The car zoomed up the gate and stopped abruptly. It was almost synchronously followed by the front door opening, and a group of exuberant faces emerged – sporting big grins – they were there at the gate in no time.
I gingerly stepped out of the passenger seat of the white ambassador car, my face having that typical embarrassed look – it was always an odd feeling for me, meeting them all after 2 years… I never knew what to say at first.
My grandmother, in her trademark white sari and blouse ran to hug me. My face was for a few moments showered with kisses, and the embarrassed look gave way to a wide-toothed grin – if there was one thing that was constant in this world, that was my grandmother.
Her penchant for disfiguring faces with her kisses would never change :).
Extricating myself from the bear hug, I proceeded to acknowledge my aunt, and my cousin – they were tugging at our bags while giving us those lovely smiles that always warmed my heart. My grandma wouldn’t leave it at that though. Excitedly, her wrinkled hands clasped my tiny one and led me inside the gate, with a purpose. I looked sideways at my mother, but she was too caught up in the exchange of pleasantries to notice.
Soon, we both were at the foot of the mango tree (at my age, I wouldn’t recognize it so however). She pointed to a lone green mango, hanging at a reasonable height and said
“See that? I’ve left it for you to pluck. I haven’t let anyone else pluck it saying that it was meant only for my darling”.
The profoundness of her statement made me look at her in wonder. I had never plucked anything from any tree before and this was like a God-given opportunity (one never got to be near too many trees when growing up in Saudi Arabia, you see).
The woman of 65 obviously knew the mind of a child of 10, well.
I reached out, and my grandma bent the branch towards me. My fingers grasped the green mango, and before I knew it, it came off the branch. I proffered it with pride at my grandma – she said “Shall I make a pickle out of it then?”, her affection laden voice matched by a face with a smile that I can only call heavenly. I nodded in happiness.
My cousin came to hold my hand and whispered in my ear “She wouldn’t let me pluck it for so many days! All of the rest was gone a week ago, but she asked to leave just this one till you came!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
[Many, many years later…]
“Let her pluck a few!” That was my mother, today morning.
I raised my eyebrows at my dad in mock superiority and smirked. He smirked back, “Let them be for some more time. We can eat them ripe, that would be better”.
“She’s here only for 2 more days. You’ve had enough ripe mangoes in your life. My poor daughter… she’s so far away, who’s giving her any?”, motherly concern dripped from her voice like honey.
I grinned and looked at my dad, and winked. Here I was, a 29 year old, bordering on 30, woman, and my mother still spoke of me like I was a 5 year old ;). Gosh, mothers are just so wonderful.
(We were ambling around the garden in front of my house, the three of us. As I skipped around the grass, my dad stooped often to pick up stray leaves and my mum was critically examining the flowers on her treasured creations. It was just one of our together-times, I guess.)
Seven green mangoes were hanging from the small-sized mango tree … pretty amazing bunch, I reflected, especially on such a small tree. I reached out for one.
This time, I mentally made a statement – directed at the tree – it was just a request – “I’m taking one, pls. don’t mind”. (I had read somewhere that one must ask a tree for permission before plucking its fruit – apparently, trees feel pained when their fruit is yanked off rudely – but give off willingly even with just a dash of politeness ;)).
As it had many many years ago, it came off as soon as I gave a gentle pull.
A memory flashed past my mind – the rustle of the white cotton sari, and the wrinkled hands, gleeful eyes with the crow’s feet marks outlining them. Kindness, love of a unique kind.
My eyes then focussed on the two people next to me, as I watched them – chattering incessantly about seemingly inconsequential things; enveloped in their own world – a world where I was just so important.
Such treasures were hard to come by. For a few seconds, gratitude poured within me.
19 years had passed. But the past and the present were merging. There was only one moment. And only one emotion. Love.