Subha Manoj

While I Was Away

Subha Manoj

I will be your tail…always.

“Where is your tail today, Aunty?” asked the shop keeper to the lady in her early 50s.
Behind her, holding the end of her saree stood a little girl of 6. The little girl peeped out
and gave a toothless smile to the shopkeeper. The tail… would always be right
The lady and the little girl had to cross a dry drain. The little girl was scared to jump
across. The lady said, “Come, I will hold you. With a bag of vegetables in one
hand, grocery in the other and a dangling scared little girl attached to her
waist, hey ho! She jumped. No one knows how it happened, but the next moment
the little girl, the lady and all the bags were strewn in the drain. What
followed were giggles and peals of laughter. But not before the lady double
checked every body part of the little girl.
“I think something is stuck in her food pipe. Doctor, please check properly.” The doctor
smiled yet again at the lady. This was not the first time she had complained
about her granddaughter’s erratic eating habits. “She is fine Aunty. She is
just a picky eater.”
“The doctor is not good.” She said later in the evening to everyone. “I will only take care
of it…my way.”
From the next day, she started the tedious practice of mashing the food with pestle and
mortar. Straining the mushy semi-solid further, just so that the food could
easily pass through the little girl’s food pipe, she watched with pleasure as
her granddaughter swallowed her lunch.
“You and I have come to a restaurant. I am a foreigner. You are from India. I will ask you
questions about India. I will eat with a fork and a knife. You eat with hands.”
chirped the little girl. Today she had decided this is the only way she will
eat. The lady happily obliged. All she wanted was to see the girl eat.
Many years later when the girl, now in her 20s, came back from the hostel and asked for a
2nd serving during lunch, the lady who was now older couldn’t stop
staring at her with fondness. “I can’t believe you just asked for a 2nd
serving. Eat…eat.”
Further few years down the line, she massaged the heavily pregnant belly of the girl who
was going to become a mother soon. “Will it pain badly?” asked the girl. “No,
not much. And even if it does, you will be thankful because you will have a
child in your arms.”
And the next day, she held a baby boy in her arms. Her great grandchild. She had skipped her dinner and breakfast. How could she eat while her granddaughter was in pain?
Another few years down the line, she sat on the sofa putting a little baby girl to sleep in
her arms. Her great grand daughter this time. “She looks just like you.” She
said to her granddaughter.
The years passed by and the granddaughter watched her grandmother grow older, have
difficulty walking but not an iota of her fervor and love for life had dropped.
She was upto date with whatsapp, video chats, using her mobile phone and loved
eating tangy golgappas and spicy barbecue.
“Apply cream on your hands and legs. And apply Evion cream on your face.” She said with an unpleasant look on her face, as she watched her granddaughter. “It is not soft
enough. You must take care of yourself. Take time out for all this. You must
not have cracked heels and chapped lips.”
A big lesson for her granddaughter.
“Come play
Uno with us.”
Pestered her great grandchildren. She mastered the new game in
fair 5 minutes and started to win the game. “I play better than you.” She said
with mischief in her eyes.
“I am thinking of taking a break from work.” The granddaughter said one day over the
phone. “No, don’t. Continue working. Not for money but for yourself. I know
A valuable advice which the granddaughter would always remember.
“You are bringing up your children well. You are a good mother.” She said to her
granddaughter after a short stay with her great grandchildren. The
granddaughter couldn’t be happier.
All these are memories today. Happy happy memories because all she gave me was happiness and joy. My Ammumma. Saying that she has been a mentor to me would be a major understatement. Of all her lessons, one will stay green forever.
The relationship between age and love for oneself should be direct. Keep adding sugar from your side to the lemons given by life and don’t shy away from taking shots.
The day she passed away, being distraught, I thought the pillars are breaking around me. Then like a spark, another thought came up. ‘We’ are becoming the new pillars for our next generation. A huge task undoubtedly. 
But like always…I will walk up the path you showed me. I will be your tail…always.

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