Yesterday was Mother’s Day and my computer screen was flooded with people thanking their mothers for their love, compassion and sacrifices. As I scrolled down the screen, I remembered someone who wrote me a love letter a month back. I shared a very special bond with this particular person and have treasured the love letter in my heart and in my closet. Every time I read the letter, I am awash by euphoric torrent of love and compassion. Yesterday when I re-read it, the oasis of memory brought back her tender face and her name echoed within the walls of my heart- RITA!
“I may be able to forget my mother but not you because my mother could not give me the knowledge and the love that you gave me. My mother left me when I was a kid and went to live in the heaven. She didn’t think about me. She was really selfish. She never tried to understand me. So you are greater than my mom for me.”
Rita was my student last year-gregarious and veracious. Her mother died when she was very small. Her father married thrice but she thought she was blessed to have two mothers at least. She had a brother who studied in a private school in Kathmandu while she studied in a government school in a village. But she didn’t mind. She accepted everything so gracefully that I was awed by her patience and temperance. Her dream was to own a two-storeyed house with four kitchens and one bedroom – one kitchen with crockeries made of glass, second of brass, third of stainless steel and fourth of aluminum. Talk about variety!
She was not only a student to me but more like a younger sister. Sometimes, we used to drink tea together and she used to insist on paying. She used to say that it made her feel content and claimed that it was her right (I have no idea where she got that idea though)! She used to share her feelings, especially through letters, and I would get goosebumps reading her life stories. I was mesmerized by her ways- the way she missed her mother but still stayed strong, the way she accepted her new mothers with open heart and mainly the way she forgave her father for multiple conscious mistakes. She held no grudges and had a heart like pellucid water.
One day when I was teaching, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks without her own notice. Her face was mystical in that particular moment because her tears showed no grief and her plastered smile showed no happiness. Her face expressed paradoxical feelings- she seemed happily sad and at the same time sadly happy. She was like my Monalisa- keeping two opposite secrets in perfect harmony with each other.
She once told me that she was lucky to have a teacher like me but I could not tell her it was just the other way round. I could not explain her how fortuitous I felt for being one person she held close and looked up to. I didn’t have enough strength to admit that it was she who was doing me a favor by accepting me as I was. She encouraged me to be a better teacher, a better person.
On my last day of school, she came to me with sunken eyes and handed me a silver spoon as a gift. In it was engraved two letters: S+R (Yes, the kind we see in wedding cars!). Along with the gift, she gave me a letter and a hug. After reading the letter, I could not help but cry. I realized that she had given me such a special place in her life- next to her mother. I was ambivalent as to whether to be happy or sad about it – happy because I reminded her of her mother and sad because I REMINDED her of her mother.
Yesterday was Mother’s day and her face kept coming back to me. She must be missing her mother. She must be missing me. And I am missing her!