Many people turned up. More than she had expected. Chit chat and small talks were making the rounds. The caterers were setting up the buffet table. She took center stage.
The alarm would ring every morning at exactly 5:00 A.M. It was kinda redundant as she was always awake a few minutes earlier. She would get out of bed and go straight to the kitchen. Her morning rituals were pretty standard and consistent.
First, she would take out the packet of milk from the fridge and transfer the contents into a large vessel, the same vessel, which will go on to waking everyone in the house in the next 15 mins.
Second, she would peek inside the room adjacent to the kitchen. That’s where Lata slept. Seeing her sleep peacefully would give her a sense of relief. She would smile and then close the door so that the loud whistle wouldn’t wake her little angel.
Third, she would prepare Lata’s dabba. There was a pre-decided menu, which required an approval every time changes needed to be made. Anything prepared in violation of the list would be returned untouched. Slowly, she would begin rounding up the ingredients. More often than not, she would find one or two items missing. To rectify that, she would wait for the sun to rise and the lady outside her building to set up her small shop. Before she left the house, she would fix up her saree, wear her comfortable bata sandals and make her way downstairs.
Vijay was usually awake by the time she got back.
“7:00 A.M., time to wake up Lata”, he would say.
“Let her sleep for a couple more minutes”, she would argue.
She always won.
Running back and forth from room to room, she would manage to organize Lata’s backpack, remove her clothes from the closet and iron them, keep all her vitamin pills on the table, prepare breakfast and lunch and of course make that special herbal hair conditioner, which btw is the secret behind Lata’s thick, lustrous hair that I so envy.
Once Lata left for work, she would slump against the cushions and switch on the TV. Her favourite shows would always coincide with Lata’s schedule. Coincidence? I think not!
She enjoyed cooking, so naturally she would turn on the cooking channel and take notes of all the recipes that she thought Lata would enjoy eating. Twice a week, she would give those recipes a shot and wait anxiously for Lata’s approval. The satisfaction that she got after seeing that smile was so precious that Lata would sometimes overlook the excessive salt.
Their spontaneous visits to the malls were always one-sided. Lata would be showered with new clothes, jewelry, shoes and what not, but would she ever get anything for herself and just once think about her needs and desire for a new diamond necklace to show off at the next PTA meeting just like Lakshmi aunty did the last time? Never!
She was always a level above humans. She was in spirit a goddess, who didn’t have material demands, who didn’t seek for aesthetic fulfillment, who didn’t get bogged down by challenges, who always thought of others and never herself. She was a great woman.
Her love for her family, in particular for Lata was unconditional. Oh!! she loved that girl so dearly. Her world revolved around her little munchkin. I hated that at first, but then again she was a loving woman and she would have loved me just the same.
*a few members of the audience looked at Lata weeping in the corner*
Yes, she was MY amma too.
The only person in the world whose love and care I will always crave, whose touch and smell I will never know, whose acknowledgment I will never receive.
Nobody here except for Lata knows who I am. My name is Nandini and I just lost a mother too. I didn’t know her personally of course, which will make you wonder how I know about her weekly cooking experiments, her bata sandals, her secret desire for a diamond necklace and her undying love for Lata.
Let’s just call it a wild guess.
For 20 years I have been wondering, praying and looking for this woman. But, who knew that when I came to know of her existence, she would cease to exist.
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