Memoir / Essays: Motherhood and I

Anindita Bose

What had happened to her?”

Sometimes even when we know, the answer is lost deep inside our psyche. I was advised not to sleep in her room. Yet that night when I was sitting alone in my mother's room, contemplating that people do leave at fifty-five, I took in the strangeness of the night with the emptiness of that room. The room in which I had memories of my childhood like yesterday's reality existed in clear personification: laughter, tears, fights, loving words and her agonies of unrequited support from some members of the family. Once, I was too young to understand what agony a woman can go through, leaving her poor maternal household after marriage, if she cannot prove the worth of her existence. She may receive love, material goods, support from in-laws but she may not receive the respect of an independent individual.

I was so naive that I could never understand my mother's anguish and pain until she fell sick, due to medical blunders, until she was unable to leave the bed. Sometimes I wished to punish myself, but then I realised that I must forgive myself since forgiveness can open the portal to achieve better visions. And I did achieve that when I realised how much I loved my mother. I had finally received the justice of the universe in the form of supporting my Ma selflessly when she needed someone to stand beside her, to bid her a comfortable goodbye when she was crossing over to another world. In the process, I suffered a lot. I went through a transformation myself, I witnessed unbearable pain, I saw tragic truths about human existence. Finally, I felt that some of us are not mere humans, but entities that roam around this world to transmit messages to the others.

We are messengers. I am a messenger.

That night when I was sitting in silence meditation, my thoughts were torturing me with the last words and actions of my ailing mother. It was suffocating, but only for a while. When my tears came like a wild river, at that same moment a thunder rumbled. I felt as if someone somewhere was watching the whole episode. I opened the windows, there were two windows in my mother's room and a door that opened to the balcony. I walked barefooted to the balcony and the cool breeze touched me. The rain was wild that night, the thunder and lightning were opening portals. I had not realised at that moment itself, but when like a helpless human I came back to my bed and slept, I witnessed a life changing incident.

A dream.

The genie came to my dream and whispered the basics of this world. He said I was not supposed to cry since I had accomplished a very important task. This was my entry into the world of entities.

I had a rough sleep, I remember. It was difficult to tread into the world of sleep, dream and waking layers at the same time. I saw my mother smiling and saying that she was fine. I saw the genie teaching me lessons, in which he said I needed to explore life and existence. I saw myself sitting under a tree and watching a flowing river. What was happening? Was I too exhausted? Perhaps yes, but if I had not believed anything at that time, my life would have been stuck - with the thoughts of mere life, birth and death.

It was not the first time that I had felt something unusual and unique about my life. Since childhood I had witnessed certain things that I could not reveal to others. I was never close to my parents. Sometimes we are disconnected from our parents and it is not a crime. My parents always had my brother who was just a year younger to me. A joint family meant that some children could be closer to other family members, and I was an example. I loved my grandmother (Amma), but whenever I tried to explain my thoughts to her, she smiled and told me that I would discover the truths about existence at the right time. And in 2016, she left this world on a Rakhi Purnima, like she had always predicted herself.

Life of a human is more than what we see; a world exists within me and it perishes with our existence. I wish to restructure the past by adding and deleting facts but I cannot stop imagining - two Muslim boys on racing bikes in an empty road near our home, and my mother about to cross…

I had left for Ooty after my Amma left the world, because my senior colleague Ms. Priya thought that I would do justice in mentoring the high school students from the Good Shepherd School for IELTS; and also I must thank her that she did realise I needed a change.

Perhaps the mountains were calling to transform me!

After two encounters with death, both being my mothers, I realized that life never continues in the same patterns. Childhood is not an alter-ego for adulthood, rather it is the ambit that remains forever within the urge of humans to outgrow the circuit of innocence and reach the shores of experience, for the latter has power to attract the curious mankind. And so finally, we all walk through different stages in life, yet the traces of a child remain in us forever. But among us, those who unknowingly hold onto the doors of the nascent images of being the self, we suffer.

I left behind a part of me amidst the serene beauty of the mountains. I had decided to give some time to my aching heart and focus on the equation of my relationship with my parents. The acknowledgment of the fact that I was far away from them till my Amma was my banyan tree made me restless. It was not that I did not care for my parents, but the connection was not as children usually have with their biological parents.

Love always finds its ways when it wishes to, and losing Amma has triggered the process of attaining closure and meaning to a blank episode in my life. That was the phase when I wrote my poetry manuscript - I Know the Truth of a Broken Mirror, which was published by Professor Anandalal through his publication the Writers Workshop, Kolkata. That was also the time when my mother came forward to protect her daughter from the dark clouds of sorrows, and she did this first time independently.

Yes, independently, I emphasize. My mother was not complaining while she was dying on the Narayana Hospital bed, rather the fighter in her was telling me to open an organization in my Amma’s name; to support the people who needed true guidance in understanding the confusing truths of the medical world. She was proud of me when I could finally reach out at the right direction. Dr. Debi Shetty had sent a letter for her to the hospital CEO to treat her importantly, after many mishandlings in different hospitals.

 

On 30th June 2019, when I heard her words, I stood – stunned, broken. Words almost choked me and I questioned myself - who was responsible for the rift that had always been between my mother and me?

Amma loved me. But Ma and Amma shared a relationship of in-laws and that shattered my existence after I lost both of them...

I was drowning in grief and loneliness when Amma left the world. But when I was struggling, my mother came forward to embrace me silently; in silence because unfortunately we had never shared a deep bond before. And she left...

As I write this now, I feel the immense pain that is scratching me from within like the claws of a tiger would do to a prey. I am a prey to the circumstances that led to the story of my life, and kept me away from my mother only to bring both of us closer at that moment when she departed from this world. I feel her around me, silently whispering to me how much she had always loved her little girl but could never express…

Only if we could rewind the old times....

Selfless love is like a myth in the contemporary world, but myths are hidden truths that only brave hearts can uncover. Amma had already taught me several valuable secrets of this world. Sometimes for these kinds of knowledge I was trolled by the friends since my thoughts were not parallel to theirs’. My childhood was like the fleeting clouds, quietly passing by without making a noise, for perhaps clouds believe that thunder and lightning are only dedicated to the storms. I was growing in silence, and I guess no one around me realized that I had a parallel world inside me; and a silent voice kept teaching me that perspectives matter, differences matter, solitude matters, dreams matter, being loved matters…

My mother loved to sing whenever she was happy; she wasn’t a trained singer, but she enjoyed telling us a story - ‘I was travelling to Gariahat on the auto, and I started singing. Do you know that the auto driver told me, 'Didi (sister) do whatever in life, do not leave singing!’ She used to laugh after relating this story to us each time. I wondered at times after she had left, what if she was a trained singer? Perhaps she would have been one of the best. Sometimes we do not get the right opportunities in life and there can be multiple reasons for that; however, there are moments when we realize that certain things are not required for us.

Yet we wish.

Her name was Mukti, a beautiful name but whoever had given her that name did not know that names have a strange impact on humans. I had read about this theory once but experienced the truth with my own name and my mother’s.

 

freedom is a wish that the hearts crave
either one is alive or dead…
till the last breath one can weave
dreams of life and ways to be free…

 

Mukti means freedom! Throughout her life, my mother had craved for freedom—from chains of sorrows, anger, family issues, financial-dependency on her husband. Finally, we both wished freedom from the mammoth blunders of the medical boards in charge of her, both in Kolkata - Apex Institute of Medical Sciences and Irish Hospital, and Vellore CMC had committed.

She had started a home business of a saree boutique to become independent.

Women do try to sustain even in the face of unhappy situations. But I always failed to understand what her struggles were. It was only after that day when I picked up a burning bamboo to cremate her together with my brother that my womanhood whispered to me, ‘Motherhood is not about a woman, but a human who can nurture other humans. It is a quality naturally given to women, hence they need more care and warmth from their own families…’

My mother was gone when my inner wisdom decided to connect with me.

Nothing in this world is a coincidence. The experiences of life teach us the value of being a human; and even though I was thoughtful before, losing my mother so early in life was like a curtain removed from a dark room. From 3rd July 2019 till the month of December of that year, I had stayed awake day-and-night in her room, trying to process the relationship that I had shared with my mother. Initially everything looked blurred and meaningless, and the questions kept oscillating around me.

Why ma and I always fought if we were destined to come so close towards the end? Why did we never realize that we actually shared a strong bond beneath the social pressures? Why did fate create the rift between us, when at the end my mother had to ask me to hold her palms tightly because she had felt that only I was her strength? Why did we come so close when we had to depart so suddenly? I was in pain and there were no answers, not even the voice of my wise Amma!

I could only hear silence and sometimes I felt that my mother was telling me from the walls of her room that she was in a better place… and she was at peace.

When my mother had met with her accident in June 2017, I was not in India; and I could never see those boys who had been riding the motorbikes. In March 2020, the universal power granted my wish, disguised as an insurance officer I had visited the household of that family who still felt that those boys did nothing. ‘There was an old woman who could not cross the road. It was her fault and the accident happened.’

I heard their words and nodded in silence, and came back home. Perhaps I had attained a closure, I was yet to process it fully.

Afterlife is a story to me that I am still exploring - sometimes I keep thinking where did my grandmother and mother travel to? And I wonder when I will open a door to see the light waiting for me at the other end of the horizon, to accept my own parallel truth.

 

Bio: Born and brought up in Kolkata, Anindita Bose is inspired by the zeal of her city of joy. She believes words have immense possibilities to create life out of nothing. Her poems and short stories got published in various National and International magazines and anthologies. She is an interviewer for the International Online Journal – The Enchanting Verses Literary Review. Her Solo Poetry book is 'I Know the Truth of a Broken Mirror' [Writers Workshop, 2018].

She has worked as an IELTS Mentor and as a High School English Teacher in Blue Mountains School, Ooty, India. She is a co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets, the six- year-old poetry group in Kolkata. Currently she is working as an independent script writer in Kolkata and has shot her first Bengali short film Anubhobe..., with director Prajna Dutta, which will be released soon in 2020. She has directed poetry films of Poet Sonnet Mondal in 2020, which got selected in Glass House Festival 2020.


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