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You Won't Understand

by Rashna Patel

The tinkling of the keys spoke of her presence as did the alcohol odour. Slowly the door opened making a slight screeching sound which was pretty close to that of my silently sobbing heart. Unfortunately, we were at such crossroads that her presence was as painful as her absence. My eyes automatically looked at the watch. It was way pass midnight. I pretended to read my book as her vain silhouette on the threshold serenaded her freedom. Freedom of walking in any time, freedom of choosing her way of life, freedom of not being questioned, freedom from responsibilities and freedom from all that which keeps alive the bond of a mother-daughter relationship.

As usual she threw the keys on the table. She flung her shoes, let loose her hair, picked a bottle of water and like a whiff of a stormy wind staggered into her room and banged the door. We no longer even exchanged pleasantries. That was the way of life for us now. She was all of seventeen and exuded all the charm that a stunning teenager should. Her lustrously long tresses were alluring, her skin was flawlessly creamy, her face a treasure-box of beauty and her hourglass figure could set a million hearts racing. Everything was perfectly in place…..except her mind! Or maybe I was mindless enough to think that my teenaged daughter could be my friend, my confidante or as the modern adage goes my bff!

My body went to-and-fro harmoniously with my rocking chair and so did my mind. The book quietly lay on my heavy chest as my thoughts wandered through the dense forest of memories. It wasn’t easy at all to bring her up as a single mother. Big and small, it called for sacrifices all along. I remember giving up the luxury of taxi and AC bus and sweating in the torturous train to save enough to meet all her demands. Beauty parlors were a dream and window shopping was the only pleasure I indulged in. Every penny I earned had her name etched on it. And, there were those larger sacrifices of defying temptations of getting lured into promising matrimony so as to not share my love with anyone but her.

I had left her father long ago because of the physical blows he gave me daily under the satanic influence of alcohol, but now her psychological assaults drained me emotionally.

“You Don’t Understand” these torturous words reverberated in my throbbing head as I got dragged deeper into the murky forest of reminiscence. Since the time adolescence entered her life she had been hammering me with the “you don’t understand” tool. I don’t understand her!!!! For all these years I have studied her desires and fulfilled her longings even before she could put them in front of me. I could read her silence and every expression. And now, for everything I asked, said or advised, it was “You Don’t Understand”. Really? Had I failed as a single parent? Could I have done anything better as a mother? I got absorbed further into the pitch-black, merciless forest of thoughts. Slowly, the same darkness that tormented me also soothed me to sleep.

I was awakened by my mobile ring early morning. I guessed it right! It was my maid Sheela
on the other end. Her husband had beaten her last night and she was too wounded to come for work. Empathizing with her situation and sympathizing with myself, I freshened up and headed straight to my tiny kitchen to do Sheela’s chores. My daughter was already there making her morning masala tea. The piled up greasy utensils invited me, her eyes ignored me. Destiny had conspired our unwanted togetherness. We had no choice but to hang on in the kitchen at the same time as neither wanted to be late for our individual plans set for the day. I glanced at her frequently while scrubbing the vessels. I admired her passion for brewing a perfect cup of tea. The fragrance of her freshly pounded tea masala was rejuvenating. The aroma of ginger was therapeutic; the cardamom was soothing and cinnamon energetic. While she was laboriously involved with her tea on one burner, my sad looking bread slices were being toasted on the other side. She finished with her tea and I was tempted to ask for some as the tea travelled from the pot to her cup with a proud flow. Just when she carefully picked her cup of joy, I noticed my toasts were about to burn. I leaped to switch off the gas knob and accidently dashed with her, causing the cup to slip from her delicate hands. The tea silently seeped through the broken cup, as did the tears from her eyes.

She was compelled to communicate with me, though it was far from pleasant. “I took great efforts to make my tea. Right from boiling water, pounding masala, adding tea leaves, waiting for the right boil, adding perfect measure of milk and then giving several other boils I’ve been slogging in this kitchen and you come and mess all the enthusiasm of enjoying my perfect hot tea. There my sacrifices lie wasted. Your very existence in my life is a big mistake.” She sobbed loudly, an over-reaction that didn’t melt my heart for her at all. I had made a mistake alright, but it didn’t call for questioning my existence.

It took efforts to keep my tears in check. But I had made up my mind to speak up this time. Patience is a virtue, tolerating tantrums isn’t. “Just one cup of tea going waste pinches you so much, then how about this! Right from giving you birth, instilling right values, single-handedly fulfilling all your small and big demands to never letting you feel your father’s absence, I have slogged all my life for you. I gave up my own happiness and dreams to give you a better life. And see what you have grown to be – an alcoholic, arrogant girl full of attitude. There my sacrifices lie wasted. Your very existence in my life is a big mistake.”

She was dumbfounded! I was gratified! Feeling lighter I went back to my utensils. Her ego wouldn’t let her acknowledge that my point was driven home, but her expressions did. Suddenly, her voice went satin soft, “Ok….but hmmmm….yes…but what has my tea got to do with this whole upbringing issue? What made you so upset? Why are you being such a drama-queen mom?”

I got a sadistic kick in replying, “You won’t understand.”

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