Sunday, October 14, 2012

Once upon a long time ago

My mom is turning 60 in Jan'13 - and is the single most source of inspiration in my life. Having grown up in a small town in India, her transition into a modern thinking and free spirited modern woman is truly inspiring. She says and does things that I strive to emulate, and is my biggest strength, confidante and rock. It amazes me that I have seen more of the world than she has [ traveled to a few more countries, lived alone for a few years etc ] yet, with her minimal exposure she embodies a perfect harmony of the dichotomy of a traditional, loving Indian housewife, with the modern thinking, idealist unbound societal being. There are innumerable times when I have a conversation with her where she says things which just astound me into speechlessness and open up a whole new world of a stream of thought where my mind probably wouldn't venture.

Last evening, case in point. Kamal, was a maid who lived with us for 23 years. She came to us as an orphan when she was 18, illiterate, thin, overworked and jaded with life. My parents took her in and she grew to be a part of the family - someone who ate what we did, traveled with us on vacations, did our Diwali Pujas with us.. Time again, past a certain age my parents asked if she wanted to be married, sent back to the village, and she said no, she couldn't bear the thought of leaving us : her real family, or the comfort of our home and hearts. We used to put away all her money, bought her gold bangles and earrings from her savings and did everything that was our duty.

Until one fine day, she disappeared. She was supposed to go to the grocery store a minute away from the house and be back in 10 mins, but never returned. I will never EVER forget that day. As time drew on, we called the neighbours, watchmen, liftmen, we circled the entire community and our mood went from mild anger ['why is she late'] to concern ['could something have happened?' to outright frantic hysteria ['something has definitely happened - its been 3 hours, she's a woman, she's illiterate how will she help herself if she's ina bad situation??]. We didn't eat dinner that night, neither did we sleep for the next week. The next day, it was cold and rainy and my dad circled the periphery of the area she knew how to travel to, to no avail. 

We couldn't write a police complaint because if you're above 18, it has to be >24 hours to file a missing complaint. My mom and I were inconsolable. We were certain she was being held against her will, and something terrible had happened. I remember being awake and watching TV on mute in the living room because I couldn't bear the thought of where she might be while im in my comfortable bed. Days and months went by in uncertainty and no news. We didn't celebrate Diwali that year as we thought we were responsible for a person :illiterate and orphaned who we were supposed to protect and failed. 

The thought that she could have run away and gotten married NEVER crossed our mind - 1) My parents had time and again asked her if she wanted to and that they will get her married and she said no. 2) Having lived with us 23 years we just didn't think it possible for someone to betray us like that and put us through that much misery...

A year later, we found out she was married and had run away, A year spent being guilty, miserable and disrupted we found out she had done what we least expected her to. 

Fast forward to today - she recently got in touch with my mother, in dire straits imploring to be taken back.She left her physically abusive husband and baby, works in a house for two men who mistreat her, and has had a rough life. Its been more than 8 years since the incident where she left us but for me, the wounds are still fresh. My mother heard her story and her heart melted, and is considering taking her back - this is the conversation which made me hang up, thank god for a mother like mine, and promise myself to strive to be like her as mush as I can.

My point of view : For me, the wounds are still fresh, I still hold Kamal responsible for hurting me and my family beyond belief for something she could have avoided completely with a simple conversation. We grieved for her, and prayed for her all the days we thought something terrible had happened to her. Our lives came to a standstill for a long time - My mom kept falling ill with the stress, I left my job for a few months to just be home, manage things study for the CAT {which I did a bad job of doing} and we all had to deal with a sudden pivot in our daily routine. My little brother [8 years old at the time] couldn't understand why a pall of gloom had descended over the house. All in all, from my eyes, what she did to us was unforgivable and If the decision were mine, I wouldn't have a heart big enough to forgive.

My mother: She said just a few things, in her usual contained style - and those hit home. "She gave us her youth S, She was loyal to us for 23 years, dont forget that for the one grave mistake she made. She gave us the best years of her life, and today when she's worn out and jaded, we owe it to her. She has no one, no family, and has been burnt once.. she's made her mistake and learned from it. After all, if my son or daughter were to run away from my house and resurface a year later, I'd have no choice but to forgive, forget and re-love, right? We all have one, giant, regret in our lives and this is hers - we are no one to punish her for it forever. For the people who judge me, for taking her back into my home after such a betrayal - well, those people aren't going to give me my medicines when I'm sick, neither are they going to help me keep my house clean when I'm no longer able to do it myself - I'll live with their judgement and my peace of mind."

As I write this, I am overwhelmed with love, tears and respect for this person who gave birth to me. My mother, who continually shows me that life isn't about holding grudges and hard and fast rules, but about fluid, dynamic interchangeable emotions, about evolving through your experiences, about becoming the most forgiving person you can be, how its not about remembering how someone wronged you, but about how much of your life that person partook of, about how much love people give and take from you. Life is about growing up, and not old, looking ahead not back and carrying with you only those experiences and memories that are woven into the fabric of your being, and leaving behind scars and unpleasant moments like shedding dead skin.... 


Aditya said...

I like your mum.

Serendipity said...

LOL! Thankyew :)

muthu said...

that was quite a read and I second Aditya completely. :)

Serendipity said...

Thanks Muthu :) means a lot!