With the brunt of the winter over, England is a riot of colour. The roses and tulips interspersed with grass patches are a sight for sore eyes. Women have shed their overcoats and furs for bright skirts. As I slit open the envelope marked Air Mail, the colours around me congeal into black and grey. It is a six by four inch photograph. The veins are prominent, the skin like age old parchment. To me each wrinkle defines a trauma and each thinning grey strand, a tribulation. The vacant eyes evince hope but the loneliness and suffering is evident.
1968 heralds in slices of joy accompanied with dabs of sorrow. My memories as an adolescent are of pot- bellied, balding men, guttural laughter, obscene remarks, empty bottles and the bruises on my mother’s face. I have to get out. It is stifling – this life. I have wings, I realise, but they do not have the strength to fly. Not just yet.
My mother and I being the immediate victims of prolonged suffering and anguish, find companionship in each other. And then, my father succumbs to a lifetime of alcoholism. Suddenly, it all comes to an end.
A few months later I get accepted into Oxford University. My mother having just crossed sixty, is the epitome of ageless grace, beauty and energy. She bustles in carrying gram-flour sweets, savouries and pickles. “This can’t last for five years, I know,” she smiles at my dismay, “but it will help kick-start your stay in an alien land. Very soon you’ll be back!”
1973 earns me a ‘summa cum laude’. I am now an Oxford graduate with the highest honours. I gaze at the poster on my wall, ‘Don’t dream your life, live your dream.’ I am living my dream, I whisper. I do a little jig around the room. I am living my dream I shout. All childhood demons are vanquished. Occasional letters from my mother convince me all is well.
Professor Cowley calls to tell me, I have been placed in Simons & Simons as their corporate lawyer. Take a survey God. “Isn’t mine a charmed life beyond compare?” A young girl of twenty five with a history of an oppressed childhood from a small town of India, finds it hard to contain her sheer joy.
The photograph clutched tightly in my hand, I alight on the tarmac, flinching at the first onslaught of the Indian summer. It has been a decade. The aroma of gram- flour ladoos fills my nostrils. I have to yet cover 245 kms to reach home. Was my mother at the Delhi airport? With freshly made sweets? I shake my head and move slowly towards the Uber counter. Ironically, an Oxford law graduate has just realized that love can traverse hundreds of miles to take on a tangible perception. After all – Home is really a person you go back to!
Connect with Penmancy: