Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Distance makes the heart grow fonder?

Packing my last piece of garment into my suitcase, my head moved sideways with my 

pupils shifting gaze to the entire length of the wooden almirah. A handkerchief or a piece 

of toiletry left behind would be duly returned to me on my next visit with a scolding by 

mom. A scolding accompanied with a twist of my ear and a reminder that I was no longer 

a little girl. I never was.

I couldn’t bathe in the luxury of a childhood. Before the last embers burnt to ashes, I had 

donned the trilby of a patriarch and the trappings that came with the title. Responsibility 

was my middle name.

The paid holiday of two fortnights was an annual indulgence which I concluded it to be of 

avian species that flew away with the bat of an eyelid. My short tresses would be 

pampered with a home-made herbal oil concoction easing the accumulated corporate 

stress.  I was treated to an array of gastronomical delights cooked on slow fires under 

Ma's watchful supervision, a far cry from the monotonous urban canteens and cheap


I and my little sibling walked into the woods and waded into vernal waters hand-in-hand.

As my luggage was loaded into the tonga, my posture bent down to touch the wrinkled 

feet. Her trembling hands clasped my shoulders to raise me and I melted into her warm 

embrace. I held her tightly to dig my tears into her cotton sari which absorbed my 


“Take care, Ma”, soft words churned from my throat.

“I am not so helpless, Anjali”, a fusillade of salty pouring added to the melancholy. Her 

grief and helplessness were camouflaged in her uttering.

“When will you come again?” fully knowing my itinerary.

“Soon”, I heard myself say, aware that the monosyllable implied a time gap of 24 

fortnights. This enquiry had become a annual ritual.

“Didiiiiiiiiiii, you will miss your train”, neighed the voice from the tonga.

                          Image result for Indian tonga

(Indian tonga. Google pic)

Geeta had left a generous space for me to be seated beside her in the mode of 

transportation. With one strong hand she pulled me inside the horse-cart to foist my body 

under the awning. The waving of the hands continued till the bend of the road swallowed 

my Ma out of sight.

I and my sibling had a long way to travel.

The hoofs of the animal echoed the rhythmic pattern in a sing-song manner to rock the 

cart. Our bodies swayed in unison. The rough disheveled road added to the woes. 

“Ma looks frail”,  with concern in my voice.

Geeta nonchalantly rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders.

The hills adjoining the road showed subtle signs of ageing with crevices. The trees on the 

hills seemed to keep each other at arm’s distance. Not all seems to be in good health.

“Her tongue develops a sweet coat with your arrival. You haven’t tasted her bitter words, 


It was my turn to roll my eyes but I widened them.

“Remember what she has gone through, Gee”. This was my way of addressing her.

“And do you have any idea how I suffer under her, didi?”

“Ma is a blanket of love”.

“At times this love suffocates me. Didi, I have no rights or privacy. She demands to know 

the details of my friends. Going for a sleepover is out of question. Is there anyone to 

question you?”

“Gee, she dotes on you. Every right comes with a baggage of duty and responsibility. Do 

you know how much I miss her warmth and your company, Gee, in the far-flung Mumbai? 

The thought of coming back home and to my family keeps my heart ticking”. I almost 

sermon-ed my little sibling.

With an extra velvety gentleness I asked if Gee would like to trade places with me.

Abdul Chacha , the tonga-driver lashed the whip on the Sona’s body. Gee 's body shivered.

“Quicken the pace of your hooves, Sona (horse)” , and Abdul Chacha was privy to our 

exchange of words.

Gee and I were locked in a loving embrace, my last query having dissolved her rebellious 


We said our good-byes to each other.

Me and my luggage entered the train. 

The metallic monster chugged out of the station. From the rectangular window frame, 

the distant hills looked verdant, devoid of any cracks and in salubrious health. I smiled. 

The train of my thoughts continued with my journey..........

Notes :-

Almirah - Wooden wardrobe.

Hindus cremate the dead. Later the ashes and bones are immersed into the waters.

Indian youngsters bend down and touch the feet of elders as a mark of respect and to 

seek blessings.

Didi - elder sister.

Tonga- Indian horse-drawn cart 

Chacha - Uncle , addressed with respect.

Sona - name of the horse.

This is a piece of fiction.