Losing a mother is like losing a part of you. For you were once a part of her, you see. It’s looking at the veins at the back of your hands and realising how similar they are to hers. It’s unconsciously humming a song you don’t even like, and remembering that she did the same when she came out of the shower and went straight to the thakur ashon to offer nokul dana, jol and dhoop (with a towel still wrapped around her hair). It’s picking up a brown nail polish at the shops, and keeping it back…because brown was her favourite colour (and nail polish her favourite indulgence).
It’s also losing a part of your identity, because nobody knows those minute details from your childhood like she did. One may know how you got that scar on your forehead, but only she can tell you how tight you held her hand at the doctor’s during the stitches (and begged for an ice-cream, specifically in a cone, later). An aunt or a neighbour may tell you how unique your dresses were, but only she can tell you how she bought the fabric and lace from that corner shop in New Market, and had it made as per her specific design at the Ladies Fancy tailoring shop.
It’s been four months and six days since I lost Ma. Well-wishers have suggested that I take the time to grieve. Friends have advised that I should write about my thoughts. But I didn’t know how to. What words could capture something that was so intense, and yet hidden in the most mundane things? How do I explain the sudden anxiety in the middle of the night, when I realise I haven’t called her that day? Or when I ask my eight-year-old to pose in her new dress, so that I can send the photo to Dida? Grief, you regular yet random, fleeting yet constant thing…how will I ever capture you in words?
Grief is like a filter. It casts a different layer to every occasion – happy or sombre. It changes the colour of memories. It makes the happiest of them slightly damp. It leaves every present moment only a tad bit incomplete. The little achievements….the proud milestones…the joyful moments…almost perfect, but never quite. It’s not a moment in time. It’s a way of life. The life before a loss….and the life after.
And this was my first Mahalaya in my life after. Mahalaya – the day, the feeling, the smell, the sounds! All changed forever…yet again after 20yrs (since Baba breathed his last). The first time when the significance of the day was more in the Tarpan than in the Chandipath. The first time when the feeling of “Ma aar nei” was stronger than “Ma asche…”.