This one is a story from the last century. I recently visited my Doddamma (mom’s elder sister) in Mysore. We were sitting around and chatting about this and that for a few hours.
During the conversation, she casually mentioned the thing that this story is about. When I heard what she said, I had a ‘Back to the Future’ moment. Remember the scene where Marty sees himself begin to fade away in a family photo…? I had the same feeling. I felt myself fading away at the edges, and had to check to make sure I truly existed.
Before that, you should know that my mom lived to a ripe age of 81, and passed away after a brief illness about 2 years ago. During all my time with her, she never mentioned this story. Hmph!
Here’s the story as heard from my doddamma.
Once upon a time, when there were fewer vehicles on the road, and life was mostly peaceful, a bunch of brothers and sisters lived in Mysore. Two out of this lot were my mom and doddamma. My mom and doddamma being closer in age, pretty much hung out together for the most part. It is hard to imagine the next part, and in fact, my imagination is acting funny and showing me only black and white and slightly sepia-tinted images, but imagine 2 girls in long printed skirts and blouses, and well-oiled pigtails walking to school hand in hand.
This was their usual routine. Go to school, come back, finish school work, play, and so on. Such an unhurried and stress-free life. Or so you would think. Apparently, my mom didn’t think so. Even as recently as 3 years ago, she told me that her recurring nightmare was that she is sitting in an exam hall, the question paper is in front of her, and she can’t remember any of the answers. This, from a person who worked with CFTRI after her graduation!
One day, the routine changed a bit, and for some reason, the sisters didn’t go together. Doddamma went her way and came back home. There was no sign of mom.
Suddenly the still afternoon was interrupted, there was a lot of commotion, and someone came along screaming ‘help, help, your child has been swept away in a drain’.
Turns out they were passing along information about my mom. Now you see why I felt I was fading away? If my mom got swept away in a drain all those years ago, it begs the question about how I came to be. It was a moment of existential crisis for me, and I was worried about what doddamma would say next. Imagine if she said that mom was never found.
Would I just disappear in a thin wisp of smoke?
However, doddamma continued without being privy to my inner turmoil. Apparently someone saw the tiny little girl (mom) being swept along in the drain, and fished her out. They did whatever it is they did to resuscitate her, bathed her, cleaned her up, gave her fresh clothes, and even fed the poor traumatized kid.
By the time the family came along to reclaim mom, she was all dry and happy and oblivious to the fact that she nearly wiped out a whole set of events in the future.
Apparently my mom made a habit of trying to get washed away. Much later in life, she tried this once again with a bunch of aunts for company. This was at some beach in South India. Naturally, it didn’t work this time either. But that’s a whole different story.
Since doddamma sounded like she had quite a story to narrate, I very cleverly decided to video record the narration for posterity. I told her to pause, got my phone ready, and recorded the whole narration. Or so I thought. In all that excitement of a great story, I forgot to hit the record button <face palm moment>!!
I hope you understand now why I felt like I was just a dream, and maybe I didn’t exist at all. In fact, at one point during the story narration, I imagined that my hands were hazy around the edges…but then, I wore my glasses, and things were fine again…