* Seventeen years ago *
“Don’t go to school if you won’t be having your breakfast,” Ma shouted from the kitchen.
Reluctantly, I shoved another spoonful of cornflakes into my mouth. “I am done. The bus is going to arrive any moment now, Ma. Bye!” I shouted back in a muffled voice and ran out of the door.
That day, a tire of the school bus got punctured on the way back home, and it took me a couple of hours more than my usual time of returning home. I was too hungry and my stomach rumbled throughout the time the tire was being replaced.
* Thirteen years ago *
“Don’t forget to call me as soon as you reach your coaching centre,” Ma warned me from the gate.
“Yes, Ma! I swear I won’t forget to call you again,” I said as I sped off in my scooty.
It was only by the time I was returning from the coaching centre that I saw eight missed calls from my mother. I had forgotten to call her, again.
* Eight years ago *
“Ma, I don’t want you to be dictating every action of mine! I am old enough to decide for myself. Sometimes I feel like trying to make you understand my feelings is just a waste of time,” I half screamed, half cried into the phone.
I heard a couple of sniffles from the other end.
“I am sorry, Beta. I will try to understand you better. Please don’t cry,” she almost whispered from the other end.
I cut the call abruptly and resumed my sulking.
* Four years ago *
“Are you okay, Beta? Are you having your meals on time? When will you be coming home?” Ma asked over the phone.
“I am fine, Ma. This job is keeping me quite busy. I will let you know if I manage to get a few days off,” I replied curtly into the phone.
I had plans for a fifteen-day trip to Goa with my friends in two days.
* Today *
The door creaked as I pushed it open and let myself in. A few stray beams of sunlight lit up a portion of the living room. I walked into the all-too-familiar house and saw the silhouette of my mother, covered in a blanket, lying on her bed. I tried to make as little noise as possible, as I walked towards her, but Ma always had been able to sense my presence.
I saw the blanket stir, and an old, wrinkled face smiled up at me. Seeing her struggle to put herself up, I placed my palm on her shoulders and asked her to rest. She had grown too feeble to even move about on her own. She had never let me get an inkling of her health-related problems and had it not been for the call from the hospital, I would probably have been oblivious to her heart attack, just like I had been oblivious to everything that had ever been bothering her.
I could not hold back my tears and she put a trembling, reassuring hand on my head as I wept beside her. I was apologising profusely for all the time that I had avoided and mistreated her.
“A mother never holds grudges against her children, Beta. I don’t mind whatever you did back then, my love. In my point of view, it wasn’t even your fault. A mother’s heart is like a home. It has its own share of happiness and sorrows. There are sunbeams dancing all around the home, but if you look closer, there are cobwebs in the corners too. The cobwebs can’t be helped; they have a habit of spreading throughout the home. They need to be cleaned every now and then. But you see, even the cobwebs are home for spiders, right? There are some webs you need to choose not to destroy. So, a part of the happiness of the home that a mother’s heart is comes from some of the cobwebs too. That’s the happiness of letting someone live,” Ma said in a feeble tone.
“Likewise, the instances where I had to impose my will on you, were the ones where the cobwebs needed to be cleaned. The instances where you decided for yourself don’t count as things which might have bothered me, because those were the cobwebs which I decided not to destroy. Either way, you and your decisions always have been acceptable to me, and they are an integral part of my heart,” she added.
All this time, I had held one of her hands in one of my own, while my other hand rested over my maternity dress, on my stomach. I was six months pregnant. I smiled for two reasons. One, for the blissful face of my mother and my gratitude to her for having forgiven me. And two, by the thought of some good three months later when I would have to put the idea of cobwebs which I imbibed from my Ma, to use.