This is a story that really happened a long time back and this is my way of saying Happy Mothers Day to my Mom.
The story begins 18 years back when I must have been around four or five, I don’t quite remember. On a sleepy afternoon in the sleepy corner of a sleepy neighborhood, I curled up in the moss green by Deal Top” href=”#”> couch that had been my favourite friend since our family moved from Kathmandu. Along with my purple stuffed dog that I had named Appu after our dog who had recently died, I remember sitting on the couch in the small patio that overlooked the lane that led to the main road. Here it may be fair to add that my Mom called me Appu too. This is what it feels like when you have a long name. People will come up with so many different names that don’t even make sense. Like I mentioned before, I don’t remember much, but I knew that something terrible had happened and that Daddy would never come back again. After Dad left there was chaos in the house. He died because his heart was overflowing with love, that’s what Mom said. Now I know it was just a heart attack. My Mom would point at the stars at night and tell me that the one that shines the brightest is Daddy. Now I know that it’s just the Sirius, or the Dog Star. We had to travel to Siliguri to see him because that was where he breathed his last before he could make it home to us. Daddy worked in Calcutta and had to frequently travel from there to Kathmandu. We had relatives in Siliguri so before he made the trip to Kathmandu; he always stayed over for the night. It irritates me at times when I think back because I don’t remember much, but again I feel maybe its best not to remember too much. Had I known I would never be seeing my Daddy again, I would have kissed him a final goodbye before he turned into ashes but then I don’t remember Daddy much. The only memory I have of him is he carrying me and swinging me up in the air while I gurgled my strange baby laughter. It may be a memory that I might have created along the years, I’m not sure but it feels so right to remember him that way. I don’t remember the face of the person who carried by Deal Top” href=”#”> me and swung me up in the air and watched me laugh but I like to believe that it was my Daddy. That is how I have remembered him so far and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Daddy was gone now and Mom seemed upset all the time; she wore white clothes all the time and she no longer wore make-up. I always thought she looked pretty with her lipstick on but she wouldn’t anymore. From what I hear from my relatives, my mom didn’t care about her children as much as other mothers would. They said that she would smoke a lot, that she would not change my diapers when I soiled them, that she drank a lot. I don’t know if it’s true but as far as I remember, I was very fond of her. I remember having long hair that covered my buttocks when left open by Deal Top” href=”#”> and mom would style my hair and play heroine with me. Its funny how I wanted to become an actress when I was little, I guess all little girls want that. Mom would dress me up and curl my hair and I would jump around the house claiming that one day I would become an actress and wave my hand at people. That memory seems so far away now. Anyway let me continue the story about that sleepy afternoon. I was playing with Appu in the moss green couch which by now I had already marked as ‘mine’ and I wouldn’t let my big brother sit on it. It was a big comfortable couch, the kind that had the power to make you lazy. It had short legs and a big body and was slowly tearing apart. The couch had once been a pride in the house; it had been the famous centerpiece in the drawing room. But now it was just like an army veteran, retired, old and removed; but nonetheless basking in the glory it once possessed. The couch now had a small by Deal Top” href=”#”> hole from where the springs underneath threatened to pop out and I was very careful not to let that happen. In a house where all my relatives seemed like strangers and my Mom seemed upset all the time, the couch was the safest place to be; it embraced all my fears and confusion. I was busy playing with Appu I think, when mom came out with her bags packed, dressed in loose jeans for a change and her hair tied up in a messy bun. I asked her where she was going and she said that she was going back to Kathmandu to sort out some things that were messed up right now and that she would come to get my brother and me in March. ‘March’, I remember that so well. Tears brimmed in my eyes and I begged her to take me along but she silenced me by saying that right now I needed to join a school and if I did well she would give me the best birthday gift ever. My birthday was just around the corner and I hated the fact that Mom wouldn’t be there to dress me up and do my hair. She gave me a big hug and told me to be nice to everyone in the house and then she left. I stood up in the couch carefully and watched her disappear around the corner of the lane that joined the main road. I don’t remember if I celebrated my birthday that year. What I remember though is waiting every evening in the patio, standing up in the couch once in a while to see if Mom had come back. The month of March arrived and left but Mom never came. April, May, June came and left but Mom never came. Soon I was separated from my brother and went to stay with my Daddy’s elder brother and his family while my brother continued to stay in the same house with other relatives. No one asked me what I wanted, no one asked me how I felt, they just did what they thought was right and although I don’t have any complaints about it now, I just wish more people asked. If more people asked simple questions like ‘how have you been?’ ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Are you alright?’ this world can be a much better place to live in. Many years passed by and when I was in the fifth grade, my Aunt told me that my mother would not come back again because she had found another husband for herself and also had a new baby now. It shattered my heart into millions of pieces and all the dreams I had weaved of being with my Mom for so long, came plunging down and buried themselves in the deepest abyss of my heart. I had been waiting for my Mom all along and now she wasn’t going to come back. I had no one to talk to and I missed my brother a lot but I didn’t cry. By this time I had already learnt the art of not crying and I was pretty good at it. There were times when living with my aunt and uncle was really difficult but they gave me shelter, food, education, everything that I needed. The greatest thing a man can give to another of his kind is education I feel; and I’m really very grateful to them for educating me. I spent my childhood buried among books; I would read anything I could get my hands on from magazines to fairytales to newspapers. My Uncle received a monthly subscription of reader’s digest and I would devour each of them with a delight I don’t even get from sex, to think of it now. Every now and then I found myself re-reading some books and there is a different kind of joy when you relive a story in a book you’ve already read. It’s like time travelling; in the most ethereal way possible. Sometimes when I hurt myself while playing, I wouldn’t tell anybody, sometimes when I got sick I didn’t tell anyone, there were a lot of things that I didn’t say. School helped me a lot to forget because I had so much to learn and so many things to keep myself busy with. I made few but genuine friends and nobody had to teach me that. I tried to excel in everything I could get my hands on and that was the year when I started my first journal. My journal was my solace in times of need, whenever I was hurt or wanted to cry, I would write, when something new happened I wrote it down, when I had my first crush, I confessed it to my journal. Every event, every memory that makes me what I am today, I wrote it down. They say that once you start doing what your heart truly longs for, you discover your true self. I guess I just felt the need to be understood, if not by anyone, by my journal. I felt the need to tell my journal how I felt about certain things, how different I felt from others, how much I pretended on the outside just to appear normal so that no one would know my secrets. I would write important dates, I would write about my heroes, my weaknesses and my strengths. I tried to capture every important moment of my life so that I could one day turn the pages and remember what it felt like. To remind myself how much I had learnt, how much I had grown. To me, my journal was where I would lash out at my Mom for leaving my brother and me. All the love that I had reserved for her had turned spiteful and I hated her more than anyone else in the world. Writing was the only way of rearranging my life together. Some day people would love me for my writing, they would find hope and magic in my words. Some day I could be the one who would take people away from the wretchedness of this world to bring them back happier and hopeful. Love for me was like this drug I craved and I created a world for myself that deprived me from it. Sometimes I think back and wonder how a small event can change a person’s life.I was so messed up growing up and I blamed my Mom for every failure, every nasty thing that happened to me. Sometimes I would sit by myself and wonder what my life would be like if Mom hadn’t left and I would get furious. You’d find me dazed and lost if you didn’t see me busy with something. My friends would know that, they always complained that I didn’t listen to them when they talked and to be honest, I really didn’t hear them; not because I didn’t want to but because I was always preoccupied with my thoughts. But I made the greatest of friends; each one of them was different in their own way. I have always wanted to write about my friends and maybe I will, soon. Life went by and I grew up reading more and more, writing more. I always kept myself busy except for those days when all I wanted to do was lie down and dream endlessly. How I miss those perfect summer days spent doing nothing but dreaming with not a care in the world. Now I meditate to binary beats from time to time. I must have been in the 10th grade; yes 10th grade it was. One sultry afternoon, after the lunch break was over, we had a class with a certain teacher, who to be honest with you, was very fond of me. She walked into the class and asked me to stand up and she told the entire class that my Daddy was no more and that my Mom had left when I was young and that I lived with a foster family. To think about it, she did it to set an example of what people can choose to be even if they are faced with difficult circumstances but at that moment, I felt like I was getting undressed in public and that everybody was staring at my naked truth. All the girls in class looked at me with pity and I hated it, I hated to feel naked, to be pitied, deprived of the sheath that I always wore to hide the truth. I knew who it was who had told my teacher about this and it broke my heart to know it. I wanted to meet my Mom and get mad at her for leaving, I wanted to scream at her and tell her that I hated her. I had collected a few pictures of my Mom and Dad along the years. That night, I flipped open my journal, took out the pictures and tore her off and kept only my Dads. I further tore it to bits and threw it in the dustbin never to be found again. Sometimes when I would get really upset, I’d tell my journal that I wanted to meet Mom and ask her why she left. I had to know why she left. I felt the need to meet her and look at her face and ask her at least once why she had broken the promise she made to her five year old daughter who had been waiting for her to come back all through these years. I was lost, yes I was but what I found in the wilderness was nothing less than magic. That year I met a certain person who wouldn’t like to be mentioned, and he encouraged me to find my Mom. ‘Maybe your Mom had reasons’, he would say and I would only dismiss it. I haven’t met him for a long time now but if I do, I would like to thank him for motivating me to clear my heart of the hate that it nurtured. He told me that the essence of life was the adventures that it had to offer and that everything that happens always has a reason. I don’t know if he had swallowed an entire book of quotes but it felt nice. The final exams were coming up after which the board exams would follow but I was busy with something else. Everyday after school I would wait for this particular lady who was my Mom’s friend and I had only seen her once. I didn’t know her name nor did I know where she stayed but I remember she had a small daughter who attended the same school. Two weeks passed by and there was no sign of her, she was the only person who could help me meet my Mom. Now I could have easily asked my relatives about her whereabouts but they would ask a lot of questions. Every single mistake I made was made known to all, every failure put out there to be judged. I’m sure it’s like that with all families but I didn’t like the idea, I still don’t. Just when I was about to give up waiting for the lady, she appeared before me, not in school but in the middle of town. She must have thought I was crazy at first because she was clearly stupefied when I ran up to her and held her shoulder and breathed hard like a tired horse. I laughed and apologized at the same time and I asked if she knew Archana, that’s my Moms name. She said she did and her eyes welled up with tears and I looked at her little daughter in the blue pinafore who was giving me nasty eye roll. She probably thought I made her Mom cry. I told her that I wanted to visit my Mom once and that any information about her would be helpful. I also told her that I was secretly doing this so she had to make a promise not to tell anyone. She made the promise, which I learnt later that she broke; women will always be women I guess. She gave me a landline number and said that she wasn’t sure if it worked. The happiness I felt at that moment, can’t be expressed in words, it can only be felt. I raced to the nearest phone booth and dialed the number and hung up. I had no idea what I was going to say. What was I going to say? ‘Hi. I’m your daughter?’ No way! I had to think of something else. I decided that I was going to be very calm and go about it this way; ‘Is this Archana?’ and if she said yes, I would tell her that I was her daughter and that I wanted to see her. I would say this calmly and without getting nervous. That didn’t happen in reality. I dialed the number and asked semi-nervously, ‘Hello is this Archana?’ From the other end a mature deep male voice replied ‘No, this is her husband, who are you?’ I was so nervous that I dropped the receiver. The owner gave me a stern look and I smiled foolishly back at him before I took to my heels. I walked back home and for another few weeks could not make myself call the number again. When the final exam was finally over I was sent to Siliguri for extra classes that would help me pass my board exam, which was not necessary because I was always a good student, but this time around my relatives had a doubt I wouldn’t do well. Obviously the tuitions were a waste of time, as I did nothing but waste my time. Usually after tuitions, I went to off to my friend, Lee’s place to study and to be honest, to eat the good food that her mother always made. Aunty was quite young to be the mother to her daughter but she was really really cool. I could easily talk to her and I could see that she enjoyed talking as well. She had a clothing business back in Darjeeling and she had to frequent Kathmandu a lot to buy fresh stock that came from Thailand. These days it’s Bangkok but back in those days, fashionable clothes came from Kathmandu. As soon as she mentioned that she would be going to Kathmandu after our board exam was over, I asked her if I could tag along. I told her that I was looking for my mother and if I had someone to go to Kathmandu, it would make my quest much more easier to which she readily agreed. I mustered up enough courage and took out the piece of paper that had the number on it. I cursed the exams because my phone had been confiscated till my exams were over. I walked to the nearest telephone booth and dialed the number. This time I had not prepared myself but I decided to go along anyway. The phone rang a couple of times and a little girl answered, ‘Is Archana there?’ I asked rather authoritatively. ‘Mummy, there’s a phone call for you’, screamed the little girl on the other end. My heart started beating way too fast and just when I was about to change my mind and hang up, she finally spoke, ‘Yes, who is this?’ I mumbled something I can’t remember now but it must’ve just been a mumble because obviously she didn’t understand a thing. ‘Listen, I’m very busy, who is this?’, she said from the other end. My emotions were going haywire, as if for that particular moment I lost control over my body, my mind, everything. Finally I managed to blurt out, ‘My name is Aparajeeta, and I’m your daughter’. I still don’t know how long the silence lasted but a host of different thoughts raced through my brain making it almost impossible to grasp even one stray one. I heard her sniffling on the phone and with a broken voice she asked ‘ How are you, dear daughter? I knew you’d call one day’ and before I could say anything, she started crying and apologizing. ‘I’m so sorry; I’m really very sorry’. My heart started giving in to the situation and I felt my eyes getting heavy and my vision blurred until a tear drop finally left my eyes and settled on the phone dial and slowly ran down to the end of the telephone. I cleared my throat and said, ‘After my exams are over I want to see you’. ‘You’re coming to see me?’ she replied with a sudden change in the tone of her voice. I figured it was a happy tone and I found my reflection the glass booth grinning at me. ‘I’ll give you a call when I reach, bye for now’, and I hung up. I felt a sense of relief, happiness, and peace all at the same time. I felt like a huge baggage had been removed from my shoulder and I smiled back at my reflection on the glass. Then someone knocked the booth and hollered, ‘Are you done or not!’ I came out to find a hefty aunty standing outside, fuming with anger. I guess I had taken a really long time because I had to shell out 150 bucks for the call. Convincing folks at home was difficult; they were hesitant to let me go although I had the company of my friend and her Mom. No one knew about this, except Lee, her mother and that certain person who would not like to be mentioned. I sulked for days and finally got an idea. I asked Lee’s Mom to talk them into it and in no time, I was travelling to Kathmandu. We reached early in the morning and had ourselves freshened up in a delightfully small hotel in the middle of New Road. That was where all the wholesale retail market flourished. Goods that came from Bangkok were sold in bulk at this place. For people who had a flair for fashion and style, the clothing business was very profitable. Aunty had a flair for fashion and so did Lee. Me? Not so much. I was always in black. Black pants, black t-shirt and black converse, nothing more, nothing less. I’m one of those people who cringe looking at school photos. People are obsessed with clothes aren’t they? So anyway, I couldn’t believe I was finally doing this, finally meeting my Mom. I called my friend whose name I cannot mention, to tell him that I had arrived in Kathmandu. I had made a promise to him that if I did end up meeting my mother, he would get to meet her. And unlike my Mom, I keep my promises. I was nervous and excited and so were Lee and Aunty. We all were very happy that I would be meeting my Mom. I called her number and I gave the address of the hotel we were putting up at. An hour passed, two hours, three hours and still she did not come. She was going to do it again, she was going to promise and not keep it again. It was like inflating a big balloon and watching it getting pricked by an evil faced child. Lee accompanied her mother for shopping and I decided to make an excuse to stay back at the hotel and sulk. After they left, I thought to myself that maybe she really didn’t want to see me and that I should accept the fact. I washed my face, took a deep breath in and made up my mind not to spoil the trip. I was going to meet Lee and her Mom in the nearby mall. I locked the room and walked out trying to feel as positive as I could when a lady walked past me and smiled. I smiled back at her and continued to walk when I heard a voice calling out my name. I turned around to see the same lady smiling at me. She wore a pastel green top and beige pants and shoes to match her top. She came and hugged me tight and I stood there dumbfounded. It took me while to realize that she was my Mom. She looked nothing like the picture I had of her, she looked old, much much old, had wrinkles around her eyes and had the kind of hard face that one gets after years of alcohol consumption. I took her to the room and she sat there crying the whole time, holding on to me while I resisted giving in to tears. She told me that she regretted leaving us and that she needed support and security of a man and that she left us because she knew she couldn’t take care of us. Soon Lee and Aunty came knocking on the door to check why I was taking so much time. For another half an hour my Mom wept and Aunty joined along with Lee and eventually I gave in and cried along. All of us were crying at the same time like we were watching a Nicholas Sparks movie. Mom looked at me carefully from every angle, turning me around to check if I had mutated through the years. She spotted the scar on my left arm and cried in horror, ‘Who did this to you?’ I told her it was an accident. She looked at my face and told me that I had spoilt my teeth and that I needed to get braces. I listened to her all along without saying a word. I felt loved all of a sudden and I forgot everything else. I forgot all the years that I had longed for her love, I forgot that she left us, that she married another man and that now she had a daughter, for that moment at least, I forgot that I hated her. After the whole episode of crying was over, all of us decided to go help Aunty with her shopping. My Mom talked throughout, non-stop and I liked it for a change. ‘So how did you recognize me?’ I asked her. ‘Oh! I’m your mother after all and you still have the same smile you know; when you smiled at me in the corridor of the hotel, I just knew you were my Appu’, she said beaming with glee. ‘You know, no one calls me that these days’, I told her bluntly. As we walked across different retail shops, she asked me if I wanted to buy anything and I told her I wouldn’t mind buying books but there were no book shops around. Aunty and Lee were busy hauling clothes and accessories for their shop. Both the mother and the daughter had impeccable sense of style and I guess that worked in their favor. At times my mom would make an excuse to rush to the washroom and would come back smelling of cigarettes which Aunty also seemed to notice I figured. ‘Have you been smoking?’ I asked her to which she said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve tried to quit but I can’t seem to’. This made me sad for a while; my Mom was troubled and she clearly needed help. I looked at Lee and her Mom and saw how perfect their lives were and I looked at myself and my old pair of converse and my mothers trembling fingers and I realized how messed up both of us were. Sometimes when I feel claustrophobic in a situation, I go out for a walk and that was exactly what I needed to do before Aunty or Lee could judge my Mom’s behavior. I told Aunty that I’d be looking for a bookshop outside the mall and that I’d meet them later at the hotel. She smiled and nodded her head for approval and turned to the stack of clothes. There were no book shops around so I suggested we go somewhere quiet for lunch, just the two of us and she asked me if I still wanted to be an actress; just all of a sudden. We laughed together at the question and I told her that I wanted to be a writer. That one day I would write books and create magical worlds for people who give up hope way too soon. She didn’t seem too happy with my ambition just like everyone else and as usual it was difficult for me to explain to her what it meant to me. How could I explain the comfort I found in weaving stories in the pages of a blank notebook to a person who found the same in alcohol and cigarettes. ‘ Stay with me tonight!’ she said and as soon as she said it I pictured a blurry image of her new husband and her new daughter in their new house and all that I had forgotten a while back came right before my face. Like death eaters these memories hovered before me and I put my fork down disgusted. ‘I’m sorry I can’t stay at your place’ I told her and walked towards the washroom. ‘Stay with me at least for a day before you leave, ill cook for you’, she said. We left the restaurant and walked towards the cab that the friendly waiter had called for us. Mom hopped into the cab, held my cheeks in her hands, smiled at me and said, ‘I have to get your sister back from school, ill come see you tomorrow. As the cab started to move ahead, I felt heat rising up through my stomach right up to my head and I screamed as the taxi drove past, ‘She is not my sister!’ I don’t know if she heard it, but I did manage to gather a lot of attention; people looked at me with slant glances and aunties with loud make-up rolled their eyes at me. ‘What a brat’, I heard a woman behind me say. ‘To hell with you’, I muttered back and took a walk around the market one more time before I headed back to the hotel. Lee and her Mom were still out so I decided to take a bath and watch some telly till they came back but I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, Aunty was serving piping hot tea and local cookies to go with it. As she handed me a cup ,she told me how I slept like a log, that they had to get the door opened by a master key because neither did I answer my phone, nor did I open the door. They had found me fast asleep and had decided to let me be. Aunty told me that they had a long day ahead and that by evening they had to finish off with the shopping and the next day we were to leave. I got up with a start and told her that my Mom had invited me to stay with her for a day. Aunty was easy to talk to, she was like a friend, only she had seen more of the world and knew exactly what to say whenever I confided in her. ‘ I know how hard it must’ve been for you but you should also try to see things through your mothers perspective’, she said as she slid her long hair through the flat iron and yanked on it till it was poker straight. It always amused me to watch people make themselves beautiful. There was a need in everyone to look better than what they actually appeared to be and that itself is a defense mechanism in the most subtlest of ways. ‘But Aunty, her daughter and her husband are going to be there’, I whined as I helped Lee tie her hair up. Lee had the most beautiful hair I have ever seen; long thick, black and straight. The best thing about Lee was that she didn’t talk much like other girls, she was a dreamer in her own right and she let me experiment with her hair all the time. Aunty looked at me from the mirror as she applied her signature thick coat of eyeliner and said,’ I’m a mother and I know one thing for sure, it must have been difficult for her to leave you and your brother and she is already suffering, so don’t make it harder for her’. Then they left the hotel for some more shopping and I decided to stay back and make up my mind. I walked to and fro from one corner to another trying to make a decision and then shunning it. I looked at my phone a hundred times and looked at the mirror more; each time finding an uncanny resemblance to my mother. I realized I looked so much like her and it was not a comforting feeling. Right then, my phone rang and it was my friend whose name I cannot mention. I told him the entire story, how I lost my cool the previous day and how I couldn’t make up my mind about spending a night at Moms place. He listened without saying a word and when I was done whining, he said,’ Get dressed, I’m coming to get you’. What! I wasn’t even ready for this, my jaw dropped and my heart started beating fast. ‘Hello, are you there?’ he shouted from the other end of the line. ‘Um yess, I’m shtill’, I muttered. I couldn’t believe I was making a pronunciation error. ‘What? Anyway call your mom and get her address in the meantime, I’m on my way,’ and he hung up. I felt trapped, like I could pass out any moment. To make things clear, let me tell you more about this friend of mine who cannot be mentioned. Do you remember the first time you fell in love? I do. I fell in love for the first time when I was in 7th grade, call it what you may but this was more than infatuation. I had a crush on this guy for about 4 years now and I was still just a friend. There was something about him that attracted me towards him, they say that you tend to attract the kind of people who are like you and I guess that’s what it was all about. He was messed up too just like I was and we did not judge each other for that, in fact we tried to help each other stay on our paths and not diverge and become losers. He always told me that if I wanted to be treated equally in this world, I must become independent. After his Dad passed away, his mother had brought him up, single-handedly. I have immense respect for single mothers, who fight their way to make their children’s lives better than theirs. And this was another reason why my heart broke, every time I thought about Mom. The more I got to know him, the more motivated I became. There are some people in this world who are so stuck up with what happens to them that they fail to see the light ahead and this was exactly what he taught me not to be like. Back in school, kids talked scandal about him but I knew what he was like in reality. Sadly he was already dating a very pretty girl and I obviously had no chance, which is okay now when I think about it because I met the perfect guy a few years later and my life has never been better. I put on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and looked at myself in the mirror, back then I weighed about 64kgs compared to 52kgs now. The clock was ticking furiously and it made me more nervous. I picked up Aunty’s make up kit and tried to put on eyeliner in vain and also put some glitter gloss on my lips. I looked horrible so I went to the bathroom and washed it off to try it again. I failed in the attempt almost four times and I finally gave up. I called mom and told her that I would be coming to stay with her. ‘Who are you coming with? Do you know the way? She asked. ‘Don’t worry, I have a friend who has a bike, I told her casually. ‘A boy friend or a girl friend? She asked worried. ‘ Don’t worry Mom, ill call you when I’m there, just come out to the top of the road okay’, and I hung up. I tidied up the room and waited for him to call, occasionally looking at the mirror in disappointment. When the phone rang, I waited for it to ring a couple of times more because I didn’t want him to think that I had been waiting for his call with the phone on my hand. After the sixth ring, I received and gave a casual, chilled out ‘hey’. ‘What took you so long, hurry up, they wont let me park the bike here, he yelled from the other end. ‘Ill be right there, I squeaked back and ran down to submit the keys in the reception before I flew out. There he was, smiling at me from under his helmet and he signaled me to sit behind him. Let me tell you that this was my first bike ride and although I was excited, I was scared too and nervous as hell. ‘ I hope your girlfriend wont mind’, I told him. ‘You don’t need to worry about that’, he said brusquely. Sometimes he could be so blunt and snooty that you could almost believe that he was a jerk but I knew the truth he hid behind that arrogant face; he had a heart of gold. The 30 minutes I spent behind him in a speeding bike is probably the shortest 30 minutes of my life so far. I felt like I was in a movie and all my dreams were coming true, I felt like I was in a magical world where all my problems ceased to exist. Suddenly the bike halted and I pulled myself out from the enchanted world. ‘We’re here’, he said looking at me and pointed towards the side view mirror of the bike. I saw myself in the small mirror and was horrified at the sight. My hair was wild and there was dust all over my lip-gloss. I looked like a total screwball. I quickly ran my fingers through my hair and slyly wiped my dusty lips. ‘ Kathmandu is a dusty place’, he said, grinning at me. I turned red and clumsily got off the bike. Unable to face him, I pretended to crease my T-shirt when my phone rang. It was Mom. ‘Hello’, I said. ‘Is that your boyfriend?’ she asked. I looked around the place and spotted a sturdy woman in a tank top and boxer shorts, under an unlit lamppost. That was definitely Mom. ‘No’, I said and disconnected. ‘My Moms standing under that lamp-post’, I told him and before I knew he was walking towards her. I hurried to catch up. He smiled at her and reached for her feet for blessings and my Mom held him by his shoulders and kissed him on his cheek. I always feel awkward when people hug but my Mom was a major hugger. She would even hug a table. My friend whose name I cannot mention, shook my hand, slanted a smile and sped off in his bike. ‘He is a really good looking boy’, she said. I raised my hand to dismiss the conversation and we walked to her house. When I entered the house, a small girl came running down and gave me a hug. ‘My name is Swarna and I’m your little sister’, she shrieked. ‘I’m not your fucking sister’, I thought to myself. She took me by my hand and started showing me around the house; she showed me her room and her toys and family pictures of them together. I was starting to get bored now. It must have been about 2 in the afternoon and the sun was harsh today. Mom came from somewhere with a glass of cold fruit juice in one hand and another glass with something that looked like alcohol and said ‘ Here, this will make you feel better’. While she handed me the fruit juice she gulped down the other drink with an ease that needs years of practice. The rest of the day I spent holding hands with my half sister, and following her around to wherever she took me. It broke my heart to see my mother gulping the alcohol away and smoking about five cigarettes per hour. It was clear that she was an unhappy person and I understood that she was more at ease in her drunkenness than she was sober. Swarna was a healthy little girl, too cute for me to hate her. She had long hair that covered her buttocks just like how I used to have but unlike me, she did not want to be an actress. She wanted to be a Ghostbuster, weird for a girl her age. ‘ Why did you cut your hair Nana?’ she asked me. ‘Well, umm because I like my hair short’, I said. She asked me endless stupid questions and I sat there watching my Mom cook, occasionally answering, but mostly ignoring. Soon the house was filled with the aroma of dried mutton cooked with spinach and garlic and my tummy rumbled. By the time dinner was served, it was already 8:30pm and I hated the fact that I had to leave the next day. This was the first time I realized what an amazing cook my Mom was, this was the first meal that my mother had made, for me and it tasted like heaven. That night, Mom held me in her arms and tousled my hair, sang me a lullaby and put me to sleep. In the middle of the night, when I woke up to go to the loo, I found her arms wrapped around me tight. I carefully moved her hand and got off the bed. There were about fifty or more cigarette stubs in the ashtray and a glass on stale whisky by her bedside. When I was done, I crawled back into the bed and adjusted Moms hand back to how it had been. I looked at her face and made up my mind that I would never end up like her. Swarna, who was asleep beside Mom, turned in her sleep and flung her arms around Moms back. I couldn’t sleep after that, all I thought about was what life would have been like if she had decided against leaving us. I had longed to be with my Mom all this while, yet now when she was near me, I just wanted to be as far away from her as possible. Soon the birds were awake and the darkness slowly gave way to dawn. I closed my eyes and absorbed the moment, my Moms breath on my shoulder, the faint smell of her shampoo mixed with the musty smell of smoke and whisky, the feeling of being in my mothers arms. I immersed myself into the moment and consumed all the love I felt. I wanted to remember this moment forever because from this day onwards I was not going to see her or speak to her again. My heart shrunk at the thought but my pursuit was over. I had wanted to meet her and I had done that. There was no reason for me fit into her life anymore. Mom had told her husband not to come home for the night and he apparently had to crash at his brother’s place. Now when I think back I wish I had met him once, just to know if he was a good husband and a good father. I must’ve fallen asleep again because Swarna was tugging at my shirt when I opened my eyes. Mom was up too, looking fresher than before, brighter than before. Maybe it was the bright yellow t-shirt she was wearing or maybe she was just happy after a long time. For breakfast I had double poached eggs with crisp toast and butter. While I ate in silence, Mom lit up a cigarette. ‘You should think about quitting’, I told her. She laughed like a child, her laughter ringing like a wind-chime brushed by a gentle breeze; and she stubbed the cigarette into the ashtray. Since the time I had met her, she stared at me from time to time with a smile on her face and right then she was doing the same thing. Before I left her house, she gave me two bottles of expensive perfumes and a picture of my Daddy holding my brother and me in his arms. She also gave me a black downy stole with shells at the end of the tassels’ that she had wrapped carefully in a newspaper. ‘This was the first gift that your Daddy gave me’, she said wiping tiny teardrops from her eyes before they could roll down her cheeks. I swallowed hard and asked, ‘Did you really love him?’ She looked down, wiped her tears off and said ‘ I loved him to bits and pieces and I still do’. I’ve always been very bad at emotional situations like this and it’s not something I’m proud of. I staggered towards her and put my hands on her shoulder. ‘Its okay, don’t cry’, was all I could say. I wish I had said more though. I wish I had told her that it was not her fault that Daddy died, I wish I could tell her that I forgave everything, I wish I could tell her that both me and my brother turned out fine. But like I said, I’m really bad at these situations, I still am. I don’t speak to Mom anymore because I have accepted the fact that she had moved on in life, that she had started a new life, a new family where there was no place neither for my brother, nor for me. Whatever caused her to leave us, she regretted and I could see that she wanted to make up for it, but it was too late for that. She had to take care of her own family now; she had a new responsibility now. I couldn’t hate her anymore because it was already a punishment that she lost the love of her life at such a young age. All I could do now was to forgive her and it was important for me to let her go, to free her from the burden she had been carrying all this while. Everybody makes mistakes and I think everybody should get a second chance at life. By hating Mom for what she did, I could never be at peace with myself because hate only begets hate. If I wanted to let go of the hate I carried, the only way out was love. A mother can teach you lessons in life no one else can. A mother sacrifices her needs for her children, a mother teaches what is right and what is wrong, she comforts you when you’re weak, and she encourages you when you’re down. A mother is an epitome of unconditional love and strength. Growing up without one has definitely been harsh but it was in her absence that many great lessons were learnt. Her absence made me what I am today. A strong human being with a passion and a dream, a person who deeply believes in the power of love, a person who will never choose defeat and never trample over someone else for victory. I learnt never to judge people for the choices they make, I learnt that every other person is having a hard time and that I should always be careful of what I say and what I don’t. It was through her absence, I learnt that the only way to be happy is to accept the things not meant for me, with grace. Of course life wasn’t easy without a mother but it was far more enriching than anyone else I know who has a mother. It was in her absence that I learnt the value of a mothers love; it was in her absence that I learnt to pick myself up, every time I stumbled. In fact I wouldn’t even have been writing about this if Mom hadn’t left. I guess, every good story has a sad beginning to it, so that it can have a happy ending.