- Posted April 30, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
In praise of “other mothers”
To my hero - who never said 'goodbye'
A few months ago, I took the train to Kollam to attend a wedding. Kollam, also known as Quilon, is a quiet little port city along the southern coast of Kerala. I was returning to a place I called home after 17 years. But visiting Kollam didn't just stir fond memories, it also brought back memories of people and events that I never knew affected my adulthood.
I remember, most clearly, this old photograph of me standing near my grandmother on Kollam beach. This was India in the late eighties. I remember her gentle voice, the softness of her sari and the warmth of her embrace. My little sister, barely a year old, sat in her arms, safely playing with the sand she could gather in her fist. The winds were soft and humid.
Like most young Indian girls who grew up in the eighties, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She told us stories at night, tucked us into bed, always cooked us our favourite meals and encouraged us to dream. At the time, these memories were strongest. I held on to them fiercely, never questioning them. But I was wrong. I knew that things were never right although I believed it for a long time. As a child, she was my source of strength, a vision of wisdom and womanhood so powerful, that I never gave myself a chance to question my memories. Looking back, I always wondered what her dreams were, what she aspired to be if she weren't confined by the limitations of a traditional family, of the prejudices that she faced as a woman. Her voice, which was music to my ears when I was little, was hardly heard when family arguments arose. Her thoughts, no matter how wise and important, never found their way to the dinner table. Her ideas, although she was well-educated and an avid reader, fell on the deaf ears of close-minded relatives. Yet, there she was - loving us, smiling at us, watching over us as we played in the garden, making sure we were always happy.
Eventually, my visits to that old Kollam house grew rare. I was seldom at home because I went away to boarding school in a hill station far away from Kollam. My grandmother and I would exchange letters occasionally but life and academics often got in the way. One evening, just as my high school year started, my parents drove down the pathway to the principal's office bearing the news. My grandmother had passed away. My mother, I remember, sobbed uncontrollably for years after. The heart that had held my grandmother's thoughts, her dreams, her grief and her silence had given away. It could hold no more. I remember that I was in such shock, I didn't believe it. I also never returned to Kollam for years after.
This year, 17 years after my first visit to my family home, I went to the beach again. The waves were crystal clear, as they had always been. The winds were soft, and the air was warm. It had hurt me so deeply that she didn't have tell me goodbye. But standing on the shore that sultry wednesday afternoon, those memories came back to me. And I realised, maybe she didn't want to tell me goodbye. Maybe, like the ocean, that is endless and unfathomable, her love for me will always remain.