Of Mothers and Women
By Vasundhara Singh
She wasn’t a bad mother. She was simply preoccupied with being someone else. It had been four months since we had left home, Ma and I. Even though she would call it an escape. It’s half past eight in the late evening and yet again, she is shedding the weary skin of a mother and carefully slipping into the role of a woman. In no time, Kavathy from the third floor will come to look after me and ma would be waltzing out the door, her slender fingers waving goodbye. I never found out what she did when she wasn’t being my mother.
During those two hours when she wasn’t my mother, who was she?
Kavathy would encourage me to paint and drink my glass of milk. Ma always returned back before ten. Except that one time when she didn’t answer any of Kavathy’s frantic phone calls and when she did finally show up, her arms were all scratched up and her upper lip, torn.
Kavathy took her to a corner and they talked in worried whispers and in no time, she became my mother again. She chided me for being up so late and checked the empty glass of milk and asked if I was hungry and made me a sandwich. All the while, her open lip let out drops of maroon blood. The next evening, she stood in front of the mirror and temporarily shed her motherhood.
This continued till Kavathy arranged for a job at a call center and Ma taught me the basics of home management and the tricky but necessary business of locking the front door. I saw Kavathy sometimes at the general store. She’d smile at me and say, “your mother is a brave woman, you know that right?” I’d smile back and nod.
Back at home, ma would be heating up milk and ironing her white shirt for the night shift.
Like I said, she wasn’t a bad mother. She was simply preoccupied with being someone else.