The Darkest Hour of the Night is Just Before Dawn

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As she lay still on her bed, breathing slowly and heavily, wrists laden with heavy needles, piercing through her veins struggling to pour life in her, Para felt a sense of calm. A sense of tranquillity, you experience after living a full life. Not just by existing or going through life’s motions, but a full wholesome life, a life of highs and lows, struggles and accomplishments; a beautiful life with children and grandchildren… a full life! She knew that she was treading a path of no return now and as she felt the serenity all over her, the creases disappeared from her wrinkled forehead; as Para saw herself as the young demure bride, at 16. And at that point her complete life flashed before her now closed eyes.

Para came from a humble background. Being the only child, her parents were keen on getting her married early, as times were such. Child marriages were the norm and it was only fair that she stepped into her future life soon. They found her the perfect partner, a wrestler; who would protect their petite daughter from everything in this big bad world. And perfect he was, as he created a picture-perfect haven for her. They commenced their life on a high note, worked hard, and even moved away from their ancestral home to a new city with a fast life. Times were difficult, but they endured it all together.

Time flew and they went the family way. Her status ascended as their first-born came into this world. She, their daughter brought them good luck and their fortune soared high. Day by day, their wealth grew and eased their lives further. As a few more children entered their lives, it became a complete family of eight. They had six lovely children – three daughters and three sons. Para immersed herself completely and strived hard for their well-being. If there was anything unrivalled in her life, it was her husband and her children. In those days education wasn’t very important, especially for the fairer sex; yet she persevered and educated all her children. She wasn’t educated herself, had seen the face of the local municipal school only until class two. But that didn’t deter her determination to give her children the best education they deserved. She saved while her husband worked hard and every small effort that she made, paid off handsomely.

Her children grew up to be one of the most admired ones, each one a shining star in her/ his own right. If there was heaven on earth it was right here, ensconced in her home – the beautiful shelter that was their handiwork – her husband’s and hers. Days passed and it was about time for another big event, her eldest daughter came of age… and she had the same aspirations for her just like her lovely mother had for her. Together, Para and her husband found yet another perfect person who would take their daughter’s hand in marriage and lead her into womanhood. It seemed like a divine plan in action. Things ran like clockwork. One by one three of her children tied the knot. Through sheer hard work her family had gained power and position, and each ceremony was a celebration that one would remember for years to come.

Life goes on and new beginnings give way to new relationships. Para’s first-born grand-daughter opened her eyes on the day she promised she would. The little thing had announced her arrival a month in advance in her daughter’s dream. She was delighted and squealed with joy as she beamed with pride with the newest member in her arms… the little princess with whom a new generation commenced… her third! Life had been kind… and she experienced these blissful moments in life one after the other.

Alas! Sometimes, life isn’t as wonderful as we begin to think it is. Adversity plays its card at the appointed hour, almost as if it was destined to spoil the smooth life that they had. Notwithstanding, her life was replete with struggles of all kinds. But being the astute woman that she was and despite her small frame, Para underwent all of it with sheer bravado. All, except one! Her first-born was facing tremendous issues in her conjugal life and there was little that she could do to help her. Her husband and her son-in-law would not see eye to eye, and the family ties seemed to be slipping. The ties became so suicidal that the thread broke one day. She was torn apart; but as a mother, who was gritty and would do everything for her child, Para did what was best – she let go! She had to do the inevitable, choose between her husband and her daughter. She let her daughter, now a mother of four, fight her own battles and live life with her head held high. Like mother like daughter – they both lived their lives, independent of each other. When they met at social functions, they were exultant to steal a glance at each other, silently feeling happy that the other lived her life and maintained her dignity in her own way.

Such estrangement comes at a price, though. It made her wallow in misery, misery that the world never saw, because she did not let anyone glimpse at it. Her grief consumed her soul slowly and gradually; and it manifested in various illnesses. An unhappy soul does not lead a healthy life, thus making her a regular guest at some reputable hospitals in her city. In the beginning for shorter periods, but later she became part of the furniture, what with one kidney playing truant. It’s not that she did not derive pleasure from her life, she did it all. Para travelled the length and breadth of the country with her children and grand-children; she was the most sought after hostess amongst everyone who knew her. Just like her, her fame also travelled far and wide. Her husband did everything to make her happy, but could not really get her what her heart truly wanted and it ate at her conscience all the time. Could a mother be separated from her first-born child and lead a contented life?

Something snapped inside her, and she diminished into nothingness. Her otherwise strong frame turned into a fragile being; and she was taken to the hospital once more. Her daughter got the information through different sources. The daughter knew that her mother’s infrequent visits to the hospital were a regular affair, but this time her inner conscience told her a different story. She pleaded to her husband to take her to her mother. Her husband was a tough man but not heartless. He, alongwith his children took his wife to see her ailing mother. When the daughter reached, she was appalled at what she saw. The fragility of her mother tore her apart and as she ran towards her, tears fell with a promise to flood the hospital room.

Para knew then, that her daughter had arrived. She had held herself for this very moment. Though she couldn’t hear anything, she could feel her daughter’s presence. Going down memory lane, Para recalled the day when she held her daughter’s little hand when she had just started walking. She wanted to wake up from this long slumber and hug her daughter, hard; but she couldn’t move. Everything seemed to be turning into darkness; however Para knew she had to acknowledge her daughter’s presence for her own sake, give her a sign… a sign that would tell her daughter that she loved her, adored her and not a single day passed when she did not cross her mind. In her unconscious state, while the fluids coursed through her veins in a desperate attempt to grant her a few precious moments, and the machines kept fluctuating with the volatile pumping of her heart, she gathered all the courage that she could possibly muster and moved one finger of her hand. The hand that her daughter held so tight! That was her sign, the only little thing that she could do in the darkest hour of the last night of her life; that was now sinking rapidly. Para knew her daughter understood and she swelled with pride in her comatose moment. It was then, with the first crack of dawn, that the darkness disappeared and she suddenly saw a bright light. She knew the moment had arrived and there was a carriage waiting for her, to carry her to her heavenly abode. With that thought in mind, my grandmother moved her lips as if in a smile, and her open mouth led her soul to Vaikunthdham – the divine place she deserved to be in.

Image Source: Flickr

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