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It is another Sunday afternoon. My father and I have just returned from the gym. I can barely feel my legs as I lower myself onto the floor, by the sofa where my mother is seated. She is perusing the newspapers for the day- her morning ritual, reading out parts of articles that amuse her.

It is the 8th of May 2016.

This time last year, my mother was fighting for her life in the CCU Unit in a derelict hospital in Varanasi. I was away at that time, traveling through the less explored parts of China. I only knew about her condition when I landed in Singapore several days later. I still remember receiving the call from my father, telling me to make the necessary arrangements to come down as soon as possible because he didn’t know if my mother was going to make it.

I was 24 years old, and my mother was dying in a hospital very far away from me.

There are some moments in your existence where life makes sure that you are aware of your priorities very, very quickly. It is like a shock to your system – a violent, tumultuous shift of tectonic plates somewhere deep inside your soul that forces you to remember exactly what is important in life, exactly what matters most.

My life has been filled with those moments, and most of them have to do with my mother. To cut a long story short, I made it to India in time, my mother eventually made it out alive, and here we are today, her methodically reading her papers, and me sitting on the floor after a hectic morning workout.

My mother mispronounces a word and I quickly correct her, my voice laced with irritation. This is not an unusual occurence.

I wrote several days ago that I am very unforgiving of home. What I really meant to say was, I am very unforgiving of my mother. I expect perfection from her, in her deeds and in her thoughts, because to me, my mother is the pinnacle. She’s it. If she falters, then what more can one expect from mere mortals, random strangers, friends?

(A deeper fear is, if she falters, then what more can I expect from myself, her daughter, who is so far removed from all that she is?)

I don’t know how to rationalise these expectations. So instead, I unleash my derision on her. Picking on her for little things. Getting angry when there is no reason to be. Etc. Etc.

You would think that as someone who has nearly lost her mother several times in her life, I would have more perspective (what happened last year is just the tip of the iceberg that is my mother’s fantastical, almost miraculous life). But, I forget. It is easy to take for granted someone who gives unconditionally. It is easy to take for granted someone who is so good at what she does, and who she is – be it keeping the house clean, managing the finances, having excellent aesthetic sense, giving advice, etc – that it is easy to forget that she too is human, with her mood swings, her good and bad days, her insecurities, her infinite human complexes.

It is easy to let the little things cloud the bigger picture.

This period since I’ve been back home has been an exciting, sometimes turbulent, mostly joyful experience of getting to know my mother as the woman she is. It has been a journey of rediscovery, and a renewal of a relationship that has seen its fair share of wear and tear. It has been a journey of detaching enough to understand that my mother is her own woman, as much as I am my own woman. Our personalities are very similar, and yet, so different. Acknowledging the similarities and taking pride in that has been my journey. Acknowledging the differences and accepting that her daughter is her own person, has been her journey.

On most days, we meet in the middle, and laugh at each other. On other days, we yell at each other, our quick tempers rising to the fore and abating, with one of us eventually conceding and raising the peace flag.

And so life goes on, my mother and I walking our paths together, yet separate.

And today, there is only gratitude, that we have both arrived at this together, and that we will both continue together.

What more can any daughter ask for?

Happy Mother’s Day, dearie. For everything that you are, and for everything you’ve taught me to be.

 

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Musings.

***

I suppose one thing remains true:

We are all afraid of getting hurt.
We are all afraid of putting ourselves in a position where we can be rejected by another; when the reactions to this rejection are beyond what we have carefully planned for ourselves.
We are afraid of losing control.
I have realised that the person who needs my own advice the most, is me.
“Learn to let go”
“Give up these expectations that you have of other people”
“Remember that no one person can plug the love-holes (no, not that one, the others) in your life.”
“You cannot wait be waiting for absolutes all your life”
“The search for perfection is futile”.
Etc, etc.
Sometimes, I forget that the words I keep repeating oft are not the ones that others need to hear; these are the words that I need to internalise more, to believe more, so that maybe, I will feel better, feel better about
the fear
the loneliness
the rejection
the possibility of happiness
or otherwise.
There are no coincidences in life.
People don’t come and go from our lives by chance. The roles they have to play have  come a full circle – the necessary exchanges have been rightfully conducted. Exit stage left, because a new beginning is waiting, waiting to enter.
Learn to let things go with grace.
Learn to invite people in with grace.
Learn that hurt too, is made better with grace.

A memory trigger.

***

Relief, as the music begins, weaving its way through tightly knotted ventricles,

lightly, lightly, the heart is released,

as light as the lavender drifting between the narrow walls of this –

A reminder of days long gone. Cold days, days we hunkered beneath thick quilts, a candle burning into the early evening, the sky dark, darker than black,

again, the same lavender drifting between narrow walls of this –

History always repeats itself. We remain, the characters,

indefinitely changed by the slow-moving hands of time –

Moments of lightness, then, moments that came and went, but the best, and sometimes, the hardest moments came as the sky turned dark, darker than black,

and just like that, a memory trigger –

Of warm hands, of the comforting smell of cigarette smoke, of music that made me catch my breath once, twice, of warmer hearts, of a single burning lamp,

of persons who existed just so, just then, and then,

History always repeats itself. We remain, the characters,

who leave time behind, and move on, on, on.

When a city makes you reminisce…

***

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(timcarterphoto.com)

Watch the way a city wakes up, sometimes ever so quickly, when there is no light, only the errant coughs of an early riser, the quick footfalls of someone rushing to work, the mad rush for early morning transport, the loud whistles of a steamer setting off, the creaking of old beds and older hearts, the silence of subway stations and the slight noise of just-open breakfast joints, the smells of fresh bagels and something slightly sweet,

and then, and then, you decide.

Watch the way the light falls on a building sometime just past 9am, watch the way the windows of a brownstone catch this light just so, watch the way it illuminates the railings along the fire-escape, watch the way the building receives and settles into being,

and then, and then, you decide.

Watch the way the traffic in a city builds up, watch the driver honk at the pedestrian who flips him a finger and tosses her hair, watch the lunch crowds settle in squares, watch the people rushing from store-front to store-front, watch the Big Apple come to life mid-day amidst the flurry of snow, watch another driver curse at a pedestrian,

and then, and then, you decide.

Watch the way the sun sets right over the park, watch the way the barren trees laden with snow glisten, bejewelled during the witching hour, watch the way he clasps her hand just a little tighter and the way she leans into him just a little closer, watch the park hold the families and the couples and the animals firmly in its embrace as it too, watches the setting sun,

and then, and then, you decide.

Watch the way the buildings so tall, so tall, glimmer and shake and shimmy in the night-time, watch her with the reddened cheeks and redder lips pose before the Broadway sign, watch the way the lights seem to get brighter as the night gets darker, and the buildings, so tall, so tall, watch the music grow louder and louder as the performers wow a crowd, and then two,

and then, and then, you decide.

If someone tells you that cities do not have souls, don’t believe them. At least, not immediately.

Of memories, and thoughts, and days, and this life –

***

Last week – a documentary that ripped at the insides and asked what does it mean to be a woman, where big words like indigenous and minority rights lay like fine haze in a dark air conditioned room, where at midnight, we talked about being women, and how there was no generalisation, there could never be a generalisation on behaviour, because your woman is very different from my woman, but together, women, we love, we need, and we will help and support one another. That night, for the one hour that sleep visited, dreams so dark of intestines spilling out, a girl’s tears, and a mother’s disappointment. Women.

A few days ago – 3.5 years later, a reunion, but is it really a reunion when the friendship had always been there, where the cord of love had always remained, pulsating some days brighter, some days, not so bright, but always, always, present. 3.5 years later, when conversation flowed around Truth, and memories, and a smile so bright, and a declaration: I am happy. I cannot write, I have not written, but I am happy. Maybe, because, there was no more sadness to fuel the words, maybe, the process, the business of living had taken all the emotions and set them aside for a while – rest, says life. Know me first. Then, the words will come. That night, for the one hour that sleep visited, dreams of swarthy hands, and wine, and salt, and a shade of tea that I can never forget but with only two sugars, and the goodbye, but with love, with love, the finality, after 3.5 years.

Yesterday – the colours of red and fractured orange making patterns behind the film of incense that twirled and caressed and rose into the dark, somewhere into white ceiling, with the sound of waves, crashing, furious, furious, continuously crashing, a medley of arriving and retreating, a little like two people, a little like two hearts, a lot like two mouths, the red, the deep red of bruised, the deep red of a wall hanging, the deep red of a spot on the map, the deep red of wine, and inside, silence. That night, for the first time, in a long time, sleep.