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The Hand That Rocked My Cradle Fuels My World
I don’t remember it and I can’t forget it either; I mean, her first touch.
Though I arrived in this world without any luggage of language but I don’t know how (does anyone?) I pronounced the word ma all by myself. On one hand I am still oblivious to the exact moment when that mysterious word escaped me for the first time and on the other, the sublime emotional resonance of her first touch upon my soft, ignorant and naive skin has nested – like my own conscience – within me forever. And whenever I feel the resonance of it choreographing my soul, birth seems like a euphoric swing between physical heaven and mental bliss.
The first time she took me in her hands and pressed me softly against her bosom I was subliminally connected to my identity: I was a man. The first time she offered me her milk, it transpired a realization in me: I needed a woman to provide me with the strength that epitomises a man. The first time she prepared Cerelac for me I foresaw: I’ll need a woman for my growth. The first time she took my hands and feet onto hers and taught me how to walk, my subconscious conjured: I needed a woman for the direction that eventually decides the difference between a man and a human. The first time she scolded me when I picked up foul language in primary school I learnt: I needed a woman to punctuate me. The first time she helped me with my bath I understood: I needed a woman to rinse me of all my dirt. But the incident that helped me realize the real value of a mother – probably the most significant manifestation of womanhood – happened one night when she lit a candle during a power cut.
The stubborn wind, continuously peeping in through the open windows, denied the candle flame a stasis. As a reflex, my mother placed both her hands around the flame. Within seconds it calmed the flickering flame down lighting the area properly and also those dark corners of ignorance within me, once and for all. I realized had it not been for her caring and comforting presence the flame of my existence would have flickered relentlessly under the influence of the wind of delusions and temptations. And perhaps extinguish too, way before the true potential was achieved.
My mother always looks like a mother to me. Rarely have I seen her in any other attire than a sari with a dot of vermilion between her eye brows as well as a streak of it on the centre parting of her hair. To go with it are a set of white and red bangles – typical of married Bengali women – on both hands and a gold chain – her mangalsutra – around the neck. There was a time when I thought without these one is not a proper mother!
I remember I had once asked her why she had to hit me every time I did something wrong.
“You could have explained me verbally also!”
“A stick is also a pertinent expression of love.” She said and conveniently changed the topic. Looking at her face I could very well judge it must have been tougher for her than it was for me.
Her perceptions of things are unique. And whenever I think about them at length they seem gravid with keys to some archaic locks.
For example, once a communal riot had broke out in her home town. Curfew was declared and army deployed. At midnight my mother – then a small child – suddenly was woken up by my worried-looking grandmother and asked to run out of the house. As she followed her outside, my mother enquired what the matter was.
“There is an earthquake!” My grandmother almost screamed.
“Is it Hindu or Muslim?” My mother shot back.
Whenever we get time to discuss various things, the session leaves me, more often than not, in a pensive state; embellishing my outlook with maturity all the time. Going by my mother’s confession, she wanted to study further and thereby make her own mark. But the kind of societal quicksand she belonged to trained her emotionally from her childhood to live her life within the shadow of a husband. Talent, desire, passion and the zeal to make an identity and design a personal independence – she was made to believe – doesn’t matter after a point in a woman’s life. So much so, that in the end she started believing in the faux belief.
“But how do you carry on without ever feeling frustrated?”
“A woman is tailor-made to absorb pain, right from her puberty.” She smiled and continued, “Actually a woman lies somewhere in the middle of the equilibrium between man and nature. So whatever we do or happens to us influences everything from individuals to society; nolens volens. Thus we are the ones for whom rules are made.”
My mother worships daily. And when she distributes the Prasad her eyes seem a vial filled to the brim with faith. I think this is her defence mechanism against the vagaries of life. I had also asked her what she thought about God.
“He can’t only be an idol?” I had remarked.
“God is nothing but our intentions.” She replied leaving me alone to ponder over it.
She is always surrounded with an aura that is a stentorian pronunciation of the substance that a genuine woman is made of. I have even seen one of my father’s office colleagues touching her feet! I didn’t understand that at first but as I grew up and women – in various avatars – touched my life there were instances when I tried to find my mother in them. I wasn’t successful every time but whenever I was, I felt honoured to bow down.
The most shocking thing about my mother is she does the same thing every day. And the most surprising thing is she does it with a smile. An entire life in the well of monotony! As if a mother never lives for herself. Every action, urge, wish in her is because of a surreal reaction to her family’s needs and wants.
“Were you always like this, living for others?”
“Then is that the change a woman goes through when she becomes a mother?”
“A woman connects with the woman inside when she becomes a mother.” She had a twinkle in her eyes when she said it. I believed it was a tear but she termed it pride.
I think the greatest blessing for any flame is the hand that guards it from flickering. And how the flame burns depends, to an extent, upon the warmth of the hand. Yet sometimes we take things so much for granted that we tend to ignore the very basic element that helps – at different stages of our existence – cement the bricks of sanity together to build a healthy wall of living for us.
It’s not that I have seen my mother play only a mother. Like the different seasons she too has played various roles exclusive of each other. As if within her resides the climate of creation. And in doing so she has allowed us to reap the benefits of all the different facets sown within her.
As I continue to see her getting caressed by time, I have confessed to myself that a woman – doesn’t matter the role – is, above all, the climax of a man’s life.