10. Dear daughter

१५ जुलै २०२१

It was a rainy and cold day. Auckland city council declared a shortage of water, and the next day it started to rain heavily. People sighed with relief because they were tired of the water-saving strategies. Anu’s mum was driving on the motorway. Seeing her car getting washed in the downpour, she suddenly smiled. She remembered the days when Anu was in intermediate school. Once mum was lamenting about her car looking scrubby and dusty.

Anu said, “Mum, park your car near a car which is dustier than yours, then your car will look cleaner.” She helped her mum with a lot of things but not with cleaning or washing the car. Now she has her own car, which she keeps spick and span.
Lost in her thoughts, mum never realised that she reached the University Hall. She was lucky to get a carpark. She parked and rushed towards the main hall where the graduation ceremony was due to take place. Anu was waiting for her near the entrance. She was wearing her graduation cap and gown. Underneath that gown was the beautiful dress mum bought for her. She was looking so mature and grown-up. Mum felt emotional. Anu put her arms around her and whispered,
“Don’t behave like an old lady.” They both laughed.
“I am so proud of you, Anu.” Mum sat with Anu’s friend’s parents. That ceremony was a proud moment in mum’s life. Anu has completed her degree in science, and she has also secured a research assistant position in the University for her post-grad qualification.

Anu stayed back for the after-party. She was having a sleepover at a friend’s place. Driving back home, mum felt empty. Wiping tears off her face, she unlocked the house. For the first time, she thought that the house was too big for her. Anu told her that she wanted to move out to a flat with her friends. She tried to do that since she enrolled in the University, but mum convinced her to stay home to save money. Now, what other excuse can she give to her beloved daughter? She went to Anu’s room and sat on her bed. Anu might keep her car spick and span but not her room. Books, clothes, shoes were all over the place. Her bookshelf was bigger than her wardrobe. Most of the books were given to her as a gift by mum. Mum hugged Anu’s jacket and cried like a baby. The following day when mum opened her eyes, she found herself sleeping on Anu’s bed. After coming back from her friend’s place, Anu was busy packing up. She told mum not to worry about packing and go to work. She even organised a friend with a truck to move her stuff to the new place. When mum came home that day, Anu’s room was empty. Anu found mum standing in her room, quiet and sad.

“Have you realised that I will be living in the same city as your mum?”
Mum shook her head affirmatively.
“Have you also realised that I am in my twenties and I can look after myself?”
Mum shook her head again.
“On top of that, I am just twenty minutes away from you. Stop shaking your head like a bobblehead. Say something.”
“You grew up too fast. I want my baby back.” Mum’s voice choked.
Anu hugged her mum tight, and they both cried.
“Anu, I am very proud of you. You know that. Right?”
Anu shook her head.
“Who is the bobblehead now?”
Anu left after dinner.

That evening mum was talking to one of her friends on the phone. . “You should be very proud of yourself. You did an excellent job bringing up Anu on your own.”
“I think that every parent does a good job. Sometimes things just work out, I suppose.”
Anu was setting up her room. Her flatmate Annie was helping her.
“Thanks for your help, Annie. Did I move here a week ago? It has been so hectic. Didn’t get a single minute to sort the room out.”
“Oh my God, Anu, you still have a photo album? “
“Yes, my mum still likes to have an album. She says it reminds her of how her dad used to put together albums. She has made a beautiful PowerPoint for me, though for my 21st Birthday.”
“Really? How cool. Let’s watch it.”
They both left the room half done and sat in the lounge watching Anu’s 21st birthday PowerPoint.
“Anu, why are you crying?”
“Am I? It's just that my mum….” Anu’s voice choked.
“Hey, do you want to talk about it?” Annie hugged her.
“She was always there for me.” And Anu went quiet.
She could hear Annie’s giggles. Aww…how cute, so pretty…, so funny! Looking at those photos unfolded her whole childhood with mum. It was cold, and she softly touched the scarf she was wearing. Mum gave her that scarf in her last year of high school. When she injured herself playing netball, it was mum by her side in the clinic. She put that scarf around her like a shawl. Through all her ups and downs, mum was the only one by her side. Mum was always proud when Anu achieved something in school, sports or music but never pressured her with expectations. When Anu listened to stories from her university friends about how manipulative parents can be, she realised that mum always stood on the sidelines and let her live life.
“Hey, how come your mum is still single? She could have remarried? Or is she dating anyone?”
“Oh…I don’t know.” Anu remembered mum telling her friend that she would never remarry because she wanted Anu to have undivided attention. She was also worried about how the new husband will treat Anu. Mum’s whole world was around her. She must feel so lonely now. It was 10 p.m.
“I will visit my mum tomorrow.”

The next day when Anu knocked on Mum’s door, mum wasn’t home. She called her. Mum said she was just around the corner in the supermarket and should be home in fifteen minutes. Anu walked around in the garden. Checked letters from the mailbox. When she was young, she was intrigued that mum and she use different surnames. Mum told her that she had to use her dad’s last name.
“Hello baby, so good to see you.” Mum hugged and kissed her on the cheek. Even if Anu complained about hugging and kissing, she liked it. She felt so safe and happy around mum. She handed the letters to mum.
“What is the big envelope?”
“It is for you, sweetie.”
It was Anu’s certificate for her degree completion.
“Mum, why I use a different surname than yours?”
“Because…” and mum walked into the kitchen.
“Stay for lunch. I will make…”
“Mum, why do I use different…”
“Well, I knew that one day you will achieve great things in your life. That day I want your father to regret what he missed in his life. That’s why you use his surname.”
“I don’t care if he regrets or he is proud of me, mum. My life is not about him. All my life, only you were there for me. I am proud & grateful to you for being my mum. I have booked a lawyer’s appointment to change my surname to yours. But I will do it only if you give me permission.”
Mum shook her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She held Anu’s hand tightly and said,
“What matters to me most is that you are my daughter.”

Anagha Kawley, Auckland, New Zealand


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