Agastya and I
by Snehal Mujumdar
I was never meant to be a mother. It was just not supposed to be. Not like this. Not now. It was Amit’s decision. I had simply gone along with the ride.
As far as I was concerned our life was already perfect. Amit and I were true soulmates, secure in each other’s love and friendship.
“Sab achha to chal raha hai! Kya zaroorat hai?” I had asked then, before it all started
“Arey Anvi, I feel it inside me..,” he said pointing to his heart.
“But Amit.. What if I don’t end up loving the child?”
“Anvi, I know you will get around.. Let me do this please!..” he yearned.
And I gave in.
Amit did everything. He did the research, filed all the paperwork, spoke to hundreds of social workers from the government. He even booked the tickets to Varanasi to meet the little 2-year-old ‘Babu’ who was going to be our son. I was merely a passive spectator, silently standing and watching things happen.
The day we first met Babu, I felt no rush of maternal emotion or a connection that I was so desperately hoping to feel. He must have sensed something as well because he gave me a wide berth and sidled along the wall to Amit and give him a tentative, hesitant hug.
We travelled back to Mumbai together as a family, but I felt like an outsider. Babu on the window seat and Amit next to him; they were already a unit. Amit took to being a father as a fish takes to water. I, on the other hand, didn’t know who I was. I felt awkward and out of place on the ride home, worry nagging me about how this would impact us.
We named him Agastya in a small, intimate ceremony. With no other emotional investment, I channeled my energies into the logistics of our new lives. Looking for schools, arranging interviews of nannies with Amit. Everyone expected me to have a stronger natural bond with Agastya, but once they met the three of us, they understood that I didn’t stand a chance as compared to what Amit and Agastya already had.
Amit would wake him up, get him ready for school, attend playdates and PTA meetings, take him swimming and camping. He was hands down the BEST dad ever. Amit was happier, more content, and Agastya blossomed from a shy and tentative to a boisterous, confident, healthy kid.
Sometimes I would see Agastya looking at me from far, trying to assess his connection with me, as would I do some times. But we both moved about our own business most of the time. I was happy for them both. They didn’t need anyone else, and I got a chance to bury myself into writing more, my book tours, and reading more.
Time sprouted wings. Agastya was now six years old. We were happy in our roles.
Once Amit was on one of his rare business trips. He was flying back from Dubai to Mangalore and would have flown back to Mumbai in a couple of days. The flight crash-landed and Amit never came home.
I was never meant to be a mother. It was just not supposed to be. Not like this. Not now. It was Amit’s decision. I had simply gone along with the ride…
I don’t really remember what happened in the days that followed. Not only did I lose my best friend and the love of my life, but Agastya also lost his best friend and the love of his life. I did not get to mourn much. Not right away. These days death of your immediate family means paperwork, insurance companies, lawyers, and more paperwork. Only when some semblance of normalcy returns to your life is when you face the void.
While I was busy trying to get some order in our lives, Agastya withdrew into a shell. The loud, happy boy was gone, probably forever.
I didn’t know my son. And he didn’t know me. I was ignoring him as much as I could because I didn’t know what to say to him. Any feeble attempts at conversation from my end resulted in one-word answers.
However, one day I was suddenly and quite rudely summoned to the role of being the mother that I never was. I was in a meeting with my editor when I saw 13 missed calls on my phone from Agastya’s nanny.
Irritated, I called her.
“Kya hua? Pata nahi hai kya ki phone nahi utha rahi hu to koi meeting me hongi?”
“Aaj Baba bus me nahi aaya!! Bahut der se phone laga rahi hu!!“
My first reaction was “How will I tell Amit?” for an immediate realization to hit me that there was no Amit. Not anymore. There was only me.
Galvanized into action, I reached out to the school and rushed to the school. Frantic with worry, I reached out to anyone who I thought might know anything. That list was not long.
I was not getting anywhere and was at my wit’s end, when I got a call from one of the school parents.
“Hello. Are you Agastya’s mother?”
“Yes, who’s this?.”
“Hi, I’m Nalini. Agastya and his dad used to go camping with us. My son Nilay and Agastya are in the same class. I know about Amit and I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Sorry Nalini- can’t speak right now. My son has not come back from school. ..”
“Nilay said something today that bothered me, and that’s what I called for. He said something like ‘today Agastya is going to meet Amit Uncle’. It was strange because he was insistent… Didn’t know what to make of it”
“Thank you Nalini. I have to hang up right now. I don’t know…but I may know where he is!”
Hanging to my instinct, and at the edge of my sanity and I rushed to the airport, with no idea of what to expect. Like a madwoman, I ran from one end to another in tears, desperate not to lose the son I never had. Almost like a prayer answered I saw a small uniformed boy with knees to his chin, school bag still on his shoulders, I saw him looking hopefully at every passenger coming out of the arrivals gate.
That day I found my son. Sobbing like a small child, I rushed to him, broke down on my knees, and hugged his small body to my soul. He must have sensed something shift too because for the first time in my life he hugged me back.
We slowly healed together. I must have made a million more mistakes along the way but Agastya found it within him to forgive and love me every time. I think Amit left a little bit of him in his son.
I wished I knew what a proper mother would have done in such circumstances. I will probably never know.
I dismiss these thoughts yet again, as Agastya slips his large, warm hand into mine, and together, we watch his son Amit crawl towards us.
This story is a product of the Short Story Writer’s Gym (Power Training). This is version 3.0 of Snehal’s story, after getting feedback from the group, as well as Rashmi Bansal.