The hobble has accentuated over the years, but the activities remain undiminished, albeit a bit slow. The dementia has worsened over the years, but she does not forget to ask me for a repeat helping of the post-dinner dessert. If anything she asks even oftener than what she used to, thanks to her dementia. The voice and eyesight are substantially feebler, but her feistiness remains. I have a sure-shot cure for the eyesight, “Why don’t you clean your glasses, the greasy lenses are clouding your vision. And why do you need to wear your specs anyway, you neither read the newspapers not watch the TV.” She gives me a glare, “How do you think I will see the time” she yells as she gesture with her left hand making sure I see clearly that she is indeed wearing a watch. I don’t have the heart to tell her that she can barely read the watch- with or without her glasses- regularly confusing the minute hand for the hour and vice versa.
Regular readers of this blog would find this person familiar, yes, it is my mother, mai we call her, now into her 81st year. Mai, and Pitaji who is onto his 87th year live by themselves in Jamshedpur. They have regularly appeared in this blog, though I have not told them of all the posts on them I have written. Here are an older post on mai which they are both aware of, and here is another post which I have never told them about.
I am in Jamshedpur for a day just to look them up. Travel to Jamshedpur from Bangalore is an arduous task. Jamshedpur does have an airport, but strangely it has no commercial flights! So I take a flight from Bangalore to Kolkata. A cab drive to Howrah and then take the train to Tatanagar. I reach home late evening on Friday, Pitaji is already asleep, mai is waiting outside in the verandah. “You must be tired, come and have your dinner.” I was indeed tired and I readily acquiesce to dinner. She hobbles across to the kitchen fixing things in the microwave as I change. “Leave it mai”, I exclaim rather rudely. “No, no, how can I leave it! You go and change!” I have not choice but to do what she says.
Saturday at home- the only full day I have at home- goes in meeting people. Neighbours and relatives. Parents are in the background all the time.
We have a quiet dinner and we plan to sleep early. I have an early morning train to catch the following morning, after all. The return journey to Bangalore as tough. I have the 6.15am Steel City Superfast Express to catch. This will reach me in time to Howrah Station from where I can take a taxi-ride to the Kolkata airport to take my 2.30pm flight to Bangalore. The regular auto-wallah (tempo-wallah in Jamshedpur-speak) has been reached on his cell phone after multiple tries by Pitaji (after multiple reminders to Pitaji by Mai.) I have set my mobile alarm to 4.30am.
We are all set now.
I was not been able to sleep. At all! I kept waking up with the fear that I may not be able to wake up in time for the train.
Mai walks in at something like 3 am in the morning. She drapes me with another sheet over what I am already having. I can hear her muttering to herself, “Santosh must be feeling cold by now.” I do not react, and I quite welcome sheets two. It was slightly cold as it had indeed been raining throughout the night. Very off-season rains, they have been.
Thirty minutes later- and I am pretty deep asleep- Mai bends onto me and asks, “Don’t you need Poori and Sabzi for your journey, you have a long journey ahead.” I am very very irritable and I shoo her off, “Why don’t you let me sleep in PEACE!”
Another 30 minutes, Pitaji walks in and announces that my cup of tea is ready and I should wake up. Mai is hanging around behind Pitaji. I was not told the following by either of them, but I knew the following:
- Mai had had a bath at something like 3.45 in the morning
- Prior to this she had swept and swabbed the floor.
- She had changed into fresh clothes.
- She had made cups of tea for me and her at that hour.
- She offered me the good-luck bowlful of dahi and sugar. Never mind if I refused the sugared dahi. “You must have it”, she said, “Brings you good luck for your journey.”
I do remember this routine of Mai from the countless early morning departures of her many offsprings. No sweeping/swabbing/bathing after people leave.
I have now placed my luggage in the waiting auto. Pitaji and Mai are around to see me off. I bend down and touch their feet. Mai pats me on my back and wishes me well. There is something to her touch that makes me clamber into the auto. I wave at her without getting into a discussion. I try my best to wipe my tears unseen. I don’t think my tears have escaped mai’s eyes as I do that.
I reach Tatanagar station and get hold of the daily newspapers for the journey ahead. In each newspaper I see an ad or two announcing that today is the Mother’s Day.
I had not known this, and I am sure she does not either.
Happy Mother’s Day!