My mother was one of nine siblings. As a child, I saw her maternal home in a tiny village in South India play host to many, including me. Though the permanent residents were only my grandmother and my youngest uncle, the house was always full. Cousins posted nearby used the house as a base during week days, daughters dropped in for short visits, sons and grandsons stopped by on their way to somewhere... and then there was my own mother who used to shuttle between her government job in her hometown and Chennai until she got a much-awaited transfer.
So, my brother and I would stay there for months on end sometimes. Until my mother finally got her transfer when I was about 10.
I've spent days and weeks with these women, stayed in their homes, eaten their food, confided in them and worried them to no end with my antics.
During my stays, I spent a lot of time with a cousin. However, she's only a few years younger than my mom, so she was more like an aunt. She has a bubbly personality, her kohl-rimmed eyes sparkling with mirth all the time. Being a schoolteacher, she was on to my tricks even before my own mother realized what I was up to. She was my hero. Thanks to her influence early on, I still cannot step out of home without drawing kohl in my eyes.
Once we settled down in Chennai, our meetings were reduced to occasional weddings. She too got married and was soon busy with raising her children while holding on to a full-time job.
After a few more years, I stopped going even for weddings due to the pressures of academia and, later, a career. I met her sporadically, maybe once in two or three years.
I last met her a few days ago at a wedding, after a long gap of eight years. And the years just fell away. She is a grandmother now and looks so frail and old because of her illness, but her eyes hold the same sparkle even now. We chatted away as much as we could and reminisced about my childhood and her youth.
Soon, it was time to go and I bid her goodbye with a sudden lump in my throat.
On my way home I wondered, "Will my son ever have bonds like these?"
Apart from me and my mother-in-law, my son has absolutely no one else as a mother figure in his life.
As a kid, I had so many mother figures in my life. My grandmothers, aunts, older cousins or sometimes even neighbours. I've spent days and weeks with these women, stayed in their homes, eaten their food, confided in them and worried them to no end with my antics.
Of course, it was mostly because my own mother was so busy working full-time and keeping house, she hardly had the luxury of a leisurely chat with me. Though she was a rock solid influence in shaping my health, conscience and general happiness, my emotional growth was pretty much dependant on these women who always lent a ear to my queries about make-up and teenage woes.
But apart from me and my mother-in-law, my son has absolutely no one else as a mother figure in his life.
True, he has his aunts and my best friends. But he sees them all with me around and only for short periods of time. He can never be close enough to go to them with his problems.
On the other hand, unlike my mother, I'm always around, ready to comfort him and offer him advice 24/7.
So I consoled myself that he does not really have the need for those kinds of bonds in his life.
But after nine long years of my mother's passing, it sure felt nice to be with someone who cared for me as a child, feel safe and protected and not be the adult for once.
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