"Happy Mother's Day, Malini !!"
"Hello Malini, Good Morning".
She had been expecting something of this sort. She waved to them cheerfully and went to her cubicle. The conversation resumed in whispers and when they forgot to whisper, very audible to her even across the office.This happened around every Mother's day. For one day she was an outcaste. She was not a Mother nor did she look like ever being one.
For past ten years on every mother's day she had listened to the stories about teenage sons buying their mothers flowers and cheap perfumes or trinkets, daughters cooking messy dinners in an attempt to give mom an evening off, husbands taking whole family for an outing. A celebration of motherhood in which she had no part. She heard these happy stories every year. She had tried to tell them she really didn't feel unhappy on mother's day. It was ok not to have a child. But they looked even more sympathetic, as if she was being very brave. Soon she stopped explaining. Lying low for one day seems to be the easy way out.
Later in the evening, as she was getting ready to leave, Ruby came to her table with a big smile.
" Guess what I am doing tomorrow evening ? My Annette is taking me to a disco! She even bought me a sexy outfit yesterday!" she giggled.
Rubes, the dearest soul, was never going to launch a thousand ships, but as her face glowed, she looked beautiful.
She picked her bag, waved to her friends and colleagues and stepped out of the office. No one called her to ask her what were her plans for the mother's day.
But she too had plans. Same thing that she did on every Mother's day. She walked to a park full of children and selected a bench which had a view of the whole park.
A boisterous game of foot ball was going on. Sturdy legs chasing the ball, arms shooting up, boys tumbling over each other, happy shouts filling the air. Occassionally a few squabbles, fist fights as only energetic boys can have. She found herself relaxing. She smiled happily as she watched the game, munching peanuts.
How old must he be now? Her son? Almost fifteen. Her eyes looked at teenage boys engrossed in their game. Some times she caught a glimpse of curly hair, or sparkle in eyes which brought back memories. Was He here? among these boys? Will she even recognize him if they ever met?
She didn't regret having given him up. What choices did she have? Bringing him up alone? No way she and Shibu could have married. Both artists, dreamy and hopelessly in love. It was magical, it was volatile, it was inevitable. But even then she knew that two people such as them could not have made a go of their relationship. After graduation Shibu went away to Europe on a scholarship to pursue art and she went home, pregnant. Shibu never ever knew.
She was adamant about not aborting the baby. Shibu's and her baby was bound to be special. It must live. She went to stay with her grandmother. Her parents were upset but Gramps was surprisingly understanding about it, as she listened to Malini talking about Shibu. She had advised Malini to give the baby in adoption. The suitable adoptive parents had been found. The complete secrecy about them bothered her a little, but was assured that it was for the best.They too were waiting for the baby's arrival. Baby arrived, was hugged once, tears were shed and he had been handed over.
She returned to the city, and carried on with her life. Post grad abroad, a well paying job, a few awards here and there, even a whirlwind courtship and a short lived marriage. Life was running it's course. She never had another child after that. But she was content. Her baby lived. Some might call her an unfeeling mother because she gave him up. But allowing the baby to live was the only gift she could give him.
Since then she celebrated Mother's Day by seeking out the children and youngsters, mingled with them, imagining her son in that crowd, trying to locate a familier smile, a familier style among those faces. Shibu's dreamy eyes and soft voice, her dimpled smile, something that will tell her this was her baby.
It had become quite dark by now. Game was over and boys were now gathered at a far away corner bench. She picked up her bag and left the park with a jaunty step and murmured to herself,
"Happy Mother's Day, Malini".