still in my early childhood when my mother left for the other
world leaving an unfathomable void in my life. Now, the hazy
remembrance of that sad event of the past still lingers for
it is woven into the string of beads of my memory. Since then,
there have been days of both agony and ecstasy in my life.
Both occurred alternately. One showed up at the heel of the
other at regular intervals. Then came long days of full-time
homebound life for over a decade and a half, after my wife
had a brain stroke that robbed her of speech and left her
immobile, despite undergoing brain surgery.
deathbed, as recalled by seniors in the family, my mother
used to hold me close to her frail body and whisper in agony,
"Son, I am leaving you soon."
continued in a choked voice, "I am leaving you in the
hands of Allah, He will take care of you." I am not sure
if I understood then the full import of mother's departing
words. Now, the pain -- stricken words of emotions from my
mother returns to me, though not regularly, but surely enough
to make me feel sad and pensive, even at this late age.
but not long after, while I was a high school kid I had a
copy of Mashik Boshumuti, a publication from Kolkata.
This particular issue had a cover photo of a sad looking beautiful
young mother sitting on her bedroom floor. She was holding
a baby frock and pearly drops of tears were hanging on her
cheeks, with baby toys scattered all around her. There was
this caption inside, "The front page picture is of a
young mother, just lost her baby." This picture affected
my sensibility so deeply that it is still fresh in my memory
making me wonder, why a mother loses her child and a child
has to see his mother die! Did I ever think that I may, one
day, go through such a sorrowful experience? Definitely not.
Never did I have an inkling of what was awaiting me when I
was to raise my own family.
and I went through a long spell of intensive agony when we
lost our second baby, a stillborn. Most of the time she kept
her sufferings to herself and refrained from verbalising her
painful memories of the lost child. I had no words of consolation
for my wife but could only hold her hand and sit close to
her. Occasionally we would go for drives to places or to meet
someone she liked. This did not help. I used to hear her utter,
"How beautiful were his features, little round face and
long limbs!" with a painful look on her face. She could
not even weep. She had an amazing capacity to hold back her
grief. Our surviving son, in his adolescent years sensed his
mother's agony related to her failed pregnancy. He was immensely
touched by the incident, so much so that he tried to console
his mother by saying "When you get pregnant again I will
take care of you."
sent him a draft of this piece. While making some observations
on the material he added, "I forgot that I ever said
this to Ammu. Also, you don't know this for you were
in the middle of all that was going on, but I remember sneaking
into the bedroom and taking a glimpse of my stillborn brother.
I didn't come to know of it later, but had actually experienced
it and have some memory of it."
always been a quiet partner of our sorrow that he also long
kept to himself. I took my wife on a boat trip on board the
steamer S.S. Ostrich to and from Khulna to soothen her intense
agony following the mishap. On our return journey we woke
up early in the morning and sat on deck chairs when most of
the cabin passengers were still in bed. An attendant came
along and asked if we would like to have a cup of tea when
he informed us that we, at that very moment, were at the confluence
of the three big rivers -- Meghna, Jamuna and Padma. Due to
semi darkness of the wee hours we could not make out the differential
colour of these rivers at the confluence.
enjoying the tranquil surroundings and the early morning breeze
that came from all directions as we were waiting for the famed
crimson sun to show up on the horizon. There were hundreds
of tiny country boats all around us returning to Chandpur
Ghat with their boat full of Hilsas that they caught the night
before. It was a perfect blissful early morning for there
was no sound excepting the monotonous one, produced in the
lower deck engine room and the occasional heavy throated whistle
blown by our ship warning these fishing boats to stay away
from our path.
point we found a thin bright lining of ray of the rising sun
to our right horizon, soon to be gradually lightening up the
atmosphere with the mild glow of the huge round shaped crimson
sun. Both of us were in reclusive moods and as I was completely
lost in the comfort of the environment, I did not notice her
mental state. Suddenly I heard her blurting out, "Death
was hovering on us." I was taken aback by these words
and looked at her askance.
on, "In return death took away a life -- the life of
the little one, sparing my life. It was alive as long it was
in my womb. You remember? I always felt it kicking inside
me while it was growing bigger by the day. There was no doubt
that the baby would arrive at the appointed time and in good
and continued, "I always thought that once he is in my
lap I would have raised him with great care, and loved him
the same way I did our elder son but would have avoided making
the mistakes that we made in his case. Remember, I used to
tell you all about it? All these dreams ultimately ended up
as a dream."
for a while, and then said, "Why did Allah spare my life,
not his?" I looked at her and found her tearful eyes.
Her monologue came to a sudden stop. She sighed and kept quiet.
That was it. Never again did I hear her express such emotions
all these long thirty plus years.
been seven years now since my wife suffered a brain stroke
and was bedridden. She does not talk or move. She is quite
aware of her surroundings, listens to what is said around
her. She seems to recognise her friends or relatives, even
if they visit her, after a decade or so. In her present state,
the painful memory of the stillborn is still troubling her
in her silent world. We can only surmise this from the way
she enjoys the company of the babies of our visitors. On seeing
a baby only a year ago she would extend her hand to hold him/her.
At these moments, everyone present by her bedside could see
a glimmer on her face. The younger the baby, the greater was
her urge to hold him. On failing to hold the baby her face
would return to its non-expressive stance. Those of us who
nursed her knew very well that there is a pain hiding behind
the plain face, for she still seems to remember the still-born.
was John Keats when he wrote "Pleasure is oft a visitant;
but pain Cruelly clings to us."
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