Sreeparna Sen | October 2022
The steamer trunk was always there in the house. Only we never cared about it. Pushed at a distant corner of our storeroom cum study, almost camouflaged under the deluge of our creative messes. The harmless metal box in military green never aroused any curiosity in us brothers. So we never wondered why Ma opened it on some days.
On those particular days the unused clothes, books, and other knick-knacks stacked over it were arranged neatly and the trunk got a dusting. Not that we cared much about her daily activities. Our father always remarked, she was just a dumb woman living a comfortable life at his expense, doing nothing through the day. The petite woman also accepted such remarks in silence. So we always knew, mother was a simple woman who seemed to have no mind of her own and was fiercely guided by our officious father in every step of life. As for us, if the food was served on time, clothes were handed clean, and the rooms were well-kempt, we were not bothered about Ma or her stuff.
A few years ago, while moving out of our ancestral house we had nominated the trunk for giving away. We justified that the uncouth coffer would not match the interior design of our new apartment nor was it of any use. It was then for the first time in my twenty years of existence, we saw our meek, forbearing mother protest.
“The trunk came with me. It will go with me.”
Such a firm voice from her was unheard of. For a few brief seconds, even our imperious father was caught off guard. Once recovered, he smirked. With a usual ‘bruh’ that we often heard from him whenever somebody praised Ma’s cooking or handiwork, he went away. The kaput moved in with us.
Since then, we had forgotten its existence. Ma had tucked her prized possession in some safe corner of the attic, hidden from our sight. Until today. Ma had left us for better abode last year. We were renovating her room and the junk was out of its closet.
When my wife pulled out the metallic container from the attic, I could barely recognize it at first. Until memory was kinder. It was that prized possession of Ma.
“What might be inside it? Something valuable?” my wife had asked while unlocking the straps.
I was clueless. I could never imagine my naive mother possessing something of value without our knowledge. Then we pulled out the contents one by one. And I was right. There were some pieces of paper and a few hand-sewn dresses – nothing precious.
As we opened the yellowed papers, adorned by the beautiful hand-writing of my mother, we realised they were some unsent letters. Curious, I pulled one out and started reading. The earliest one was written a few months before my birth.
20th March, 1992
Yes my little girl, that’s what I had called you since the day I knew you were coming. And a little voice had told me that you would arrive as spring would knock on our door. Happy first birthday, my brave girl. Look, momma has sewn you this beautiful red dress. You would have just loved it. After all, you deserve the best.
Keep no doubt, you were the perfect gift momma had always desired. But God loved you more. So He conspired with your papa and did not let you leave His paradise. I never knew they planned to send you back to Heaven’s garden because our garden only welcomes sons. Are you angry with your momma? Don’t be. She had no other way.
There are many sleepless nights when I wonder what you would have looked like, had you been with me. On some other days, in my dreams, I can see your smile, hear your laughter.
I am sure you are happier up there. God must be taking care of His favourite child well. And to compensate He is gifting us your sibling soon.
This time there was no mistake. We are having a son. Your papa is so excited. But mamma misses you terribly.
Every day I miss the first step you would have taken, your first words, your first kiss. The world may not agree but for me, you will always be my firstborn. Your mamma will never forget the daughter she never had. She will always love you the most.
Once again, Happy Birthday.
Your mamma who remembers you every day.
I scrambled through the clothes and found the red frock. Still bright. Then I opened all the letters one by one. The last one was written a few days before she passed away. Each was full of love and regrets. I read and re-read them all. And a sudden pang of jealousy overwhelmed my existence. I missed my mother like never before. We spent twenty-five years together. Did she ever love me? Of course, she did. I was her son. But, she never wrote me a letter or gave me any handmade cloth.
And it dawned on me, Ma indeed loved the sister I never had the most.
Ma – mother
Sreeparna Sen is a banker by profession and finds her solace in writing. A Computer Engineer by education, she loves to read.
Author of ‘Tales of Wizardencil’ she has also co-authored a few anthologies like Hawk’s Nest, Route 13 – Highway to Hell, and Sharing Lipstick. Her blogs have been featured on pages like Momspresso, Women’s Web, and Bonobology. Recently her first non-fiction book Tilottama At A Glance was released.
Sreeparna frequently writes in her blog hosted at www.wizardencil.com
Photo via Unsplash
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