Happy Birthday, Mother
Undergoing labour while pregnant with me
was (as you say) merely the beginning
of your hardships that you knew you would face
all the time when you would be raising
your second child (one of your complexion).
But you and father did the drill again -
being awake all night to my shouts and cries,
singing all those lullabies in vain.
You mouthed 'ma' and other monosyllables,
you watched with care as I toddled about,
doing uncertain things with certainty -
eating things that you would make me cough out.
So amidst toys and Cerelac I grew,
I learnt little by little the alphabet,
Yet both of you (helplessly) shared silence
with me when prying relatives could not get
me to speak much; you faced embarrassment;
you said nothing, just let me be my way
in front of those others. You loved me so.
Thus, freely and nonchalantly (as you say)
I grew older to be three - came the time
for school admissions, but there too I kept
quiet (apart from chewing candies offered
by some considerate teachers). You wept
seeing the results that weren't in my favour.
You and grandmother continued to pray
and fast to help me intonate better
my English introduction (as you say).
Finally having secured admission,
I started going to school - properly dressed
(with a white handkerchief pinned on my shirt -
something upon which the class teacher stressed).
Time passed. You were cautious with me - banning
all wrestling shows on T.V., permitting
cartoons only when I did my homework,
which teachers back at school saw befitting
a class fourth child. Mother, I remember
how you would check the school daily diary,
how over Maggi (with vegetables)
you would make your regular enquiry
about how the day went (was it boring?)
When I fell ill, you used hydropathy
And what not to get me alright again,
comforting me and staying up beside me,
taking leave the next day for both of us.
You would also dress me for annual day,
You would listen to me recite my poems
and improve 'pon the cadence (as you say).
You said not a thing when I taped over
your precious audio cassettes with my voice,
You knew your naughty son had the itch
for misadventures and he had no choice,
but to be. You understood everything -
How I could never go learning beyond
the octet on your old harmonium
(of which you were so entirely fond).
You shared with me the important lessons
about love and the principles of life.
You shared over our evening coffee
the secrets of leading a content life.
I remember you dropped me at the school gate
and later picked me up on the farewell -
How you told me that an important phase
was past now, how to us school was a shell.
College began. I gained little freedom
and money (to which you from your own purse
would add), being reminded of your old days
(at IPCW), then in reverse -
I re-started college at a place far
from home. Life has, since then, not been the same.
You are far. And although you are on Skype
and Whatsapp (with your photo and your name),
there is some void. It explains its presence
with your absence. But I'm consoled daily
with your sweetness-filled voice over the phone,
By how when I reach home you hug me tightly,
How I throw the luggage down to hug back,
How you cry when I leave for the station,
How days between those days seem to fly past,
in doing remaining days' calculation.
It has been a fifth of a century
loving you, more so with each passing day,
and albeit the distance between us, your
love reaches me here from that far away.
I remember lessons you have taught me,
I remember our friendship (as you say).
Mother, I'll be home when time next allows,
But for now, I wish you "Happy Birthday."
Mother, I remember once asking you
if given a choice between us two, who
Did you love more – Samridhi or me?
And you’d rather diplomatically,
Say - “Son, I don’t want to tell you lies.
Both of you are just like my two eyes,
How can I pick one over the other?”
I remember sulking on this, mother,
But as (in some measure) maturity
Has (finally, as you’ve prayed) dawned on me,
I do, after all this time, understand
That your witty answer will always stand
The same way; and there lies in that answer
The answer to why you are great, Mother.
I love you, Ma.