Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mothers never die - or so we think.

"... but one day in my 30s, I got this impossible call from Nigeria to say that my mother had gone. We never think our mothers will die. It was like suddenly an abyss opened at my feet - I was standing on nothing. It was the strangest thing. Her passing away ripped the solidity out of the world. ... ... That was a turning point for me." says Ben Okri, the great African writer who was awarded the Booker Prize of 1991 for his book 'The Famished Road'.

I was dumbstruck.

Yes, I too never suspected my mother would die. Not anytime soon, at any rate.

There was so much I wanted to learn from her. A poem. A recipe. About her friends. About our relatives. A narrative of her experience on one occasion or the other. A chronicle of her life and times.

There was so much love I still needed to keep going in the face of everything engulfing me.

There was still so much that I had to do for her. There was so much that I failed to do - and had to compensate for - in the face of my father's last words "Take care of your mother." The last words of a man who faced Death with the same nonchalance as he faced the threats, trials and tribulations of life and passed away without any fear of death or a lingering concern for anything else he was leaving behind.

I did try my best. But did I do enough? I do not think so. The posthumous accounts of how appreciative she was of me do not fill me with satisfaction; they make me feel even more ashamed of not having been what all I could have been to her but did not end up being. Only a mother could be glossing over the shortcomings while looking at the brighter side through a magnifying glass.

How do I get her back today - so that I can apologise for the harsh words I spoke on this occasion or that or to say those words of love and kindness that I just did not say because I was wary of sounding melodramatic? Can I ever tell her in as many words that I love her?

I was the decision-maker in the home after my father's death. Yet, when she was there, I had the feeling that there was somebody standing by me and overseeing me. I miss that presence of someone standing by me - just in case I tripped over the threshold. She is not there now and I am so wary of every threshold today.

I rarely consulted her about any decisions but merely told her what I was doing or going to do. She never said much except what boils down to "You know best. You are as balanced as your father. And as full of honesty and good faith. Go ahead." When she said that, it was reassuring. When I say that to myself, it sounds awfully egoistic and even unbelievable.

When she passed away, my best friend - who has known me from my college days - said : "You have lost the only person who understood you and was on your wavelength. Your loss is more than the loss of most other children." I never knew he observed me and my mother that well. Even more so because I and my mother never spoke much to each other; we 'd mostly just sit silently in our respective rooms, sometimes together - holding hands in some very rare emotional moment. Yet she was more than a friend - much more than a friend ... perhaps the unseen God in flesh and blood.

How I wish parents never die!

Yes, her passing away has ripped the solidity out of the world - my world.

Yes, it was a turning point alright. The beginning of a downward spiral emotionally.

The internal lampposts are not up to the task yet.

The couple of friends who promised to be everything have disappeared since then - caught in their own compulsions and travails.

Here I am all alone - with a long road ahead on my journey to proving to be a good human being, a good friend, and a worthy son of two exemplary human beings.

Will I make it?


Rajini said...

Yes, you will make it, since you have already made a beginning with utmost sincerity and you have the blessings of two beautiul souls who brought you into this world.

A very touching write-up. Makes me feel as guilty when I think of my own Mother; my mood swings her tolerance, my tantrums her compassion, my anger her patience. I could go on and on and yes, we realise the value of a mother when she is no more. In the normal course we take her affection for granted.

But, I would like to add, as a mother myself, that a mother's love is all encompassing, selfless, devoted, forgiving and she has no expectations! From the moment she holds her newborn in her arms she knows only one thing: to give selflessly! Even the slightest kind word or action from her child, is worth millions and in her heart of hearts all that a mother wants is her child's happiness!

So Prasad, you need to stop thinking you could have done much more. We all think that way and feel guilty, but if you really want her soul to rest in peace, you must make an effort to fill the void with memories of happy moments you shared with her. It is not easy, but you must start sometime, try to lessen the grief and lift the burden, to overcome a feeling of hopelessness which engulfs us! Try! do it today. It will make her happy, wherever she is, in the form of an angel!

Sujatha said...

Prasad, they never die. They live on, in us. If possible, do read this book by Mitch Album "For One More Day"

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