The charpoy creaked as Amma turned over to face Narendra. Malti noticed the loosened belts of the woven bed hanging down by Amma’s weight. Sitting hunched on her toes, her hands worked in rhythmic motion to clear the grease on the dirty utensils while her husband Narendra sat near the bed talking to his mother.
Amma was eighty-six years old and had stopped talking altogether. She ate only once, in the morning, a plain roti with a bowl of sweet milk. Her son, afraid that his mother may leave them anytime, tried to spend some time with her every day.
“Today was a good day Amma, I could sell much more tea than usual. A group of tourists had come to the temple.” Her crooked teeth showed as Amma smiled a little. She loved her son the most and knew he too loved her equally. He kept telling her random things till she had fallen into deep slumber.
As soon as Narendra came and lay next to Malti, she started sobbing. He expected it. He even knew what she was going to say.
“Look at her, all shrivelled and weak. Who will say she is the same woman who made my life hell in her time? It’s me only who could put up with a cold-hearted woman like her.”
In between further sobs, she continued, “Anyway, I am not like her. I am not saying all this to take revenge in her old age. You understand, don’t you?” Narendra nodded on cue.
She continued, “Look at my hands, hard and cracked with all this house work. I am also old now and not so strong as your mother. I don’t know how long I would live. When will you take me to pilgrimage as promised?”
“I will take you but you know Amma is alone. How can I leave her? Besides, we don’t have money for the trips.”
“Why do you always have to remind me of that? Can’t you figure something out?” Malti was crying now and Narendra tried consoling her. Soon Malti was asleep while he was lost in thought.
He got up and went near Amma’s bed. She looked peaceful in her sleep. He smiled. Then with one hand under her neck, he removed her gold chain and went back to bed.
Amma opened her eyes, she wasn’t sleeping. Just like every day, she heard them and felt proud of her son who never spoke against her. She knew Narendra could never do anything to upset her. But today she was shocked and angry. She wanted to say something. If she could speak, she would have told him.
Narendra’s face was sombre when he reached home next afternoon. Malti had sent a neighbour to his shop to inform him of Amma’s death.
As Narendra lit her pyre, he threw in the chain he had taken to the jeweller for selling. It had turned out to be fake and useless. He cried for he had betrayed his mother.
Photo By: Banjo Emerson
This is an entry for #TheLie #Five00-8, a room8 writing event –in 500 words.
Check out the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/room8/thelie
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