To Maa, this Mother’s Day and everyday.
A drop of rain plopped on my glass window joining the older drops in their meandering course across the glass pane as the bus sped forward. As I peered outside through the rain splattered glass window of our halting bus, I felt my brother prod the back of my arm. The grin playing on his face told me that he wanted me to see what I was already looking at. A kid rushed out of his house with an already bitten sandwich in his hand followed by his brother dragging his soiled yellow bag down the stairs. That kid, Shikhar, was as close as it gets to being an arch enemy to my 7-year old brother. Shikhar was the fattest kid in the bus; which certainly brought plenty of mockery his way.
This had been the routine every day of having gone in the bus. The 4th bus halt after me and my brother got on it, Shikhar and brother got on. They would sit opposite us. And all that you needed was someone to mock him and it would lead to these diurnal squabbles. I wouldn’t acquit myself and my brother of being participants in the jeering. But again even as a kid I wasn’t someone who would take initiative in bullying. I was just one from the crowd.
That monsoon morning, Shikhar walked out of his house with his mother, who I had seen only through the screen door all these days. Her entering the bus with the kids was bewildering enough when she came and asked me to get down the bus with her. A 10 year old doesn’t do much but obey in a case as this. As I left I saw the fearful finality of judgement day in my brother’s eyes. After we were out, the woman screamed at me for having ignored all the times her son was harassed. She blamed me for what happened to her son in the bus everyday because I was the oldest kid in the bus. Never before this instant had I felt responsible for what happened to anyone else. Without thought I turned and looked to the bus driver to save me. I swore I hated him when he didn’t help me that day. Through my sobs I told her that I never said anything to Shikhar. Usually crying worked in such situations. That day the tears only got me slapped on the cheek by this woman I didn’t know.
Once that was over I braced myself for a whole day at school before I got home and told my mother all about this. And I did exactly that as soon as I stepped into my house. My mother was furious. No. She was something graver. Now, it was my mother’s life’s aim to avenge me.
When I am hurt, when I am in trouble even today, by instinct I call out ‘Maa’. It’s because the first thing I learned as an infant was that I am in my safe zone if it was guarded by my mother.
Papa didn’t want too much hassle but still the next morning he had to drive my mother to Shikhar’s house. As I sat in the bus looking back at Papa’s car following the bus, I was screaming in my head, “Take that, Shikhar’s mother!!”
We finally reached their house and I watched my mother get out of the car. She walked past Shikhar and his brother’s questioning stares. Our bus continued it’s usual journey to school but this time the turn for worrying was Shikhar’s lest some of his ‘deeds’ at school came out (that’s another matter) while our mothers talked.
When I got home that day I was disappointed by the outcome. According to Papa, my mother had been very aggressive in my defence. And to finally put an end to discourse, Papa had intervened and given that woman our phone number ‘in case I ever troubled her son, which of course would never happen again’. Papa had had his valid explanation for not fuelling a fight among adults. I was very cross with Papa that day but at the same time glad that at least my mother resonated my feelings.
Two days from that day, Shikhar’s mother called on the phone (NEVER SHOULD HAVE GIVEN HER THE NUMBER!). She told my mother that her son was bullied in the bus again and I had done nothing to prevent it, again. This time my mother was irked to core. She gave the woman a terse three-liner.
“It’s high time you made your kids responsible for their own problems. And don’t call me ever again with complaints about things my daughter didn’t do.”
“My daughter is my pride and I give no one the right to mar it”
If I were any older I would have wept happy tears as I heard my mother say that to the woman. That same moment I felt lucky, safe and proud for my mother was always on my side.
Happy Mother’s Day!
A first at the Yeah Write Weekend Moonshine Grid and I really wanted to do it here for Mother’s day. It’s where we relax.