MOTHER, My Mother
My daughter Indu has been goading me to write about her dadi (paternal grandmother). I have been making promises. But I have not written a word till today, and as I sit down to write my emotions well up and turn into real tears. You see; my mother died in 1945 when I was only 14 years old and the gaping gash she left behind remained open for decades. Then it healed but the scar is still there. My memories of her are not long, but few and very intense. I have been keeping them in a strong box in my heart, never lifting the lid, nor letting a word slip out of my mouth.
She loved me more than I can say, and gave me more support and joy than anyone in the whole world can give. I was her only son. She often favored me over my three sisters. Did they mind? As I remember, my two elder sisters, copying our mother, loved me as mother surrogate and did so all their lives. My eldest sister is now dead, but the one next to her continues to treat me as son. Favors she has done to me all my life, I cannot possibly count. My sister’ support and true motherly love sustained me after my mother’s death. My younger sister loves me too, but we have been like equals. As children we sometimes fought bitterly. Most fault, however, is on me because being older and stronger I delivered the punches and she only the complaints. She too was not really weak and sometimes hit me back. She sometimes quibbled over favoritism shown to me. I still remember she complained every time my punches were extra hard. But mother always chided me mildly. As my younger sister grew older, she too began to treat me with deference and motherly love.
My mother was very gentle, very loving. She was a sweet and friendly person. But she also had great moral strength of the kind I have rarely seen. Thinking of all this brings back an incident to my mind. I must have been 6 or 7. I remember this vividly because we were new to Karachi and I was learning to play with children who spoke different languages and had a different culture. One day a boy threatened and abused me in a language I did not understand. Imagining the worst I angrily punched him in the chest. It must have hurt because he began to cry and howling loudly ran straight to his mother.
After some time the mother, towing her sobbing child, came to our house. She told my mother what I had done. My mother listened and pressed the crying baby to her heart. When he soothed down a little, she called me and asked if I had hit the boy. I truthfully admitted that I had. She asked what wrong the boy had done to me. I started thinking hard because the boy had not done anything awfully wrong. My mother understood quickly and did not ask for more detail. Then she said to me, “Son, I want you to look at this boy. He is younger and weaker than you. He spoke up to you in a language you did not understand. W know now that he did not say anything foul. You imagined the worst and hit him much too hard. You should not have done that. I will forgive you this time but do not repeat such a thing in future.” She said sorry to the boy’s mother and asked me to shake hands with the boy.
When my father returned from work in the evening my younger sisters blurted out to him that I was naughty and had hit a boy. He called and asked me. Being guilty I stood with my head bent low. My quiet admittance of guilt should have been enough but to dilute it I very foolishly lied that mother had already physically punished me. Later, when we came close my mother hugged me and said, “I did not hit you, did I? There is very rarely enough cause to lie. Today was not one of those times. Be brave and tell the truth. I love you.” As she talked, her hug became tighter. That incident has remained vividly etched in my memory to this day.
I am sure my mother forgave me instantly, but my guilt feeling has remained and I have prayed for her forgiveness a thousand times.
June 21, 2009