“Please, please! Drop me one message- once you reach fine. Can you do that for me?”I hear my mother snicker, as I talk to my little girl. I throw a furious look at her and she bends her head down like punished a child. After finishing the talk and waving my daughter a goodbye, I join mom at the dining table where she tries to appear engrossed in cutting vegetables. Her silvery, shoulder length stylishly cut hair, bounces with the chop of the knife. There is a smile she is pressing between her lips. My anger vanishes and we both burst out laughing.
Overjoyed, little tears flow and rub them off still laughing. A little nagging thought attaches to my mind. I abruptly stop. She reads my mind,“ Oh dear! No.. you will do fine!” and walks to where I sat. Burying my face in her embrace I mumble without looking at her, “Mom, why is it so difficult to be a mother?” She gently kisses my forehead,” Because I cursed you to have a difficult child, as difficult and as painful as you were.” We both laugh. “Now don’t think so much you silly.” with those words she hobbles to the TV room and switches the television on. I wait for her to say the same words she says everyday,” Aye, which channel does that show telecast on?” With practice, I answer,” Channel 15.” If I ask her now, about the guy who had chased me till house some fifteen years ago. Pat, she will reply. But a TV show she watches daily, she won’t remember its channel or even its exact name. That's how the memory of a mother works.
I walk into kitchen and start to cook. When she says,” Put the tomato in the end. They fry very quickly.” I tell her I saw her doing just that all my life. “I am delighted; I never knew you paid attention.” she laughs. This was one of those skills I had picked up sitting on the kitchen slab passing this and that to her when she cooked. I shake myself to the present and place the cooked food on the table and check the time. It’s been a while. She should have reached by now. I look at the empty message inbox and a chain of thoughts jail me. I feel weak and vulnerable. Suddenly exposed to pain. Has she reached safe? There are so many accidents these days. What about those stupid men who will be gawking at her? What if she got into a fight? What if she had started an argument with someone? Yesterday there was a molestation case reported in the similar area. A message beeps, “Mom, reached safe. Don’t worry.” My mind is out of shackles now. What a relief! That one word- safe, is what I wanted to hear, like every other mother.
We eat and I listen to mom’s version of the serials she watches and smile wide eyed at what she believes will be told in the following episodes. Time passes and other members of the family have come, everybody except -my daughter. I can't sit in my own house. I sit in the verandah, my eyes scanning every girl on a Scooty that even remotely resembles her. My ears all alert to pick the noises that usually precede her arrival at home. I drop her message,” Let me know if you got held up by something.” But, fail to get a reply. As my worry worsens with every passing second, my mom offers me company and we wait for my daughter like she had once waited for me. “Her class might have got extended. And they don’t allow mobiles in the class. She told me that once. She must be on her way.” She tells me this and yet I catch that little pray she does, hoping this is what is true. “I am hoping the same mom. I am hoping the same.” I reply holding back a million insane thoughts haunting my mind. Times change, generations’ change, our attitudes, our lifestyles,- everything change! Everything- but that span of time, when you wait for the arrival of a little girl you want to shield from this bad world. That little girl you want to protect for all the horrors you have heard, all the cruelties you have read or have unfortunately witnessed. That time when we the contemporary women, bear the same mindset of every mother who has ever lived. That time- never changes.
A little later a tiny yellow headlight peeks through our front gate and I breathe for the first time in an hour.We, two mothers watch 'the daughter' walk towards us- safe and share a smile.