“Amma….I have come,” his voice drops to a whisper. Amma sensed his presence and rasped out “Madhav, I was aching to meet you.”
Madhav was trying hard to avoid visual contact. He did not have the courage to look into her eyes. His vocal cords were paralysed. He stood motionless near the frail, white-clad bony structure
“Amma…how are you feeling now?”. He asked somberly.
Amma did not speak. She did not move. Her voice was as weak as a reed in the wind. Madhav could feel his knees wobbling and the room going to whirl. “Come to me” the old woman emphatically proclaimed. He listened nervously to the sound of his own steps as they traversed the floor of the empty room. He could see the dust webs floated in the air, stirred by the faint breeze. He breathed the peculiar smell of medicines, cough syrups and insulin. He then sat on her couch utterly bereft of words.
Amma stroked his hair and serenely said, “You look like a rich man”. She emitted a sandpaper laugh and said “Beta ji, you always wanted to make it big”. Madhav felt tears welling in his eyes. He did not know how to tell Amma that he was feeling extremely small in front of her. He was at a loss for words the best he could come up with was “Amma, I’m sorry”
“You don’t have to be sorry.” She chided softly. “Look, I have something to show you.” She appeared gleefully proud. She slipped her wrinkled hand under the pillow and took out a tangled bundle of newspaper cuttings.
“What do you see here?” She inquired with genuine affection. Her fingers groped for other yellowed-torn newspaper cuttings. “Look here…. look at that.” She was smiling and crying at the same time. She was sharing the zenith of euphoria and pride with her son.
“Madhav Malhotra is all over the newspapers,” The old woman said unperturbed. My “Beta ji has made it big” The old woman gave a laugh that made her wince with pain. She gave him a lingering look, placed her hand over his and said, “I am proud of you, my son”.
Everything went as planned.
Getting into the premier league colleges, making it into Forbes under 40, the photo ops, Business Today Headlines, interview coverage, uncorking of Champagne bottles, the diamond icing fruitcake, luminaries stepping out of limousines to meet him, top-notch party perennials gesticulating and congratulating him for the new business ventures.
People like Madhav understood the contours of change. He owns expensive farmhouses in Ali Bagh, a villa in Udaipur, a fleet of cars and is not shy of extravagance. He had worked demonically from dawn to late at night for the gargantuan empire he has created in a short span of time. His wife is an entrepreneur. She is the woman behind the gigantic art exhibition mounted in New Delhi every year. Together they are the Viagra of unexpected power.
Madhav did not realise that stepping into the crème de la crème would let him slowly bury his past. He didn’t realise when exactly he dumped his taste, likes, dislikes and relationships in order to chase a dream. As ‘aloo ka paratha’ got altered with ‘avocado toast’, his atrocious English also became articulate with time, business meetings took over the long soulful conversations with Amma, occasional phone calls and promises to meet.
When he peered into the wall of the past, he recalled how monsoons meant mud-filled adventure to him. He would spend hours hitting the frogs with little stones and observing the helicopter-like insects flying all around. Rains always brought in hordes of yucky, open sores on his skin and his nose constantly dripped.
Amma would take him to the doctor and spend her savings on the treatment. He has no memories of Baba because he died early on but Amma meant the world to him. For Amma, he was her everything. With her modest income, she never killed his interest. She wanted Madhav to pursue his career with gusto. She didn’t leave any stone unturned to provide him with the best education. She sold a wide part of her land to make him study at the prestigious engineering college.
Amma did not know that sending her son would be preparing her for a bitingly lonely battle.
In retrospect, Madhav always wanted Amma to go on world tours or to holy places and fulfil her desires. There was never an iota of doubt in his intentions but he delayed the plans for far too long.
Today, he wants to run back to his roots. He wants to walk on the same old streets and savour the same flavour. He wants to share the space with Amma. He wants to fulfil her unfilled desires. He wants to make Amma proud for becoming a good person, a wonderful son and not just a successful businessman. He wants to fill up the lost time.
As the grim silence is shrouding in her room. His eyes filled with tears and the lump in the throat made it all the more difficult for him to speak.
He looked up and said in a solitary voice “Amma, I wish life could give me a second chance.”
Regrets are heavy.
Parents are not there forever.
Show them you care.
Views expressed by the author are their own. Image from Cinestaan/Rahul Sood
Suggested Reading: Everybody Says I’m Fine But Let’s Look Deeper