“Abhi! The chair doesn’t understand your age, it only understands your weight!”
My mother is prone to bouts of such repartees, as one would believe in the munificence of a Divine Inspiration. Her proclivity for these witticisms astounds me even now, as a man of 21 I think back and laugh in fond recollection of these memories. My mother is an intelligent woman. Erudite, resourceful, proud and a pedagogue of high repute, but the genius of her comical rebukes are by far my favourite quality about her. With an ironic twist of the eyebrows, or her eyes flared like Maa Kali, those expressions would bore their impression into my soul like coal, kindled and moulded by the passage of time into burning diamonds. I remember even when she would be angry at me, and chased me with the chappal of Discipline in her hand, expertly poised to teach the errant matriculating schoolboy who’d read books of far off fiction instead of those worthy tomes of knowledge ordained by The Indian Council of Secondary Education to be worthy of a year of one’s Life; she’d still call me to lie beside her as she soothed my bruised Pride with the salve of her endless affection. Nursing my bruised Ego with the wiles exclusive to that illustrious class of Mothers, she would coo tender apologies and assure me that what she did was the “Greater Good”. I understand most of it, but I fail to see even now with the hindsight of knowledge and experience unavailable to me then, the benefit of hour-long foot massages to her feet and what they might have to do with the “Greater Good”.
Thus far, I have only regaled you with my mother’s myriad of eccentricities, which I believe to be idiosyncratic and yet common to all mothers. Now however, I shall enlighten you about a few of mine which should clear up some of my mother’s or at least justify her own. As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I too am in some respects a lot like my mother. Stubborn, singularly recognisable in deed or thought, and shocking or delightful to the people who know me. My mother has told me one too many times about how naughty I was when I was a boy. I managed to urinate my pants on my first day of school along with every boy in my kindergarten class, though since I was the last I was stuck with the last skirt the school had. Come the end of the day, my mother did not recognise the “girl” with short hair who ran bawling to her arms. Another time when I was in the 3rd grade, my father was invited to a party thrown by the manager of the garden. I was in attendance too along with a few other children of the executive. When Uncle and Aunty came up to me with the same few exclamations regarding my explosive growth or some trivial observation made with gusto as grown ups are wont to make, they had in mind a question which boggles me even now, and the answer to which still remains the same, though time and maturity has added some other necessities to it as well. However, as 8 year old me was bereft of the great gift of tact, I pondered on the question for hardly a moment. The question? “Abhi! What sort of girl do you want to marry?” I had always had a very blunt but…. Voluminous opinion on THAT. So I replied with much gusto, “Aunty muk daaaaaaaangooooor dudu thoka suwali biya koribole mon”. Translated to English, it means I want to marry a woman with a huge bosom. There was a moment of awkwardness and the threat of a whipping in the pin drop silence. Everyone looked at each other and narry a moment later, uproarious guffaws and merry chuckles reverberated across the room. And in that moment, I heard Uncle slyly whisper in my father’s ear, “Like father, like son eh?”
So you see, the vagaries of Life with Ma are less an unearned event but rather an ongoing pantomime of sorts. I am by no means a perfect son, nor she a perfect mother. I loathe the Great Chappalled One, that unholy incarnation of Wrath but I stay and endure her for the mother that comes after. The one who pampers the Heart with quiet rustles of the hair when she thinks I’m asleep, or takes part in our jaunts of nonsense babbling and gossip. She is not Beauty, nor is she Perfection, resplendent in her own awe. She is my Mother, plump and sweet, stern but generous, on the wane of a glorious Life with Hope in her eyes for her darling son’s shining future. She is Ma, and these are some anecdotes of her, and her witticisms.