It was a hectic morning, which it always is, for my mother. She was in the kitchen making breakfast and preparing the tiffin for my father and me. My elder sister had her examinations going on, thus she was freaking out, and she was studying in a room next to the kitchen. She demanded, “Maa make me a cup of coffee, will you?”.
In a prolonged voice my mother replied, “Just give me five minutes beta; my hands are quite full now”.
“Please Maa I am already too stressed out, just give me a cup of coffee”, replied my sister.
It had become a daily routine for my mother, waking up at 6’O clock, taking a bath, waking my father up and forcing him to go for jogging, doing her religious chores and then heading towards the kitchen wishing that she would be able to complete all the work within time. Day in and day out, the same routine, over and over again, just like the ever-ticking clock which does not care for anything going around, it keeps on ticking and ticking. That day too was a success, she was able to complete all the tasks, but she did not sit back to enjoy any personal space with the warm breath of a long-forgotten joke, reminiscing the yesteryear. Well it was her duty; she was supposed to do it.
That day at school I read about Sisyphus and the first image that struck my mind was my mother’s. I was confused, “Why does the story of Sisyphus seem strangely similar to my Maa’s?”. So when that evening I went back to my house, had my delicious snacks, I decided to tell my mother about what I read in school. “Maa would you come here for a second please?”, I shouted.
“Not now beta, I am very busy now, I have to prepare the dinner and then iron the clothes also. If it’s not something very important can we talk about it sometime later?”, my mother replied.
I really wanted to talk to her at that very moment, but I hesitated because I could not remember the last time that I had really been that adamant to talk to my mother. A strange force was holding me back; something was making this entire thing feel really awkward. I did not reply, I kept my mouth shut. About a minute later she came to the room. “Are you okay beta, is everything alright?”, she asked. Her face was covered with sweat and oil, so I gave her a towel to rub her face. Again that awkward feeling came crawling back, I could not understand, there I was sitting in front of my own mother, but still, talking to her felt strangely out of place. Anyhow I just went on with it,
“Maa, you know I read something really interesting in school today.”
“What did you read beta?” she asked.
“I read about this Greek mythology about Sisyphus, he was a king who did not respect Zeus, who was the king of Gods. So Zeus punished Sisyphus. He was to carry a huge boulder up a hill only to see it tumble down again, and this he had to go on doing forever and ever and ever.” I answered.
“Interesting story beta, but now I need to go on with my work, okay?” my mother said.
I hesitated for a moment and just when she was about to leave the room I cried, “Were you also punished by someone Maa?” .
She turned around, surprised, her eyes were dilated just as if she had been hit by a thunderbolt, she asked, “What are you saying?”.
“I meant, were you also punished by God for something? .I see you everyday doing the same thing over and over again, and you do not get any salary or trophies for it. I see you tired and upset, but you never complain, just like Sisyphus, who had given in to his fate because he knew it could not be helped. Did you do something wrong too?”, I enquired.
She could not speak a word, she was in a trance. Little beads of tears started rolling down her moist eyes, and from the stiff, square face of a moment earlier, her face had now changed their color and expression to a loose and palpable layer of lifeless skin. “I did not mean to hurt you Maa. I am sorry”, I finally spoke, my own eyes started to get moist.
“No beta I wasn’t punished. What I do is my duty, which I do so that my little angels can be happy.”, my mother uttered in her sobbing voice, “And what gave you the idea that I was upset, I love what I do, what I do make you happy, and whatever makes you happy makes me happy too, do you understand?. So never ever think like this, I love you beta, and no pain endured to make your life better can ever make me tired and upset.”
“So if you weren’t punished, did you always wish to do this, right from your childhood?”, I asked.
“Well I don’t know, I don’t remember what I wanted to do.”, she replied.
“How can that be, there must be something which you wanted to do, wanted to achieve.”, I said.
“Hmm, I really do not remember.”, she argued, but after a momentary pause she said, “Well, you know, I also wanted to go out and have a job or something.”
“So, why did you not pursue your wish.”, I enquired.
“In our day that was impossible, in my family we did not have time for all this, I had to wake up early and work, then go to school and then come back and help my mom cook the dinner. It was not possible.”, she answered.
From where I was sitting, I could see her eyes, which were dried, beginning to get moist again. But this time there was a strange shine in her eyes, she seemed happy. The memories of her past brought with it all those dreams and aspirations she had as a child, all those funny stories she used to tell herself, all those times she just spent strolling carelessly with her schoolmates, all those days she used to sleep on her mother’s lap and all those years that were now only a part of the long forgotten boulevard of her memory hall.
From the distance we heard the voice of my sister, she had just returned from her examinations. My mother wiped her tears from the loose end of her saree, adjusted her pallu, got up and went to ask my sister if she needed anything to eat or drink.
By Ankit Agarwal