"He named me Ram.."
"Yes, he named you Ram.."
"Who can accept a 'Ram' amongst us, Ammi! Didn't he think of all the controvercies, disapprovals and objections from the society? I mean, he was a clever man.. Could've avoided all that chaos, couldn't he?"
"there was nothing to think, your Abbu followed his heart. Without a doubt. Always." I wonder sometimes how Ammi reciprocates Abbu's determination with the same intensity. She adjusted her glasses and said, "He was ready to face what all that followed his decisions."
"But.. his decisions affect you too, he should've considered that atleast.. Why and how could he make you suffer with him!"
"That's never been a problem to me, Ram.. He knew I am with him, whatever happens, whatever he chooses. Suffering is not so painful. He treated us as one, we were one. You cannot blame him for not considering me, he was always a caring person. Used to love us all.. And he knew I won't doubt his choices. The realization that he thought this way makes me feel happier still. Soulmates aren't that easy to find in reality", said Ammi. Looking upwards, she said, "I am blessed." She held that orange thread in her hand, she had it for quite a while now. Se used to murmur prayers at it every now and then and kept turning it while talking..
"Don't you want to ask something from the tree for you, Ram?"
"I wish I could find someone who'd be with me, the way you've been with Abbu.. Through the bright and the dark. Through all that came upon.. You were there, by his side, all the time. Where'd I find such girl!"
"Well, I must warn you, you won't find one. You're setting out to find a girl with an expectation list in hand! Your Abbu did not expect anything from me Ram.. He tought me to believe, 'cause he himself believed in me first.. That time, we hardly had even seen each other before getting married, and yet he was sure, we'd be together in the journey newly begun. Our world was small, and thus made us stay close. He was a wise man, very broad minded for his age and social situation. You know Ram, he never forced me to do annything in our life..
"What?.. Didn't you just smile, Ram?" Mothers are like that, while they're talking, your gestures are caught, however minor the gestures and however bleary their visions are.
"You said our 'life', Maa", I observed the singular address to 'their life' that she made and quickly added to not break her link, "continue.."
"It's the same difference son", said Ammi and added, "We were one. I was free, He never treated me like I was bound to him.. Other men from our time used to treate their wives like servents, like they own them.. While your Abbu respected me, as a woman, as an independent individual. He was so kind all the time.. It made the little sufferings in life easier to bear.. He expected a lot less, he gave a lot more. If unknowingly, I hurt him, he'd forgive so easily! Sometimes, his forgiving nature used to increase the intensity of my repentance."
"You make me feel, like, he was God to you.."
She said, "Was he not?" She took off her glasses, made a vain attempt to clean them and put them on again. Her glasses have so many scratches now, I wonder how blurred would 'clear' be for her these days. As I hadn't answered, she smiled to see me fight with my confusion.
Ammi's patient smile sends turbulence in my thoughts sometimes. I wanted to unsolve the mystery. What is it that makes me feel, like, Mother knows Abbu. She knows him more. I was confused while thinking about an answer to her question. He was, was he..?
"But then, he treated us all like that only.. He never discriminated Ariana from me, for being a girl.. He never asked me to do anything for him.. He didn't scold me even when I broke that quill he used to write with for whole life! He just said, "it was aged anyway".. These things are so much what we expect or get from God, don't we? Why don't I feel the way you do..?" I was determined to know now, what was the difference in our perception of the same person.
"You feel what you want to feel, Son. Believe more." said Ammi calmly.
With that I went down the memory lane.. How Abbu never promised us anything. He used to tell us that each of our words should be our promise. He tried his best every time he assured us of anything he'd do for us. I remember once he told me he'll buy a red rakhi for Ariana to tie on my hand on Rakshabandhan, because I wanted to look like my other school mates. But he'd come home without a rakhi as the vendors refused to give him Rakhi.. He did not eat anything that day and I could hear his deep, pathetic sniffs all the night long..
Abbu was a man who has imprints. He was a commoner, yet his face resembled the spark you see in those freedom fighters, great warriors, businessmen who came from the darkness and wrote their own fate. Somehow, Abbu always had an image in my mind, of the Lion. One that knows when to roar. My Aslan. My Mufasa. People respected him and connected with him so quickly, one couldn't tell for how short a period they knew my father!
"I don't remember if there was any day Abbu didn't invite someone home.. Anyone he met, he liked or someone who liked him.. He used to bring them over for lunch, tea or dinner.. There was no time limit to when people would come at our place, and no one left without food! No matter in what number they came, I never saw you complain about it! They used to discuss so many things, sing and listen to music till late.. Ammi, didn't you ever get tired of this continuous presence of outsiders?"
"For him, all were 'our' people, Ram.. And those days, a person could not be trouble when called 'our'. I am lucky", she smiled and added, "it's hard to be able to welcome so many new people in one life, child.."
"And they belonged to so many different cultures, religions, tribes! He even brought some wandering gypsy people home once, you remember 'Anna'?"
Shifting back to the nostalgic expressions with a deep sigh Ammi started mumbling, "Anna.. Yes, I remember his family.. His wife gave me her marble earrings that day.. they were wanderers to others, but they seemed to be so much at peace.. your Abbu saw water in their eyes, earth in their lips and happiness in their hearts. He told me, they are children of nature.. Free souls, he called them.. Those who do not build houses on the ground, but build homes in people's hearts.. He was right, wasn't he? Their memories remind me of your Abbu's presence even more.." She breathed deep again..
"Ammi, while talking about Abbu, you use past tense but talk as if he were not really gone.. As if he's still here, amongst us.. As if you could still talk to him and he cud listen to every word all the time.."
"There are no 'as if's for me.. I know that he's no more. And it doesn't keep me from believing, in my truth." So it was her truth! She believed in Abbu so much, that he never seized to exist for her. He lives all the while..
She smiled and tied a knot to the orange thread so that the great tree of miracles will one day fulfill her wish. She closed her eyes while chanting a silent prayer and with a sigh she said, "I've been Waiting for long now.."