The sea view was the reason I agreed to stopover at Aunt Anita’s house every afternoon. I enjoyed watching the sun submerging in the sea. The evening breeze brought the fishy smell of sea water and traces of sand to create a saline taste. The darkness had enveloped the blue sky. I picked up my canvas school bag on my shoulders, tied my shoe laces and reclined in the chair. Aunt Anita lived alone and was one of the few, who owned a TV when it first came out, which I could enjoy until Mummy came to pick me up after finishing her work. Though tired, Mom still used to be her same effervescent self when she dropped me to school in the morning.
The doorbell rang. A harsh voice alerted me like a soldier who had received marching orders.
“Abby? Come on let’s go. Didn’t mom come to pick you up today?”
“Why didn’t you go home yourself?””, Dad’s tone reached new decibel levels.
“That’s okay Ranjeet.He’s only six.”, Aunt Anita stepped in. “He’s been a good boy, and he has finished his homework too.”
“Can you give me our spare keys Anita? Maya isn’t home, and she keeps the house keys.”
Dad drove me back home in his Ambassador car. I was delighted at the thought of seeing Mom, running towards her, embracing her, kissing her and climbing over her, but I couldn’t see her anywhere.
“Dad, where is Mommy? Why isn’t she back?” I asked in despair.
“She must have gone to the market, son. It’s 8 pm already. You should be in bed.”
I went to bed on my own that night, a process unfamiliar to me. I changed into my night suit somehow and kept gazing at the stars through the window near my bed. I yearned for her touch that soothed me, her voice that sang a melodious lullaby, and her crossed legs that made up my silky pillow. I tried hard not to succumb to sleep without Mom. Eventually, the angels befriended me and pulled me into the deep slumber. I woke up next day to a noisy chatter, but Mom’s voice wasn’t among them.
“MOMMA! “ I yelled, wiping the sleep off my face. My eyes searched for her in a large gathering of people. Like every day, I anticipated her to hug and pick me up so that I could sit in her lap till I get over the morning blues.
Instead, it was Aunt Anita. She whisked me into her house.
“I have to go to school,” I cried and protested.
“She had to go to work early today.”, Aunt Anita stated in woeful tone.
“He has also left for work, as usual.”, her tone unchanged.
“Who will take me to school?”
“You should stay here today. Watch TV, okay?” Without explaining further, she locked the door and went away.
Why was I in Aunt Anita’s house that morning? Why were there so many people in our house? My mind couldn’t fathom the situation. It was very unusual. Being alone in her house was scary and gloomy. Mom was the one whom I needed most now, and I couldn’t see her anywhere.
Aunt Anita came back after a while, I persisted with my question “Where’s Mamma?”
“She has gone to meet God in heaven.” she sniffled and blurted out the truth, to elude any further questions from me and avoid giving false answers.
“What? But why?”
“To tell him to make you a fine and respectable man when you grow up.”
“So, will she return tomorrow?”
“No, son. God will keep her with Him.” she said crying incessantly. She pulled me towards her, hugged me tightly, and pinned my head to her chest.
“Why?” I went into cry mode and tried to break away from her embrace.
“Because she is a kind and lovely lady. God likes all nice people and calls them early to be with Him.”, words barely made it to her throat.
“But, that’s not fair. God should have his Mom. He should give mine back.”, I hollered.
I didn’t believe that Mom had gone to heaven permanently. I couldn’t trust anyone who confirmed this to me. I felt my soul being drained out of me creating a big void in my life. Did God take her away because she was nice or she left me because I was naughty all the time? I purposefully attempted to shed away my naughty behaviour and prayed to God to send her back. I developed the habit of not depending on anyone for anything. This, I thought mitigated the risk of the person leaving you in case you developed a dependency. Although it may sound extreme, it made me stand on my own feet, be independent. To start with, I learned to do all my routine activities myself.
As I grew older, I understood the truth that ensued that fateful night. Dad returned home from work and found the door locked. He checked at neighbours and he could neither find Mom nor me. Dad came to Aunt Anita’s house to take the spare keys and figured out that Mom hadn’t picked me up yet. When she didn’t come home till late, he went to a nearby payphone and called Mr. Mishra, the manager of the library where Mom worked. Luckily, her manager, Mr. Mishra had a phone connection newly installed. Mr. Mishra informed that Mom didn’t report to the library today. He thought she would have been sick.
When phone calls and visits to all friends and relatives didn’t yield any of her whereabouts, a frantic search followed – at the bus station, railway station, shopping plazas, even personally asking people walking on the road and showing them her photograph to know if they had seen this woman. When all attempts were futile, Dad filed a missing complaint at the police station that night.
A police constable visited our home around 7 am next morning. They had found an accident victim that resembled Mom’s description in a nearby hospital closer to mom’s workplace. Dad had gone to the hospital for identification. Mom dropped me at school that day but never reached her office. A drunken driver, in an attempt to turn at the signal, moved the truck on the pavement where she stood for crossing, taking the life of 3 people.
Gradually, I realised that there is no use shedding tears in those lonely nights and hating truck drivers. I had to move on. The other two victims would also have children, and I was not the only one who was suffering. I clutched on to the limited memories I had of Mom. Whenever I was in a pensive mood, I dug deeper into my imagination to gather more of her remembrances, a treasure that I will hold onto till the ground calls me six feet under. Her beauty still breathes in my heart and my love for her can never die. Perhaps, she is another world and dimension, happy and observing me through a tesseract. Her guiding force helping me conquer all troubles.
When I became a parent, I perceived that ensuring the well-being of your child is your top priority. Today, 30 years later, I believe that Mom has born again, looking through my daughter’s eyes to confirm that her son is safe, just as I do for my children. The pain can never be alleviated. However, the love that I receive from my wife and kids more than compensates the loss. I just want to let Mom know that she has made me strong, and I have grown up to be a fine man.