My Mother’s Son
A short story by Monica Ingudam
It was a rainy day in Manipur. I was in bed with my migraine feeling very nauseous. I couldn’t get up and needed to lie down for a bit. I heard my mother coming in muttering why the house is in a mess “Imungsina pungchai chairise keidoure“. There were piles of clothes which needed to be folded, clothes I hurriedly took inside as the rain started falling. There were lots of dirty unwashed vessels. I had carried out all the dirty vessels near our black water tank. The pipe coming from the roof was fitted to our black water tank, collecting the rain water. I heard the children rushing happily screaming
“Granny is here, Granny is here (Abok Lakle Abok Lakle)”
“Where is your mother? (Namadi kadai ?)”
“Mother is sleeping, she has asked us not to disturb her”
“Why is she sleeping in the afternoon (Nungthin talaksida tummisna karigino ?)
“Ema is having a headache”
I heard the kids being excited with the orange cream biscuits my mother gave. They must have been hungry after getting back from school. I lay down in the dark room feeling guilty questioning about myself, about being a good mother and how I am not able to take care of my kids. My mother didn’t come to my room. She must have gone to her son’s, my stepbrother’s room.
I never had the mother daughter relationship I wanted with my mother. With turns in life, my mother got remarried and I didn’t get a chance to grow up with her around me. I don’t blame her for getting remarried but I resented that she wasn’t there for me in times I really needed her. I always felt that she wasn’t there for me. And in a way, I am jealous of the love, pampering and caring nature she showered on her son, the love I never got from her, the pampering I never received. It was difficult raising the kids alone with my husband. My husband’s parents passed away much before we got married and so we didn’t have in-laws around too. It was difficult times especially when the kids are falling sick, faced with choices of giving up my career to balance family life and my health deteriorating. I had requested her to help me with my kids and she wasn’t very reactive to my request. Later I got to know that she had commented that I have kids like a dog would, birthing many (“Hui douna macha poklaga, eingonda yok-o haine!) and I was really hurt hearing that. I had asked for help from my heart thinking that she is my mother and I had no one else to ask. That further distanced me from her and more than that, it left a big scar in my heart, a scar which never healed.
I heard the children whispering “Granny got lot of goodies for Uncle, I saw Tin fish, lots and lots of big Cans.” I felt really bad that I couldn’t provide everything, even the small wishes my children wished for eating. We mostly ate very simple local food ( kangshoi, hawai thongba, eromba, dry fish, tum yakpi nga, tum yakpi khajing ), cut the egg into pieces while cooking as we couldn’t have 1 egg per person and couldn’t cook big fish every day. My mother’s son use to eat with us when he started living with us, but he was not happy with the food we were eating. He had shown his discontent frowning, not eating when the food was simple and one day I heard him muttering “I will get TB if I continue eating such unhealthy food (Eishe soidana TB paklani, asigumba houtaba cha cha leiradi)” and that was the day I told my mother that the living arrangement is not working out well and that his son is not happy with the food arrangement. I was scared of what would be my husband’s reaction if he hears such comments. He has been kind enough to accommodate and taking him despite our living condition and constraints we have. My mother had requested that he stays with us to avoid the company he developed in their leikai (community) and that is how he started staying with us. It was then agreed that he will cook on his own so that he can eat what he likes.
After his kitchen got separated, my mother visited more, carrying big, big bags of goodies for him. Though a part of me understood that she is looking after him as he is still a bachelor, I couldn’t help but find a lot of grief seeing her showering with such pampering. And I got jealous that she never visited that often nor got such big, big bags of goodies when he was eating with us. I would be wrong to say that she didn’t do anything for me. He did a lot of things in her own ways but then it was never enough for me, I saw more of what she did for him. I couldn’t help but seeked for her attention. My thought was interrupted by a loud sound of vessels falling followed by a yelling from my mother’s son “Are you the servant of this house? Why are you cleaning the vessel? (Nung yumsigi minai ra ? kon-ga phenglido ?) And my mother mutters “Vishnu Vishnu, you are kicking the vessels!). I was saddened to hear this tone from my Mother’s son. I had washed his vessels all this time after he ate, I had cooked for him and did what I could within my capacity, no doubt it was not up to his standard and if he or his mother does any help, even in time of sickness it was termed as servant’s work.
It was fate that three of us were faced with situations in life which were beyond our control. Each of us struggling with our own set of insecurities, challenges, taking out the anger and coping up in different ways. I never got the connection with my mother or my mother’s son, the connection I looked for. And I closed my eyes as the medication takes into effect leading me to sleep. We never spoke of this incident, I pretended I never heard it. My mother, neither her son never mentioned it but I never forgot it. How can you unheard something?
Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.