his beloved Dad. She remembered the determined look on his face as he had tried to convince her to come with him to America. She had hardened her heart and refused. She knew she would never be comfortable in that faraway place. She would never be able to relate to the place and its people. She had bid a tearful farewell to him and Anju.
She remembered how she had engaged herself in social service activities with a local NGO. She liked to keep herself active – that’s what she told people. But she knew that she did it because it helped her forget the pangs of loneliness that threatened to engulf her, atleast for some time. She remembered going through each day, plastering a smile on her face for the sake of others. The gloomy darkness in her heart she reserved for her long, lonely nights.
She remembered frantically calling him up a number of times, imploring him to come back to India. Only to receive the same answer every time – “Mom, I can’t come now. I have my work all spread out here. I cannot wind up my affairs here so easily. Why don’t you come here?” And she had always hung up heavy hearted. Ultimately, she had been left with her loneliness as her only companion.
Then, she could remember nothing…..She had tried to think about it till her head pained, but had drawn only a blank, a null, a void…..
Ah! Her head throbbed and her throat felt parched. As if there were thorns stuck into it. She tried to hold her throbbing head in her hands and felt something wet and hot. Blood! It was oozing out of a gash on her forehead. It had stained the pure white saree that she was wearing. Oh God! Why was she feeling so hot, so flustered, so different? What had happened to her?
Where was she? She looked around……The place seemed very familiar, as if she had always been there. Who were all these people around her? A few of them seemed familiar. Hey, some of them were crying…..Why? The atmosphere seemed charged with gloom, with darkness, as if something terrible had happened. She asked the woman sitting nearest to her, “What happened? Where am I?” No reply. It was as if the woman had not heard her at all. She tried asking again, this time in a louder voice. Again, no reply. Was the woman deaf?
She thought of asking someone else. It was then that she realized she was lying down. Why was she lying on the floor in the middle of the day? It did not seem like her usual style. And what was that hard, wooden thing beneath her?
She got up and as she did, she found that somebody had put garlands of flowers all over her. So that was why she had been feeling so hot? She brushed aside the flowers and got up. Nobody paid any attention to her. It was as if she didn’t exist at all! She went up to a man who looked familiar, who was talking to another man. “Where am I?,” she asked him. The man did not answer and ignored her completely. “WHERE AM I?,” she shouted. The man still stood talking, as if nothing had happened. She grabbed him by the hands and shook him. “PLEASE, tell me what happened.” The man just stood there unaffected, talking to the man beside him. Tears of helplessness started flowing down her cheeks.
Her eyes flew to the doorway. She knew in her heart of hearts that she was waiting for someone, someone whom she loved deeply. Someone whose face she could not find in the crowd around her. But who?
She strained her ears to hear what the man was saying. His voice was faint, as if it was coming from another world. “……Luckily, her neighbour, Mr. Rathore, found her lying on the street and brought her home. It seems a drunk driver hit her when she was going to the NGO……”
PS: This is what being jobless on your job for 2 days does to you…..