Saturday, May 08, 2021 

Someone You Loved

"Well, we were born a few months apart, classmates, her mother died as she was born, and my father was dead by the time I was born. I was always the one getting things done, but she had the ideas".

"My mother, she only remembered the jamun episode.

So she convinced the boys in our Class 1B that if they were real men, they would climb up the forbidden jamun tree behind the school and fill up our metal lunch box with the berries. I was convinced they just picked up fallen fruit, but she said we could wash the mud off. 

So I hid the box, and sometime when it was dark, I snuck out. The entire street was related anyway, an agraharam. So I went to her place and she was waiting. She was always afraid of going alone. We slid out the door and sat on the low wall of the well at the end of the street. We ate the overripe jamuns, and rejoiced in our adventure. But then she didn't want to go back alone into the house. So I snuck in again with her. And then she clutched at me. It was dark and she didn't want to be alone.  So I leaned against a pillar, and she lay down, burrowing into my pavadai, the long skirt. I combed her hair with my fingers and held one of her hands and soothed her ... and we both slept. 

So my mother wakes up in the morning, and notices me missing. More puzzled than alarmed, she looks about the house, and comes out - to see my slippers at their doorstep. She came in, and saw me sitting and dozing, and the other drooling all over my clothes. She came and gave both of us a shake. Just dozing, I said. And she said yes, we woke early to study. My mother just nodded . Wash the juice off your faces and hands, she said. And is that your lunch tin ? See that you wash it in time for school."

" For me, I keep remembering the eighth grade, when we both would discuss about the people we would marry. We knew we would be married soon, at 16 if we were lucky or sooner. 

We both decided we would marry out, not in the network of extended family and friends that extended in the agraharam here and in the half a dozen other places, or even as far as Hyderabad and other places. She said she'd grown up listening to how babies had their father's eyes and grandfather's nose and looks and stuff. She liked none of the people she saw, she said. She didn't want her babies looking that way. She was always vain.

We decided that our kids, if daughters, would be named after each other. So we would always love them. If  I had a boy, he was to be named after her husband, she said. So that she could call out the name, and pinch the kid and hit  him when she felt like it. What ? We were thirteen then. 

You ? No, you were not the first kid. And you were properly named according to the stars, not given her husband's name. What was he called  ? Why would you bother ? I tell you you weren't named after him. 

OK fine, your nickname was .... but she always treated you well. Poor chap had died by the time she came to visit, you see."

 "What did she remember most ? Well, it was essentially me showing off.  We would write to each other in secret, see ? So she told her people she had to go to Tirupati. A promise to the god. With only her kid. I convinced your dad to fund her ticket. Madras to Bangalore, seven and a half rupees one way in the bus. 

She visited me in Bangalore. To see how I had set up an independent house, not in a joint family. I showed off how I was cooking and cleaning and washing and the total mistress of my own, independent place. 

The last time we spoke, she was still describing her awe on that visit. To see me run a household! She spoke of her fear that she'd never be able to be that organised, that... grown up!"

"Of course we haven't spoken for years. You don't stop loving though. You just love differently. 

My mother always saw her as a 5 year old kid with juice smeared over her face.

I always remember her dancing eyes. Describing how she'd call my kid by her husband's name, add cuss words, and pinch. Get her vengeance on the as yet unknown husband for crimes to be determined.

And she remembered my grown up face as I showed her my kitchen.

See ? We all loved different people. And they stayed with us, though their originals moved out of our lives.

I only felt sad she was alone at the end though. She was always afraid of being alone.I would have held her hand and combed her hair and let her sleep on my lap. She shouldn't have been alone. 

No, I'm not crying. Why would I ? At this age, we are all waiting for an excuse to die. This new thing as good a reason as any. And I told you. She is still talking about her future husband to me, whenever I think of her. And her babies, her plans for them.  All I say is, she shouldn't have been alone, and she probably wasn't. She just had to think of me. And so I am not crying."


And so it goes, all you lovely people. The ones who have moved on, the ones who have moved out. You're all still here. And I talk to you often. And in these times, I remember the affection and the laughter and the sheer joy that comes when there is a connection. The songs and the stories, the jokes and the poems.

And then I'm never alone.