A slice from a mother’s life: a short story.
“Amma!” the scream from the gate would always fill my heart with joy – joy that a mother feels on seeing her only son come home during his occasional breaks from college. His ear to ear grin would brighten up my otherwise dimly lit dwelling, and his constant chatter would break the unbearable silence that engulfed my home.
Today is his 19th birthday. I have made his favourite ‘mambazha pulissery’*, and I can’t wait to see him devour that, along with all the other dishes I’ve made for him.
As a kid, he was a shy, unfussy, silent child. He would play around with whatever he found – discarded cardboard boxes, containers, paper, anything. As a boy, he was into sports and brought in a lot of prizes from school competitions. Looking back, I regret not having given him any pocket money, not encouraging him when he won something or gone to see any of the events he participated in. I always used to shout at him when he walked in with his muddy shoes after I’d just mopped the floor or when he went out to play with the other neighbourhood boys in the afternoons. I was a working mother, and my life revolved around travelling to my office and back, doing housework, and preparing 3 meals a day. You see, our priorities as parents in those days were very different from those of today’s parents. Those days, when jobs were limited, and the salaries were low, our priorities were to make sure we had a roof above our heads and food on the table. There was no time for anything else. Encouraging our children, buying toys for them was not something we did very often. At least, that’s what I tell myself to overcome the guilt I feel when I look back at our life.
My dream was to make my son an engineer. I still hear my son telling me before every exam: “amma, how many marks do you want? I will get it for you”. He has never disappointed me. So it was not a surprise to me when he got admission into a good engineering college. I was happy that he got thru engineering but sad that he would not be around me for long periods of time. The days that he wasn’t around me had no purpose, no meaning, but the few days he spent with me during holidays more than made up for those empty, dark days.
Today is his 19th birthday. How time flies! I haven’t had enough of those days when I could pick him up and cuddle with him. Or those days when I would sing lullabies that would drift him off to sleep. God, how I wish time would stay still, and he never grew up!
I hear a noise. I strain my neck and look out of the window. The gate is still closed. There’s no sign of my son. Then, I sense a soft touch on my shoulder. I look up to see my husband standing next to me. He is saying something to me. “Laxmi, Come. Let’s eat. He’s waiting for you”. I look towards the dining room. My husband was right – there, next to a plate filled with food and a lit lamp, was my son, smiling at me thru a garlanded 4 X 6 photo frame.
It’s been six months now—six months since that horrific bike accident took my son away from me. Since then, not a single day has gone by without me hoping, dreaming that he would push open that gate and come running to me screaming, “amma!”. God was cruel, but at least He granted me my wish: that my son would never grow up. He lives on as an 18-year-old, in my memories.
* mambazha pulissery – A south Indian dish made with ripe mangoes.