Sunk into darkness and eerie silence, nights always give me the creeps. However, I can’t wish them away just like that. It’s past midnight. I find the sleep elusive. I toss and turn on the bed. I now get into my feet; walk to the window and look out at the sky. She’s not azure. The dark, passing clouds, making the sky a canvas, draw on it sketches of beasts and beauties. Sketches, both absolute and abstract.
Now, I see in the canvas a silhouette of an elephant squatting between two narrow rocks. Following this, comes a lion with abundant, flowing mane. But before long, the nocturnal clouds erase them … replace them with the shadows of dogs and cats; donkeys and does et al. So fastidious are the clouds that they never allow an image to remain on the canvas even for a moment.
To my great joy and excitement, the canvas now displays my mom’s turmeric anointed face with her deep-set eyes gleaming and forehead sporting a big red Bindi. “Amma”, [mom] I cry aloud as I did decades ago when she was carried to the crematorium.
It was the month of ‘margazhi’ [winter]. I was bedridden with measles. Mom had just returned home from the temple braving the icy weather. She had been doing this for long; going to the temple at the wee hours during the winter and praying for me. But tragically, she died during one of those winter mornings. Massive heart attack. She complained of chest pain and collapsed when she was feeding me plain rice porridge. Isn’t god cruel sometimes?
‘Mom, can I rest my head awhile on your lap? Will you please rock me the way you did when I was a kid so that I can catch up with the elusive sleep’, I moan and gaze at the sky again. I feel flustered. For, mom is not there. Dissolved by the clouds, she is now only in bits and pieces. I can see only her nose- ring.
“When will I see mom again”? I implore to the clouds, my voice trembling, tears streaming down the cheeks.
“Never again. What you saw was not your mom, but an optical illusion”. The clouds quip while vanishing around the corners of the sky.
I stand stupefied by the window looking at the sky, which is as empty and void as my mind.
Mom, are you really an optical illusion?” I say to myself, but can’t see the sky for tears.