Away from her

Amitava Kumar in The Indian Express:

Wbf-ak092908I am writing these words during a 14-hour flight from New York to Delhi. After landing in Delhi, I will catch another flight, this one to Patna. I am going to Patna to cremate my mother. Ten years ago, almost to the day, I was on a highway outside Washington DC and I thought that my mother had died. She was visiting us from India because my first child had been born. That morning I was driving with Ma to my sister’s home. I was to take a plane later that day to Atlanta, where I was going to interview the actor Manoj Bajpai. Only a few miles from my sister’s house, as I was driving, I looked at Ma, who was on the seat beside me. Her eyes were open but her gaze was unfocused. She certainly didn’t appear to hear me. Her body had gone rigid. Ma, I said softly, and then Ma again, louder and louder. We must have been driving at 120 kmph and I began to change lanes, getting to the slower lanes, and then exiting till I came to a stop on a suburban street. Did I sprinkle water on her? I cannot say. But my mother seemed to awaken from a sleep. She remembered nothing. And soon she was fine. Before I said goodbye to her at my sister’s house, Ma asked me if she should prepare some suji ka halwa for Manoj Bajpai. This is how one can think of many women in our society: they are survivors. They have endured so much, they have carried such burdens, weathered so many storms. And we, who are their children, are the beneficiaries because, at the end, we are asked if we want some mango, or milk, or suji ka halwa.

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