I stood by the hospital bed hopelessly waiting for the inevitable. I was watching my mother sink. Five days ago she had left my house, chirpy as usual. And then she had returned to Sevagram with this undiagnosed ailment which her doctors couldn’t understand. Doctors who quoted statistics irritated me now. My mother wasn’t a statistic to me. And I didn’t need statistics to know that the end was near. From her medical records and charts I could see one organ after the other fail. And what made things unnerving was that, mentally, she was completely alert and knew that she was dying. Even during this time, she had the courage to laugh at Saumya’s jokes — Saumya was the intern posted in the ICU then. Although she couldn’t speak because of her tracheostomy, she would write or gesture to speak to a loved one on the phone. We would put on the speaker phone and she would listen.
That afternoon, while the others had gone home to grab some much-needed rest, I stood by her bedside quietly looking on. Suddenly she raised her arms, grabbed me, and pulled me down to herself. My nose buried in her smell and the smell of medicated hospital sheets — I didn’t resist. For what seemed to be the longest moment of my life, she held me tight and then, stroked my head in blessing. As I straightened up, I realized that this was perhaps my only memory of being hugged by my mother. A memory that would last me a lifetime.
My family has never been physically demonstrative. And I guess most of my generation has had parents who have hardly hugged them after they turned into adults. It is perhaps a cultural thing. My only memory of my Dad hugging me, has been during my bidai — the emotional moment as I walked out of my parents’ home on my wedding day to another home I would call my own.
And so I am envious of my Punjabi friends to whom jhappis come so naturally. I remember travelling to Ludhiana and meeting my friend’s mom. The warmth with which she hugged me felt so wonderful. And I wished I had more such memories with my own parents. In two days, I shall be meeting some of my closest friends at my reunion. I am not looking forward to the gossip sessions, or to seeing their trendy clothes, hairdos or nails. All I look forward to — is bringing back the warmth of their bear hugs, jadoo kijhappis and embraces with me. These are the wordless memories which will linger on, long after Goa ends.