Of anger and loveMothers and daughters are each other, without ever wanting to be.
Tara wanted to understand why she had been so angry all the time. But she could make no sense of her anger—anger that burst from within her like an inferno.
Most days, she would wake up in the morning and go back to sleep. She could not comprehend what made getting out of bed so hard. Maybe the fear of having to face the world. Or just having to step out of bed—the act of moving her feet from underneath layers of bedclothes to the floor. Just the act. She would sometimes replay it in her head in repeat before actually doing it.
Most days, she had zero courage to move her feet. But by mid-morning, she would usually make do.
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Some days Tara worried about having to talk to Ama. Ama was constantly angry, too. Either angry or afraid. When she wasn’t one of the two, she would only talk about her grief.
Ama saw the strangest details in everything around her. Even in pigeons shitting. She would say they must be having a bad stomach. Now, how on earth could she know what was going inside a pigeon’s belly! But she vouched for it. The pigeon. Diarrhetic.
She would scoop out details in everything.
Whenever Ama met some new fabric for the first time, she would pull the garment up to her eyes, looking through her glasses like they would bleed into the details. Even as she was going blind. Ama!
Ama is stuck in between times. She has her ideals, and little else. Most of all, she has no money. Without money, ideals aren’t easy to sell to others. You can only use it as dinner table rants with Tara, who she was brought up to be just like her-- moralistic, semi-arrogant, awkward and afraid at the same time. Yet, every day, Tara promised herself she would never allow herself to become anything like Ama!
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But every day, Tara felt a part of her slide through the loophole of her promise. She was gradually turning out to be just like Ama. She had even started laughing like Ama and wheezing like her during asthmatic attacks.
The change was so gradual, it did not escape either of them. Tara, now Ama’s spitting copy. Not in image. But in doing. That is who mothers and daughters are—they are each other. Without ever wanting to be.
Some days, Tara is not so angry. And on those days, she reaches out with her hands to warm up Ama’s hands. Ama’s hands are a prettier, older version of Tara’s. But they are firm—calloused from years of caring.
“Not a rupee for all the care work we do, us housewives!” yells Ama sometimes, after reading an article in the women’s column. After flinging the newspaper aside, off she goes and bends over the kitchen sink again.
Some nights, when it rains, Tara is really cold. And she thinks it is the perfect excuse for her insomnia. In the morning, she will tell Ama she did not sleep because it was too cold.
Last night was cold. It rained like mad, like the rain would sweep away all of Kathmandu. Tara regretted not having enough bedclothes. Tara reminded herself that she must get her quilt out in the morning.
When she woke up this morning, timorous rays of the sun had begun to steal into the house. Tara asked Ama where her quilt was. She said she had put it away.
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It irritated Tara to think she would have to go through the ordeal of digging up through a pile of bedclothes to find her quilt. Because Ama had the habit of stowing everything within sight, away. She thought of it as a way of cleaning up the house. And memory.
It was a while before Tara dug up her quilt.
“I hate the sight of that thing,” Ama said, when her daughter finally managed to pull it out.
The quilt, you see, was among the things Ama had bought Tara as her wedding presents. In those days, she was still young and strong so the two had walked through nooks and gallies of Ason, finally deciding on the quilt and then lugging it home all the way to Siuchatar, jumping on and off public vehicles.
The cover had massive red and green floral prints. While Tara was married, it had kept her warm—in matrimony and in her loneliness. Marriage can mean many things. It can be a trail of sighs, hours of tears, punctuated by laughter. Who knows what stays with one when trials are actually over. Not the words, but the essence of experiences.
So, when Tara’s marriage ended, bundles of things that belonged to her were sent back to Ama’s home. The quilt was one of the things.
Tara wanted to carry it to the terrace and spread it out, so it could soak some sun. But when she carried it up to the terrace, Ama was already there.
“I hate the sight of it,” Ama murmured.
“It’s alright. It’s mine. You don’t need to deal with hating it.”
Tara walked past Ama to the corner of the terrace where pansies and petunias were still in bloom. So unlike this time of the year, Tara thought. Ama’s flowers, just as mad as her. The overnight rain had tampered with them. But they were still there. Withering away, but swaying gently every time the softest, post-rain breeze gathered at their stems.
And Tara thought, “We are in spring.”
Suburban Tales is a monthly column in Nepali Times based on real people (with some names changed) in Pratibha’s life.