About My Mother
Defeated by hair fall,
her face resembles a plant
that's stayed unwatered for too long.
Her eyes are full of longing -
like a child's in a candy store.
There she lies, on that single bed
occupying barely half of it;
the rest filled with unfulfilled wishes.
Her gaze follows me around as I stack her pills
into neat trays, neat days, neat promises.
We dare not speak
about what we are about to lose
We'd rather make sure
nothing remains unfinished.
Like - acquiring a pair of rabbits,
Eating Durian fruit
Watching that movie from the 40's together,
when she was just a kid,
mowing through a field of marigolds
with a wheelbarrow of songs.
But then she breaks the dam -
says she wants to be around
to attend her grandson's wedding.
My face crumples like a piece of paper
He's only fifteen...she'll never make it.
Why did she have to say that?
Of course you will...I say without a voice
At night, in the soft light of the lamp,
I watch her delicate wishes
filigree themselves into her protruding cheekbones
and pierce my heart.
I collapse like a wall of un cemented bricks.
Prenatal voyage shelless,
wombless, without shelter.
The human that bore me
a passage way, a conduit
to world of woods and thickets.
Fragment of primal essence
set free for a time, a journey.
First memories of Grandmother:
fleshy, round and delicious;
I wanted her to know
fierceness of my love;
I bit her as hard as
new teeth would allow.
I wished to devour her
so intense my devotion.
I wandered among hills
and copses, a return home,
to the place my mother dwells;
rise and dip of terrain
outline her tender bosom;
pound of waves, heart's rhythm;
vagrant breeze her breath
against my face.
Since childhood I have run,
from dwelling place of men,
into her welcoming arms
to sleep contented nights
upon her warm earth,
to wander fields and thickets
on winter's clear, crisp days.
Her many moods reflex my own.
Always concerns, controversies:
their little girl, first born,
so aloof from convention.
A child who spends spans
in forest; returns dirty,
scratched, clutching latest
treasure for growing menagerie.
If I had been the original,
on first rumor of the tree
it would become my quest;
I would not require
temptation of a snake.
My earliest memories of my mother do not include her face, In fact, even though her face remains etched in my memories I still cannot recall how she looked when I was small. What I recollect is running to the kitchen and grabbing her legs as she bent down to pick me up and give me a comfortable hug. She would then release me and grumble that I could not sit still for a moment at any place and was prone to injuries that would need tending to and increase her worries. Those days, cooking was done on the floor in an earthen coal fired oven and hot oil, milk, or curries would be kept on the floor. We would all gather at dinnertime, sit on the ground mats, and eat.
The other thing that I recall is the odor of food that always emanated from our kitchen and drew me at various stages of cooking to sample the food despite my mother’s warnings. I remember neighbors coming over many a times to sample the food, and her incessant worry that insufficient helpings would be left for her sons.
I lived to eat what she cooked and that brought me home from wherever I was, no amount of cajoling by friends would convince me to eat elsewhere. Over a period of time it transpired that my small band of friends would troop in and have meals with us, this remained so up to the time I finished my post graduation and moved out of the house to a different city.
What I do not understand is her instinct for knowing exactly when I used to trespass her zone of safety even though I used to be out of the house playing in the huge public garden some distance away. Someone would appear searching for me and fetch me down from the tree where I would have climbed to look at a nest or run along a railway track racing a goods train.
She told me that when I started going to school it used to be my bag, which would come sliding in from the door, and I would appear only a couple of hours later when it was time for dinner. Those days, the sleepy desert town where we lived was not traffic ridden or infested with notorious child traffickers, the place was safe, and most of the families within a reasonable area knew and cared about each other. She knew all my friends and approved of them since many of them lived in the same complex, went to school in the same bus, and shared my lunch-box.
She had an uncanny way of knowing when I was likely to fall sick, she would start fretting, and worrying well before the illness would set in. No amount of cajoling would force her into rustling up anything other than what she thought would be good for my stomach. Her life revolved around cooking for the family, guests, relatives, and friends. Whatever she made turned out to be a delight. Memories are triggered whenever some particular spice reaches a certain level of roasting and releases its flavors that immediately connect me to my mother’s cooking and a host of flooding memories of that particular day/event or surrounding.
We used to wait for those days when my father would cook non-vegetarian food, as he too was an excellent cook. Those occasions were like culinary contests since my mother was a strict vegetarian she would make sure that her vegetarian fare would outshine my father’s cooking and we both brothers would eat till our stomachs stretched to the limits. Sometimes we brothers got to share the glass of thick creamy milk boiled with sugar cardamom and saffron, which our father had forgotten to drink at night. That taste has eluded my unnumbered attempts at its recreation with all permutations and combinations of the ingredients and types of milk.
My last memories of her entering the kitchen are of my daughters taking her to the kitchen, make her sit and then cook under her watchful eye, she was over seventy and incapacitated because of osteoporosis. Even today after she has been long gone my friends remember her cooking, and I still keep meeting people who tell me what they had eaten some forty to fifty years ago at our house when they had landed up unannounced.
How simplest of recipes would turn mouth watering under her hands is a mystery which my wife is still trying to unravel though my daughters claim she is as good as my mother now…..