Quest for lifeShyam, miles away from home, in the bustling streets of Texas, felt his world come to a sudden stop when he heard the news of his mother’s sudden illness.
The forlorn dark night gave a silent chase to dawn, yet it felt like time seemed to have stopped. The lonely figure on the bed couldn’t wake up from his dreamless stupor. All he could hear was his chaotic and upheaval breathings that seemed to jolt him awake from the painful daze and bring him back to equally bitter reality.
He felt as if the dark night suddenly grew a pair of arms to squeeze his lungs, make him short of breath and drown him in a burrow of darkness. The words from the nurse kept ringing in his ears, “Hello, Mr Shyam, we are calling from Bir Hospital in Nepal. We are really sorry to inform you of your mother’s serious condition. The left part of her body is severely burnt by the fire. You are urgently needed here to sign the legal papers as the only son of the patient.”
Shyam, miles away from home, in the bustling streets of Texas on a moonless night, felt his world come to a sudden stop. In the pitch-black darkness, he looked around and found no one. No one to hold him and no one to tell him that everything is alright after crying his heart out. He did a double take, but the only precious thing among the world’s luxuries was the old picture frame of his mother holding his ears and grinning.
When was the last time he was in his mother’s arms, cocooned in her warm embrace? When was the last time he ate his favourite kheer (rice pudding) his mother made? Or when was the last time he even saw his mother?
Hurriedly, scrambling to his feet, he dialled a call to the old age home where his aama resided, but no one answered. He was questioning how her body got badly burnt. What caused his aama to be in the accident? Didn’t I leave her in the company of caretakers? Trying to pacify his heart’s loud throbbing, he booked his overnight flight to Nepal. But the only passenger flight to Kathmandu he could find was in the early morning. This delay was causing him more anxiety. He couldn’t sit still with the thought of his aama lying in a hospital bed fighting death.
Late at night, he paced around his room and finally sat on his couch from fatigue and fell into a deep thought. Was he doing the right thing, chasing his dream of a successful life in a faraway land? Did he find his ever desired peace in his dream country? So where is this so-called peace that today everyone wants? Was it possible he could have forgotten his aama if it had not been the frightening call? How will he show his face to his aama?
He couldn’t rest his eyes and was uneasy the whole night. The next morning, with bags under his eyes, he left for the airport and flew back to Nepal. It was already dusk when he reached the hospital and signed the necessary papers. He was to deposit a huge sum of 1 million immediately in the hospital’s account. He deposited every penny from his credit card, which he had saved working overseas.
When he came to the cabin where his aama was kept with a saline bottle hanging by her side, his footsteps came to an abrupt halt. She looked ghastly with her wounds and barely breathing. She suddenly appeared as if she had aged ten years overnight. His aama looked frail and weak.
He rushed to her bedside, and clutching her old hands, he wept his heartbreaks and sorrows. He kept questioning his unconscious mother about how this terrible thing happened. The medical team came and took his mother to the emergency department for surgery.
He remained outside the door where his mother was being operated on and kept praying to god to make everything right and his aama to be able to pull his ears again. In the meantime, the authorities of the old age home came to the hospital along with the caretaker he left his mother with. Upon seeing them, he rose with fury and started demeaning them for their poor lack of conduct and said that he would sue them for the condition of his mother.
The authorities sincerely apologised and said they would help him pay the hospital fees thereafter. They also patiently told him to listen to what the caretaker had to say. Then, the caretaker, Rima, told everything she saw and happened on the day the incident took place.
She said how his mother had made a great bond with the little boy of around 5 years who lived next to the old age home and often visited her to play games with her. On that ill-fated day, she went to his house because he didn’t come over, and the moment she entered, the kitchen exploded with fire.
The old lady had cocooned the little boy in her embrace and remained at a side, sacrificing her old body. Later, it was found that the boy’s mother had gone out to find a mechanic to fix the gas cylinder, which was leaking, leaving her child in his father’s care. And the father had gone outside to answer an important office call. And in between, the tragedy happened.
The surgery was successful, and after days of unconsciousness, his mother slowly regained her colour and was able to talk with him slowly. When his mother opened her eyes, she found her son asleep at her bedside with a dirty beard and long hair grasping her hand tight.
She tried to shift into a comfortable position, and Shyam stirred from his sleep. Upon hearing his mother calling him “Shyamu” lovingly, his eyes got filled with tears and embraced his mother warmly with hot tears cascading down his cheeks. His mother returned the hug and joked about how a big man was suddenly a little baby with tears.
For Shyam, his aama regaining her vigour felt like a big boulder was suddenly lifted off his shoulders. It was a wake-up call for him, and he decided he was not leaving his aama alone again, come what may. He couldn’t recall the memories of his father so she was both his epitome of mother’s love and father’s sacrifice. She was a Wonder Woman who raised him to be a man of morals and be humane to everyone around.
She asked him, “When will I see you again, Shyamu?” Shyam with a fiery determination, replied, “I am not going back aama”. “What about your dream then? She asked. “My most precious dream is to make you smile aama!” he replied.
“Aama, why didn’t you leave?” he asked, “Nothing would have happened to that boy. His father would have saved him in time. But look at yourself, such a miserable condition in this old age.” His mother patiently replied, “Babu, I saw your glimpses in him. He tended my old heart in my miseries.”
Shyam said, “Even so, look at you bearing so much pain!” His mother gently held his hand, looked him in the eye, and said, “Being humane is better than being human, babu!” The reply from his mother hit home. His entire being stilled for a second and he bowed his head down and kissed his mother’s forehead as if to tell her he understood her. He left his mother to rest and came out of the room. His whole childhood flashed before him. What has he become now? Did he forget his morals in the quest to become a better and more successful human? Do money and luxuries matter in one’s deathbed? All these thoughts came to his mind. He promised himself that from now on, he would not forget the life lessons his aama taught him. He would not leave his morals behind in the rat race of life. Nothing is lost. He has his aama.
Bajgain is a bachelor’s level student at Mahendra Multiple Campus, Dharan.