The eyes and the pout. That’s one of the first things my mother gave me. “Shalini has gone on me,” she didn’t tire of saying to anyone who listened, as I heard from my father.
The love for dressing up. A penchant for applying various shades of pink on my face and kohl-lined eyes. Those were some other things my mother gave me, though I didn’t realise it for many years. Until it was my parents’ twentieth marriage anniversary.
Mom was uncharacteristically inside the bathroom for a long time. The door opened and she stepped out — barely recognisable in her new avatar. My gown-wearing mother with usually unkempt hair looked resplendent in a gold-embroidered pink saree with her manes neatly held back by exotic jewellery pieces. At fifteen years I realised I was more like my mother than I thought.
I gave her lice in her hair from school. Twice.
She didn’t complain but went about ensuring that the creatures departed my manes soon. Putting others before self, that’s another thing my mother gave me.
I wanted to work after my studies, while my father wanted to marry me off. I raged and ranted until he gave in. “That’s my daughter,” my mother declared with pride. I realised that speaking my mind was something I inherited from her.
I bought her a green cashmere sweater from my first salary. I saw her wear it twice in the ensuing years, but she didn’t tire of showing it to all and sundry who visited her.
My mother gave me her favourite pink saree and all her jewellery on my wedding night. “You know best how to lead your life,” she said while taking me to the mandap.
I gave her another child to look after two years later. My mother was the only one I could think of to look after my daughter when I had to resume work after my maternity break.
She gave me reassurances in return.
Then a day came when I had to give her my organ.
Doctors said her kidneys were failing, and a new one was required. I was delighted that mine was a perfect match.
We lay on the hospital beds side by side, clasping each other’s hands. “See you soon,” I told her as they wheeled us away.
Of all the things that I gave her, she had to reject this one.
“Take care of yourself,” she whispered, blessing me one last time.
My head and heart gave away, both of which she had carefully nurtured over the years. I slept with the cashmere sweater I had once given her next to me for days.
“You look just like grandma when you say this,” my daughter remarked many days later. I peered into the mirror. The almond-shaped eyes, the lips that ended in dimples at corners, the round face and angular jaw—my mother stared at me through my reflection.
I smiled. There was no end to the things my mother gave me.
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