The rashes and bruises had still not gone. Her shoulder was wounded. The blouse torn. I could see the birthmark on her right shoulder clearly through the blouse. She wept. Wept, sobbed and wailed like a small child. Tears were rolling down her cheek.
” I am tired, Madhi. Let me sleep.”
I remember the saree she had worn that night. A blood red one adorned with a golden border. My mother looked heavenly, just like the “Durga ma” clad in that saree. “Durga maa” is a Hindu goddess; a symbol of valour, power and strength.
She was a goddess.
I sat there in the floor beside her. Looked at her swollen eyes. She had cried a lot. The Kohl in her eyes had smudged. Her long tresses were beautiful. I noticed something like dust on her hair.
“Amma, the aataa has gone into your hair. Let me dust it off for you.”
She looked at me and seemed as if she was paralysed. She didn’t understand a word I had spoken. I got up and helped her with it.
My favourite chicken gravy with chapatis. I can still sense the aroma. Amma had made us a sumptuous dinner that night.
As usual, my brother and me fought for the last leg piece. Amma got furious at us for our little fights.
” Why do you still behave like kids? Please let me live in peace.”
Peace. She wanted peace. That is what she longed for her whole life probably.
That night was indeed a peaceful one. I couldn’t even listen to the sound of the crickets outside my room. The ticking of the hands of the clock deafened me. It was 9:00 pm. Appa was shouting. He loved quarrelling.
” I have gained nothing out of you! You swine!”
Amma was sitting silently. Listening patiently. Tolerating. That is how an Indian woman had to be for her husband. Chaste. Nice. A great chef. Obedient.
I have been observing for all these 25 years and was still observing Amma. She was staring at her empty plate. I wondered,
“God! Where does all that patience come from? She is blessed.”
We were all sitting in the dining table. I felt bad. I was useless. Worthless. Never opened my mouth in front of Appa. He was like the Osama bin Laden of our home. He finished with his dinner and kept on complaining.
” The saambar is so spicy. Do you want to kill me? Why don’t you get a knife and slit my throat? Let me see how you live without me! ”
Amma still was listening. Her face got red like a hot iron rod. I could sense that she was not patient after all.
Suddenly, Appa went into the kitchen. He broke all the ceramic cups and plates. The kitchen floor was filled with pieces of crockery.
He rushed into the “Puja room” and broke all the photos. The Ganesh idol, the Murugan photo, the Shiva and the Durga idol. The Durga idol was shattered to pieces. It could not be reformed into anything again.
Amma was still waiting there on the table. She grunted.
” I am leaving. I can’t live like this anymore. May you live happily alone.”
That is when unexpected things happened. Appa started searching for something frantically. His hands went to his waist. The buckle was unfastened. Out came the belt in his hand.
Amma was beaten by the belt that night. Appa roared.
” What do you think of yourself? You can esacpe so easily? ”
I started crying. It was intolerable. The thrashing sound continued for five minutes. I sat there in the corner of the room like a rat. Amma’s blouse was torn. Appa was content. I felt shivers down my spine looking at his belt. He was advancing towards his room. He gave me a stern look.
” I will kill you if you ever speak back like that like that swine did!”
I felt impatient. I was furious. I was so angry. It felt as if my brain would just explode at that moment.
Amma was crying.
She said something. Something I could never forget for my whole life.
” I am tired, Madhi. Let me sleep.”
She walked to her bedroom. She looked so pretty in that red saaree. I asked her something stupid.
” Are you fine Amma?”
” I am at peace.”
“Durga maa” had killed the demon “Mahishasura” and got rid of him. So impatient she was. The Goddess. It seemed Amma was never like “Durga maa”.
Amma grabbed the pillow and lied down on the bed. I was looking at her. Sitting there on the floor.
She never opened her eyes again. She was at peace.