Traces

My mother was my first love.
I looked for her
In the folds of my skin.
I looked for myself
In the skin she hid
In the folds of her sari.
When I asked her where I came from
She said I was a star before my birth.
And as she prayed hard, in her bed,
For a little girl,


She woke up one day to find me beside her.
‘How did I travel from the stars, Ma?
Who brought me down?’
Getting tired of incessant questions about existence
She would pull my blanket over my eyes
With exasperated, loving silences.
In the gaps of her stories,
In the silences in between words and breaths
I knew the answers floated.

 

Every morning, my mother left for work.
From the corner of my sleep-laden eyes
I watched my mother
Like a lovelorn admirer,
Preparing herself for the lover’s departure.
She had her daily rituals –
Taking her morning shower,
Burning the incense
With her long hair wrapped up in a soaked towel,
Mumbling prayers in a language I don’t understand,
Wearing her long yarns of cotton sari,
As she wrapped layers around her slender body,
Humming songs of hopefulness
As she braided her flowing, straight hair
Falling down her spine
Like a slithery serpent.
Before hurriedly taking her bag
And leaving for the day,
She would give me a rushed kiss
On my young and sleepy forehead
And promise her return.
Yet, my wait was long.
I envied all those children
Whose mothers would take them to school;
I envied all those children
Whose mothers would leave them
With my mother.
My mother was their teacher.
Her days would be spent
With children from different mothers
While I looked for my mother
In the smell of her towels,
In the folds of her damp sari,
In the tune of the song,
In the fragrance of the incense –
All her traces she would leave behind.