A Final Wait
by Gitanjali Maria
Anna, fondly called by near and dear ones as Annamma, brewed the stew, putting a drop of it on her palm in between and licking it to see if it has been done properly. She wanted it to be the best. She was expecting her grandson, Manu, who was in college in a distant place to reach home today. She could not remember the name of the place or where it was; all that she knew was that it was very far from their native village in Kerala.
As she prepared the chicken curry and cutlet, she had an eye out towards the gate, to see the familiar figure of Manu with his bag walking towards the ancestral house. It had been a while since he had come visiting. His parents, Annamma’s, son and daughter-in-law, stayed abroad where they were busy with their job and other routines and hardly found time to come back home to visit their ailing mother. Manu was left with his grandmother since the age of one because his mother could not manage time between her high profile job and professional life. Hence Annamma was delegated the duty of raising Manu and schooling him. Annamma had initially scorned at the idea of a mother not having time enough for her only son, but soon she grew fond of the boy, his innocent smile, his naughty pranks and his wails. She cherished each moment of his growing up and felt like she was being a mother again. Occasionally calls would come from abroad enquiring about the health of the boy and often parcels containing gifts would be sent for the grandmother and grandson. But Annamma always wished for the day when the whole family would come together to celebrate a festival or go for excursions.
When Manu was five years old, Annamma enrolled him in the primary school nearby. He was a bright child and picked up lessons fast. Sometimes Annamma used to teach him math or science in the evenings but mostly he studied on his own. He was good at sports and games too and used to come home with medals and trophies. All these achievements used to be relayed to his parents abroad in a timely fashion so that his parents could follow his life. Manu graduated to secondary and high schools and topped in all the exams. In his last year of school he scored the highest rank in the state and was awarded a scholarship to pursue higher studies abroad. So Manu too packed his bags, just like his parents had done twenty years ago, to leave the shores of his motherland in pursuit of knowledge and wealth.
It had been three years since he had left and had not been in to visit his childhood home. Initially he used to call up his grandmother frequently, but now even those phone calls too had become rare. He used to visit his parents more frequently now that he stayed closer to them. But during their last chat, a week or so ago, Annamma had insisted he come home for this Christmas season as he too had holidays during that time. Struggling with osteoporosis and heart ailments, at 78 she feared it would be her last Christmas and she wanted to see her Manu for one last time. She pictured him as a grown up young man, a fine gentleman indeed but with the essence of playfulness and innocence that he had when he was a boy.
She believed that Manu could come home on Christmas day, as a final Christmas gift for her. Hence she had cooked her best meals for him and decorated the house as best as she could. Having finished all her work before noon, she sat on the easy chair in the porch of the house, waiting to welcome her grandson.
It was past lunch time, still none other a few door-to-door salesmen passed that way, some wishing her a merry Christmas. The clock ticked slowly. It was three’ O’ clock… four’ O’ clock… Five... Six... still no sign of Manu. Tired waiting, without having eaten anything, Annamma slowly drifted off to sleep, dozing off on the easy chair.
The evening air, with its cool breeze blew gently, the leaves rustled by and her clothes fluttered. She sat there, cold. A party of boys went by singing carols praising the Lord who had come down to Earth and died and risen from the dead to save the people.