I returned slightly fuming from the park this morning—if such a thing is possible. Something’s off about this man playing so intensively with this child that’s not his, taking her on bike rides and all, does her grandmother not see?
Then on the other hand, my intuition has tracked way off radar in the past, so perhaps I should just shut the fug up.
Ma would never have allowed it. Never.
This—personal space, not letting someone touch you in certain places, walking away, even hitting if someone acted funny, telling her no matter what—this is one of the first things she’d taught me at seven.
Ma as in Mummy, my stepmom. As Lincoln said, his angel-mother.
My own mother (who’d been very ill for most of her life) died when I was five, and then for a year I was a vagabond, traipsing from house to house, bai trailing sometimes, sometimes not, hair uncombed, meals not eaten, homework undone. A skinny unkempt brat.
Just as I was about to be packed off to public school, a family friend introduced her once-classmate in distant A’bad, aka Mummy.
I just guess I was just very very lucky.
I still remember—now someone would tell me what time I could come back from play, someone would pack my lunchbox. Instead of vagabond avatar, I began going to art class and music class at Birla Academy. Ma made a wall calendar from my first painting. That year, I remember I got a prize for civil deportment. That was Class 1.
Class 2 and life tumbled all over again. The doctors who were taking Ma through childbirth in A'bad, goofed horribly, and while the princess was perfect, thanks to God’s grace; Ma was in coma for three months and paralysed completely when she miraculously awoke.
But she was a different person. The loving, sensitive, generous woman, a classical sitarist, had become a poor joke of herself, a parody—she couldn’t move a finger and boy was she going to let you know about it. So there were these tornado-like downtimes but there were genuinely caring and fantastic times too, you never knew which was coming next. She waited for me to come home from school, asked me about my day, she nursed me when I ran raging fevers of 104. Music lessons, art , how to talk how to walk, how to behave, how to speak, how not to, how to hit out—all of this she taught us. In time, the kid and I developed private code to identify the weather. Sudden dust storms, sudden cyclones and lightning were phenomenon you learned to live with and navigate, tip toe past and sure enough calm seas would ensue, Sometimes I think I adjust too much, give too trustingly and expect little in return on account of this conditioning. It is only now, at 47 that I have learned to watch myself and to demand and yes, stomp my foot hard, literally and figuratively, too bad if you don’t like it.
Ma was very bitter when she died after 22 years of illness, the princess’s death added to the toll. But she had her good moments too.
And if I walk with a straight spine and can converse equipoise with beggars as with kings, I know where the credit is due.