Saturday, August 15, 2015

Slice of Life #7 — Packing Mother’s Suitcase

Mother wanted to go to Chennai. Like most octogenarian she kept reminding me that her suitcase needed to be packed. I told her that it was the fourth time she had told me. It was clearly her excitement of travelling back to Madras. To her it was always Madras, not Chennai. I told her to keep all her things on the bed in the room for me to then start the packing process. There was a twinkle in her eye. I left for work thereafter.

In the evening, I came back to a double bed full of clothes, and a pile of whatnots that needed to be discarded, not packed! Why would she want to take her magazines in her suitcase? And the bathing ‘Mira’ sheekakai powder, of all things. This came from ‘Madras’!! And six bars of washing soap, and five clunks of bathing soap. And endless sarees. It was going to be a long evening of negotiation. I needed to be patient with her and speak softly.

Reminded me of my school days. When packing my bags to school, I always packed a couple of story books and stealthily put in a couple of ‘tops’ a yoyo and a few marbles. My mother would then come in to inspect my bag before I charged off to school. When caught, the questions, the protestations and the deep sense of hurt if she put away the yoyo or the marbles and a tear shed for good measure, came rushing to mind. The day when she let me carry a story book to school, I hugged her. She said that I was to read it at the break. Fast forward, it was the same game all over only that the roles were reversed.

I tried to persuade her to lose the mags, and told her that the soaps could be purchased in Madras. She protested, said the mags had her favorite stories. I paused. What is it to give in to the ask of a lady bent with burden of raising three children and of modest means, of those times? She looked longingly at me. I relented. What would I tell her? That I would have to pay excess baggage? She had carried the baggage of life without a murmur. And with a smile. I simply put all the stuff in the bag and gave her a big hug. There were tears in her eyes.

The bags were packed, the sentiments were not. I looked away and wiped the tears as I left the room, even as I smiled.