Pretending to be watching the 10PM news on TV, I was noticing my mother wind up for the day. We had finished dinner. Her day had started at 6AM and in her words, so she was 'almost ready' to go to bed by now.
Mom cleaned the dining table with a wet piece of cloth and followed it up with a dry one. She went to the balcony and hung both to dry. She didn't find cloth-clips in the box; other clothes used them all up. So she opened a new packet, used two of them and emptied the rest into an unused plastic box lying in the kitchen. Closing the balcony door, she locked it, and came near the kitchen. Mumbling something about her age and forgetfulness, mom went back to recheck that the door was locked. She switched off the balcony lights, came to the kitchen and placed the balcony key in place.
The pickle bottle was nearly empty. So mom washed the bottle for 10 minutes with a variety of dish-wash soaps and dried it for the next couple of minutes. She then poured fresh mango pickles into it. She rushed to the phone, called up someone and asked for two more bottles of pickle to be delivered the next day. After hanging up the phone, mom picked her famous Accounts book and entered something it. Perhaps the cost of the additional pickle bottles. She could have done it the next day.
Mom cleaned the stove, the kitchen slabs followed by the sink and the tap. In the process, the wall and half a dozen utensils got wet. She wiped them to her satisfaction and arranged them back. She pulled out two steel boxes and swapped their contents. I didn't know why and didn't care to ask about the definitive purpose in her mind. She opened the refrigerator and spent the next 5 minutes sorting out vegetables, checking on the milk, curds and generally the rest of the covers in there. She told me the beans seemed fine in the evening but had gone bad by then. Clueless, I nodded in agreement. She closed the refrigerator and switched off the light.
Next stop was pooja room. After offering routine pranams, mom stared at my father's photo as if in a quiet conversation with him. She leaned a bit, pulled out a bottle and ensured there was enough oil.
Finally, mom came to the living room. Closer to bedtime I thought. She straightened the carpet, put the newspaper into the cupboard and closed the windows. She pulled out two hand towels from the cupboard and dropped them into the washing machine. Mom pushed a pair of sandals into shoe rack. While doing so she took out an old pair and packed them in a cover to be disposed the next day. She then locked the main door. While locking, mom noticed the latch stiffen up a bit, so she brought a coconut oil tin and flowed it patiently over and around the three latches. She went around checking if other doors needed oiling. They didn't. Mom finally locked the door, drew the window curtains and as usual, rechecked the locks.
I switched off the TV and walked to the bedroom. From the edge of my eyes, I saw her wiping the TV's remote once before placing it in the shelf beside the set. Lights off. Thank God!
Mom came to the bedroom, folded a towel, dusted the bed, and peeped outside an open window to check that the outside world was peaceful. Convinced, she closed the window. She ensured that the bedside jar had drinking water to last until morning, just in case. She changed the mosquito coil, switched on the fan, and went towards the dressing table. She combed to remove hair locks that must have formed though the day.
I was in awe of this woman who at twice my age was at least a hundred times more active, no matter what time of the day. Her unconditional love for me, for our home, and for our family at large keeps her going even in her sixties. Nothing else could explain her energy, patience, integrity, and care.
Mom looked at me from the mirror. Our eyes locked, we smiled. I knew exactly where the wrinkles and creases on her face came from. My mind was racing to find the exact words of gratitude for her. Mom switched off the lights and finally got to bed. Moments after she closed her tired eyes, I was ready to say the most sincere thanks I have ever said to anyone. I reached out to her palm and squeezed it to get her attention. But my well-prepared speech fell apart when she suddenly sprang out of the bed and said, "I don't recollect turning off the gas cylinder. Let me check." and disappeared into the kitchen!
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