I have not used this precious word to address any one since 28th November, 1993. It was Kartik Purnima and I have lost her in the early morning hours around 4 AM. She was suffering from stomach cancer. She was operated upon with in a week of the diagnosis and major portion of her stomach was removed. Doctors at AIIMS, New Delhi were non-committal till they got the biopsy results of the stomach portion left in the body. As per them, if there are no cancer cells found in the stomach left in the body after surgery, her survival chances are good otherwise she may not survive even for an year. All three of us, my father, sister and me were keeping our fingers crossed. The biopsy results were dreadful. The diseased cells were found and the aggressiveness of cancer was told to be 8 on a scale of 10. “Six months”, that was all we had.
My parents were living alone at a Hisar, a small town in Haryana happily after retirement. They had good social life there as my dad had spent the major part of his working life there. Hisar is a small town with a university campus and a big army cantonment. So, it’s a town with all the progressive vibes. We sisters were married for 8 and 10 years and were busy in running out individual families. I was in Faridabad (NCR) at that time and my younger sister was settled in Roorkee.
After the surgery, ma stayed for a month at my mausi’s place in Janakpuri, New Delhi. After her post surgery checkup, both ma and papa went back to Hisar. At that time, the construction of my new own home in Faridabad was almost finished. I shifted to my place with in a month after ma-papa left for Hisar. I wanted my ma to come, stay and bless my new home. None of us know, if she can ever travel back to Delhi .
Doctors have given their last verdict. No chemotherapy, no radiation, nothing will work on the type of cancer she had. Just make her comfortable. Those were very heartbreaking times. All four of her grandchildren were very small. Eldest one , my son was in class 4th and youngest grandchild, my younger sister son was just 3 years old. They are losing on the great times which only a grandmother can give to her grandchildren.
My sister planned to spend that Diwali at Hisar, knowing well this is going to be last Diwali with ma I reached Hisar after Diwali, leaving my elder son Vaibhav at Faridabad as his school did not give leave for so many days and a good family friend Mrs. Deepika Juneja was a big support in those trying times. Deepika’s son was Vaibhav’s classfellow. My husband used to drop him at their place early morning , around 7am. It was mid November. She used to give him lunch box and drop them to school. After coming from school, my son used to stay with her family till my husband comes to pick him up in the evening, which could be any time between 6 to 8pm. This goes off for about a fortnight. Vaibhav was missing me. He was too young to carry on further. RB and Vaibhav came to Hisar on 27th night.
Life was slipping out of ma slowly and steadily. Vaibhav was ma’s favourite grandchild, he being eldest of the next generation. They both came unannounced and ma’s eyes have got that bright spark one last time when she saw Vaibhav. We were having dinner around ma’s bed, when RB and Vaibhav came in. She hugged Vaibhav, kissed him on forehead and this was enough activity for her weak frail body. She lied down again.
After having dinner, ma was feeling sleepy. I set her bed right. While doing so, when I touched her feet, they were very cold, icy cold actually. I asked ma, if she is feeling cold, she said no. We all went to our rooms to retire.
Papa gets up very early, around 3am to do his meditation. This is a routine, he is still following even at 88 years of age. Around 4.15 am, papa called me and my sister saying, mummy has gone. We rushed to their bedroom. She was lying there with eyes closed and a very peaceful smile on her face as if free from all the pains. Papa called Shrivastav Uncle to bring a doctor. Shrivastav uncle and papa’s association goes back into decades. Doctor came and declared “officially” that her soul has finally been set free of the sick body.
The phone calls to relatives and friends, cremation in the morning. Papa has just retired 2 years ago and many of his old colleagues live nearby. As the news spread, people started pouring in. We offered ma’s mortal remains to “agni devta” by mid day after most of the relatives come in. As its a ritual in Hindus that kitchen is closed till the pyre is lit, some of our family friends ( Shrivastav aunty and Poonam Kishori, I distinctly remember) brings in the food for all the relatives , almost 30-35 persons.
On 4th day, a havan was organised for mom’s soul and well being in the other world. After that, all relatives have started going back. By end of the day, it was only me, my sister and our children left at home. We also have to leave in a week’s time and it was very difficult to leave papa all alone there.
My parents’ anniversary is on 13th December. Papa has decided to offer her ashes in Ma Ganga on 13th December. My sister lives in Roorkee. Haridwar is just few kilometres from there. I reached Hisar again on 12th December to an empty home. Our neighbours were a great help in supporting papa emotionally and otherwise taking care of him. Winters were setting in. Me and Papa started for Haridwar by an early morning bus. We reached Roorkee by afternoon. My sister and her husband were there to pick us up from bus stand in their car. We went straight to Haridwar.
Mummy was in the small brass “lota”. This was all what is left of her. We did puja as per Hindu customs. We stayed for the night at my sister’s place. I dropped papa at Hisar and came back to Faridabad next day. घर की मालकिन को खो आये थे हम कहीं. The happy home has lost its smile.
“Ma”, I wish I could have used this word somewhat longer. Even today, I feel my throat choked if I want to speak out “Ma” 🙁 .