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“Her only son, the one for whom she lived such a hard life, he was now ashamed of her very existence. She felt that her heart would break into a thousand pieces.”
Radhika woke up from deep sleep. She looked around and saw that she was in a small cubicle in a hospital bed, with white curtains separating her bed from others. One of her hands held a cannula through which IV fluid was passing. She then felt a gnawing pain in the lower abdomen. Not fully out of the effects of anesthesia, half dazed, she touched her abdomen with her wrinkled hand. Yes, there was a huge piece of soft cotton, cushioned over her wound and wrapped with the surgical cloth around her abdomen.
She took her hands back and gave a huge sigh of relief. Although in pain, she let out a smile, and thought she must be the first person to be feeling so happy and relieved after removing one of her kidneys which were actually in perfect condition! And why not? After all, it was all for her son – and no exaggeration there; she would even give her life for him!
Although Radhika was only in her late fifties, she looked a lot more worn out than her actual age. She did not care to dye her grey hair or nourish that moisture starved wrinkled skin. After her husbands demise, she had denounced all her wants and never cared how she looked. Her focus was only on her one and only son’s future. He was in the eighth standard when he lost his dad, and what a setback the child suffered then! Radhika had had to play the roles of both mom and dad to raise the child.
Her husband had left behind a not so big, yet a decent bank balance, and at first she used the interest she received from the amount to raise her child. She did not give him any reason for complaint and made sure that he got everything that he wanted even if it was something she could not afford – she literally burnt the candle at both ends, and raised the money, by doing some menial jobs.
As life went by, Rahul, her son’s way of living changed, his tastes changed and he became more and more demanding. He wanted a mobile phone as his friends had, modern clothes, shoes and even a bike. Radhika could not meet his needs with the scanty sum she got as interest and even the main balance started diminishing in no time. After much struggle, she got a job in a small factory, where she did cloth dying and in the evening she would make earthen wares and pottery, and entrust it to a trader to sell them in the market. For her, 24 hours never could be enough and she usually fell asleep upon the potter wheel with clay in her hands.
Radhika soon happened to know that her son aspired to become a soft ware engineer and in fact he did get the grades to get admission in the Engineering college. She had no other means for getting admission, except a 10 sovereign gold chain and her small house with just two rooms and a kitchen, which held so many fond memories of her good life with her husband in her early married life. She had no doubt which to chose, and she sold the chain which she once used to wear as her mangalsutra. Now that her husband was no more, what was the purpose in holding on to sentimental things? After all she didn’t need a reminder to reminisce about him. He was still there in her heart and that’s all that was needed.
She sold it for a decent sum and got admission for her son. He had not stayed away from his mom for the past 18 years and now suddenly, he was ready to fly out of the nest. She had got him a better smartphone and kept the outdated one he was carrying with herself, and had made him promise that he shall call her everyday.
At first Rahul used to call her regularly and said how much he missed her but as days went by, the calls decreased and were limited only to demanding more money to meet the educational expenses, hostel fees and other expenses for his extravaganza.
Radhika had worked very hard, day in and out, so that her only son would not be belittled in front of his friends for want of money. Although he used to visit every week initially, that too was cut short. He had made his friends believe that he has a family back in his ‘gaavu’ and they are very rich ‘zamindars’. He never brought his friends along, as he felt neither his mother nor his house were good enough to be shown to his friends. And so he built a castle of lies and boasted about his rich legacy and his glamorous multi millionaire mom.
On the day of Rahul’s graduation, Radhika was so happy that she went to see her son’s convocation. Clad in a not so new saree and with a black thread as a chain round her neck, she did not match the impression that Rahul had given of his mom back in college. He was so ashamed to see her that he began scolding her for coming to his college without notice, and that too in that attire. As he walked away, Radhika could hear his son say to his friends, that it was one of his maid servants who came to give him money for clearing his hostel bill.
A tear tricked down the cheeks of Radhika, and her heart sank with pain. Her only son, the one for whom she lived such a hard life, he was now ashamed of her very existence. She felt that her heart would break into a thousand pieces. Rahul’s personality had changed a lot during his stay away from home and Radhika understood that he had also started drinking. Her husband used to drink occasionally but did not do so at the cost of the happiness of his family. But Rahul, her son, her one and only hope to live, how could he turn out to be so?
At last, Radhika felt all her prayers have been heard, and all her efforts have been paid off, when Rahul got a job in an IT firm and was assured a very handsome amount as salary. His drinking habit slowed down a bit, but his attitude towards Radhika did not change He was so frustrated and hated his mom’s appearance, their poor financial background and the fact that she was illiterate. He began ignoring her more and more as days passed.
The first thing Rahul did was to shift residence to a posh flat although he had just started earning, and insisted that his mom should be more careful in her looks if she wanted to stay with him and not turn up in front of his friends wearing shabby clothes. Parties at Rahul’s flat were a regular scene and Radhika did not interfere in fear of Rahul’s anger, and when she was sure that the gang had retreated, she would go to serve him dinner, but by that time he would have already fell asleep, all boozed up.
Angry and worried at the same time, Radhika one day took all the bottles into the kitchen and poured its contents into the sink, and seeing it Rahul fled into a rage of fury. Rahul had even raised his arm against his ageing mom, but hesitated and then shoved her out of the house, shouting at her “why cant you just die? ”
Radhika felt it was the end of her life, she had lived for this son, she had toiled hard to give him a life. Now that he no more needed her, what was the point of living? She cursed herself and asked, where did she go wrong?
Radhika fell asleep in the corridor, outside the flat, and in the morning her son opened the door and told her harshly to come inside without making a scene. Thereafter Rahul did not speak to her for months and just like a maid servant, she made food for him, washed his clothes, ironed them and kept the house neat and tidy.
One year passed and Rahul’s attitude did not change, for him his mother was the last person he wanted anybody from his friend’s circle to see. Radhika could not help but think about the time when Rahul used to sleep on her lap, while she combed his head with her hands, how he had insisted she should feed him with her own hands and would ask for a good night kiss everyday.
She was snapped out of her train of thoughts when a nurse came to give her to give her an injection. She asked the nurse where her son was and how he was doing. She wanted to see him so badly that she started to get up from bed, when the nurse pulled her back slowly. She convinced her that she could see her son the next day, when he would be brought to the room from the post operative ward.
Three weeks back, after his usual quota of drinks, Rahul had writhed in pain and was having trouble breathing. Radhika had run out in the middle of the night to get some vehicle to take him to the hospital. As usual she had been waiting for her son to have his food after the drinks past midnight, and what she saw was her son spitting blood and lying in a very bad condition.
The security did get Radhika an ambulance on time and the doctors had told her that it was chronic kidney disease (CKD). He was put on dialysis twice a week, but even that did not suffice – the doctors suggested a kidney transplant, if compatible donors were available. They said it would cost around 6 -7 lakhs inclusive of surgery cost, hospitalization cost and other expenses.
Radhika had no idea what to do. She had tried for help from all quarters but even those so called friends, although they expressed their ‘pain and anguish’, had evaded the request for money.
She had then remembered her last piece of land with a small house where Rahul grew up, where she had made earthen wares and pottery, home made foods etc… She had never thought of selling as it had so many fond memories that she shared with her husband and her son. Now there was no other way, and she sold it for 5 lakhs, and with some small savings of her own, the surgery date was fixed as and when the advance amount was remitted.
The next day Radhika was taken to her son in a wheel chair and he was lying in a small room with monitors and other equipment reading his vital parameters. When Radhika came inside Rahul’s room, she herself was feeling weak after the laparoscopic surgery. She saw her son’s frail figure on the bed and she could not contain her tears. She tried to stand up off the wheel chair, touched her son’s forehead, and stooped down to kiss him. She stood there crying for sometime and when she was asked by the nurse to get herself some rest, she turned back to return.
But then a hand grabbed her hand from behind. It was Rahul. He opened his eyes and called “Maa..” with tears flooding his eyes. “If only I heard you once! If only I realized your love!” After many years, overwhelmed by the call, Radhika hugged him and kissed him a thousand times and through his tears, Rahul said again, “I am so sorry ma. Don’t hate me…”
That was all she wanted, Her son, his love and nothing else. She thought to herself, “You may denounce me, but an invisible cord will still cling on to you, for no matter what, I am your mother, and I can breathe only when I know my son loves me, I can smile only when my son is happy and I can live only when I know my son is alive…!”
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