Meera’s fond memories of Aai ( maa’s mother), can be traced back to the times when she travelled to her native home during the summer break. Her overwhelming denture smile was infectious, brightening even a lusterless room. She anxiously anticipated for Meera and Maa to arrive, in the balcony of her first floor house.
Aai was always dressed simple, in thin, cotton six yards saree, hair tied in a long braid with centre partition or a low neck bun and red kumkum on her forehead. She looked plain and easy, yet elegant.
Every year before Meera came for her vacations, Aai used to stack up coconut biscuits and cream rolls in glass jars for her. She used to go to the chaat vendor in the evenings to buy bhel for Meera. Meera loved seeing Aai. With baba(Maa’s dad), she was a bit intimidated and reserved but with Aai there was no such hindrance. She could be carefree with her.
Meera would sit on the dining table, while Aai served hot chapatis and dal rice. Maa could never make dal rice like Aai, Meera kept complaining. At night , before sleeping Aai would massage Meera’s scalp with almond oil. She always yelled at Maa for not looking after Meera and dada carefully. Every morning, she would wash away all the oil with shikakai and scrub Meera’s body. Aai’s hands were warm and wrinkled, she had nursed her four children and her husband. The creases and the roughness of the hands signified her incessant chores. But Aai never complained, she did everything she could, euphorically. The joy on her children and grandchildren’s faces was enough for her to be delighted.
Meera’s first ever watch( quartz with a black dial) was gifted by Aai, after she had topped her annual exam in 3rd grade. Meera always carried it along for exams, including her SSC boards.
For Meera, the watch symbolised warmth, love and care.
Aai’s entire life, she never rested or took a break. But after Baba’s demise, her health deteriorated drastically. In her last few years, she was bedridden. Whenever Meera would visit her, she would make her sit next to her and ask her about her whereabouts. Even then, she was concerned about others. She would gently raise her hands and brush them over Meera’s face. Aai looked affectionate even lying there, on that bed.
It was Meera’s 2nd year graduation exams when Aai’s condition worsened. Aai passed away during that period. Worried that Meera would fair badly in exams, Maa had kept the truth away from her. She only got to know about it after she finished with her exams. She was angry at Maa, for she could not see Aai for one last time, for her last goodbye.
But today when Meera retrospects, she feels relaxed that she hadn’t seen Aai lying there still, on the deathbed then.
‘Coz whenever she remembers her, Meera recollects the woman who was strong, caring and an embodiment of warmth. She remembers the woman who gave her 100, 200 rs everytime she left for her home. She remembers the doting wife and a selfless mother. She recalls the grandmother who eagerly awaited for her grandchildren during their summer vacations.
Meera remembers Aai….