In Her Absence

When I entered the hospital room, she was leaning against the window on her bed. It was a warm sunny day. But her face was mirroring dark clouds which were about to rain filled with sadness and tiredness. With her gloomy eyes watching at the sun, she must be worried about the paddy she had planted in our field a month ago. That's my mother. Wherever she would be, she won't leave worrying about her vegetable farm. She must be missing home and family too.

“Ma ! mah fu la?” I asked her in Newari as it is the only spoken language on the earth that can connect her daughter to her. Grown up in a typical Newari family of Bhaktapur, she can hardly speak Nepali. She never got chance to attend school and study. My question breaks the silence lingering in her face. She looks at me, gives me a warm smile. I had been longing to see that smile for days.

I sit close to her, take her withered hands on mine. Her hands, worn out from years of farm work, were swollen due to medications and piercing of injections. Maybe she understood my glance and started complaining about how often nurses come to inject her and take out blood from her veins. I try to console her that this will end soon. But I myself don’t know when it will end.

I share her how her grandsons keep on asking about their Aji's health and how much they are missing her. While I explain how they trouble their Nini these days, she listens to me on her face. It’s been so many days since she last saw them. She misses them even more than her daughter and sons. This makes me a little jealous.

While at home, I always hated to wash utensils. I would always leave the dishes unwashed after cooking and washing. She would scold me that ‘that’s not a good sign for being a good daughter-in-law’. A girl has to learn good habits from an early age so she can be a good daughter-in-law in her future home. I would just laugh and reply [asking] why was she so hurried to send me away so soon. That was the best reply I could give in a hurry than listening to talks of good manners for being a daughter.

Ma usually comments that I shouldn’t have joined a university far from home. It takes around two hours to travel from Bhaktapur to Kirtipur with all the traffic jams. She is always worried whenever I reach home late from college. My mother always worries about my health. She always notices my shrinking cheeks and growing dark circles around my eyes. Whenever I would go home being feverish, she would make me delicious Jaulo, which is the best dish in world, mixed with her love and care.

My mother has been sick for the last three month fighting for life, with blood cancer waiting to be cured in a hospital bed. I wish I could share her pain. It must be painful when sharp needles pierce her swollen hands. She must be tired of lying on the hospital bed, tired of regular blood tests and all those lousy medicines. Doctor say that she is to undergo a painful series of chemo therapies. She is still unaware of upcoming painful things.

I would like to promise my mother that I would never leave my dishes unwashed after eating. I will learn to be a good daughter as she wishes. I will also learn all her farm works. I don’t know what the future beholds for me whether I will be a good daughter-in-law or not. But I promise I will prove myself as a good daughter if this could ease her pain. I can see suffering in her gloomy eyes but I can't feel her pain inside me.

Home without mother feels like a haunted house. Loneliness haunts me like a dreadful ghost. I wish she could remark how her daughter has been losing her cheeks and has dark circles under her eyes. She has been growing even more careless in her absence. I wish she would recover and be home soon.

A dreamer.