It was beginning of March, 2006. I was at Kanpur. Ma, you were not well. You were not sick, nor on medication. It was old age that was causing you so much discomfiture. You were on a prolonged dying phase. I wanted to be with you. I no longer live at Kanpur. Can I still call it my home? Why not, I thought, home is where Ma is.
I remember Ma, you were anxiously waiting for me. I saw happiness on your face when you saw me. You couldn’t have expressed your happiness in any other way. Your responses were very weak, but your memory had not yet deserted you. You felt good when I sat beside you.
In the intervening years I have drifted into my own world. You wanted to know about my world. I was feeling happy that in your vanishing world I still occupied the prime slot. Your touch made me feel it is my home. I am not a mere visitor.
I found almost no change in your room. I found you in your usual setting; lying on the bed. Mai, your constant companion, was sitting next to you. You could barely sit without her support and assistance. I touched your feet. It was cold. There was very little response. You took time, gathered all the energy your frail body could permit, opened your tired eyes. You did not or could not say anything. But I felt, as if you are saying, I am happy that you have come. It was a silent but eloquent communication between a mother and a son. I couldn’t gather enough courage to ask you, Ma, Kemon Aacho, because the question was meaningless. If I had asked, I am sure, you would have said, Bhalo Aachi.
“Be as relaxed as you can, be at ease; sit there with your dying friend or relative as if you had nothing more important or enjoyable to do.”
I remembered the lines I read in ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche. This is exactly what I did sitting next to you. Perhaps, you noticed, it was a different me. I felt no need of verbal communication. There was silence. You knew that I am there with you. That was such a big solace for you. Perhaps, you wanted to tell me, “I lie here all day long. When I go to sleep I am not sure if I will wake up. I want to go to a happy place.”
I was thinking, I wish you could stay with me for a long time, but I don’t want you to suffer anymore. I shall always cherish the time we spent together. But, now I want your pains to end, and you to go. I wished if I could make the journey less turbulent for you.
The end comes, if there is a desire. I said, I relieve you from all my attachments and I wish that you get rid of all your attachments. I shall not stand at the doorway to stop you at the time of your departure. At that moment, I thought of Guruji. He once told me, “Your problem is that unless you have seen or experienced God, you will not believe that God exists. I hope you will have no problem if you think that your parents are your God.” I thought, God raises expectation about our well-being, and so do our parents.
Ma, in the framed photograph of yours in a graduation robe, I noticed a calm confidence on your face. Just to refresh my memory, you were in Class XI when you got married. You decided to complete your graduation after so many years of marriage. I once asked you, why you went for graduation after such a long gap. You said, “I wanted to get photographed wearing the black robe.”
Another incident that happened many years ago is extremely significant for me. I know you remember it very well, still I want to tell you. I was returning from Allahabad to Kanpur with you. At the railway station, I saw my result in the newspaper. I got a compartment, meaning that I failed in one subject. I was upset. You must have been upset too but did not show it to me. You said, “You couldn’t pass the exam because you did not study. I know, if you decide, you can do much better.”
Everyone in the family insisted that I should appear for the compartment and get the degree even if that means I will simply pass. I was not happy with the decision of my elders. You understood my feelings. Perhaps, you too did not want that I should appear in the compartment exam, and I did not. I did pretty well in the exam next year. My whole life changed.
Now when I look at your photograph wearing a black robe, I feel very proud. You inspire me. You have been my greatest source of strength. Next to your photo, there was mine, wearing graduation robe. It gives me great pleasure that we graduated almost at the same time. I was a mediocre but you never thought I am.
I loved you the most Ma but at that moment, I was thinking about you in the past tense. I wanted your discomforts to end and your agony to terminate. I wanted you to leave the world peacefully and with fond memories. I did not want to see you die every day, or wait endlessly for the inevitable. I know it is a painful reality but unfortunately we have to accept this.
I told you the day I was coming back, let me go now, I will come again soon. You looked at me but said nothing. You did not cry, neither I. There were emotions, silent communications, but not enough tears. Perhaps, you cried later, as I did.
There comes a time when it is unwise to resist a thing. Ma, breathed her last on 17th June. We went to Ganga Ghat. In a few moments everything was over. Some ashes remained. Were they merely ‘some ashes’? Is everything over when one goes? These are eternal questions. I don’t know if death affects the dead. “To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead”.
Parents give us so much and in return they expect only our well-being. They carry us so nicely that we don’t feel the weight of so many things. Our loved ones remain with us even when they are gone. Sands of time cannot erase some footprints.
Ma, you are with me; in my morning prayers.