I haven’t seen her in quite a while; my mother. My sister and I call her Shyamala amma; calling her plain amma did not seem to do her justice. You cannot miss my Shyamala amma in a crowd; she is strikingly beautiful with her long ebony black hair which she always wears in a thick plait, creamy porcelain like cheeks, which feels like butter when I press my cheek to hers, a single solitaire diamond nose stud, glinting in the sun.
She bakes the most delicious cakes, soft and ‘melt in your mouth’, even when there is no occasion to celebrate. She loves to doll us up in pretty clothes and surround us with books and stories, so that it becomes a vital part of our daily lives. She laughs a lot, my Shyamala amma, a delicate tinkling laughter that reaches all the way to her eyes and assures us that all is well in our little world.
The lady in my family home is her, my logic assures me. But Shyamala amma would never sit still for a minute, and she would never have greys in her hair, argues my heart. I love this lady fiercely, but I’m always searching for traces of my Shyamala amma in her. I expect her to bake for me and am puzzled when she says she is tired. I want her to call me every day and ask me if I have had breakfast. I don’t want her beauty to be veiled, like a mirror foggy with steam.
I love this lady in a whole different way; I understand her ways, and her emotions better now. I know she doesn’t skip a step and dash upstairs, but stops at the landing to catch her breath. I notice how things seem to slip from her memory and her laughter is punctuated with deep lines on her face.
I imagine her at my age; her dreams and her fears. I look into the mirror and see my Shyamala amma smiling back at me, a single diamond solitaire glinting in the sun.
I know then, that I had been looking for her in all the wrong places.