“Make sure the kids eat.”
Those were my mother’s last words.
Like all mothers, she was particular about what we ate. Ordering in was sporadic — a luxury that only small victories or occasions offered. Years after she’s gone, I realise why she was finicky about my eating habits. I’ve always been a fussy eater, and food was a cornerstone of both celebrations and failures.
I think of her often. At places where I shouldn’t. At times when I should. At work. When I’m writing or talking to someone. While shopping or eating alone. When we lost her a few years ago, I was clueless...about everything. Sure I was confused but I was also consumed by something inexplicable. Someone once told me that when you lose someone, your brain spouts signals that trigger the same parts when you’re physically hurt. I mean, it pained; there was an invisible wound only that it did not leave a scar on my body.
While she taught me a great deal, what she reminded often was that her life should be an illustration of what my life shouldn’t be. Of course, she didn’t have to spell them out loud as I deciphered what she struggled to express. Perhaps, we don’t realise that some of our biggest lessons are taught by our mothers—especially when they are doing nothing. We don’t realise it when they are making coffee for us. Or reading with a nonchalant expression. Not a day goes by when I wonder if she lived her life the way she wanted or imagined. I am unsure if she led a fulfilling life. But then if I count the number of times she bloomed in small joys and mercies of life, I sense that sometimes she made the best out of whatever she could. And that, no matter how cursory one's life is, living it well and with honesty is rewarding, by and large.
Her death made me see a lot of relationships in a new light. I tell people I love them, and more than anything, I try to be present for someone, if they need me. I don't hold myself back from people, places, and even what I create. So, you see when she left me for real, she left me a little fearless. She left me with a pair of wings and liberty to do not just what I want but also what she wanted.
Now, going back to where I started, I still don’t eat properly. I guess this is my way of pissing her off wherever she is.
Had she been around, she would have turned 50 today. But in my head, she is still 26 in a crumpled cotton saree, heading to a library every evening, with a menace of a kid (aka me).