For Ammoma

“Get a cup of tea for Unni,” she said. I checked the flask. It was empty. I had only brought two cups from the canteen anyway. “There’s no tea.” Two minutes later, Ammoma repeated her request, only more earnestly. “Jayasree, get some tea for Unni.”

Jaya aunty walked to the counter, poured a glass of hot water from the flask into a steel tumbler, and quietly handed it to her husband.

“Here’s your tea.” He quietly joined in the charade. Ammoma smiled with satisfaction. Jaya aunty broke into giggles.

“That’s my mother… tubes stuck down her throat, and still she wants everybody to be happily fed.”

That was my grandmother, and she was bedridden in hospital at that time. She passed away a few weeks later, taking something deep and quiet from me. She was always like that… Continue reading For Ammoma

Frozen In Time

A wedding picture is a thousand stories in the making. One black-and-white snap with a lifetime to narrate is that of my mother on the morning of her wedding, her fawn-like eyes gazing at the camera lens. She was barely nineteen. Forced to drop out of college to take up the role of the eldest bahu of a demanding family of ten. My mother was beautiful, in a simple, unassuming way, right down to her long nose and petite mouth. While taking the photograph, she sat on a rusty metal chair, legs crossed, fingers clasped at the knees. Her back was turned towards a large mirror, showing off long, lustrous hair (which I am certain was fake!) hanging down to her waist, plaited in golden ribbon and adorned with jasmine buds. She wore a bottle-green Kanchivaram sari with a jari border of flowers. The colour I can vouch for, because it still occupies pride of place in her almirah. Maati,  jhumka, a string of gold chains and a dozen bangles. The essential round bindi. And the bride was ready!

According to mom, the day dad came with the marriage proposal, no one asked him if he wanted to see the girl. It was simply not the done thing those days. But he did manage to catch a glimpse of her eyes peering through the ledge above the window. And he was smitten! In the picture, those eyes look much larger because the beauticians of the day inadvertently smudged the kohl. Mom looked so innocent, so terrified. Had she even guessed then that she would leave her country and travel to Libya, the Gulf… raise three boisterous kids and stay very much in love with the man she married, thirty years later? Of course not. My mom, frozen at nineteen on the morning of her wedding, had no inkling what life had in store for her. Her doe eyes held hope and anxiety, and the promise of a future in which luckily, God gave me a part.

Mom on her wedding day

What growing up means

Picking your clothes off the floor so that mom doesn’t have to.

Standing in a queue for an hour without whining.

Walking no where in particular; because you know how to find the way back.

Calling dad up for advice and not cash.

Missing the first-day show and realising it no longer matters.

Bringing a gift when you meet an old friend.

Having old friends to meet.

Smiling at life’s vagaries because you know

The glass is already broken.