The Mother

Oscars. Red carpet. Elizabeth. Vanity Fair Party, squeezing through. Frenzied media. Who’s this guy in the Maharaja dress ? Better take his picture just in case someone pays for it. Elton John’s party. Excuse me, did I step on your Prada shoes ? Oops, sorry, did I spill my drink on your dress as I was trying to sqeeze past ? Where’s the bathroom please. Who am I ? What’s this attention all about ? How did I get lucky ? Did I get lucky ?

Ah, the peculiar pungent smell of Bombay at night. Hits you every time you step off the plane. Drying fish competing with the hot humid smell of of 15 million human beings.
I need to walk. I need to breathe. I need to be grounded. I need to squash the hype.
Walking alone 2 am. Down Marine Drive. Leaning over the railway bridge at Charni Road. Families huddled together, sleeping next to the tracks. Exhausted from the toils of the day’s labour. Or from beggng. No sleeping pills here.
Sound of laughter and singing, a few odd aggresive voices. The kind of threatening voices that send a slight shot of adranaline through your system. Your eyes impassive. Ready. There they were squatting in the middle of the road. Young men. Homeless. Drinking. Eating. Gambling. Laughing. And threatening. Like a tinder box. Knives would flash if ignited. Perhaps even country made revolvers.
Singing too, suprisingly haunting. Some rural voice, hoarse and full of pain peppered by laughter. Of loved ones left behind, never to be seen again.
And there she was. Young. Beautiful and graceful even in her torn and worn sari. . Even younger than some of the men. Unafraid of the supressed violence. Shouting at them sometimes. Digging her hand in the large worn alluminium pot, and bringing out handfuls of a mixture of rice and lentils. Slopping down the dripping contents on the days newspapers laid out directly on the tarred road. Even as she forcibly shoved handfuls of food into the protesting mouths of the young men far preffering to drink and gamble,
One of the the men looked at me.
Hey, You !
The observer suddenly became the observed. The stranger had been stripped naked. All eyes threateningly on me.
“I know who you are. You can either stand there and stare, or you can come and drink with us”.
An invitation or a threat ? I sat. Tasting the food. Watery. The odd vegetable and the crunch of not fully cooked lentils. But the warm familiar comfort of rice in the mouth.
Don’t drink the water ! Sip the country brew politely. It’s safer.
A young man arrived. So drunk he could barely walk. Thin and scrawny. His sparse clothes slipping off him. Drawn face, like the city had sucked life out of him. He sat down, eyes averted and downcast. Not daring to meet the young woman’s gaze. She stared directly at him. Eyes blazing.
And then she attacked him. Ferociously. Slapping him. Even as he went down, sobbing as he tried to avert her blows. His sobs turned into wails. They all watched the spectacle impassively. Not one interfered. The young man ams reached out to her, his wails coming now in pain racked sobs. The sounds of loneliness and abandonment.
She softened. Touched his cheek, and gently brought his head to her lap. He gave in and buried his head in her. Still wailing as she tried to pour some food in his mouth. Still chiding him, while she cradled him like a baby.
Dawn was breaking when I left. Less than sober.
She lived alone. In something that coud possibly pass as hut just under the bridge by the railway tracks. Young men re-built it every time the slum lords took it down. They protected her. She cooked for them. Worried about them. Fussed about them. She was the constant nagging presence that once was home. An eon ago for those that had migrated to the streets.
No one knew where she came from. Or even when. For no one stayed long enough to find out, moving from one street to another. I asked her what the name of the poor young man was. She did not know. She called all them all her ‘Baccha’s”. Her children. He came to this street two weeks ago, but spent all his time drinking. That made her angry.
‘Somebody has to look after him’
Not one of the young men called her by her name. They all called her ‘Maa”. Mother.
‘Accha Maa, ab main chalta hoon’ I had said as I was leaving.
(Ok, mother, I had better be going)
‘Phir zaroor ana’ Said the young woman” Tum bhi mere Bacche ho’
(‘Come agan, you are also my child’)

23 thoughts on “The Mother

  1. amazing…beautiful…to know that such a person exists…now don’t you think the media ought to be covering something like this rather than what someone wore to a party…but i guess it’s better this way…why? thats anyones guess…anyways sir i must say u r a brilliant person not 2 possess such biases as those possessed by almost everyone…and thanks for relating this incident it truly is heartwarming.

  2. dudeeeeeeeeeee
    How are u?
    i finally saw The Four Feathers!
    i saw it twice… because first time i had to like it because its ur film. ( i am a hard nut to crack when it comes to personal choices, likings etc.)
    then i saw it again. Second time i found it like a flat beer inspite of tons of fantabulous points. Over all effect was not that fulfilling the way i feel every time i see Masoom or Elizabeth. ( this is a very personal opinion of mine)
    for now i can recall one point where i missed the whole link with the charachter is that the introduction about the FOUR feathers comes immediately after the titles. and then directly the charachter gets the FOUR feathers.
    i have a very common mass IQ when i am watching a film, so i felt i would have related more with the FOUR feather insult if you would have established it with some solid underlining montage. Just by saying it in TITLEs i was not able to relate with the INSULT. ( may be british audiences must have liked it…it was too regional or local emotion and hence distant for me…)
    there are more points i would like share with you but for now i have to get back to writing. ( its better than SEX…hahaha… isnt it! )
    take care…LOTS of LOVE…kedar
    PS: sorry for being irrelevant. The story of The Mother is fantastic. i felt like i am reading a synopsis of Indian Short Story Version ( better one) of ‘The City of God’…! What the hell i am saying…i need to rush back to my wirting…love…tata…

  3. Lu, I am looking to share ? I am looking to express myself ? And like the drunk young man, I am looking to bury my head in the comfort of a caring lap ? Are we all not somehow trying to overcome the longing we feel inside. But is the longing more a longing for something higher ? You are asking me for an answer that I do not know> shekhar

  4. Hi shekhar,
    oh man I miss Bombay I cannot wait to go back, I can feel the adranaline rushing across my spine I can taste the half cooked lentils, I can taste the tharra (country brew) I can smell the smell of bombay. aahhh.
    I love New york & LA, but My heart and my soul is in Bombay and tonight you brought me a little closer to home thank you.
    You can take a Bombay boy out of Bombay
    You cannot take Bombay out of the boy.
    (and yes I still like to call my beloved city Bombay not Mumbai)
    Take care,

  5. hi!!
    This is the first time i’m leaving a comment in your blog,though i have been reading it quite regularly.
    Story of “The mother” tells me how great film directors like u get plot for their movies.Taking a stroll on a lonely cold night, peeping thru the windows,chit chat with aam aadmi.Good things are all around u.The way one says it makes the difference so much so that it leaves an indelible moments in our minds.And u r so good at it.What say,Director??

  6. Hey Shekhar,
    Its is so simple and clear, so real but still so beautiful. U ended the story in shekhar style, many questions unanswered, questions which have to be explored by every individual to go deeper within himself, so as to connect himself to the higher position of nature.
    Shekhar, somehow i felt that no matter wht we do,no matter how hard we strive, there will always be some ammount of insecurity within us, Why is it not possible to find comfort whithin…why are we conditioned to be scared of the emptyness n the feeling of being nothing…though on thinking level we can try and understand that we are born as a individual n we shall die alone, and so should we learn to be alone with ourself, make peace with ourself and perform our duties to the best of our abilities. But when it comes to experiencing we runaway from ourself or u can say we look for the comfort love N affection outside….
    Why shekhar, why???

  7. Hi Shekhar,
    just to say that I will be back reading and writing next week–life has become a vortex of deadlines and commitments (not always fun); I feel stressed out and I miss the soul nurturing that I get from your blog. Right now i cannot focus on the possible answers we all seek–maybe one is that we need a balance and a spiritual contact.

  8. People need to have a decent livelihood in their villages so they don’t migrate to the cities only to suffer so much again. This whole world suffers from an unequal distribution of wealth. Our inherent greediness and insecurity has prevented us from something so simple as sharing.
    You’re quite the rebel!
    Very inspired, from the guts and very heart-warming. Thank you for sharing. I sincerly pray for happiness for Ma and her children.

  9. Hey Shekhar,
    Please get into reality. The Asian or India will never dominate the entertainment business.Who buys tickets to movies , people between 20 and 35…YOUNG AND ALIVE AND FULL OF ANGER/FRUSTRATIONS AND FASINATIONS WITH WHAT IS FUN AND EASY AND VIOLENT.
    SO PLEASE if you are not a hotshot executive in Hollywoood, I don’t know who will buy tickets to your movie. JUST remember every real talent directors , not producers or writers come out of hollywood…THEY WILL SHAKE THE FOUNDATION…AND HOLLYWOOD will set the standard for the world to copy.

  10. an observation..
    i suppose.. the world is being balanced due to these two types of people.. one seeking care.. and the other who takes care..
    the minimalistic lively roadside slums.. they consist of the accomplishments of the basic human needs to be ‘alive’.. non-plasticized faces.. the people who r not afraid of being themselves..
    the mother stated in the story is almost GOD.. taking care of people around for no reason what..taking care of strangers too..
    there r many who see this but very few who understand the need for caring love of the other person..
    this story seems like a picture.. well coloured with the vibrant emotions.. which will keep on flashing whenevr eyes will want to rest in a caring lap..

  11. Dear Shekharji,
    You are quite observatory and able to touch the softest part of the heart which is untrodden and after going through the story the blood starts guzzing in the veins rapidly.
    You might be coming across so many such instances in your day to day life. In fact, each one of us might be; but some knowingly divert the eyes beacuse of something disliking or unable to reach out.
    I may without your permission ask you a question. Shekharji, what do you do when you see the people around whom you can help by showing love, respect, affection. As because even i feel lot of pain when see needy people.
    Like to share lots and lots with your kind self, but at the same time having a feeling of matter of time allotment from your side.
    I will be surely glad if u would give me a chance or even a small little comment on my comment. Thanks and Best Regards.

  12. Dear Sir,
    You are genius. Nothing can be more said. I am Stunned. You are awesome Sir.
    Gaurav Shah.

  13. dear shekhar uncle,
    wonderful story (the mother). your ability to delicately paint a scene, while throwing the reader in the deep end of emotion, is simply brilliant. remain natural and, always remember, if you love it, it’s lovely.

  14. Dear Shekhar,
    “the Mother” is a beautifully written ode to the eternal mother in all women. But there are also fathers out there who deserve all the love we can give to them. Here is my story:
    My father.
    When the phone call came from Germany on this gray winter morning a few days past Christmas 1990 and my sister had uttered the ominous words I knew that our father would soon leave us. The words fell like a hammer, there was a finality to them that left no room for a sliver of hope: pancreatic cancer. This was a cancer with a reputation for swiftness and a survival rate of virtually nil. Neither my sister nor myself had the courage to break the dreaded news to him or for that matter to our mother. We made them understand that the pancreas had been seriously inflamed with the possibility of a malignancy developing. Only later did it become clear to me that my father was in on this white lie almost from the word go. It was my mother who was the most vulnerable who steadfastly refused to face the inevitable truth. Later when the denial stage had slowly been traversed, even by her, did my father drop hints that he had known all along and that he had wandered the house during night hours in crushing pain trying not to wake her lest she would finally get a glimpse of the horrible reality.
    Early in May, 4 months after the diagnosis, I had flown to Germany to be with both of them and on an achingly beautiful day when I had taken them to a mountain resort in the Alps I walked with my mother through fields of flowers and made it clear to her that her mate of 60 years was very close to leaving her. It was liberating for both of us to be at long last free of all pretense, deceit and self-deception. The road was clear and straight and could now be walked with dignity, the eyes didn’t have to be averted anymore. At that moment my mother must have entered her grieving phase, and ultimately her strength had become our strength as well. Her tenderness towards my father was touching, they still kissed like two lovers as though the years of toil and struggle had not interfered with their love for each other.
    It was during that visit that I wanted my father to talk about his childhood days and those horrible 6 years when he was a soldier in World War II. How did children cope in an era when fathers in Germany had to be addressed in a stilted and formal manner, when one’s own father was an alcoholic and one’s own mother had died of consumption, a disease whose progress was hastened by bad nutrition or, more brutally put, by starvation. Almost shyly my father told me that there was never enough food in the house and that his mother in her final year at the age of 36 wanted the 8-year-old boy to sleep in her room on a cot to discourage my grand father from forcing himself on her when he came home, usually late at night in a drunken stupor. This was a moment when I wanted to cry.
    There was one more thing I just needed to know. How did he stay sane during those six years of war. He told me that my mother never stopped begging him in her letters to him
    on the Russian front to aim high when shooting at the enemy. “They also have wives and mothers”, she told him “who would be heartbroken”. He chuckled at the memory that he always had to chew and swallow the stationery for fear of being found out to be a defeatist. He did follow her advice though; he just wasn’t cut out to kill, no one needed to remind him of that.
    The night before I flew back to New York I played chess with him, the last time, barely four weeks before he left us. He urged me to go all out and not feel sorry for him. He didn’t want to win because I let him win. I assured him that I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, him being weakened or not, I was playing to win. It did not happen, he was just too good, his illness had not diminished his skills.
    On a sunny morning in June I received a frantic call from my sister that our dad had slipped into a coma and would I please come fast. I flew out the same day and rushed straight to the hospital where he had been for his final week. There, in front of the hospital my sister waited for me to tell me that incredibly he had come out of his coma and had asked for me. After my father and I hugged and exchanged our silent “I love you” half an hour later he slipped back into a coma. That last night the hospital had put a cot into his room for me and aside of a few exhausted naps I sat at his bed and looked at those loving hands of his, hands that had held us, had always been strong and gentle. His face was at peace and all I could do was to sporadically moisten his tongue and spray some mist into his mouth that was slightly ajar, to avoid dehydration.
    At 6 in the morning the nurse entered the room and called out to my father a “Good morning Mr. Vollmann”. At that very moment he made a loud, almost relieved sigh
    that to me sounded like he came out of a good night’s sleep. But it was his final sigh. An eerie 20 seconds passed when one more time he took a short jerky breath and then fell silent. I looked at his neck where I could see in slowly decreasing frequency his heartbeat until there was no motion any longer. At that moment there was no place on this planet I would have rather been but right there at his side.

  15. You have brought tears to my eyes ..when I read this ..this reaction was instant of mine.
    when I was just browsing ..had no way to reply you that time but i put it down somwhere on notepad.
    But now finally got time to post it.
    Well you are so full of life but still trying to explore the lonely man inside.
    i think u r lucky…that you are all set to find the outer world sooo deeply.Good going shekhar!

  16. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  17. Hi ! 😉
    My name is Piter Kokoniz. Just want to tell, that your posts are really interesting
    And want to ask you: what was the reasson for you to start this blog?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you:)
    Your Piter

  18. Do you honestly walk by these streets to experience this?? It almost sounded like a short story you drafted there. Sorry to sound so doubtful… Fables, really do come from real life experiences from people who have cared to look around right???

  19. I know it’s fiction, but it raises a question in me, what did you do for this mother ?? Simply walked off as u got another subject to jot dwn a short story. atleast for me it sounds better if u had ended the story saying that you walked off silently

  20. I’m truly impressed along together with your writing abilities effectively with the structure in your weblog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the good quality writing, it’s uncommon to look an excellent weblog like this 1 nowadays.

  21. Dear Shekhar ji
    You painted this so beautifully that it looks like the real. I can see the madness and this madness makes you extraordinarily creative and different from others. You are AMAZING!! I hope one day I may get a chance to touch your feet. I love to read and spend time on your blog. Please add some more stories.


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