Can I come along?
Mother: Which movie?
Daughter: You wont be knowing Maa.
Mother: Hero and heroine?
Daughter: New faces Maa……You wont be knowing.
Mother: Ohh, what’s the story?
Daughter: From what I have understood, its a romantic movie…you know, College romance and all that….Rest, I’ll be able to tell you after having seen the full movie. Now dont ask so many questions Maa….You are distracting me….I’ve got to get ready…..Aarti, Pooja, Riya….they’ll be waiting for me at the multiplex. You know, I’ve achieved the distinction of being a late- comer amongst my circle of friends.
Mother: You know Mimi….I was thinking….Why dont we go together to the theatre sometimes? Like you and me…..You know, its been ages since I’ve watched a movie at a theatre…..In earlier times, we used to go together….You, Vikas and me….. .With your elder brother away, I have only your company to fall back upon……
Daughter: Maa…..pass me the comb please…..How are these earrings ? Look. Fine na?
Mother: Here, take your comb. Ahhh……these earrings are looking so pretty on you.
Daughter: You were saying something? Sorry….my mind was somewhere else.
Daughter: Tell na.
Mother: Just saying, both of us should watch a movie together…..Its been quite a while….Might not look like it, but, with nobody around, I too get bored. Vikas left for higher studies….Your dad left us long time back….and you hardly stay at home…..
Daughter: You want me to stay at home? So that you dont feel lonely? How is that even possible Maa?
Mother: What is so spectacularly odd about my proposition? Spend more time with me, not with your silly friends…..They’ve got nothing else to do except for feeding your brain with regular updates on their turbulent love lives….
Daughter: Please say something which makes sense…No offense, but you seem to be losing your mind. You seek company…..yet you have never been able to maintain cordial relationship with anyone in our neighbourhood. You cant sit through those gossip sessions…..but women your age, rather housewives your age, who have got no substantial work to do…who have performed, to a considerable degree of satisfaction, their household duties, end up becoming members of these adda groups…..You cant seem to bring your esteemed self to do that….How do you expect to escape the boredom of mundane life if you, so steadfastly, shun the company of such ladies….I cant stop hanging out with my friends to give you company….At best, I can ask them to come over to our place…..
Mother: Yes, I do shun the company of all those people who indulge in mindless gossip…. I cannot seem to derive any pleasure out of it…..You know that. You can go wherever you want to go….spend time with friends….as much time as you want….You are young, enjoy this time girl……I do understand…its not always possible to give your parents company….We’ve got to get used to solitude, once we’ve done our “duty” of raising our kids….
Meanwhile, the daughter got herself busy checking messages on her cellphone.
Daughter: What ?What did you say?
Mother: What? Ohh…nothing dear….You must have missed out on what I said just now…right? Well, I dont blame you, poor child….One must attend to Watsapp messages before paying heed to what an old woman says…..Why listen to such incessant rantings of a bored “housewife” who’s done “no substantial work” to validate her worth….You are getting late….Must leave now…
Daughter: Drama queen you are!!! Since when have you become interested in watching teenage romantic flicks? There would be a young crowd over there….People your age, in all probability, wont be interested in watching that movie…You might feel awkward Maa. Watch movies that suit your age and temperament.
Mother: I’ve always been interested in movies…..But you wont be knowing since you’ve never bothered to ask if I would be interested in coming along. Also my dear, I wont be embarrassed. But you, for sure, will be. Anyways….You must leave now. Its late already.
Daughter: Ohh, yaa…..I mean, isn’t that obvious? Just imagine, you and I at the ticket counter…..And what if, I encounter a friend, or a friend’s relative, or a relative’s friend or any of Dada’s friends or Dada’s friends’ relatives…you know, the possibilities are endless……You understand..right? They would laugh at us……You know how my friends would be stating my misery…..”How unfortunate!!! For lack of a boyfriend, she’s brought her Mom along to watch a movie such as this….how pathetic her life has become!!! Or else they’d say…”Poor lonely girl!! No friend to accompany her. Hence her Mom”….Maa, they wont spare you either…you would be laughed at, for being stupid enough to come to watch a movie that, as per their assumption, you wont be able to relate to…given your age and serious disposition. It would pain me no end to bear witness to such ridicule.
Mother: Now, who’s behaving like a Drama Queen? Me or You? Just a movie…..why such a big fuss?? In any case, I care nothing about the opinion of strangers…..They look at you for a brief while, no more than a few seconds and then quickly move on to the next object that catches their fancy…..I do not feel threatened, much less intimidated by what those strangers think of me….Their opinion, good or bad, is of no relevance to me. Young people have got very short attention span. They are busy enough not to waste their time on meaningless stuffs. Care I don’t, but for all I know, you care….I wonder why…. Anyways, let’s put an end to this topic. Enough said already.
Daughter: I am not going….it’s already quite late. I missed out, all because of you and your whimsical ways!!! You are mean, so very mean!!!
Mother: I am sorry dear…..didn’t intend to ruin your day!! Okay, listen. Let us both have lunch together…..at any restaurant of your choice. Treat from my end….what say?
Daughter: Ma….Why are you being so persistent? Something’s amiss!! I mean…..there’s something else on you mind…..right? Your behavior seems a little out of place…..What’s wrong? Tell me.
The mother turned her face away from the girl. She didn’t utter a word, just kept staring at the calendar hung on the wall.
Mother: Today is?
Mother: What is the date today?
Daughter: 15th November. Why? What happened?
Mother: And when are you leaving for Bangalore?
Daughter: 30th November.
Mother: Aahh….a fortnight.
Daughter: I guess, we were talking about something else….the movies and all…..Now, you are diverting the topic.
Mother: Not diverting…rather, giving you subtle hints…as to why I am behaving the way I am behaving. It’s not about the movies dear…..it never was, in the first place. I want to spend time with you….before you leave. I want you to plan your weekends with me…..I want to go out with you, have fun with you……I don’t want to regret not spending enough time with my little girl before she leaves. I want you to prioritize me over your friends…Yes, I do demand that. All five days of Durga Puja…you chose to hang out with your infinite friends from school, college, tuition, office….I’ve lost count of how many “close” friends you actually have…..On each of those five days, I had been alone. Yes, I’d get all decked up and sit, all by myself, at our neighborhood Puja pandal. Of course, you didn’t notice…..You didn’t have time to spare, “booked” as you were from Sashthi to Navami….only being kind enough to oblige me with your precious time on Ashtami morning……I too wanted to roam about the streets with my little girl for company…I had made such extensive plans this year….wanted to go pandal-hopping, covering all of North Calcutta and then South…..Yet I had to remain content staring at the pictures of those Puja pandals, that my sensible girl had so diligently clicked on her cell-phone for her mother to see….Even then, most were those silly selfies of yours and your friends. Only a handful of pictures of the Goddess!!
Daughter: So what are you so upset about? That I didn’t click enough pictures of the Goddess??
Mother: There.. You see…..Mimi, the problem is……..You never care, you never notice!! For your friends, you have all the time in the world. For your friends, you are all ears……you are at your caring best. You rush to them if they are in pain. What makes you so indifferent to your own mother’s agony? I guess, after putting on the pretense of being nice to everyone all day long, you decide to pull off that mask when at home…Well, of course…..Your mom doesn’t need to be impressed. She can see right through your pretensions…..So you can afford to be your real self here. This is home, after all.
For a few seconds, the daughter was dumbfounded. Her face turned red, her eyes moist. She struggled to speak…Just one word kept playing out in loop…”Pretension”……How she could say that!!
Daughter: You…..You….You are a miserable, spiteful woman!!! So much malice inside…ehh??
Mother: I won’t say anything to contradict your opinion about me. But it’s not malice, my dear. Its pain. The pain of being overlooked every single time. I seek company…your company. I may not be a cool person to hang out with…..but I could have tried had you shown some interest in taking me along.
Silence ensured for a minute or so.
Daughter: Hangout with people you age, old lady!!! You know, I don’t even repent calling you “an old lady”. Truth is told, you are, indeed, old. Too old to be my friend. Too old and troublesome a person to have fun with….to watch a movie with….to hang out with.
Then she stopped…realizing she had said more than was necessary. She didn’t mean to hurt her mother….but somehow, words kept flowing and she couldn’t reign them in….There was an awful silence for some time…..Sometimes, silence stings more than words ever can..She was expecting her mother to react in an extreme manner…..maybe; she would be rewarded with a mighty slap for her misbehavior…..”Maa is going to shout her lungs out, the drama has just begun…Now, she’ll stop talking, stop eating…..and lock herself up in her room” concluded the girl. But her mother was too exhausted to “react”. She broke down…She was inconsolable. She covered her face with the end of her sari. Those tears had long been overdue….she’d suppressed her thoughts, her emotions for so long…..Today, her forbearance gave away……She felt a deep urge to let it all come out…..The pain…the angst….the agony…the fury…everything. Her shrill cries gradually pierced the grim air the mother did pretend hard not to care….But how could she not care? It was not a random stranger, but her own daughter…her own Mimi…who had been audacious enough, rather insensitive enough to utter those words, those vicious words!!! How could she remain indifferent, when someone her own inflicted pain on her.
She rushed out of the room. While leaving, she managed to set her eyes on the small mirror fixed on the wall right above the wash basin. She stopped, walked towards the mirror. Arranged her fast diminishing hair in a loose bun. Wiped those tears away from her large, beautiful eyes. “Am I really that old??….So old that Mimi feels ashamed to take me along??” she wondered to herself.
Tears might have been wiped away…but those weary eyes were still moist. But, no worries…They would soon regain their former composure. Nobody would ever know what had transpired between the daughter and her “old” mother. Nobody would know how an innocuous wish expressed by the mother had created a giant rift between two people who doted on each other. Or maybe, something had been brewing all along. You know, some people can’t take to separation too kindly….Loneliness, rather, the thought of impending loneliness had been weighing down her spirits……To add to her suffering, the daughter, engrossed as she was in her own life, didn’t seem to notice the gradual degradation in her mother’s behavior ever since she got the news of her daughter leaving. She had never been alone. The very thought of walking about the 3BHK apartment with not a soul to talk to, save the foul-mouthed maid, gave her sleepless nights. How would she get accustomed to her daughter’s absence?
Loneliness is a terrible, terrible wretch….Whoever says, solitude is bliss, should be thrown off the Howrah Bridge……How it could be bliss!! It’s never too easy to get accustomed to not having your closest people around at the dinner table….She imagined how difficult would it be to gulp down her meal….Bland food to give you strength to live through an equally bland, monotonous life.
The little girl was going to live on her own, manage things on her own. You know, right from the ration to the laundry, cooking, paying bills on time, looking for a domestic help, bargaining with the grocers, ensuring her own safety…..what if some ruffians made an attempt to barge into her apartment on a false pretext, with some nefarious intentions in mind… Who would the little girl turn to in a new city? She wouldn’t be able to help. Sometimes, she felt helpless…..the old woman tried to train her mind to sweep these negative thoughts under the carpet the next time they reared their ugly heads. She was concerned. She was scared to lose her little girl…she was scared that the girl who would come home after a year, would not be the same person. She would be someone else. Agreed…More worldly-wise, more mature…..But somehow not the girl who had grown up under her guidance…..She often wondered, if Mimi would even bother to share her troubles with her mother once she moved to a new city, Or would she find a way to deal with life on her own. Would she still ask for her advice before taking some kind of life-altering decision? Vikas never called to seek advice….he called to inform…..The decisions were all his own. Mimi would soon follow her brother’s footsteps.
The truth was, Vikas had changed and so would Mimi. Time for her to change as well. Time for her to accept life as it was….Time for her to stop questioning, to stop controlling the lives of her grown-up kids…
She’d decided that day , she’d never ask her daughter if she could come along….She didn’t want to accompany the girl anywhere…..She didn’t want to ever step foot inside a theatre…the very thought of it made her burst into tears…..”I’ll never, ever watch a movie!! I hate movies!!” mumbled the old woman, while preparing tea for Mimi’s friends. Yes, they too had cancelled the movie plan…..deciding to “have a blast” at Mimi’s place instead…..They were, indeed, having a blast. As for the mother, well, some things are better left unsaid.