‘MEMORIES….. How does one describe it? Should one do, at all? Ah! Don’t ask please!’
Vaahika and Meera were best of friends than that of being just mother-daughter, what they actually were. Vaahika was 21 years old and Meera, 41. Sure! There was an age gap…but, one look at them and people always mistook them as sisters. Well, they enjoyed that, anyhow. Ladies’ things, you see!
Meera was a graceful lady, having sharp features, an appealing persona and best was her ever warm and kind smile. She was not only a strong lady, and a loving mother but a wonderful person, as a whole. Since forever!
On the other hand, Vaahika was a shadow-self of her own mother, loving and kind-hearted. However, being in her twenties, she was more materialistic than her mother was and has been. Or, maybe that’s what she used to think!
Aanand, Vaahika’s dad was out of town due to some office tasks and wasn’t supposed to be returning till next week. Both mother and daughter were on their own, or say, alone, happily so!
They were on the terrace, post dinner. But today, Vaahika was quieter than usual. Meera noticed that since evening but chose, not to ask her, out of the blue. The moonlit sky, the cool and calm breeze brushing against their skins, and the quiet environment seemed perfect to Meera, as to ask her daughter about what is going on, in her mind (if anything was at all!).
“Vaahi?” Meera said just a bit louder than a whisper.
“Huh? Oh! Yeah, maa?” Vahika turned to her in a flash, as if she was pulled back from some other world.
Vahika blinked. Meera noticed that something was absolutely on her mind, but hesitantly not on her lips. So, she waited no more and asked out.
“Talk to your mother? Is there something that you are not telling me but want to?” Meera asked, concerned, but smilingly.
“Aman is insane, maa.” Vaahika said, turning her face away, voice dull.
Meera came closer and put her arms around her daughter. “Why do you people tease each other so much? Kiddies!” Meera said, cheerily.
“It is not funny, mother!” Vaahika said looking up, her face expressionless, with eyes turning watery, gloomy. She was upset.
Cupping her face, Meera asked her about what has happened. Vaahika blinked away her tears, and told her the whole matter.
“A week ago, Aman got a call letter from this MNC, for the post of a legal adviser there, for which he had applied and went through a couple of interviews, as well, months ago. Now, that they want him to work with them, being totally impressed. He, on the other hand, is not interested to even pay his gratitude for the opportunity he is being offered with, never mind, grabbing it in one go. Not only that, he hasn’t even broke the news to his family or anyone. Just me! Plus, he told me so, for the reason, that he is not going anywhere, without ME! Love? Okay! But, this is madness. I don’t appreciate playing with one’s career for the sake of it. I tried to make him understand and told him to at least think about it, one more time. But he just shoves the topic down, every time I try. ” Vaahika said, her voice turning throaty. “He doesn’t want to go because of ME!”
After Vaahika was done explaining, she found her mother just as calm as she always stayed. Not even a single frown-line was on her forehead. Somehow, there was a strange hint of hidden sadness in her eyes.
“He loves you, beta. Isn’t that reasonable enough on his part, if he is not wanting to go anywhere without you being with him? Now that you are pushing him to do exactly what he doesn’t want to, instead of supporting him, he is fighting in his own.” Meera said smilingly.
“Mother, I love him too. You know that, so does everyone. But, you see, we aren’t married yet. Plus, we have to establish ourselves, first. And, by the way, how can you act so easy on this? Not done!” Vahika said, shaking her head.
“How about a story tonight?” Meera turned to her with her ever warming smile.
“Huh? All right! Yeah, bunk this. Go on!” Vaahika turned, grabbing a chair to settle down in and thinking in the back of her head, that her mother did the same thing. Shoved the topic down!
Meera turned her face away looking ahead, her eyes distant. Her lips were still carrying that upward curve with such elegance that she owned since forever, but they lacked something today. Vaahika was closely trying to observe her, when she started.
“There was this guy. A guy named Sajeet. Back at college, he happened to be my senior. I was good at academics and curricular activities, both. So, he admired me. Later on, during the college fest, he and I were assigned with the organizing tasks. We met almost every day due to one reason or the other. Gradually, from being the event organizers we became friends, as well.”
Vaahika nodded as she was hearing about this guy for the first time, from her mother.
“He was a nice guy. You know, there was always a kind of calmness in his voice, whenever we talked. I never saw him raging over anything, due to any matter. Rather, I never heard him saying anything in a harsh tone to anyone. He, never for once, even by mistake or in haste, spoke ill about anything or anyone. I had a crush on him, the day I saw him for the first time. But I never knew, neither imagined, he was this nice, which he turned out like, any time before.” Meera continued.
“You had a crush on him? Oh my! How did he look like?” Vaahika asked, her eyes twinkling with curiosity.
“Yes, the first and last crush, ever! He had a fair complexion, pitch-black big eyes, and an athletic physique. His smile never vanished off his face. One look at him, and people forgot about all of the heck they were stuck in, but to smile back, at him and with him.” Meera smiled.
“Wow, mommy! You said he admired you? Did he have a crush on you as well, maa?” Vaahika asked her mother, chirpily.
“It was more than that!! After the fest got over, I was voted for the position of the president of the college’s committee, and he, for the leader of the college’s political union. He proposed me at the celebration party. Being more than happy, I accepted the proposal. He loved me, yes! But, he respected me like nobody else could have had.” Meera sighed and continued.
“Mother! You never told me before, about this. Why tonight?” Vaahika asked slightly raising her eyebrows, interrupting in between.
“It’s a memory I never got to share with you.” Meera replied, softly.
“Well! So? What happened next?” Vaahika nudged her, smilingly.
“We were in love. Things, were going fine until the time, our families came to know about it all. He belonged to a Christian family, whereas I was Hindu. For us, it never was worth considering, but that is exactly what our parents did.” Meera said her face plain sad.
“What did they do?” Vaahika asked her mother, her forehead wrinkled and eyes narrowed.
“After college, he joined army and I headed towards Delhi. When he joined the Indian army, he came by with his family, to ask for my hand but was insulted and threatened to death by my family, in return. I can never forget the way he looked at me while exiting out of my house. His eyes were calm as always, but the look in his eyes? I can never forget those. He didn’t say anything but his eyes said what he felt inside. They asked me to be with him. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Later on, we started meeting very less. The meetings decreased whenever we were in town, as we were being spied by so many people, inside out.” Exhaling deeply, she looked up.
Vaahika observed her mother closely. She never looked so forlorn, the way she looked today. All her life, she used to think that ‘MEMORIES’ were something that brought back a recap of all the ‘lovie-dovie’ times one once went through. She never thought about it the other way round. Every coin has two sides. But flooding emotions over memories, and this uneasy quietness, at the same time? This was strange, unexpected. Vaahika felt her forehead turning cold.
“Mom? What happened after that?” Vaahika asked, putting her arms around her mother.
“After completing his training, he was posted in Dubai. Before going to Dubai, we met for one last time, which I didn’t know was, back then. He proposed me that day. He asked me to accept his proposal and be with him. He wanted us to go instead of him going alone. And I? I made the wrong decision to refuse at that point of time. I tried being reasonable with him, we fought. He prioritized me over his carrier and everything else. I, on the other hand, was too busy being right and sensible. I couldn’t simply see through his heart, which I should have had. He simply wanted to not to go without ME! I should have but didn’t. He and I both were made to tie knots with two different people of our own respective communities. We didn’t flinch but gave in. After getting married we headed towards our own workplaces. He headed towards Dubai, leaving his family behind. I came back to Delhi with your father. Two months later, he was shot dead. I never got to see him. But the mere thought of him, being dead, wrapped in white sheet, cotton shoved in his nose, his body frozen, colorless, it all, haunts me. Still! Been 18 years! Long time!” Meera exhaled deeply, a couple of tears escaped her eyes.
Vaahika didn’t know what to say or how to react to that. She felt, as if her earlobes were burning, and even though it was just a memory of her mother’s life, it was more painful than anything. Even though she was hearing all this for the first time ever, the pain stung her no less. She kept mum.
“Mom?” Vaahika whispered, after a long silence.
“Ah! Don’t worry! I am fine.” Meera said, cheerily, rubbing her eyes. “We shared so much time together. Had he been just a guy of mine, it would have been totally different. But, memories, Vaahika, no matter where you go and do, they stay there, as though being imprinted. Even when we were in a relationship, he always behaved more like a father and a mentor. Those moments when we happened to talk, interact, were pleasant, soothing. The last time that we met, he didn’t say much. But, one thing, he told me, was that he didn’t have a good feeling. I wish I could have listened to him.” She had a lost look all over her face.
“How did he die?” Vaahika asked her.
“Due to a misunderstanding….. It was some get-together. He and his army friends went out, checked into a hotel by evening, boozed and passed out to sleep. Sajeet never had a taste of alcohol before that day. So, later into the night, his stomach churned and pained. He woke up and found everyone asleep. He went out of the room, his body trembling and eyes swollen, seeking a bit of help. But, while walking in the corridor, he stumbled against a door. Inside the very room, there sat two Arabic ladies, their faces unveiled. By the sudden encounter of a stranger in their room, they screamed, considering his intentions bad. Their husband came out of the other room, he abused Sajeet. Without even blinking and waiting for an explanation from his side, he brought his gun and shot him dead. All the bullets right through his heart, straight into his body.” Meera looked up at the moonlit sky, tears pouring out of her beautiful eyes.
Vaahika stood there, mum, pained, and most of all, horrified of what she just heard. Hearing such things in news, stories, was somehow gulp able but hearing it from nobody but her own loving mother was terrifying, hurtful.
Meera broke down. Vaahika held her close. Caressed her back, kissed her head and tried to comfort her. But, how does one comfort someone for such thing? Memories! Memories of first love? Memories of a lost beloved? How does one?
Vaahika recalled how Aman used to panic whenever she got a scratch over her skin due to carelessness, and how she scolded Aman when he did the same. Her eyes got wet thinking about the pain her mother kept carefully tucked up inside her, this long. She hugged her tight.
After a few while, her mother pulled herself back and wiped her tears away. Vaahika helped her to wash her face and they sat. Nobody uttered a word for a long while. Then Meera exhaled and looked at her daughter.
“Aman loves you, beta! I can and do trust him with that. It shows. But, you know what? That is not the only thing. Point is one should not leave behind their relations for and because of the bright opportunities offered, especially when their heart tells them otherwise. Aman is doing the same. I had my lesson. But, I can never ever mend what has happened. And, the memories? They unsettles me everytime, even today. Been eighteen years!! Long time, right?? You just saw what you might have never ever imagined can happen.” Meera said to, and asked her at the same time.
“You call it a memory?” Vaahika looked at her mother.
“Isn’t it one? Not one but a bunch of it. Blissful yet troublesome, painful yet close to heart! I should forget but it’s like, as if, it is stamped and would never fade away. You can’t forget a person, who taught you so much, loved you so much, and is now gone away, never to return. I tried, but it is there still. It never left and never leaves. The memories!! They stay! Always!” Meera sighed.
“How did you….?” Vaahika tried to ask, but her voice cracked.
“Come to know?” Meera completed her question.
“Hmm!” Vaahika nodded.
“A friend of his told me, year after, through a letter about the whole scenario.” Meera told her, her eyes tearing up in the corners, yet again.
“Do you miss him, maa?” Vaahika asked her softly.
“I won’t say I miss him. But yes, I do feel guilty of not being with him, when I could have had been. NO! I should have been actually. There’s guilt, in there. Vaahi, there’s no need to fight much for being right or sensible. When someone loves you, wants to be with you, is ready to hold you and fight for you, no matter what, there’s no point leaving that person. One should not do that! MUST NOT! You have no idea how long it took me to realize that. True love, can wait. But time, time moves on. However the imprints stay there. There’s so much pain still afresh when I recall his name or the time we shared. But, I can’t bury it down because of that. Had I not known him I might not have been what I am now. He is dead. But he lives, in those memories that I have, that everyone has of him.” Meera smiled sadly.
“Mom?” Vaahika whispered.
“Yes?” Meera turned towards her.
“Memories?” Vaahika couldn’t manage more to say and bit her lip.
“Yes, love! Memories! You remember that? Memories make you live even when you are gone. You often hear people say I miss you, but they don’t miss you, they miss the times, they once spent with you. Those smiles, little fights, talks, debates, outings, every single thing is missed. Sajeet is gone. It has been eighteen years in a row that he has been buried in grave. But, he isn’t forgotten, he survives in the memories that I caress with the affection of mine. He breathes in the prayers, I often do. And that’s how memories work. However, one should not make them knowingly. The painful ones, precisely! One should create cherishable moments to relive them again in the cherishable memories.” Meera smiled.
“You think I am wrong because I want Aman to grab the opportunity that he is being offered with?” Vaahika asked her mother, confused.
“I didn’t say that you are wrong, beta. I am just saying don’t force him with what you consider is right. He is happy being with you and is determined to remain so. Why to make him understand otherwise? You are not wrong, neither he is.” Meera smiled at her daughter.
“Mom! Everyone would be so upset with his decision. Aman’s family sure likes me. They know about our relationship as well. But, still mother, there’s so much more than love, one needs to do to survive.” Vaahika said, straight.
“Your concern is totally justified. But, beta, trust me! If he is so much determined about letting go one thing out of his hands, he might have other things to hold onto. Here, he is happy with you and with his work. Also, if he is incomplete without you, why would you even be forcing him to think the very thing? Aren’t you wrong with that? Aren’t you doing the same thing, I was forced to do back in time?” Meera asked Vaahika, allowing her to think better.
“You people care for each other. Love each other. It has been two years that I have seen you both taking care of each other, so well. He never leaves for a party or anywhere without taking you with him, how do you think he would go to UK for a job?” Meera tried to be reasonable in a way which Vaahika ignored to be.
“Mother! I never knew about this.” Vaahika said, her eyes lowered, lips trembling.
“How could you have had either? I never told you. Did I?” Meera said, her voice the same as usual, soft, yet lively.
“I can see what he has left behind. I am blessed to have you, Maa!” Vaahika said resting head in her lap.
Meera ran her palms across her face, lovingly.
“Beta! The memories never fade away. They are nothing but a screenshot of what you go through. And one should always try to make and have good memories with them. That’s why decision making is important.”
“Hmm! So? What do you suggest? I should not say anything to Aman?” Vaahika asked looking up.
“Say anything to him. But don’t force him to do anything. Let him take his time. Let him decide what he wants to do. He prioritizes you, let him! If that makes him happy, be it. I shared with you a memory which I never would have wanted to share with anyone. My experiences, my emotions and every memory that I have of anyone, good bad, anything, should never hinder your future and present but instead should help you grow, choose wisely. I don’t guarantee that you will never fall anywhere, but being your mother, I need to make sure that when you fall, you don’t fall like I did.” Vaahika kept looking at her mother with calm, however tearing up eyes, when Meera said this.
“I will make sure, maa! I will make sure, that I and Aman, share good moments and leave behind good memories, with each other, for one another and everyone else. And, I can bet anyone, that wherever Sajeet’s soul is resting now, the soul would be smiling because of you and would be so proud of you today. Trust me, maa, the way you have nurtured him in your memories, he could never have lived anywhere. He died? No! He is all there. He is respected back by you even after so many years for the respect that he adorned you with for a few months. You mother, have not just nourished the memories of him, you grew better and you made me a better person. And today I understood what does ‘MEMORIES’ mean. They aren’t just a ‘lovie-dovie’ recap of good times, not even ‘crappy-stinking’ bunch of pain pricks. It is that place, where we let live people even after they are gone, and it is not about just one feeling, it is actually the flood of all the emotions we create, feel, grow with, and what not. It’s a whole another life in itself.” Vaahika saying this, sat up and hugged her mother.
When she pulled back, she saw Meera smiling, warmly as ever. “I am proud of you!” Vaahika said.
“I, more!” Meera replied, smiling wide.
They smiled and surprisingly on the same time, looked up at the sky to say, “You are the best memory and is always going to be, Sajeet!”
The doorbell rang and Vaahika looked at Meera almost instantly. It was 11:30 into the night. “Who would that be, at this hour of time?” Meera said with her eyes wide.
“I’ll go and check.” Vaahika got up to go to the door, followed by her mother.
It was Aman!
“I am sorry aunty. I came by because I missed you both. Am I allowed to come in?” Aman asked for a permission in his ever-sugar-coated voice, eatables in both of his hands, drenched in sweat all over but beaming anyhow.
“Please come in, don’t embarrass me by asking such question. But isn’t it too late to drop by, son?” Meera asked Aman as lovingly as possible while helping him with the bags he was carrying.
“Aunty! Don’t you think one should never let go off any opportunity to create cherishable moments? They give way to cherishable memories, you know?” Aman answered her question by another question.
Vaahika and meera looked at each other. Their jaw drooped for a second or two. Raising their eyebrows and with their eyes wet they chuckled. Aman couldn’t understand anything. Vaahika came forward, held his hand and said,
“You are the best person I have ever met.”
Aman smiled broad, thinking that she is no more worried about the decision he has made to stay back in India only.
“Aunty, let’s cook something nice together, tonight. I want to pay my regards to your lovely daughter, just the way she likes the most.” Aman said to Meera, excitedly heading towards kitchen.
Meera nodded and looked at Vaahika, to see her smiling wider.
“Memories? Memories are not a thing, it’s a whole life in itself, which one creates and lives within themselves, others, in way more than one can ever explain, imagine or even believe. Have them? Nourish them, for now and ever!
©® Nisha Mishra