Well, this is tough to get out of my system. It’s deep rooted, imprinted on my soul and it’s also something that I, sadly, won’t be able to get rid off for quite sometime. Do you ever have random flashbacks? Even though you may be in a room full of people chattering away, music blaring and the clinking of cutlery? Even though you were thinking of sometime entirely different a nanosecond ago, you’re reminded of something that makes you feel guilty or ashamed of yourself? You pretend to laugh and look happy but it just gnaws at you from inside? And then, as randomly as it came, it goes away.
This is how I define my regret. It’s there, it keeps resurfacing time to time but I see no end to it. It may read like an easy definition or description but it doesn’t feel like it. Let me take you down my memory lane…
19th September 2014
This day changed my life forever. I lost someone I really loved deep down inside but yet couldn’t work towards showing it. I lost my dearest mother to the evil, ugly demon called cancer. It took her away from me in a short span of 3 months.
We discovered it mid-June the same year. She’d come back from the holiday of a lifetime. She was raving about it to me over the phone ever since she had got back. But along with the vivid descriptions of snow-capped mountains, pristine mountain slopes, undulating green fields dotted with cattle, she was complaining of a mild stomachache and a stiff leg. We didn’t pay much attention to it. She was 63, had climbed all the way to the top of these mountains and went paragliding a well.
I must write about this paragliding business. My mother is and will always be my hero. She could save me from any kind of danger, shelter me from worldly evil and yet giggle like a little girl at one of my silly jokes.
So during this, she was the first one to take off from the highest peak. Everybody else was shitting bricks at the prospect of dangling from something that looked simply like a large kite. After seeing her enjoy herself thoroughly, everybody decide to paraglide.
Courage, grit, determination, affection and unending love are synonymous with me mum.
Coming back to her return from her dream holiday, her pain didn’t go away. I was in a different city and was getting more and more worried with each passing day. After a lot of coaxing and prodding, she went to the doctor with my father. The doctor prescribed certain tests that were to be done and each report was more alarming than the other.
There was a large growth in the uterus that could be benign but there was a lesion in the hip joint. Lesion is code word for cancer growths. There was a large growth on the liver as well. I caught the next flight home.
I find it very hard to write a logical and emotionally detached series of events for her struggle with this devastating disease. I was caught in a hurricane of emotions that left me bereft of any serenity or inner peace. I could never in the wildest of dreams imagine that the love of my life could be vulnerable enough to contract such diseases. She was always above material things like clothes and food. How could she have caught such a miserable plague?
The weeks that followed are very hazy; there was a lot of panic at home. She was incredibly calm – nerves of steel really. She didn’t have a lot of faith in the doctors’ in the city –‘ you never know about their motives or their competency’. She felt that if she had a shot at survival, it was in the cancer hospital in Bombay. Everybody in the family wasn’t happy with her decision. There were arguments and discussions. We didn’t have a support system in the city.
And yet, she insisted on going there. Once we landed there, there was an initial resistance to sit on a wheelchair. She felt that it was beneath her dignity to sit in one. Dignity. My mom was dignity personified. If she was outside the house, you wouldn’t find a hair out of place on her head.
And here we were, running through hospitals. Blurs of beeps, hundreds of people waiting to see doctors, people with deformities, and people from all strata of society. Brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, fathers, grandparents. If I close my eyes, I can picture the scenes. The noise, ashen-faced people crowding the corridors, pestering the receptionist – all of them waiting to go into the doctor’s room.
My mother had the cancer, which is the rarest of them all. A soft tissue leecher which crept and took her entire body and mind. Over her loving heart and soul through which she spread love to everybody around her. No, I’m not saying she was perfect. I guess everybody has their own glitches, their own cross to bear. So did she. You did not want to cross her path when she was angry. You would be blown to smithereens.
And this bloody cancer had no treatment. It couldn’t be mitigated nor could it be controlled. We could only wait and watch. It was like God had ensured that he wanted her for himself. And in the midst of all this, my mom, my dearest mom, was comforting me because I was howling and unable to stand any of it. She was more concerned about me than for herself. That’s who she was. My one and only.
More blurry scenes, she screaming at me to lose weight, making me swear on her to go for walks in the morning, of her not liking the way I made her soup, her annoyance at my golliwog like hair that I refused to tie, refusing to get up early, getting bored of lying on the bed next to her, me running away from the one person I loved with all my heart because I couldn’t bear to see her in that condition and because I was scared to face reality.
When people came over, I would be focused on them, and that hurt her. I knew it hurt her because I could see it in her eyes. And when she called out to me, I would snap back. When the pain increased, her patience went down. She would constantly be uneasy, wanted to be held and had trouble breathing. And I was still running away.
It came suddenly. The end. I had an inkling that it was coming. Only that I didn’t know it would come so soon. She made me promise every night that I would pray to god to give her peace. She needed respite from this misery. This kind of misery that no one in this world deserves. And I had to witness it every day and night. But do you know what is worse? She was the one who was suffering but withstood and I couldn’t even have the courage to help her through it.
One particularly painful evening, both of us were sitting next to each on the bed. The bedroom was dimly lit. I was trying to comfort her and I guess, failing miserably at it. And I remember when my tears started to flow and I started mumbling about how I was going to manage without her, what I do? She simply turned her head to look at me, so much pain in her eyes and yet so much love, cradled my chin in her hand and said ,’you’re my daughter, you will manage. I’ve taught you well.” This made me feel even worse. I was the one who she loved the most in the world and yet I failed her even when she needed me the most.
‘Do you think I’m a nice person, amma?’, I asked, tears flowing silently down my cheeks. I hugged her and she spoke softly, “ you’re very selfish beta, but everybody has to be like that now”. It felt as if a thousand knives pierced my flesh simultaneously in different locations. She told everyone who came to meet her, to take of me, her baby, her only unfinished business in this world.
The same night when I was taking her to the washroom, I lost my footing and she fell. She fell right before my eyes and I couldn’t do anything to prevent it. She must’ve got hurt badly but she didn’t breathe a word. She just sat looking at me, simply looking. But those eyes, those eyes said a million words. There was sadness, grief and so much hurt that even now my heart stings every time I think about it.
She had to be given strong sleeping pills to help her sleep a little. She hadn’t been sleeping for a month and over the few weeks, she could barely sleep two or three hours a night. That night, even with her medicine, she was restless. Her eyes were fluttering and her hand was moving and she was mumbling incoherently. I tried to hold her hand but she pushed my hand away. She kept on mumbling, ‘ you let me fall….’
She never woke up from that restless sleep.
And I here I am now, battling with these demons who’ve made my head their home. They’ve taken it upon themselves to make me feel guilty, horrible and pathetic at intervals. It’s been 4 months now but it just gets worse with each passing day.
‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.…’ Act V Scene I Shakespeare’s Macbeth
How does one cope with the grief of losing someone so close? Do you ever come out of it? I don’t know. Time does heal wounds but not completely. I guess when you go through stormy periods and when you emerge from them, you’re not the same person. Something inside you changes forever. It is the same with me. I laugh and yet don’t feel happy. I dance and yet feel nothing.
Crying helps greatly but it is definitely an exercise for self-pity. I cry not because she’s sad, I cry because I am sad. She’s very happy in heaven, surrounded by puppies and people who really love her. I cry for myself about how I am going to cope with her loss.
I miss her. I miss her so very much. But nothing I do will bring her back. She wanted me to lose weight and I’m still hogging on anything I can lay my hands on. She wanted me to study and work hard and I’m still avoiding my books. It’s almost like I never learn. If I loved her enough, I would’ve done what she expected of me but I still don’t.
It’s taken me a very long time to finally get down to writing my thoughts, even thought they might be muddled and unstructured. It does make you feel better, getting certain things out of your system. But these demons still continue to pester me…….