She saw her reflection on the window glass. Her Henna dyed hair was playing with the long line of vermillion sindoor. “Age is taking its toll on me”- she whispered to herself. She looked out of the window- with every passing vehicle, she could see her life rewinding, one year per car. Soon she reached her childhood- in the village, with her childhood friends, not in a closed room like this but beneath an old mango tree. She was well educated, a post graduate unlike her friends. Hers was a love marriage unlike her friends’. She was settled in a big city unlike her friends but still her heart belonged to them. “I will write to them today.”- She thought. Among all the dissimilarities, one thing was similar between them-they were housewives.
Shortly, her thoughts were marred by a series of alarms. It was time for her husband’s office and children’s school. She went to the kitchen and started applying cheese spread over the bread to prepare sandwiches. Milk was boiling over the gas stove and waiting for the tea leaves to settle down on it.
“Mom, what are you preparing?” , I went to the kitchen and asked.
“Bread sandwich! Mom why can’t you make parantha and sabzi like others? I don’t like to eat bread. Can’t you do some extra work? You always pack bread.”- I was furious. Mom was calm- “Beta, my right foot is aching for last two days. I am unable to stand and walk.”
“Mom, am I a doctor? Why don’t you visit a doctor instead of cribbing before us? We have been listening to this for the last two or three days. Why don’t you go and see a doctor.”- I was even angrier.
“I have asked your dad to come early from office so that we can go but he is quite busy nowadays.”- she tried to explain.
“Meera, how many days have passed since you stepped out of the home? The doctor is hardly a mile away. Simply ask the driver to take you to the doctor. It has been 20 years that we have been living in this city and you still fear going out. Even an illiterate woman would behave smarter than you.”-my father added.
For my mom, it was a routine. Not that we did not love her but her unconditional love, her tolerance, her meek nature and her silence encouraged us to encroach upon her personal space, her dignity, her happiness and peace of mind. She was loved but often ignored. Neither me nor my sister ever asked her permission for anything. She was a friend to us until she agreed with us. The moment she disagreed, we commented on her ignorance and moved on. She was ok with it, always smiling and thinking that mothers are always like that. Sometimes when she thought she’s being sidelined, she used to complain of things too obvious to be noticed but still overlooked.
You think we are devils but look around. You would find the same mother in your family. Silence do speak volumes but only if you have eyes to see it. We were too busy and too blind to perceive her silence. But sometimes, silence leaves such a void that one can’t help but feel it settling down upon oneself. Such silence is not solitude but a precursor of loneliness.
I was angry with my mother for not taking her life seriously. She was more educated than most of the other women I knew. Still, she chose to sit back at home and do nothing. As a generation Y kid, I dreamt of having the best education even at the cost of staying away from home and country. My parents were proud of my determination and smartness. They always encouraged me.
One day, my teacher asked me-“Who’s your role model?”.
“My dad”-I replied.
“Ok and what have you learnt from your mom?”-she asked.
“Well, she sets an example before me- an example of how not to lead your life. Sometimes, I get nightmares that I have become a housewife like her.”
My teacher was both shocked and sad. She scolded me in front of the class. I was embarrassed. I ran back to home and did not talk to anyone. In the evening, my parents came to my room. My mother was very concerned. She cajoled me in every possible way to talk to her. At last I spilled the beans. Then there was a silence. My dad was taken aback and tried to convince me that I was wrong. He should have consoled my mom instead who was shocked, disappointed and inconsolable too. Regret alighted upon her all of a sudden. Here she is hundreds of miles away from her home, her village and her friends. She studied because she loved studying. She never thought her education would become a problem for her one day. She cried and for the first time let her emotions speak through words and not silence.
“You all are ashamed of me today but do you all realize that you all are responsible for what I am today. Ravi, I came with you without even giving a thought whether I would be happy or not. I did not mind working either but would you have been able to take out time out of your workaholism? You remember, when I asked you about taking up writing as a career, you said that I can write only for hobby and not for livelihood. You said you earn enough and I need not work. And you my dear daughter? You want to become like your father. Tell me one thing, what are the things that your father taught you? Did he teach you English, Science or even Mathematics? You are proud of your ambitions. Who gave you the idea of chasing your dreams? You want to become a painter? Who enrolled you into the Art School? Ask your friends who are being forced to become either a doctor or an engineer or get married at an early age. Tomorrow, don’t you think your kids will ask you why did you choose the field of art when you could earn millions by becoming a doctor?
You know the most beautiful part of a building is the one above the ground. But every building needs a foundation which is beneath the ground. Higher the building, stronger the foundation should be. But sadly, the foundation lies in silence despite of its strong hold in the ground whereas the building which stands on the foundation speaks the loudest.”- saying this she threw a diary towards us and went to the study room. She was quiet once more but the quietest in all those years. It was as if she did not intend to talk to us anymore. She was peaceful now as if everything she ever wanted to speak of has been told. She sat by the writing table and started writing letters to her childhood friends.
It was an awkward silence on the other side of the house. She spoke a lot but it was the silence that followed that hurt the most. We flipped through the diary- it was full of untold stories and poems, those which she never spoke of but kept writing in her mind.
Thank God for that day. It was an eye opener. My mother still does not speak much but now we can read her silence. And if you really believe that all stories have a happy ending then you would be happier to know that today, I am a proud daughter of an award winning writer mother.
And to all mothers, I would like to say:
When you say nothing at all, I may not see your underlying pain beneath your lonely smile but trust me always mom, in my heart I have you as an angel sent by God. I can run away from you but never let you go out of my heart.