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Mamma's Smile

By Asna T.A


"Why this late?" Amma begins. Again.


Resting a hand on my nape, I tilt my head backwards.


Yesterday’s night shift at the office was too much for my neck.


"Am I asking too much? All I am asking you to do is get back home before 11’’, Amma says, pulling my shirt from the laundered pile of clothes on the chair. She folds it roughly and then tosses it to the table beside her, adding to the folded cloth mess. 


That’s the thing about my Mother. Her agitation easily gets transformed into the jobs she does. I can always tell if she is disturbed or not by watching how she is doing whatever she is doing


"Mom, please! I was working. Not partying", I defend myself by suppressing a yawn, although I know no explanation is going to save me now from this grumbling. 


"But I am your mother. I'll always be concerned when you're not home at night. You’re of marrying age. Don’t forget that’’, she wipes a tiny teardrop on her pale, worn-out violet nighty sleeve.


I will not forget that. How can I forget that when my Mother adds the point in almost all the conversations we have?


I bring my eyes to the figure reclining on the sofa. And my gloominess suddenly changes into apathy. 


Head resting on his right hand and eyes fixed on the T.V., Achan reclines on the sofa, relaxing. It’s 7 in the morning. 


At least he is punctual in this!


Achan does not bother me with constant complaints like my Amma. He bothers me with his indifference.

 It is as though I don’t exist here for him. At times I feel like standing in front of the TV and making him look into my eyes. 


"I never get to have you here and…", before Amma could properly continue whining, our gate creak opens. 



I crane my head and glance past my Mother, grateful for whoever or whatever made the distraction. 

And when I see what has opened the gate, I smile at the distraction.


"She is here.", I say, beaming; winning over my weariness.


 My Amma spins around and throws the folded cloth in her hand back onto the laundered pile.  Unintentionally.


Achan’s eyes flicker as though he wants to watch TV but cannot help but occasionally glance at the yard scene. 


She is on time. She is always on time.


With a hand extended to point at the fallen Jasmine flowers dispersed in our yard, she asks, ’’Chechi?’’


It’s the same question. And It’s always the same beaming face. Nothing but a beaming face.


A lean zealous girl stands before us with her baby brother on her hip. The baby engages in light kicking to put him down. But she does not budge. She tightly cradles him in place while she waits for our response. The wind passing by flutters her blue maxi and off-white scarf over her head. 


Amma gestures her hand in delight, grinning; suddenly forgetting about me.


We never said no. But she waits for our approval every day. 


I hurry to my room, pretending to be on my phone. Once I close the door, I make a swift movement towards the window. So that I can peacefully watch them. I sit on my bed adjacent to the window and glance through the window. 


Pulling the scarf to her forehead, she immediately let the child unmount from her. She flings herself down and gently starts picking the Jasmine flowers scattered in our yard. Her lean childish hand moves gracefully above the damp earth. On and off, she takes a moment to regard the flowers in her hand and takes a long sniff before going back to picking the rest scattered on the mud. 


‘’Where do you live exactly?’’, Amma asks. Like always the girl points to her right, smiling, and then goes back to her work.


If Amma had been given a work in extracting people’s life history, she would have done a thorough job. She could be a great ‘reporter’ if given a chance in the news agency. I have caught more than once the hostelers in the house to our left march briskly when they reach our gate. 


I know why.


But the reason she could not wring out more information from the girl before us is that Achan interrupted her more than once whenever she started shooting questions at the girl. Amma was not only the one taken aback by Achan’s annoyance. I was shocked too. He does not bother talking about anything or anyone here. But the fact that he asked my Mother to leave the children alone surprised me and saddened my Mother. 


I wish he had done it more frequently. But not in this case. Because I can’t help but wonder what would be their story. But thanks to my Mother, I know this much;


I know she is twelve years old and her brother is almost two. 

I know her name is Fathima and her brother is Sinan. 

I know they are from Kasargod and came here when their father got a job in a paper company here in Ernakulam. 

I know they live somewhere around the left of our house. 


But nothing else. 



It is pleasing to watch them move elegantly in our yard. It is similar to watching those satisfying videos in Reels except it is more satisfying and relieving. Resting my chin in my left hand, I lean forward. I chuckle seeing how her little brother imitates her. He glances up at his sister. Then he picks the flowers, and clenches them before bringing the squeezed flowers in his hand close to his nose; his lips pursed. 


Amma comes to the veranda. I now hear her voice coming from there. 


‘’What do you do with the flowers?’’, Amma asks.


I never thought I would ever approve of my Mother’s prying behaviour. But the fact that I want her to ask more about their story surprises me. 


‘’I string the flowers in a thread’’, the girl replies, not looking up at us. Her eyes seem to rover on our muddy yard. 


‘’That’s nice. It will make your hair look beautiful’’, Amma says approvingly.


She does not reply.


‘’Your hair must smell really great every day, right?’’


She has been coming here every day for almost a month now, so I suppose my Mother is right. I slightly nod.


She takes a moment to regard Amma. And then shakes her head.


‘’I am not stringing it for me’’, she says. 


‘’No?’’, Amma asks suddenly.


She shakes her head and goes back to the flowers. Almost all the good ones are picked up by them. Now there are the muddy ones and discoloured ones left. She resumes searching for more. Squeezing the collected flowers onto her left hand, she takes out a plastic kit from her skirt’s pocket and puts the flowers into it. She then goes around the jackfruit tree in a corner and starts picking the flowers from there.


‘’then for what dear?’’, Amma asks mounting down the front steps. 


Smelling a handful of flowers in her hand, she smiles at them as though it is some white wonder.


‘’I am going to thread it for my Mamma, she says, transferring the flowers into the kit.


I smile at her words.


‘’Oh. That is also good. So, your Mother’s hair will smell good’’, Amma nods.


‘’I am taking these not to make her hair smell good. I am taking it home for my Mamma’s smile’’, she says.


I sit straight in my bed, wanting more of an explanation of what she just said. I know my Mother will get it for me.


‘’For your Mother’s smile?’’


The girl nods vigorously. 


‘’Mamma stopped talking after that accident. The doctors said she lost so much blood and her memory. She does not talk to me or my brother anymore. She does not play with us like before. She does not look at us’’, she says, looking down at her baby brother. I am sure I heard her voice crack. 


I rise from my bed and go near the window sill to regard them more closely.


After a few seconds, she brings her eyes to the plastic kit in her hand and almost instantly she brightens up. 


‘’But that day after I took these flowers to my home, I strung it for her. When I put it on her hair, I saw she smiled a little’’, she beamed. 


I swallow.


‘’After that day, I started collecting this for her. But she did not smile after that. But I am sure she likes it. She looks at me when I thread it for her. I like it when she looks at me’’ she then lowers herself to help her brother back onto her hip and playfully talks with him,

‘’Our Mamma looks at you too’’ and tickles his cheek with her nose. She makes a funny sound and they both laugh.


I feel a twinge in my heart. I roughly run my fingers in my hair to ease the uneasiness in me. I want Amma to ask her more. What about her father? How do they live? How badly her Mother is hurt? More and more questions. 


But I know anything would be inappropriate now if we ask these souls. 


Amma must be speechless, for otherwise she would have come up with more questions. 


The girl turns and leaves. Once she is out, she turns to Amma and says, ‘’Thank you, Chechi. I will come tomorrow’’. When the girl struggles to close the gate, Amma asks her to leave it open. 


I wonder whether Amma has started crying already. But I would not tease her this time. 

I wonder whether Achan has heard the girl child. If yes, what would he be feeling now? Would he mind glancing at me?


Elevating myself on my toes, I peer into the distance. I watch two contented souls walking away with tender steps. Then stepping down from tiptoe position, I glance at the few scattered muddy flowers they had left behind. I can’t help but wonder how rude I had been all these years to these flowers, for I suddenly remember how violently I dust the flowers fallen on my scooter every morning. I remember cursing the flowers and constantly muttering, ‘stupid flowers’ while I harshly sweep off the flowers. Now I suddenly regret having insisted on removing the plant. That would have meant no those kids on this ground. 


I have heard her say many times that the flowers made the yard messy, for she always found it hard to sweep when the flowers became blended with muddy earth. I wonder if she still feels the same way.


I almost rolled my eyes when I thought of Achan. He has no feelings for anything. Not to mention the flower. But it always shocked me to the core when his eyes couldn’t resist the yard scene, for his eyes kept going away from the TV when they were around. I wonder how the unimpassioned man in him gets engaged with just this one. Maybe it's the inexplicable joy those two kids exhibit when they see the white petals in our yard. 


I lift myself again to see if they have gone. They were no longer to be seen. Moving away from the window, I lay on the bed on my back. Resting my head on my palm, I sigh. And all my mind can think is,


Those flowers can accomplish a Mamma’s smile!


By Asna T.A




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muchimuhsina001
Jan 22
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

❤️

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Sandra samm
Sandra samm
Jan 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A simple yet heart touching story...

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Shadha Ebadhy
Shadha Ebadhy
Jan 14
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A fruitful story that touched my heart not just with the content but also the way of writing…simple yet deep. Reminded me of arundadti roys way of detailing every scene.

Waiting for more!!

Xoxo

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Gautham
Gautham
Jan 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Superb😍

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Asna Rassack
Asna Rassack
Jan 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Your writing is superb🤍✨mashallah

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