I make a lot of jokes about death. And I find myself with my mother, my unconditional support, dead. This happened last Sunday and there are a ton of questions unanswered.
My mother used to chide me like everyone whenever I used to talk about my impending death. For example, I used to say that she should not spend too much of her salary in case I die and am not being able to provide for her in her old age. Or when I used to use my impending death as a crutch for not doing some household chore: “we all will die anyway so it does not matter.”. Or that I want to donate my organs after my death. Or… for well anything related about my death, she had the constant reaction: clicking of tongue, “haye haye Annu”, “Don’t talk rubbish” or anything on the same lines disregarding the actual content of what I said.
You can say I was a rebel of sort breaking taboos of society but even I had lines. I never discussed my mother’s death in front of her. It was a strict no-no because she herself felt that she will die any moment from the plethora of diseases that she had contracted and I did not want to encourage that notion anyhow. For us (me and my sister), she was simply invincible. She had serious health problems but every time she used to bounce back. She was a workhorse juggling office, home and music classes at the age of 55. Moreover, she used to hide her health problems on phone or used to exaggerate them too much depending on her mood. So we simply got into the habit of not taking her health problems seriously. I feel sadness spread through me thinking of this now but it is what it is.
Ultimately, it was high blood pressure that took down. She had a brain haemorrhage on the first of this month and was in coma for the next ten days till her body gave up. It has been a very life-altering journey since all this happened and this diary entry exists as a reminder. Let me start chronologically to keep it sane.
I got a call from my mother’s music teacher on Thursday (1 Sep) afternoon. He only told me that my mother was weak. I thought she was simply low on energy and needed assistance to reach home. I honestly did not feel any panic. But concern took over because I could not decide who could go pick my mother up. I was in Bangalore, my sister was in Germany and my mother was in Delhi. I called my father. He was home (lives with my mother) but tried to evade having to go to my music teacher. His excuses: he had to go to office and then that it was raining. This simply shows an utter lack of caring but he went anyway due to shame and picked up my mother from her music teacher’s house.
He still reached hospital too damn late. He took a car which got stuck in traffic jams at places. Then, he had to find the teacher’s house. And then he took an hour in front of hospital stuck in jam outside emergency. Mind you, my mother had went from minor headache to talking incoherently to vomiting to fainting all this while. And my father was standing outside hospital with my mother fainted, waiting for the cars to clear!
I feel so helpless when I realize that my mother was in the hands of a deadbeat husband who cared nothing about her well-being. That he only went to hospital because my maternal uncle told him so when my father called him. That he cared more about money than about my mother’s health when her health insurance was running out and my father had to put in actual money from his end running into lakhs; he had actually declared in the last days of my mother that the hospital was looting us and that my mother was already dead. My sister had flown to Delhi by then and was running from pillar to post so that my mother can be shifted to a hospital like AIIMS (the number one hospital in India). Thus, my father did not really matter for my mother’s health at that point but he was a liability for my sister nonetheless (I was back in Bangalore saving my holidays because coma takes very long recovery and we siblings had decided to split the care required).
But it is not like we did not fail my mother. She had a lot of ailments and we had stopped caring after a while about the minor ones. Or even the major ones at times. None of us took her blood pressure seriously. While my sister and I were rummaging through her plethora of papers, we found a bill saying she had insanely high blood pressure about 10 days before the brain haemorrhage happened. She never told us! Why, I wonder. As I say, my mother is no more and there are so many open ends that it hurts.
It is just a series of inactions that doomed my mother. She was a very soft-hearted but determined woman. She would kill to protect us children. But we children did not realize that my mother was increasingly ill. We were staying away from her and she used to be so full of energy when we met her that I attributed her problems to her loneliness. Thus, I used to call her daily and talk to her (skipping a day here and there). But despite wanting to give her worldly comforts, her health never figured. Itas a big blind spot.
So what do we have now? My mother is no more and my sister and I are combing through our house looking for my mother’s documents and poems and little stuff here and there. We both have realized that my mother was our home. She was the only person who made me come to Delhi. Now my family just boils to my sister. It feels incredibly lonely when I chew on that fact. I cannot even understand the full implications of it. I have just started my job and, in fact, I had got my first salary just a day before the haemorrhage. My mother was so happy, that she had gone and bought jewellery for herself first time in over a decade. She finally felt free of responsibilities.
And now I find myself choked and on the verge of tears thinking of the fact that she could not live the days that she truly deserved. I am writing this piece so that my children get to know me, like we find ourselves searching through our mother’s belongings and looking for clues about her life after we had left home 2-3 years ago. But then I just started remembering my mother and it is a sinkhole. The more I think, the more I regret.
I am in Delhi for two more weeks. So many rituals, so much paperwork, so much packing so that we need not ever return to Delhi. I have learnt a lot: to value time, to value health, to value people. I cannot jeopardize the career that my mother so painstakingly made for me. But then the feeling of “sab moh maya hai” has taken a grip inside me. Since everyone is going to die, why am I pouring hours upon hours into a mundane career that will not matter anyway? It feels a willful travesty of time. These demons are the gifts that September ’16 has gifted me with.
It is 5:00 AM now and I need to wake up in 2 hours to perform rituals that I do not believe in. So I should try to get some sleep now.
Good bye, everyone.
Good bye, Mother.