I see her sitting quietly by her plants, next to her Ganesh idol, her island of peace, staring blankly at her phone. She wipes her tears and reaches out to her by-now-ice-cold coffee and cups it for solace. As an afterthought, puts the cup back, looks at her Ganesh for concurrence and checks the phone again. She then shakes it, as if to will it, to do her bidding.
The mobile is made of sterner stuff and is stone cold. It obstinately refuses to ring.
I see her going through Ummeed’s messages.
Ummeed, her only son, came as a ray of sunshine when her own marriage was crumbling under the weight of adultery and soaring careers. Ummeed – her hope, her strength, who now studies in a college, seven seas across. The same boy, who wouldn’t move an inch without her say so, who needed her 24/7, now doesn’t even have a single spare minute to chat with her, to ask her how her day had been, whether she had eaten, whether she had a good day. Call costs are not even in the picture. They both have face-time on their phones!
She lives for those two blue ticks on WhatsApp. He does read her messages, wishing him a wonderful day ahead. Those blue ticks tell her that all is well and he is ok. But it is another thing altogether, hearing his voice, isn’t it?
She remembers an old fight, a few days earlier.
“I gave up everything for you Ummeed, to be with you, to make sure you landed in an ivy league college. Your dad and I had slaved like crazy. We poured all our savings into your education. And you don’t even have time to take our calls? If this is the state now when you are dependent on us, what will you do when we are old and decrepit? I suppose I should seriously start looking at old age homes”
“Mom! I never asked you. You gave up your job on your own. Don’t expect me to ride that guilt trip. You needed to show off to your friends – Look where my son has landed! How much I had to give up but it has been well worth it!! Let me assure mom, I would have made it nonetheless!”
“That is utterly cruel, child and you know it.”
“Mom! Alright, let us stick to the present. Who knows about tomorrow? I have just landed. I’m trying to find my moorings. I can barely stand on my own two feet. What support can I give you really? Anyways, that scenario is so far ahead in life.”
“I don’t need anything from you. We can at least talk. I called you to check on you, not to fight, my dear son”
“Mom! Nobody calls as much as you do. Really, I’m fine. I’m settling in. It is so embarrassing. All my friends tease me. You got to let me be. I need some space. Look! I will call you soon. Take care. Will Ya?”
Since when, talking to one’s mother, had become an embarrassment?
I see that she waits for her son to fulfill his promise, with bated breath, to start afresh.
Her reverie is broken by the childish prattle.
“Will you join me for Tea? I have baked a cake too…”
She stares at the bony fingers taping her on her shoulders.
Old, wizened, crumpled, beady-eyed and lost to this civilized world! Her mother, who was a ravishing beauty in her youth! Battling Alzheimer’s, mother had all but forgotten her. Mother exists, just about.
She gets up wearily to indulge her mother, who gleefully claps her hands. How many times, in the distant past, had she hung up on her mother?
“Not now Ma! Can’t talk now. I’m busy at work. I understand this is important to you, but I have deadlines to meet. I will call you later, maybe? When I’m less swamped?”
The ‘later’ never came really till it was too late.
Now she has all the time in the world.
But mother, as she had known her to be, had long since vanished. What she has now merely is a broken shadow.
If only, she could set the clock back! If only she could undo, what she did!
I see her husband coming out, gives her a peck before he leaves for work.
“You really need to have an avocation. Get occupied.” He suggests.
She nods absentmindedly staring at her Ganesh for validation.
I catch her, yet again, looking wistfully at her phone and at her mother.
Oh! Who am I and how do I know so much? you must be wondering.
I’m Father Time, watching over you all.
And I come in cycles.
“What you do unto others…”
Will she find peace? Will she get busy?
Well, that is a story for tomorrow to tell!