Rajamma woke up at midnight and searched desperately for her son. He was fast asleep in the berth above her. Smiling wanly, she covered him with her own blanket. She won’t be getting much sleep anyway.
By the time her son woke up, Rajamma was busy chatting with the girl in the opposite seat. She was still talking when he had finished his morning ablutions and his first cigarette of the day.
“Come, Sankara. I was telling this young girl about that time when I got down to fill the water bottle and almost left you on the train…”
“Amma, don’t bore her with forty-year-old stories.”, Sankaran sighed and ordered breakfast from the pantry.
“You won’t believe the panic I felt that moment”, Rajamma continued. “My only son, you were only twelve. I could have lost you forever that day.”
Sankaran smiled at the girl in embarrassment. “I’m sorry that you had to endure my mother’s stories. Please carry on with your work.” He gave his mother her morning pills, “Amma, please have your pills. Without these, you will even forget your own name. And please get some sleep. We have ten more hours of the journey left.”
Rajamma smiled and swallowed them. She turned towards the girl again, “He is right, you know. Without these pills, my memory fades little by little. Such a considerate boy he is. He has diabetes and blood pressure. He smokes too much, I’ve been asking him to quit for thirty years now. Even with his ailments, he is taking me to Varanasi. Such a good boy.” She stifled a yawn. “I better take some rest, these medicines make me sleepy.” The girl smiled amiably and went back to her book. Sankaran had gone back to sleep again after devouring his breakfast.
Rajamma and the girl had resumed their conversation when he woke up again. Glancing his watch, he started packing his mother’s bag. “Amma, get ready. We will arrive in half an hour.”
Rajamma said her goodbyes to the girl and blessed her with a good life. She followed her son into the hubbub of the Holy City.
“Amma, please wait here. I will get a taxi and come. Don’t wander off. It will be difficult to search in this city.” Sankaran took his bag and walked towards the taxi stand on the other side of the crowded marketplace.
Rajamma took her bag and started walking in the opposite direction. She fished out her pills and dropped them in the gutter. Sankaran did not know that she had overheard his discussion with his wife. She knew her son and daughter in law. She knew he wouldn’t come back.
In some other part of the city, the girl was texting her mother. “I’m sorry that I fought with you before I left. I know you will be busy now. I will call you soon. I Love You, Mom. Happy Mothers Day.”