Lessons in Love – A letter from a mother to her son
My darling Son,
You will receive this letter only after all the nonsense ceremonies are over. And everyone has left. Shiv read the first lines feeling utterly confused.
Why did mother leave a letter for him with dad when he had been by her side all along during her final days?
I can’t have others see my handsome son crying over a letter. I told Ashwini not to hand it to you at the right time. So that was it. He thought, as he continued reading.
Also, I know this letter would help you cope better with the facts of life once I am no longer there. And don’t grieve too much over me. Ashwini needs you. As for me, I have no regrets. I am going peacefully and happily. My life was good. I have lived it to the fullest. And I am so proud to be your mom.
But before I leave son, I have something to tell you…
Shiv could no longer contain himself and broke down. He did not care. The one woman he loved most in his life was no longer with him. His dad had quietly handed over the letter to him after the cremation was over and the last of the crowd that had come to bid her a final farewell, had dispersed. He was alone in the hall. Their lovely house was exceptionally quiet. He missed her boisterous laughter.
Dad must have retired or must be silently grieving over her loss. Simone must be with him. Shiv thought to himself and felt slightly comforted by the thought.
He had come to admire the quiet Simone. He had hardly got a chance to interact with her earlier. But her mother’s ill health had given him a chance to know her closely. Shiv found her to be helpful and the only practical person around during his mother’s last few days.
She has indeed proved to be a good friend to dad. Shiv thought to himself.
His focused back on the letter.
…Next month, I would have been sixty one. It would have been nice to go out to my favourite restaurant, just the three of us and have a quiet dinner. Anyway, that reminds me, you must take Shona there. Like me she also enjoys her food, which is good. A woman must eat well. I feel. And I am glad she does. Just like me! Reading the last lines brought a flicker of a wintry smile to Shiv’s otherwise somber face.
I must have made you smile, Shiv continued reading, …hope you will forgive me for what I am going to reveal now. He suddenly became alert. His mother rarely spoke in this manner.
Son, all your life I kept a secret from you. My only secret! You see despite the fact that your father and I respect and admire each other we were never exactly in love with each other. And I don’t know about Ashwini…but I really wanted to experience it once. Don’t get me wrong… I …we always deeply cared for each other. But a decision had to be taken. We could not just go around hanging around each other waiting…for nothing. We knew we were not doing justice to the relationship. We were more good friends pretending to be a great couple. It was taking its toll on our friendship.
So although you were still young…we decided to separate. Now don’t jump! Read me out. We separated in name.
Shiv, re- read the lines several times. He could not make any sense out of the words he had read.
What is she talking about?? He asked himself. They have been very much together. Dad does stay in Canada…but …, perplexed he continued, hoping to get some answers.
For the world we remained one. “The happily married couple.” But we made a pact, whoever fell in love first, would declare to the other and move out. And as luck would have it…Ashwini gave his bit of happy news first.
Around that time I was struggling with my own problems. My singing career was still to take off. Also, practically I was a single mother of a young child. Your father had by then shifted to Canada for his business. This news came as a big jolt. I was extremely depressed. For months together, I looked and behaved like a mad woman. It was hell! I even neglected you, my son. And I can’t forgive myself for doing so.
But soon I realized that the real reason was not so much your father leaving me and finding his true love. In fact, deep inside I was happy for him. I wished him well. Though I was sad too…to let my friend go…you see he was the only one I was really close to. But I was sorry for myself because in my own life…I was failing where he had succeeded. The more I tried to seek love, the more it eluded me. Not that I did not have suitors. I was young and pretty. Full of life. And an independent woman. Several men came into my life. They loved me in their own ways. But each time I felt disappointed. You know why was I disappointed?
By now Shiv was feeling a mixed set of emotions. He felt angry, hurt and cheated. I don’t know anything about my own parents! He thought. But unable to seek an explanation from anyone else, he continued reading.
I was looking for love but did not believe in it. I felt it was something transactional. You give. You get. And if you don’t give you cannot get. It came into my life in various forms. Some deeply loved me while there were a few who misused the term to their advantage and moved away or I left them. But in the process, I became more and more cynical.
Then one day…a fine man came into my life. He was the opposite of someone I would even look once. But there he was. I still remember that day. We met at a charity ball. He was talking loudly and making all the “high and mighty” ladies surrounding him, laugh at his silly jokes. I was a part of the group. Not that I was enjoying the loud bantering but I tried to keep face. Anyway, I don’t know how he got talking to me…soon I was laughing my heart out just like the other ladies in the room. And right from that day on, he became a constant in my life. Though you came to know of him much later.
Where was I? Shiv asked angrily roughly shaking the letter as if it was his mother.
Don’t blame me, Son for not disclosing this to you earlier! You were hardly home. You wanted to go to the boarding School just ‘coz your dearest friend was also going. Besides, even during your summer breaks you loved to go and stay with Dad more. Don’t sulk. Finish reading me. That’s my good boy.
Vikas, was my constant companion. I felt so overwhelmed by his love. Unconditional and total. I was so…so rude, short tempered and ill mannered…but he saw through my mask. Patiently, but surely he worked his charm over me…till I too fell in love with him completely. And today I am so glad to tell you that I finally found my true love, just like your dad did.
Ashwini, was so happy for us. In fact we celebrated it. It was Ashwini’s idea! Remember that holiday we took to Maldives? The salt and peppered man whom you met at Maldives, the one who taught you snorkeling; that was Vikas. I think that was the only time you met him. Wasn’t he fun?
Shiv immediately recollected the tall and handsome man who had made friends with him and had taught him so much about the sea. He had liked him then. But not now. Right now he felt like ….but instead of delving deeper into his topsy - turvy feelings for the man; he continued reading the letter.
Now, don’t be jealous. You know I love you. But he was different. He taught me so many things about life. I re - discovered the woman in me. And I felt complete. My times spent with Vikas were one of the most treasured moments of my life.
Son, last year he passed away. I was devastated…and that was why you saw me the way you did when you came home, the last time. In fact, my first heart attack came the day he passed away…which everyone hid from you. I had asked them to. Shiv had suspected it always. Now he was sure and cursed himself for being so naïve. They could have taken her to Mumbai. She could have been with them even now. He didn’t know who to blame or get angry at. She was already gone.
You know…he continued with the letter, I think I want to join him. Though, I am still torn between him and you. But what the heck! You will only read this when I am no longer there. Shiv, I want you to know I love you. Always will. Forgive me for hiding this aspect of my life from you.
But Son I also want you to learn from my mistakes. Love cannot be sought. It finds you. And most of all love is enough. You don’t need to wish for anything more, if you have true love. It completes you. If you love Shona in that way…don’t let her go.
Okay enough of my lecture! Take good care of your dad and yourself. I will be watching over you both from above.
Shiv kissed the letter gently, folded it before placing it on the dining table. Then he wiped off his tear stricken face with his already crumpled kerchief and went to his dad’s bedroom.