It has been exactly three years since I lost my mother. October 18, 2013 is still there in my mind/heart like a photograph. Sitting on my computer today, I am trying to tell you a story. My mother was a wonderful story-teller. I always coaxed her to tell me stories. Again and again. I never got bored of her stories. No one now tells me stories the way she used to. In the absence of the story-teller, I become the story-teller. Here’s my story of our story.
Love makes you do strange things. Without any struggle. I have never used a handkerchief in my life. But for the last three years, I have always carried this beautiful handkerchief of my mother in my handbag. This soft, humble cotton handkerchief with a pashapali (it’s called so because it resembles a chess board) print reflecting Odisha’s magical textile heritage is my constant companion. My mother never stepped out of the house without her handkerchief. Now, I don’t step out of my house without this handkerchief. My mother travels with me wherever I go.
Ma loved wearing glass bangles. One of my most vivid and beautiful childhood memories of her is watching her put glass bangles. Every now and then. The sight made my little eyes glow in awe. It made life colorful, magical and sensual. I now wear glass bangles to feel closer to her. I love the clinking of glass bangles as I keep on furiously typing on my computer. The sound makes me happy and comfortable..
I have inherited some of the textile gems (especially Odisha’s ikkat saris) from her wardrobe. The smell, sight of her saris in my wardrobe brings in a slice of her life to embrace me. I love wrapping her sari around me. I feel as if our lives are entwined. Saris like memories have no S, M, L, XL size. You just need to wrap it around you with love. It never fails to amaze me how a nine yard cloth can hold so many years within it. So much of love and warmth.
Joy and sorrow are part of life. There’s a winter. There’s a spring too.
Grief breaks you. And grief also makes you. Grief makes you look deep within and discover something innately new and warm. To embrace newness, you need to be open in grief. During the process of healing the broken pieces of my fractured soul, I have discovered the magic of Buddhism. On many evenings. I now sit quietly and listen to ‘Om Mani Padme hum’ even as light and shadow dance in a joyous mood in my home. Last April, while travelling in Sikkim, a deep sense of peace and calmness embraced me as I just looked at the tiny prayer flags fluttering high in the air. Spinning prayer wheels at monasteries elevated my soul. The majestic mountains with the cool, crisp air gave me an intimate feeling of being at my spiritual home. Somehow, it also made me feel that my mother must be happy wherever she is now. It felt as if I have made peace with my grief, loss. I could feel the rush of love in my blood. Even in the absence of a lover.
My journey in the last 1096 days (2016 is a leap year) has given me the gift of looking deep within. I now have little faith in this whole talk of rationality. Modern life is too obsessed with rationality/ rational mind. I believe, if you listen deeply to your voice within with a larger sense of love and compassion, you can actually feel the presence of those who have left you. The rational mind has not really explored the mettle of heart. When you listen deeply to your heart, you will find your own answers. There’s no need to be limited, fearful.
PS Needless to say, there’s a pleasure, joy in the physical world — the world of touch, smell, voice, beauty, warmth, sensuality. The physical world is deeply fascinating and it can be soul-elevating too. My mother’s absence in this physical world hurts me. I terribly miss her physical presence in my life. For years, my morning ritual was to make a phone call to her. Sometimes with my eyes half-closed. With traces of deep sleep defining my voice. I now miss making that phone call early in the morning.
I miss her food very much. In her absence, food just doesn’t taste the same now. I miss everything about her food – the texture, the color, the variety, the seasoning, the rich, delicious mutton curry with huge chunks of potatoes, finely sliced aubergines fried and then gently put in a bowl of thick curd (seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaf), piping hot pakoras that could give tempuras a real tough competition, potatoes cooked in a mixture of puppy seeds and green chillies, her signature dish of scrambled eggs cooked in mutton gravy and lots more. I try to recreate her magic by pressing the rewind button my memory. But, as they say, it’s not just the same.
I really find it amazing to see how people around you maintain a stoic silence when you talk about a loved one who’s no more. People try to play with their hair, ear-rings, mobile phones when you talk about your memories of a loved one. They smile uncomfortably, most of them look like unhappy stock brokers. To all those nervous, fearful souls, I would like to say, look higher, look within. it’s not about death. It’s about love and more love.
We ruminate and savor memories of those only whom we love deeply. So, join me today in celebrating memories of togetherness, joy and love between a daughter-mother. There are always love stories in the world to warm the cockles of your heart.
Aren’t these flowers beautiful? So, smile. Just smile.