Anvay is a happy child – happier than any other child I have known – always smiling and lighting up the world. But I often wondered if he ever felt sad or frustrated or angry or any other deeper emotions beyond pain and happiness. It would have been so much easier if he could just have told me. Except he can’t speak.
But emotions make their way beyond speech. I found out last year when his naani left for India and he found himself without his constant companion. We had been preparing him about her departure for a while but could not tell whether he understood. All through that day he was silent and glum and finally when she called after landing, his eyes teared up and without a word, we could feel his longing. In that bittersweet moment, while my heart ached for his sorrow, I was also relieved to see his capacity for complex emotions. This was the first time he had revealed his capability to miss someone and feel sad.
I wasn’t surprised though – if I look back – most of his emotions first found their way to naani. Be it his fierce love, where he just hugs one with all his strength, or crushes your head in his little arms, or his delight or naughtiness – naani was the first one to experience them.
I know that grandparents and grandchildren always share a special relationship, but this is different. It’s as if Anvay came into this world with a tough baggage to carry but he had a predestined companion for his journey.
Destined Companions – Intertwined Fates
Like all families, we also had our fun stories. A palmist once told my mother that her hands had a very strong line denoting world travel. But coming from a middle-class family, we barely ever travelled outside our hometown, let alone outside of India. She used to laughingly say that it seems my dad had an equally strong or stronger line to stay in India, which is why she never made it out of the country even for a holiday!
In 2017, we had everything ready – passports, visas, tickets – for travel to the U.S. but my dad backed out at the end – not feeling up to it. He passed soon after that. The irony doesn’t escape me that my mum and dad never traveled out of the country together.
But along came Anvay, with a black mole on his foot (popular belief links it to travel), and their fates intertwined. Now along with Anvay, she has set foot on the soil of U.S., Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Dubai, Turkey etc. – and they travel together every few months.
“ek ke haathon ki lakeerein aur ek ke paon ka til, jaane kaisi mili taqdeerein, ki zindagi bani safar”
(Lines on one’s palms, and a mole on the other’s foot – fates intertwined, and life became a journey)
Beyond a Mother’s Love
Anvay’s diagnosis was a massive shock to the entire family, and we all dealt with it in our ways. But being a stoic family, we all put our individual grieving selves aside and took on our roles. There was a lot to be done. Anvay was going to need all our help and courage.
Anvay needs extensive therapy and a lot of care and support. And with both Kapil’s and my demanding jobs, my mom took over the mantle of Anvay’s caregiving. Of course, Kapil and I are fully involved – but she has been leading his care from the front. Since his diagnosis, she has devoted herself to him – to his improvement.
My mother has had a tough life, and while she is a strong and resilient person, the stress of her younger years took its toll on her health. For as far back as I can remember, she has been on medication for high BP and later for diabetes as well. Till 6-7 years ago, I remember she would have very volatile swings of blood pressure and many times my father would have to rush her to the hospital. But for the last five years – Anvay’s lifetime – her health has been stable. (touchwood) It is as if she has resolved within to stay healthy for him.
Despite her fragile health, she has been taking him for his therapies, however strenuous it might have been, come what may. Bombay, Delhi, Vijaywada or Almaty, she has been with him everywhere, always. The day my father suffered his fatal stroke, my mom was out with Anvay, for his therapy session. I am not sure if her presence could have saved him, but the fact that she wasn’t with him in his last waking moments will perhaps haunt me and her forever.
However, reducing her role to just his primary caregiver would do their relationship gross injustice. She is his primary advocate and his cheerleader. Since his diagnosis, she has educated herself about his condition – I had bought a lot of books – she has read them and tries to follow through with the suggestions. She makes sure she is not a passive audience to his therapies and makes videos of all his therapy sessions so we could repeat them at home. She reminds us to continue to stimulate his brain when we play with him or talk to him and gets angry with us when we slip up! Constantly on the watch for the right toys or accessories that would help him, I am not sure how many things she has had me buy for him!
They both share a language between them – she can differentiate between the similar sounds he makes and can tell if he needs something or is uncomfortable. She notices every small change in him – whether he is sitting a little straighter or a few seconds longer; whether his gaze is blank or knowing; or if he is lifting his bum a bit higher while crawling. She notices when his limbs are tighter than usual or his drooling a little excess.
And Anvay on his part showers his love and adoration on her. Of course, he loves us all – but for naani there is a special place. He is most comfortable sleeping with her, snuggling in the folds of her saree; sometimes wants to be fed only by her and is seen most often crushing her head with his tiny hands – finding no other way to express his ferocious love for her.
And by being there for him, my mother has been a pillar of support for me, for us. She has seen him through his toughest and most painful moments without once breaking down. I remember once how I broke down when an 8-month-old Anvay cried through his entire therapy session in pain – but she saw it every day, unflinching. When I closed my eyes, unable to see him in unbearable pain after his hip surgery, my mother kept hers wide open, giving him comfort.
Knowing that she is looking out for him, come what may, has enabled Kapil and me to continue to focus on ensuring a secure future for him and his brothers. If not for her, I would probably never have been able to make the decision of working out of my country. She is therefore we are.
There is perhaps no way to thank her, but this note is just a small way to appreciate her on mother’s day.
Thank you mumma!!
P.S. Thanks a lot to Kapil and Aditi for their inputs!
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