Love Is Not Blind
“ Ammu! Ammu! Hurry up! Put on your shoes, fast! There is a rainbow!” came Zia’s excited voice from outside and before Suru Amma could react, Zia came rushing into the room.
“ Get up Ammu, fast! We will have to hurry up. There’s a beautiful rainbow up in the sky.” Zia hurriedly helped eighty year old Ammu to get up from her chair and, handing her the walking stick, she held Ammu’s other hand and almost pulled her out. They went into the garden and Zia said,
“ Look Ammu, what a lovely rainbow!”
“Yes Zia, its magical, no? Looks so beautiful, and I can see all the colours distinctly - VIBGYOR, isn’t it?” gushed Ammu, “But Zia, weren’t you at Samaira’s place? How did you come home now?”enquired Ammu.
“We were doing our project at Samaira’s garden only, when suddenly her Mom excitedly pointed to us the rainbow. Leaving everything, I ran and in less than ten minutes I got home. You love to see rainbows, Ammu, no? I too love them, so to see it together, I came home,” Zia hugged Ammu tight.
“Oh my darling baby! How much I love you! Thank you,” choked Ammu, as she hugged Zia back.
“Come, let me take you back to your room Ammu, before I rush back to finish my project work,” said Zia, as she lovingly guided blind Ammu back to her chair.
Ammu had been Zia’s nanny, right since the time she was born. She adored Zia and in fact Zia spent a lot more time with her, than she did with her parents. Both the parents worked in the corporate sector, and had to travel a lot. Both were ambitious, and seeing Zia very well settled with Suru, they were even more relieved. Suru was already a sexagenarian, so, Zia grew up in Suru’s lap and started addressing her ‘Ammu’. Suru did not have any immediate family, so staying there, looking after Zia, was mutually beneficial to both.
Ammu opened up her heart for Zia and Zia, well, she happily nestled there. She was much, much more than a nanny to her. Being decently educated, she could help Zia with her studies as well. For Zia too, Ammu was her world. She could talk to her, could share everything with her, and Ammu would never ever fail her. Ammu always guarded all her secrets closely, and at the same time guided her to be right and fair. This helped Zia to open up naturally to Ammu who very subtly, could steer Zia away from any wrong doing. Ammu taught her the simplest yet the highest values that a human could have: love, care, thoughtfulness and gratitude. Zia soaked up all that Ammu had to offer and grew up into a beautiful person, inside out. Her qualities made her stand out among others, and she turned out to be a bubbly and happy young girl.
Suddenly, around two years back, Ammu started having problems with her eyesight, which started deteriorating very fast. The ophthalmologist diagnosed her condition to be Occlusion - the blood vessels carrying blood into the eyes, had started drying up. There seemed to be no cure for that and, in a matter of months, Ammu completely lost her vision. Everyone in the household was shocked at this unexpected and extremely unfortunate turn of events. Zia’s parents started discussions for arranging for Suru to stay in an old age home, but Zia put her foot down. Very firmly and decisively, she said that Ammu was going nowhere; she would continue staying with them, at home. Her parents had no option but to agree.
Ammu had indeed lost her vision, but she was completely self-reliant. She would move around the house, just the way she had done all along. With one sense gone, her other senses seemed to have become extra strong. Many a time Zia would try to tiptoe into the house to surprise her Ammu, but every time Ammu would get to know and would call her out. An exasperated Zia would cry out,
“How Ammu, how? How do you get to know that I have come?”
And Ammu would reply softly, “Because I can sniff you, my child.”
Zia saw to it that nothing changed for her Ammu, after her loss of vision. She would take Ammu to the market, on all special occasions. Zia still had memories of Ammu taking little Zia to the market on festive days, and both of them would be fascinated, looking at all the lights and decorations all around. The two of them would spend hours looking at the shops, the mannequins standing outside them, the people going to and fro, and all the hustle and bustle around. Now, the tables had turned and Zia, holding Ammu’s hand again, would walk down the market.
“Zia, let’s have spicy Pani Puri; we are reaching ‘The Chaat Bhandar’, no?” Ammu would suggest like a child.
“Yes Ammu, I was going to suggest the same,” Zia would reply promptly.
“Is the mannequin with a pout, still standing there, baby?” Ammu would smile. How many times, a small Zia would stop there and have pictures clicked with the mannequins!
“Yes, it is still there, Ammu. I don’t know why they can’t change it even after so many years!” Zia would smile.
One night, Ammu suddenly woke up. She heard some voices in the other room. Who would be up so late, she thought. She sat up and overheard her name being mentioned. She froze.
“Dad, I cannot go abroad to pursue my studies. I cannot leave Ammu, like this. Who will take care of her? I can join the best college, here itself,” a determined Zia was saying.
“But Zia, this is ridiculous! This concerns your career. We will look after Ammu. Why don’t you trust us beta?” came her mother’s concerned voice.
The conversation continued. Sura lay back on her bed. Her mind was in a terrible turmoil. Her child was ready to compromise on her own education, because of her Ammu! No, she could not let that happen. She just could not! The next night, when everyone was fast asleep, Sura got up and slowly and silently she opened the main door and, shutting it back, she walked out of the house. She was carrying some money with her. She was pretty much familiar with the house and its surroundings and, above all, she was a very strong lady. She had made up her mind and that was enough for her. Carefully she went down the road, found an auto rickshaw, and headed towards the railway station. She found her way inside the station and reached the nearest train that was standing at the platform. Randomly she got into the train, and took a seat. After some time the train left, for a destination unknown to Sura, but she did not care. The train gathered speed, and so did Sura’s tears.
Sometime during the day Sura just de-boarded the train, when it had stopped at some station, and found her way out. She did not know where she was; she just kept stumbling, and finding her way to go ahead. She was absolutely distraught. She had left the home where she had been staying for the past twenty years and, more importantly, she had left her child Zia. She kept moving. People would get annoyed at her when she would collide with them, unknowingly. Then when they would find out she was blind, they would make way for her. Days passed, she was still on the roads. A day came when she could not carry on any further. She was completely exhausted. Identifying a small eating joint, she decided to stay put next to it. Seeing her condition the eating joint owner, Gopalan, took pity on her and allowed her to stay in the backyard. In return, she offered to wash the utensils. Sura found shelter there.
Zia and her parents, to their horror, woke up in the morning to find no trace of Sura. They looked for her everywhere, but couldn’t find a trace of her. Zia was inconsolable. She did not know, from where to get her Ammu back. But then, Time is invincible. Zia left for her college abroad, but she could not get her Ammu out of her mind. Having finished her graduation and post-graduation, Zia returned home. She chose to work in India.
It was five years now that Sura had been staying in that eating joint. She had become quite old now, and frail. She could not work the way she did, when she had come there.Gopalan was a kind man. He let old Sura stay there. He gave her regular meals too. Coincidentally, Gopalan’s daughter Myra was a fellow student with Zia, in her college abroad. She too had returned to her country, along with Zia, but for a different reason. Myra’s marriage had been fixed. She invited Zia, along with her other friends to her wedding.
The day of the wedding arrived. The guests started coming. Zia too arrived with two other friends. The festivities were on. The groom, with his family and friends, had arrived. The marriage ceremony got over, with lots of fun and frolic. Suddenly someone came and said something to Gopalan in his ears. Gopalan immediately rushed out. Zia was watching this. To see if she could be of any help, she too followed him. She saw Gopalan go to the backyard, where there was a small thatched room. He, followed by Zia, entered the room.
“What happened Amma?” a concerned Gopalan bent down to the figure that lay in one the corner of the room.
Zia, with a throbbing heart, stepped ahead to look at the figure. She was rooted to the spot. It was her Ammu. Was she seeing right? Was this really her Ammu? Her Ammu? Her whole being screamed. No voice came out. She tried calling out to her. She couldn’t. She just sat down near her. With trembling hands she slowly touched her Ammu’s hands. She held them. She gently pressed them. Ammu opened her eyes with great difficulty. Her blank gaze fell on Zia. Her hands moved a bit, her lips quivered, and her eyes filled with streams of tears. Her lips were moving, but why couldn’t Zia hear anything?
“Ammu! Ammu! Why did you go away? This is your Zia” Zia fell on her and hugged her. “How much I looked for you, Ammu! How much I longed for you”, she was crying inconsolably.
“Zia, my child, my baby. How I longed for you too, and how I prayed to God that He brings you to me just once, before I leave this world. God is so benevolent! He has listened to me,” and she tried stretching her hand, to feel Zia’s face.
“Nothing will happen to you, Ammu. I will take you to the hospital right away, and you will be fine. I will then take you back home, Ammu. I returned to India only because of you. Ammu! Ammu! Ammuuuuu!” Zia screamed as she held Ammu’s thin hand that had fallen, lifelessly, from her shoulder.