She practically flew out of the conference. Everything blurry in front of her eyes, somehow she managed to hail a cab and instruct the driver to take her to 27 Sherard Road, East Ham. After settling down in the taxi, realisation dawned upon her that it would take her at least an hour and a half to reach the hotel. Maybe I should just head towards the airport, she thought. The return ticket to Dhaka was lying in her hotel room, Oh shucks! She reminded herself. All she could do was just sit, wait till she reached her hotel, and pray for everything to be as it was before.
Just 30 minutes ago, she remembered that her cell phone was still switched on. Oops! Don't want it to go blaring right in the middle of my presentation. That's when she found the sign of an envelope blinking on the screen of her phone. I must have missed this one in the London traffic with all it's blaring horns, she rolled her eyes. Ever since she reached London a week ago, she could barely keep up with everything around her. Even though it was her second trip to London, she was having a tough time getting used to the different time zone, hardly able to keep her eyes open during the daytime and redefining insomnia at night. However, she was very excited to be there. Being part of a junior linguistics research team in Dhaka, she worked very hard on a paper, describing her ideas and concepts regarding teaching foreign languages to second language learners of all ages.
It was on the main conference day, when she received a text message from her brother. Apuni, come home asap. Ma doesn't have much time left. Reaching her hotel, she leaped out of the taxi and ran to her room. Grabbing her travel bag, purse and taking five minutes to cast a last look around her hotel room, in case she missed anything important, ran out of the hotel and took the taxi all the way to Heathrow International Airport.
With passing moments, she couldn't keep herself calm any longer. It seemed like an eternity before she could actually reach her family back home. She let the tears flow when an image of her mother's face hovered in front of her eyes. I want to be there when they take that machine off her. Her family was struck with fear when they realised that the ever-jolly aunt and the fun mom wouldn't live long, when she was diagnosed with blood cancer. She, along with the rest of her siblings, was pleasantly surprised with their mother's ability to fight the disease and go on for a few more years.
As she got on the plane and strapped herself with the seat belt, she couldn't help thinking of the times when she and her siblings were younger and life back then was simply a routine, which everyone had to follow, never worrying about the hardships in life. Life was a bed of roses for all of them, especially with a mother who herself was a little more than a child. She would laugh heartily with the rest of the kids while watching TV or try to get into the gossiping rituals, with her daughter and her friends during their sleep- overs, much to her daughter's embarrassment.
As she slowly dozed off to sleep, she went back to a time when she was just six years old. Her four-year-old brother and she were trying to hide the expensive piece of flower vase from their father, now broken.
They fixed it up with super glue, at least they thought they did, and placed it back up on the shelf, beside their mother's precious crystal horse. They did get grounded though, when they were found guilty of the 'crime' and were not allowed to watch Voltron, Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers on TV for the rest of the day. She was especially hurt when she wasn't allowed to watch Care Bears that evening and couldn't help thinking of how horrible it was to live with her parents. I can't wait to grow up, she cried to herself. That was when her mother amused them with her magical abilities. Her mother sat down on the ground and asked the children to close their eyes and concentrate hard. When they opened their eyes, abraca dabra, she came up with oranges, within seconds and that too from thin air! Even though her brother did claim that he had seen their mother cheat, when he had opened his eyes slightly and peeked at her. She had a bowl of oranges hidden behind her.
Finally reaching Zia International Airport, she was too exhausted to think of what was happening around her. Getting on yet another cab, she reached the hospital where her family was waiting. Waiting for what, she wondered. Her mother to die?
Life without her mother was simply unimaginable. In spite of all their fights, tears and screaming at each other late into the night, she needed her mother to be with her and listen to her non-stop chattering. She needed her mother when she was angry and had to scream at someone. She needed her when she had to call someone and share the silliest of information and just see her mother's fuming face when she would come home late.
She slowly stepped inside the room, where her mother was breathing softly. Her mother looked peaceful and strangely relieved, not at all scared or tensed about going to a new place, as was her habit. She knelt down and held her mother's hand. She held me when I breathed my first. "We'll have to take the machine off now," a voice spoke to her. I want to hold her hand when she breathes her last.
As the family gathered around, seemingly to witness her mother's soul go away to a place unknown, she could actually imagine her mother happy and smiling to have the whole family together. "I would have to be on my death bed to see the family standing together under the same roof, holding no grudge against one another," she remembered her mother telling her aunt, clearly upset over the little squabbles that went on forever in the extended family.
The machine beeped for the last time. Her mother's breathing became slower, eventually dying away to a whisper. She held her mother's hand and told her the one thing she hardly ever let her know. She loved her and she was sure that from somewhere in God's own abode, she heard her mother respond, in her smiling and playful drawl.
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