My mother is sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to come back from the examination center where I am writing exams for my job/employment for the better days I have promised my mother and for which she has raised and prepared me, despite all odds in her life ridden with poverty. I come back from the center hoping to have done well and greet my mother with tears in my eyes that perhaps our days of gloom and struggle have come to an end. This gives my mother hope and respite from all the agonies she has borne alone. I have worked hard and given my every effort to preparations, but I never knew it demanded more than being honest, dedicated and consistent.
It started with a painful decision when after graduation I had to make the choice of leaving a job and preparing for an exam. My mother had been working hard at a local tailor shop to help meet my education expenses and never put any burden on me, as she wanted me to become educated and do a good job in the government sector. I had to endure all the pain I would feel at seeing my mother going to work at the local tailor shop. The owner of this shop was kind to our family; he had been a friend of my late father. There were ten other women like my mother working there to support their families. While other women had different reasons for going to work, my mother had hope in her eyes, for I had been doing well in academics and she, being a matriculate in her own time, had understood that good grades in academics would mean getting a job after graduation. This thought would cheer my mother every time she would miss my father or get affected by the humble condition of our family.
Her hope gave me courage but also made me fearful of facing a situation where I might not be able to make it. I had nothing to do at home during my academic years but to guide my younger sibling in her studies and take a little care of her. My mother always wanted a good future for her. She, being younger in age and thus immature to understand the difficulties my mother was going through financially, would often demand stuff that her friends in school had, I remember my mother once sold her jewellery to help her live life at par with other school mates.
I completed graduation and one of my teachers was kind to apply on my behalf for a master’s scholarship in the reputed university in which I was selected. It thrilled me but pursuing master’s would have meant letting my mother work for two or even more years, which was not acceptable to me. Hence, I didn’t take up the degree course. I never told my mother about it, as my education was the dearest thing to her in this world and she would have never supported my decision of not pursuing it.
I started waiting for posts to be advertised and my mother kept on working. It didn’t give any comfort to my heart seeing my mother still working, for she needed care and rest now owing to her age. People become strong with age, they say, but I had seen my mother getting weak and her sight in eyes getting weaker due to the work she was doing. I decided to work in a nearby departmental store without letting my mother know of it. It was owned by the father of my batchmate, so he knew me as I had been helping his son in assignments and thereby had an image of being a good student. He was kind to let me work there, while my batchmate was privileged enough to pursue further studies.
One fine morning I was cleaning the screen of a laptop in the shop and in the reflection of it I saw my batchmate. He was leaving for the airport as his master’s degree was to start in the next month in the same university where I had been given a scholarship. It shook my whole body and I couldn’t even come out of the shop to say bye to him. Disappointed with the situation God had put me into, I was reminded me of a famous couplet of Wali Mohammad Wali: “Muflisi Sab Bahaar Khoti hai, Mard ka Eitbar Khoti hai”.
While I was working at this shop, my mother thought I was visiting my friend’s place to use his laptop, for I had told my mother I was doing an online part-time job and studying on the side. I managed to earn a little for my family and, more importantly, for the education of my younger sister. My mother would now go to the tailor shop only occasionally. I was in the habit of reading the newspaper at this shop when one fine day I read a notification about posts advertised and told my mother about it. Eventually I had to give up that job in the departmental store and started preparing for exams. It wasn’t an easy journey as all financial burdens were again on my mother now, and she instead of going to the tailor shop brought a machine and started working at home.
Preparing for the exam took me one-and-a-half year, as no examination was conducted in that time. I had to undergo a lot of stress but my mother kept praying for my success and I kept on working hard. After appearing in the exam and doing well in it, I had to wait for the result. In the meantime, I decided to join the same departmental store again, not letting my mother know about it. I told her about the same online job on the pretext of which I had convinced her to not work. Thus she put her machine under a torn cloth and kept it away.
At the store I would read the newspaper every morning to see if there was any update about my result. To my utter surprise and shock, I read news that the question papers of the exam had been sold and that the whole recruitment process was to be scrapped. I didn’t tell my mother about it, for that would have left her nowhere other than in the middle of a tragedy.
Today when I was cleaning the screen of the same laptop in this shop, I saw my batchmate coming back from the university with his master’s degree in his hand. On the other side of the road, my mother was watching me working here in this shop. I went back home anticipating that my mother would be furious. On entering the kitchen, I found her working there. She had brought that machine again and started working again, for her dreams had become confined to the glass doors of the departmental store where I was working.
(The story is a work of fiction)
The writer is a law graduate from University of Kashmir. [email protected]