Now even I started worrying of the possibility of failing to make it in time.This was my first trip to Delhi from Varanasi since the source station has been changed from Varanasi Cantt to Manduadih station, which has not only shorten the distance of station from my home but relieved us from enormous Banarasi peak traffic. In the hind-side though, this made us little relaxed and lead us to underestimate the time to reach the station. My father was the one who was most animated in his expressions with all his $#%& adjectives to curse us for making such horrible miscalculation even after his multiple warnings. Since childhood we have been victim of his extra caution for time schedules. It be a family function, travel, our school examination, before time would be an understatement, he always managed to be ‘well before time’.
At the end we made it in time with nine minutes still left for the train’s departure. We did not have lot of time for my mother’s emotional exchanges, which she would always do during our waiting time. Mind you, these exchanges are not in terms of words but remain in her constant speechless stare at me in last few minutes. During my college days, I used to wish a quick farewell and that my parents leave as soon as possible, they do not come inside compartment on the first place and say good bye on the station platform only. But now, I have made a point that mother always get a chance to sit in the train compartment. Yes, those last minute stare of her with a layer of moist in her motherly eyes remain treaturous memories, they are like lifeline to me. But on that day, it was something else, for which I wanted her to spend sometime in the train compartment.
Since childhood, I have observed that the only time mother would interact outside family would be for monthly grocery shopping in the nearby market. I have clear memory of, when I was hardly six years old and she was in command not only as a mother but also as my guru (teacher). I would be going out for shopping with her, she would be holding my hand. I remember her being very confident and excited about her responsibility to do this shopping . She was interactive and fairly confident lady, at least to the extent that it was a non issue. As we grew and started going to school, she used to pick and drop us from school. This remained her only interaction with the outer world for quite some time. As we grew and went in higher classes in school, we started being conscious about our status displayed through our dress, school bags, our own appearances and also through our parent’s appearances. We always thought our father was quite a good looking person, he used to dress well. Even though he used to ride bicycle but considering the government officer he was, it only reflected that he was an honest officer. The only problem for which we would avoid him in school was, what if he scolds in front of classmates and that too in Bhojpuri. This is interesting but true, somehow bhojpuri speaking has been treated as a sign of backwardness. Anyways, our mother on the other hand was not a well educated woman, she went to school only till 5th class. She could speak khadi Hindi but certainly was not comfortable in it. She always preferred speaking in bhojpuri. She never had much of aesthetic sense. She never showed slightest of eagerness to look good. While going out of home, the only thing she would always do, would be to comb her hair properly. On certain occasions like marriage etc, she would wear one of those saree which she did not wear on daily basis. She had very few sarees in her wardrobe. The only occasion she might get a new saree would be on Teej festival which she would directly put in almirah. She would usually wear a very ordinary chappals , infact the only pair she had for many years.
I was very close to my mother, I used to share with her about all my friends, school incidents and she would know everyone. Whenever any of my friend would come to our home I could notice how keen she would be to see my friends and talk to them. I do not remember any instance, when I or my sister (we two were more conscious about our appearances, our younger brother was cool and relatively indifferent to these issues) ever expressed to our mother, at least in words that she might be causing embarrassment to us in our socials. We could never do that because we also realized her value as the best mother in the world very early in a relatively very tender age. But at the end we were an aspirant modern growing kids and we were not as good a son or daughter which we should have been and over the years she probably got the message that she is an embarrassment.
With time, she would now rarely go out or even interact with guests at home including our friends. She would remain behind the curtain, peeking from there to have a look at my friends and give a face to her imaginations about my friend as per what I had told her. She would avoid talking to them unless they specifically come out of guest room and talk to her. Very soon everyone at home started noticing her awkwardness, not with empathy but with unspoken demand that she should attend guests whenever required. No one cared about what was going on inside her, probably even she did not know about the same or cared for it. She quietly started putting effort to interact with guests or others she would meet in the best possible manner as she could. She was tentative and conscious about the way she would speak and always was under pressure of being judged by all of us. We would actually tease her, joke about her and she would laugh about it along everyone of us. I still remember instances when I with my head in her lap would be telling her about mothers of my friends, how educated, good looking or smart they are, and how at times they would come to school and speak to principal. And this appreciative account of friend’s mother to my mother was very innocent and not at all with any suggestive purpose. But at the same time I was not matured enough or sensitive enough towards mother to realize how could this be received by her.
While she was trying to come to the level of everyone’s expectations, she was not even close to what she used to be while we were little kids. Hold on, or may be she appeared good then (when we were little kids) because it was us who were non-judgmental about her then. She had been all the same in how she spoke, in what she wore and how she looked, but it is us who discovered new worldly good and bad, definition of worthy and non-worthy and during the course of time conveyed this to her slowly through our behavior and attitude. I never remember her, complaining of not having a good saree or about not looking great. I could never sense any urge for appreciation, I am sure she also had some understanding of beauty as she would also have wished being appreciated for her looks during her youth. The only moments I could recollect when she reacted or responded about aesthetics is, when someone had appreciative words about us, her children that we look very good. She could never hide the happiness of me, my sister or my brother being called as very good looking. She never accepted that I am loosing hair but was clearly worried in private. The point is, she never desired any worldly material or egoistic satisfaction for herself to seek happiness, but at the same time she desired everything for her children.
I had always been appreciated by my neighbors, teachers and relatives about my behavior, the way I respected everyone, about kindness I would display towards others, about my intelligence and the moral standards I stood for. Though my father managed to avoid any visible response in terms of pride or happiness to such appreciations, my mother was always elated and visibly very happy. I was indeed good to everyone and took this on myself to remain as a reason of pride to my mother. The only person with whom I was not so good has been my mother, whom I could afford to take for granted. Over the years, I still enjoy the reputation of being her ‘Ram‘ as she propagates while hiding my short comings and not exposing my ‘not so good’ behavior towards her. I have realized that I am not the ‘Ram’ whom my mother took pride in once and which has changed into just a pretense now. Juhi (my wife), ever since she became part of our family has made a point that we have to change the whole narrative. I have to become the Ram who could reignite the pride of mother and more importantly mother has to be brought from the back seat to the very front where she is made to believe that she is the driver of this family and she is the one who has the most important say in the family affair. Juhi could very quickly understand the emotional need of my mother. Actually we all did understand, but we probably lacked in understanding the actionable items which would immediately translate into boosting her confidence. Juhi could spot her curious childish eyes when she is outside home. She took her on flight to travel from Bangalore to Delhi. It was her first time on airplane and even though she was not physically expressive about her excitement but her eyes certainly were curious like a child. Juhi made sure that my mother had a say while shopping for my brother’s marriage. She at times teaches her about new things but never demands her to follow the same from next time onward. Juhi has proven to be Sita to my mother and now it is my turn to become the lost Ram.
Whenever I would come home from outstation, mother would always be there on gate to greet me. She would always find the train/flight schedule and accordingly would be standing at the house entrance. Likewise whenever I leave home for outstations, she would always come to bid farewell at railways station or the airport. I usually did not like her coming as every time, irrespective of how frequent my travel would be, she would always be emotional and tearful. Leaving her, for me too, irrespective of the frequency is always very painful. But slowly I also realized that this becomes her only outing in a while. This is when she interacts to the outer world, she gets to see unfamiliar faces, she observes people with so much of curiosity and many times very childishly reacts on them too. Now, we make sure that she always gets to drop us at station. During this time, we too constantly look at her, observe her childish eyes and draw some satisfaction. Last few minutes are kept for her to stare at her child with motherly eyes.
I asked mother to come inside the train as we still had nine/ten minutes for the train to depart. She came inside and sat on the side seat while waiting. She scanned through all the co passengers about whom she would later tell us on phone. She suggested us to put our bag under the seat near the window, away from aisle to avoid any theft in the night. Now it was time for the train to leave and I wanted my parents to get down from the train within comfortable time, to avoid any hassle. I touched her feet for her blessings and noticed the new branded chappal which Juhi has bought for her recently, felt good about it. I then pleaded her to take care of herself. I spoke these words in ‘bhojpuri’. She was choked enough to notice my bhojpuri, what is a big deal about it after all. She then responded and said she will be okay, but pleaded me to take care of myself and not be ignorant about my health. She spoke these words in ‘khadi Hindi’ and not in bhojpuri.
They got off the train, and the train slowly left the station. I went to the train entrance but hid myself, or else she would remain there watching me. When she was convinced that she would not be able to see me, she started walking away. I then leaned from the gate and saw her from behind. I could see her, in that yellow saree which Juhi was able to convince her to take out of the almiraah, in that recently bought new chappal. She suddenly shouted and asked my father to walk little slowly. This time she spoke in bhojpuri.