I was at home a few weeks back. Before I go on any further – home is where parents reside. Home is where Mom is. In times that only baffles and awes the phases of one’s growth, priorities are ever-altering as the journey constantly adapts its course. There comes a point when on looking around, you find yourself treading on a path accompanied by someone different. Long before then, your parents would have taken a backseat and watched you move on escorted by that someone finally, what one can only hope, loosening their legs and spreading their arms apart on that comforting divan. They are no more bound to hold your hand, watch you as you fall, or make you that first cup of morning coffee. However, it is here that going home becomes no less than a to-do undertaken for pleasure. It becomes a welcome break from the mundane and a vacation redeemed from that accumulated portal of earned leaves. Added, it certainly helps that my parents reside on a different side of the country, for such trips add a bit of colour in the name of travelling. And hence, home is always time away and time out – even from Pachai.
Anyway, so I was at home a few weeks back. My mom looked for help. I was only glad to have finally found an excuse to budge my rear, for I had submitted myself enough to il dolce far niente – the sweetness in doing nothing. As I went in, I realised the help she sought for was aimed for my own good after all. I had to sort out my certificates and papers – the pile that was racked up in my name since birth – I had left with them when I came to Chennai almost five years back. Amidst this pile lay another heap of pulpy tree ware, some of which had already embarked on that ‘yellow’ journey. I sat to tackle this Herculean task, which I knew would kill the rest of my afternoon. Memories and moments have a tendency to hit when least expected. Sometimes, they tend to make a dent especially when you realise how far you have traveled from those days and how, in that moment, the saying ‘age is just a number’ seems like a pathetic little lie. In the process of cleaning those shafts, it felt as if my mom hoped to subtly convey that it is time to carry with myself those memories. That I had moved on enough to bear that strength of changing hands.
As kids, our priorities were poles apart. Our ids and inhibitions defined us, and we wished those to reflect on the waves we resided in. Who knew that the water was haunted by crocodiles, anacondas and what other precarious reptiles, and that a tiny ripple would have tattered you into shards. We disliked the constant reprimand we received from parents. We begrudged them every time they asked us to sit with schoolwork; we even envied them for not having to study! We resented the fact that the money-making part was not bestowed to us. As elders, our parents had the freedom to go anywhere and do whatever they figured was right, while we had to listen to them. All the time. So yes, as kids our priories were poles apart.
The need for my mom to have things on top-of-the-order drove me crazy as a kid. Her need for perfection coupled with neatness often took my patience for a ride. Her nimbleness accompanied by a constant banter in an attempt to keep me on my feet left me in a moody daze, more often than not. And therefore, at most times, the clash of the titans would often be reeled live. As far as she were concerned, there was always something that required tweaking, improving or improvising. There was barely a time when there lay in store a well-deserved pat on the back, or ‘I’m so proud of you’, or even a ‘good job’. Almost never out and aloud.
As I sat amidst the unsorted shafts of certificates and papers sewn together with ring binders, it was an instantaneous travel back in time. I saw a greeting card from one of my dearest teachers undersigned by the principal – it read ‘Congratulations’ to applaud my efforts in the term’s Final Examination. There was a laminated Hall Ticket – I had received this just a week in advance to my Secondary Board Examination, since I had to appear for a retest as a result of failing the school’s Mock Examination. Then, there lay a parched, handle-with-care-kind-fragile clipping from a newspaper – it read ‘Happy Birthday’. Underneath it was a one-year old picture with my name, suffixed with ‘Notorious’. The next to find their way was a set of printed photographs when we had a digital camera, along with a stockpile of newspaper clippings – this was the coverage of the Regional Rounds I went to for singing. Then, there was a magazine between the pages of which lay several other newspaper clippings – these had my pictures for having been one of the winners at a country-wide contest. Sparked through these gazillion nostalgic moments. Every single second she had spent to discern me with the Math and Science concepts in Primary School. The countless hours she had invested to comprehend the course of Social Science for achieving that entry ticket to Standard Ten Board Examination. The never-say-die attitude she had pinned on me while wanting me to continue with my singing classes. The potential she saw in me through a no-brainer ‘Hey, did you check out today’s newspaper? There is a Sudoku Tournament happening. Why don’t you register for it?’. I have prided myself for being noncommittal to a factor for not more than five years (yet). Of the five items that fall within this category, three happen to be cities, one of them being Chennai. The reason was a job (that incidentally falls into the said category) that she put me through.
The best part? She continues to look after me even today.
I do not know if I have stayed upto her expectations ever, but I do know that she has, for giving away herself so readily and gracefully all these times, while asking for nothing in return. No matter how many verses of ‘age is just a number’ may be born into the universe, I know I will believe none of it, for she is my exception to that rule of thumb. Every visit at hers is a stab of knife on cold ice, for my eyes sadly do not fail to take in the tiniest of the changes in her – whether it be the greying of that one additional strand or that now-permanent fold I knew did not exist on her face before. With every visit, it is only a wonder what if distance weren’t such a bitch. And with every visit, it is only a matter of time that I am going to get her home. Rather, I am going to get them home. For it is time that I take care of them. I do not know how do they continue to pin their hopes up on me, but I do know I will make my Mom and Dad proud. Somehow.
* Nyaabagam Varudhe in Tamil literally means coming to remember. The derived meaning for this post is down the memory lane, based on the theme Nostalgia.
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