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Image by Jace & Afsoon
Mother's House
By Madhuri Chatterjee

The writer muses about how her mother spun a dream-world which was golden and warm with love & music

When Ma was young, she had a dream, a dream that she would build a house. A house where you descended into a fruit orchard, a bower heady with the fragrance of ripening berries, a tunnel of green where light was dappled and bird songs a distant trill. Bees buzzed near at hand, a long-drawn drone, heavy with fulfilment. At the end of the garden was a moat of sparkling water, over which ran a tiny wooden bridge. You crossed it to walk into fields of corn and sugarcane, emerald green fields disappearing into misty mountains…


No, Ma’s dream never came true. Like many of our mothers, that cosy cottage fire was doused under grocery bills and to-do lists. What she did build instead was our home. Our home where she laughed and admonished and strode around, always in a hurry. Our home where one of her most prized possessions was a record player. Ma had gone against all laws of acoustics and placed one of the speakers of the music system in the bedroom and the other in the drawing room. A long, closed corridor separated the two. A long corridor where you walked over jade green cement, a darkling plane where you could hear the singer’s voice like a distant dream from behind walls. And then you walked into the drawing room – a room radiant with the afternoon sun, where golden light fell in slanted rays on a mosaic the colour of corn fields and a burst of music washed over you in full-throated melody, like a luminous waterfall.


In the drawing room, sitting in that haze of gold would be Ma, busily knitting away. After she had knitted for us and her nephews and nieces and then her grandchildren, she started knitting for the babies at orphanages. She would buy the softest wool to make the baby sweaters, lace to trim the edges, plastic buttons like little bunny rabbits. She would hold them out for us to see, thrilled to bits that she had found something so cute in the taciturn Street Market. And as afternoon turned to evening, Ma would sit there engrossed in thoughts of the babies who were to come, like a mother bird sits in her nest with her chest feathers fluffed out, her eyes half closed, giving all the warmth she has to her eggs.


For Ma, like all mothers, knew how to spin a dream out of nothing. A dream-world which was golden and warmly ensconced in love, complete in its everyday happiness of mundane routine. There was no misty beyond-world. It was all here and now, and close and compact with not a breath of space between her and her children. It was in the hot fluffy rotis we devoured sitting around a kitchen fire on winter evenings, in the foam she used to beat up with a hand beater in my cup of ‘Complan’, in the tiny mortar and pestle in which she’d grind my tablets before giving them to me. Recently I read Rumi’s line, in the house of lovers, music never stops. Maybe he had visited a home where a mother lives, a home with singing walls and floors of trapped sunlight and orchards of ever-ripening fruit where sleepy bees buzz.

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