Of Maa and Her Movies

I was among many eager to leave their house and city, the first moment an opportunity presented itself.

I wanted to flee from all the familial ties that were becoming too difficult, the friendships that were visibly frayed beyond repair, from the lovers who remained a bit more than the crumpled sheets on the bed, and from everything I could never forgive myself for not becoming.

But running away from Kolkata to Delhi, albeit under the garb of a prestigious university degree pursuit, meant leaving behind and staying away from Maa – someone whose physical absence you cannot get used to and hence you have to make yourself get used to.

As an outstation student in this cruel metropolis, on days when all the money in your bank account cannot buy your way out of the yearning to return to places you can’t put a finger on, I sit with my laptop and watch movies that remind me of Maa. Back home, Sunday afternoons would see a 40-something-year-old woman yawning her way into coaxing her son into playing a DVD because she was in the mood for ‘something’. Minutes were lost reading titles off DVD cases, only to be met with the response of “not today” before finally leading to the moment of settling on either of three movies. This elicited a prompt response from Baba, “They should credit your mother just for the sheer number of times she has watched this.”

Maa watches Silsila, because somewhere deep inside her she still wishes they had the money to realise her dream of honeymooning in Kashmir, amidst fire-tinted fallen chinars. The roses Amit sends Chandni make her blush for gestures brimming with passion, but in her heart she twitches – for the dream of getting offered a carnation, her personal favourite, could hardly be afforded by lovers with pennies in their kurtas during her college days. She holds her pillow tighter and widens her smirk when Shobha challenges her claim over Amit, because in her body she has the burning fires of a domestic war that will last a few more years to come. 

Maa watches Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge with the same dreamy-eyed wonder with which she saw snow-clad Europe for the first time on the big screen. She still maintains her staunch desire to leave the country and flee to the valleys of Sanen, just to see rolling plains decked in green and towering mountain spires in robes of white. I think she thinks there is in those valleys a secret melody that will set to tune the tanpura strings, from the days prior to her saying yes to marrying a man she had only seen thrice. 

Maa watches Abohoman with the same quizzical, rolling eyes and the guttural sighs. She keeps asking me what I make of the ending, just this last time, but she knows that, unlike cinema, life is more than just capturing a series of fleeting moments. It is about the sophistication she tries to buy, with her wardrobe full of muted, monochrome tussar sarees and the mid-length blouse pieces to wear on the body she knows only to hate. She is about to promise herself that she will read Nati Binodini’s autobiography this time around, all the while braiding her hair beside the mirror and telling Baba about the tea that tastes like hot water. 

In the nights, when she lies awake munching on the paan masala she promises she will quit the next day, musing over choices she hates as much as she finds herself compelled to make them again, cursing the universe for dealing with the burden of a son who just suddenly sprung one day that he was gay, I imagine her brain to think if anyone will ever make a film or write a poem about her. Under the star clad sky, hidden away by the ceiling with chipping paint – she is my mother alright, but very much a woman lost in translation, awaiting a poet to tell her story.

Anwesh Banerjee is a regular student-dreamer who is now glad that his tryst with college did not end one Friday on a Google Meet. 

Featured image:  Cameron Bunney / Unsplash