When I reached home, I checked my mobile phone.
47 missed calls from Dad.
15 missed calls from Maya.
I cursed. People would never leave me alone to die in peace. Irritated and with no intention for smooth talk, I just pressed the call back option.
The call went on wait. I slammed the cellphone onto my bed hard.
I was completely pissed off.
In the next moment though, my dad called me back.
I just picked up the phone and said a curt “hi” to show my displeasure.
It was something in that voice. A feeling of dread, something that made my body shiver. I knew something was wrong. Very wrong. My entire body was numb.
“Yes appa…” I answered timidly.
“Its your mom…she is dying….” Dad was crying uncontrollably over the phone.
“Where??” my mind was blank, I couldn’t concentrate. My heart had stopped beating.
“Miot hospitals laddaiya…Please come soon” he sobbed.
I was in shock, words and thoughts escaped me.
It was the first time in my life that I heard my father crying. He was such a strong person. I remember he had refused to cry for even his mother’s death. But, now he had broken down into a thousand pieces.
I wanted to comfort him. Give him hope.
Mom cannot die, surely not.
I had to go. I had to be with my mom. By her side.
But, I was far far away in Bangalore.
Chennai seemed to be an entire galaxy apart.
“You are the best mom in the whole world” I proclaimed with pride.
She laughed just like she always does, a laugh that still gives me bonkers even after all these years.
“How do you know that laddaiya? Have you met all the mothers in this world?” she teased.
I hugged her tightly and said, “Yes, I have amma…You are my entire world”
The journey on the flight was the most horrendous 2 hours of my life. I was weeping uncontrollably.
I made a run for the exit as soon as the plane landed. I had to get back and be with my mom. I couldn’t leave her. She needed me. She will survive, I told myself.
I struggled to fight back my tears.
I switched on my mobile phone finally. The screen flashed.
1 new message from Maya.
My mind was totally on Miot hospitals as I opened her SMS.
“Vishnu ma, I love you soooooo much! Lets get married soon. Take me home with you. I want our married life to start right now. I love you and your family. Dying to be the daughter-in-law to your beautiful mom 🙂 . Love her loadzzzzzzzz too.”
I was finding it difficult to breathe. My mom . . . my first love . . . was slipping away from me. An unknown fear engulfed me. Somewhere deep down, I knew she wouldn’t survive. I knew that she was leaving me abruptly alone. I saw her tired eyes look at me with love. She was in a mess. Tubes of all sizes were thrust into her body randomly. I’d never been to a hospital before. The mere mention of life support systems scared me like hell. My mom was never a weak person. She’s the world’s most beautiful woman. But, today seeing her lying in the ICU, frail and totally lost made me break down completely.
She beckoned to me with a flutter of her eyelids. Her eyes . . . it spoke a million words. Enchanting, mysterious eyes that made me go weak in the knees every single time. She had a smile on her lips. A sad smile. A smile that betrayed lost hope. A smile that conveyed that it was the end. A smile that had always wiped away my troubles, made my eyes well up with tears now. I rushed toward my mom and knelt down beside her.
I held her morbid hands in mine, the skin was parched. How long has it been since I touched her and lay down next to her, massaging her feet?
I was crying very hard. Tears flowed down my cheeks like a leaking tap. “Amma please… You are my world . . . I cannot imagine a life without you, please come back to me ma… Please be there for me.”
She clasped her hand tightly around mine. She was breathing more heavily. Gasping for breath, agonizingly.
“You are the biggest liar in the world amma! You said you would be there to see my grandchildren and spoil them completely . . . You said that you would be there with me for a hundred years and beyond… You said you will be there to see me win the world… You lied to me ma… You lied”.
Tears rolled down my cheeks never ending.
She tried to stop my tears but couldn’t. Her hands were weak and numb. The strain was just too much for her to take. She gave me a feeble smile. I placed my fingers on her cheeks and wiped away her tears. I saw myself reflected in her glistening eyes. She closed her eyes and opened them again as if to capture my face in the album of her memories forever.
She was wordlessly admiring the way I was playing with the kids, beaming all the while.
I looked up at her with questioning eyes. “What?” I seemed to say.
She just shook her head with a smile spread across her timelessly beautiful face.
“Nothing” she said “Nothing”.
I smiled back at her.
“Your wife is just so lucky laddaiya”
I looked up at her sheepishly.
“I love the way you treat the kids as if they are your own!” my mom exclaimed.
I went completely red.
“C’mon ma, don’t make me blush! And stop pulling my leg”
“No, I’d really love to be your lover laddaiya”
“Maaaa….don’t start it again!”I flushed.
“Awww c’mon laddaiya, I seriously want to be your first love…Will you promise me that?”she probed.
“Hmmm…let me see, I’d accept your proposal if you give me two dosas for dinner and a peck on my cheek” I said.
She beamed with pride.
“Ever my lover boy! Ofcourse I will laddaiya . . . Remember am always your first love from now on! Ummmaaaa”
She was trying to remove the oxygen mask from her face. She didn’t have strength enough to pull it off her face. She was struggling, thrashing her arms around to indicate that she didn’t need the life support anymore. I sensed that she was in the final stages of her life. I didn’t want her to leave. She was mine. Mine and mine alone.
I tore the mask away from her with one swish of my hand and cupped her face in my fingers. Her heart beat erratically, rising and falling like giant waves. I was weeping on her shoulder.
“Hey lover boy. . .” she said.
My eyes burnt with tears and I felt a dull pain in my chest.
“Take me with you amma, please” I pleaded. “I love you so much”
She still continued breathing on her own. She was hanging on. For me.
She kissed my forehead.
I cried at all the love she had for me, undiminished through all the years.
“I always love you laddaiya . . . You are my son, my first baby . . .” She gave me a weak smile. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She was peaceful in the knowledge that I loved her too.
I cried even harder.
Her hands reached out to touch me. It was shaking with the pressure. I grasped her hands in mine to support her.
She reached out to my face . . . and wiped my tears off.
Her hand grew limp. There was no more life in them.
“Amma….Amma. . .” I called out in shock.
My father took me in his arms to try to soothe me down.
Tears streamed down my cheeks relentlessly.
It was over. My mom was dead.
And no matter how hard I cried, my mom couldn’t hear me anymore.