For as far back as I can remember my mother, she wore gold bangles on her left hand. They are at least as old as, if not older, than I am. There were five of them to start with- thin and hand made, but hiding an unbelievable strength. The cuts are not in perfect synchronism as in case of modern ornaments; imperfections are clearly visible.
She never got gold ornaments replaced periodically to match the current fashions. So the last two survived intact; the other three having gone on to become thinner, fashionable and more elaborate avatars for her daughters’ marriages.
And she continued to wear these last two bangles, till she no longer had any use for them.
They are not glittery; gold does not tarnish, they say- but these, they are old and do not shine brightly like their younger, more modern cousins; nor do they call attention to themselves. They are self-effacing, like she was.
There was a time when her voice used to be my personal news bulletin every Sunday- who died, whose son or daughter got married and to whom, what the wedding was like. Babies born. Whose child did well at school and whose did not. What the rains were or were not like that year. How the summer temperatures kept increasing (in her opinion) each year. How the weather was becoming unpredictable, like people themselves. Enquiries as to my children and how they were performing at school.
Being very less educated herself, she set a great store on education. “What is Malu doing now?” she would ask. (In those days, my daughter was studying at her Plus Two levels and was glued to her text books.) “She is studying, Amma”, I would reply- a response which met with her approval. “And the little one?” “He is playing”- would be the standard reply. (Which is the truth even today; he has just moved on from toy cars to CoC). “Always playing, whenever I ask. Doesn’t he have anything to study?”, she would retort. I would mumble, “Amma, he is young.”
She never wavered from the faith of her ancestors; finding peace and solace in the familiar prayers, intonations, rituals and hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
As dementia claimed more and more of her memory, the range of those conversations kept shrinking. I trembled inside- what would this be like? this loss of brain cells, loss of identity, loss of perspective? She also lost weight; yet her skin remained amazingly soft to the touch.
Those last two bangles- I wear them today on my left hand- barely distinguishable from the skin tone of the wrist; they are tarnished, flawed, imperfect- like their present owner.
Have a safe journey, Mother.