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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mom You Don’t Lie Ashok Patwari

Mom You Don’t Lie Ashok Patwari

My Mom would never lie. I know it!

It is not just a belief or my blind faith in my Mom. Everybody in our family knows that she always speaks the truth, howsoever bitter it may sound. Without taking a position because of her fondness for a particular family member, she always supports the truth at the cost of being unpopular. Whatever it might cost her she never lies!

I don’t exactly remember how old I was at that time but I vividly remember the day when the whole family was making a fuss over the allegation made by Sunil Bhaiya’s class teacher against his misconduct in the examination. Sunil Bhaiya is five years elder to me. His class teacher caught him copying in the examination from small chits of paper recovered from his pocket. Sunil Bhaiya protested and pleaded to be innocent by arguing that somebody might have put those chits of paper in his pocket without his knowledge. But when Mom was called to the school, she immediately recognized Sunil Bhaiya’s hand writing and apologized on his behalf. Sunil Bhaiya was eventually let off but the whole family was upset with my Mom for being cynical. 
“How can a mother do it, just to prove her virtue of always speaking the truth?” Everybody including my Dad said it but she stood like a rock.

Mom is not only truthful but also knows everything about life. She even anticipates things and makes right prophecies. Her knowledge and premonition really impressed me when I was five years old. It was immediately after I jabbed my teeth in to that green apple my Dad brought from Geneva. I felt a strange sensation in my mouth. There were blood stains on the apple. Merely the sight of blood made me nervous and then I felt some pain in my gums. I screamed and called Mom. She came running and looked at the apple. I could see a sudden relief on her panicked face.

“My sweetie you have just shed your first milk tooth”, she said with a smile and showed me the detached tooth fixed like a peg in the apple. I washed my mouth and saw my lower incisor tooth was gone. But except for some raw and reddish area in the gum there was no bleeding.

“But how will I eat Mom” I was still concerned.

“We will just take this tooth out from the apple” she removed the tooth from the apple and put it on my right palm, “ We will go to the park and put it inside the mouse hole. The mouse will take this tooth and get you a new tooth after a few months. And you know, that tooth will be bigger and stronger than this one”, she tried to console me.

I didn’t believe her weird story. Before the mouse could return my tooth, as promised by Mom, I lost another and then another. “Mom has lied to me !” A disrespectful thought came to my mind. I didn’t want to change my opinion about Mom but whenever I looked at the mirror and discovered all my four front teeth were gone I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

It was one of those early morning surprises. While brushing my teeth I saw a whitish thing in front on my lower jaw. When I touched, it was hard. After a few days another white thing was visible next to it. In a few weeks I got the biggest surprise of my life. These white things grew like seeds and looked like my new teeth. Mom was right. I knew it. I knew it for certain, she could never be wrong because she always speaks the truth. I felt ashamed of myself for doubting my Mom.

It has always been a great excitement for me to visit my grandparent’s village. Apart from freedom from daily stress of getting up early for the school, carrying my heavy school bag and missing my evening TV serials for the sake of my never ending home work, my brief vacation gives me complete relaxation and opportunity for outdoor activities, and privilege of breathing absolutely fresh air. The other attraction for me in the village is an ancient Durga Mandir, barely ten minutes walk from our house. My experience of climbing up the stairs of Durga Mandir has been a part of my life, a reflection of my growing years.

It is not a joke to run up to a hundred steps to the temple but Suresh Bhaiya used to do it in one go. I was barely five years old then and could hardly go up to ten steps and then start panting. I used to get frustrated with myself and complain to Mom that Suresh Bhaiya runs up so fast and I can’t. But every time I complained to her she said, “ You are still a little kid. Suresh Bhaiya is older then you. He is ten years old. When you will be of his age you will also run up the stairs like him, I promise”. I was convinced because the very next year I could gradually run up to thirty steps without panting. “Yes, Mom is right. When I will be ten years old I can also run up like Suresh Bhaiya” I was convinced about what Mom told me.

It was an unexpected experience and a great disappointment for me when I visited my grandparent’s village during my summer vacation when I was around eight years old. It was after two years I visited the Durga Mandir. I was shocked because I could not even climb ten steps of the temple. This kind of regression was unexpected. After climbing hardly five or six steps my legs felt weak and I almost fell down. I didn’t experience this before coming to village may be because I never tried to climb. Our apartment was on the ground floor and my class room too was on the ground floor. Deep inside me there was something which caused anxiety but I was not sure what it was about.

Soon after the vacation I had another shocking experience waiting for me in my school. After the summer break the class room assigned to my class was moved to second floor. I was shocked when I realized that I cannot go upstairs without taking the support of the railings. I couldn’t explain why?

When I recall what has been happening to my legs over last one year, I am convinced that something is wrong with me. Gradually my legs are becoming weak. My legs look big and strong but I cannot run like other boys in my class. I fall down unless I walk slowly and carefully! Yes, I am different from the rest!! I think I know something about it by now. I did hear my doctor telling Mom “You should transfer him to a school with a ramp or an elevator. Things are going to worsen. We need to anticipate these problems and try to help him…”

May be I am suffering from some disease because last one year my Mom and dad took me to several hospitals in the town, many specialist doctors have examined me and a lot of investigations have been done. The deep anxiety in my mind has made me even tougher than what I thought I was. The pin pricks of the ‘Nerve Conduction test’ and ‘Electromyograph’, and the soreness after muscle biopsy did not cause me as much pain as the thought of going through a spell of regression. Now I am a regular visitor to the physiotherapy unit of the children’s hospital, a place I always panicked to go for my immunizations.

I suspect the doctor knows everything about my illness. I heard him saying, “It is called Duchnne Muscular Dystrophy and it is a progressive disorder. We need to have a counseling session with the boy…..."

The doctor appeared composed and confident and Mom was quiet. Is it possible that the doctor is wrong  I tried to consoled myself. But my doctor appeared serious and Mom’s facial expressions didn’t seem to be in disagreement with the doctor.

This year, after a gap 2 years, our whole family has come again to grandparent’ house for a brief vacation. I didn’t want to accompany them because I am scared of the thought of visiting Durga Mandir again. I was reluctant but my local friends in the village compelled me to accompany them to Durga Mandir.

I feel miserable today because I don’t want to attempt to climb the stairs and display my awkward way of going upstairs. I know I have a problem but I don’t want others to ridicule me. My friends coaxed me but I am afraid. There are no railings to support me if I fall. And I am definitely going to fall because even with the support of staircase railings in the school it takes me ten minutes to reach my class room. I am ten years old now and I can’t even go up a few steps without support.

Mom had said I can run up these hundred steps in one go when I am ten years old. But I can’t? Did she lie to me? I know her! My Mom never lies!! But then why are my legs so weak, why!!

Ashok Patwari is a Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics at Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, New Delhi, India. His short stories have been published in leading Urdu journals since 1968. His compilation of Urdu short stories, "Kuch lamhe kuch saayey", won him the Delhi Urdu Academy award in 2005. He has also published a compilation of Hindi short stories,"Behta Paani" in 2009. His short stories in English have been published in "Muse India", "Contemporary Literary Review India" and "Indian Ruminations".

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