From the bed in our old house, I could see the park and all those playing there. How lucky they were!
Ma said that rats would come one day, take my teeth and give back stronger and sharper ones. “Ma, when will the rats come? It pains!” Ma was not there to hear me. Nobody hears me. Even Majid Bhai would not listen to me when I say that I’m spitting blood. Anyway, when everyone would be celebrating, I would have to work.
While I was watching them play, a pair of placid eyes were observing me, the only ones in which I saw affection for me. It was Grandma Sharma. She would come down to our basti every Sunday and give chocolates to my friends and me.
She asked tenderly, “Abu, are you not well?” My memories went fleeting into the past, probing similar moments when someone had asked about my health so affectionately. All I stumbled upon was my father beating me, my Ma crying, Majid Bhai forcing me to work and everything else gray. I was just about to get lost into the myriad world of my thoughts when Grandma Sharma pulled me back.
She asked, “Today is Mother’s Day. Will you celebrate?” That was an offer which I would barter with my life. I agreed and she led me to the park. She called all those who were playing. Each with little wings on their back approached me. I slowly walked up to them. They were all around me. Little angels. They were humming something to me. But, I could hear only one voice, “You are our new friend. Will you play and celebrate with us?” I looked around Grandma was not there. “Ma, shall I play? Ma! You are back!” Ma was standing just behind me! She was looking more beautiful than ever. There was radiance all around her. She was smiling.
I grabbed her and sobbed, “Ma, the rats never came to take my painful tooth.” Ma smiled and bent down. She gently touched my cheeks with her golden fingers. That was it! All my pains were gone. I had never felt so good before. I cried “Ma” and held on to her tightly. I will not lose her again.
Suddenly I heard a cry. I turned back and saw Grandma sitting beside my bed. She was crying. Ma asked, “My dear, will you like to go back?” I looked at her deep eyes and she understood my answer. She picked me up and walked up the stairs.
Down below my little body was lying still on the bed and Grandma was weeping beside it. I finally understood the true meaning of being a child. I was happy… happy to be up here with my Ma.
~ Published: The Statesman, May 1st 2003, Mother’s Day