‘A’ for Amma (Mother)
“Is that chain’s lock tight enough? Take it off for a sec, lemme see…”
My heart was pounding. I had spent the entire week rehearsing how to break the surprise to her over and over again but still had no clue whatsoever as to how to go about it.
Y’see, I had bought my mother a gift, a locket and wanted to surprise her with it.
Why then am I more scared than thrilled?
Well, it isn’t any ordinary locket. It is what is called the ‘Thali’ in my native language, Malayalam. The Thali is considered to be the symbol of matrimony and is worn by all women when they are wed. In our weddings, the ritual in which the groom ties the Thali around the neck of his bride is the moment that solemnizes their union.
In my Mother’s case, through the years, at some point she had been forced to pawn the gold chain and later the locket and had thereby lost both.
It is only in some remote childhood memory that I remember seeing my mother adorned with the Thali around her neck. Later her priorities shifted from herself to her children and so it never had occurred to her to get herself a new one.
Recently, Dad had gifted her with a new gold chain but sans the locket. I had, since childhood (after having overheard her mention her Thali to Dad in a fit of rage), planned on getting her one when I finally start earning my own living.
This time, I had finally gathered enough funds to buy one. The purchase was in itself fun. I had no idea whatsoever about buying gold. After a bit of asking around and gathering information, I got Espero to accompany me.
It was a rainy, wet evening. The roads were blocked and was slushy everywhere. The two of walked into the jewelers drenched to the bone.
Now, how does one select a locket?!
Who would’ve imagined the sheer variety of designs available for such a small locket! From fancy, gaudy designs to simple ones. Espero and I both liked the simplest of the lot.
There! For the first time in my life I had bought gold with the money I earned. 🙂
The rest of the week was spent imagining how my mother would react to my gift. The biggest fear was if she would be angry or offended by it.
So here I was, watching Mom with a racing heart as she removed her chain from around her neck and placed it in my outstretched palm.
We were both sitting at the dining table in the midst of an animated discussion about fashion when I slyly snuck in the topic of different types of gold chains. I needed an excuse to make her remove hers so that I could give it back with the locket on.
I held the chain in my hand inspecting it innocently.
So far so good except that the locket lay upstairs in my bag.
“Lemme try it on. Just a sec.”
I jumped up from my seat and ran up to my room with the chain on the pretext of wanting to see myself in the mirror.
I hurriedly dumped the contents of my handbag on my bed in search of the tiny jewel box. I opened it, took out the locket and tried to string it in the chain.
Drat! They don’t match!
The eye of the locket was way too small for the chain to fit in.
I felt my heart sink. So much for all that planning and excitement.
I replaced the locket in the tiny box and walked down the stairs along with the chain.
I gave her the chain and along with it the small box.
She looked up quizzically.
“What is this?” her eyes were surprised.
“I wanted to surprise you Amma but all my plans got screwed. Open it. I bought it for you.”
She opened it, saw the locket and threw me a look I shall carry with me unto death.
It was one of those rare moments when you can utterly feel joy ripple forth.
Amma’s face flushed. Eyes welled up.
As I knelt beside her busy explaining why my plans flopped and pretending I didn’t notice the weight of emotion in her eyes, for the first time in years she caressed my hair and for a fragment of a moment held my face in her palm.
The next moment she was racing up the stairs to show dad the gift. That moment, my friend, is by far THE BEST moment in my life!
To be responsible for that drop of joy that shimmered in her eyes that day…
Blessed I am! 🙂
I love you Amma. Always have. Always will.
P.S- As for the locket not fitting in, it was a misconception taking root from the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about chains and lockets.
It was a perfect fit.