On wings of prayers

On wings of prayers

*Parineeta Khar






Picture by Deepak Ganju

We have some potted plants on a sill outside our balcony. At times birds come to peck at some seeds here, a leaf there. One morning, I was alerted by a general bustle emanating from there by the fluttering wings of a pair of pigeons. They were busy assembling together some sundry knick-knacks; dried tufts of hay, some shreds of coloured thread.

“Shoo them away”, – came the admonishing warning “we don’t want bird flu in our house”. But the bird couple’s home making interested me. “Let them be”, I implored and watched a beautiful and comfortable nest coming up. They made it cheerful to the best of their bird capacity, to welcome the new progeny. She lay eggs and for days sat over them with her spread out plumage to bestow all the warmth of her young mother’s body. The fledglings hatched after a series of fierce rains and gusting winds. She did not budge. She was all wet and cold, but the eggs were dry under her safe and reliable wings. For my eyes it was a sublime drama of creation being directed by Brahma and staged by this little pigeon ignoring the pain in her cramped legs. She participated wholeheartedly and with total abandon.

Her maternal head rose high and her fond chest surged with a mother’s pride on sighting those cheep-cheeping skinny creatures. The fledglings were demanding and hungry and helpless too, with no sight. My own feeling, upon watching even this bird brained mother driven by her emotion to practical action was one of absolute elation. She was leaving no stone unturned to feed her half blind desperate babies at definite intervals with patience and a consummate delight. She would secure these hapless offspring under her wings and coo consistent and soft sounds. I instinctively knew the portending of those sounds. “Don’t creep out …… it is not safe out there as yet”.

Suddenly I hear my own voice calling to my boys “Don’t get wet ….. you will catch a cold” My eyes are misty …. After a week of cajoling and caressing, the mother stops being effusive. Now starts a period of demonstrative instructions. She still lays out the food from her beak, now they have to collect it in their juvenile beaks themselves. Their ugly and bare fleshy flaps have metamorphosed into soft silky wings. They can see and move about. The mother now literally pushes the little pigeons on to the edges of the nest. They prefer to perch safely close to her – but they have to be compelled out. “This place is too small for all of us …… learn to fly ….. venture out”. They stagger and stumble but soon find their latent prowess … they too can fly …

And they are on their own….. And I see my boys out of their safe haven of childhood.

For one full week later the pigeon mother came morning and evening to have a look at the empty nest …… very similar to my lost looks at empty cupboards and vacant rooms. The mother pigeon’s beady eyes wander in all directions – satisfied that the little ones have found their footing, she flies away.

And here ends the similarity between the two mothers. Unlike human mothers, the pigeon mother does not boast of a long memory - a boon which liberates her from the pangs of separation. The human mother saves the memory of that sweet movement of her child inside her when he/she was a part of her biological system. The first smile of her baby and the gurgling laughter while playing peek-a-boo are cherished imprints on her psyche. Even when the grown up child is driving a mother through malls to shop, the latter smiles through the corner of her mouth reminiscing about the day when he mock shopped for her on his tricycle.

And once they have flown the nest, the visits become short and rare. She craves for that clutter in their rooms, the pages from notepads strewn on the beds, the buzz of learning lessons and the agile young fingers on the computer mouse. Those were times when the weary physical self screamed for respite yet the motley din was magically relaxing. And the mental state astonishingly balanced even if grappling with the millions of chores.

Then one day, the silence becomes audible. The pencils neatly arranged in a container sitting on a forlorn work table - The passive mouse quietly lying on the pad - Everything at its correct place. Order reigns; then why is there a palpable underlying pain which is screaming in this pin drop silence? The mother is left with her photographs with the children over the niche in her living room; one clinging to her shoulder and the other clasping her finger. Placidity rules the atmosphere, but mothers miss that morning chaos which is synonymous with growing children.

A TV documentary on behavior of Grizzly Bears, jolts me out of my self pitying state, sending a shock wave through my spine. The whole exercise of bringing up children is after all nature’s way of preserving species through mothers. The narrator’s resounding remarks “the mother bear retires with her new cubs to remote corners of the region to safeguard the survival of her offspring from predators and even her courting males. For four years the mother bear attends to every requirement of the fast growing cubs. She attends to every detail of nurturing the future generation.” Why has nature entrusted the mothers with this complex assignment – to bring them up and guarantee the survival of future generation and then to face the heart break of parting? The biological bond is only for continuation of species and life. And this fact holds good for the entire biological world. The continuation of healthy descendants squarely depends upon the well being of the juvenile individual. Once its existence is secure – the mother takes a backseat.
So much for mother’s lullabies and doting!

But why should we human mothers accept this acerbic truth?

Wait! Aren’t we human beings the most intelligent beings of this cosmic order where biology is not everything that matters? Among the lower animals the presence of a father figure is not as significant as of the mother. He vanishes from the scene once the cause happens and effect comes forth. On the contrary, who can snuff that bright flame which lights up the enthusiastic face of a human father once the golden words pour into his ears “Congratulations, you are a father”? No medals of excellence can ever prove more meritorious to a male parent than lifting his child onto his shoulder to reach his/her hand to a temple bell. The child’s thrill of touching the gong fills the father’s chest with pride. Who can measure the bounds of joy and sublime fulfillment a father experiences leaving his child every morning at his/her school? If the filial love is all biology, why has nature tied human relations with a chord of divine affiliation?

The offspring of the mother bear will not cast an affectionate glance in its mother’s direction once away from the maternal haven. The fledgling pigeon flies from the cozy nest never to look back.

In humans, it takes more than a lifetime to disentangle from the umbilical cord. My children bid me not to climb chairs and tables to reach tins and boxes. Not to shed tears of remorse; an empty house hardly is a morbidity. They give me pragmatic solutions like a parting gift-“look beyond the realms of your immediate family – you brought us into the world, tended us with care and love and made good adults out of us ……. Help somebody else’s child to reach the same ambitions.” But hey! don’t overlap the sensitive aspect of motherhood with social work.

I plead – and am convinced, that human females have been programmed to mother any form of life. Be it her child, her husband, her subordinate, her old parents or parents-in-law. She is imbibed with this insatiable urge to cultivate and sustain the breath of life. Maternal love is an endless rope which keeps the creation tied.

This is what creates kinship in humans, let the kinship live. May the wires of connectivity remain electrified. This bond of connectivity keeps the bulb of kinship aglow. This is why an eighty year old mother pampers her sixty year old child! So! Motherhood is not a myth after all. Let the fledglings soar higher to explore the realms of prosperity. And mothers—stop yearning, take heart for they have taken off on wings of your prayers.

*Parineeta Khar nee Zutshi was brought up in an extended family where joys and sorrows, even the illness and career of a child was a shared affair. Although she is a science graduate,. the penchant for English literature stood in her stead ; She came out with an Honours in English literature. She further accomplished her Masters in the same subject from the University of Kashmir.
Her restless existence had no time to grow as she got married during her university days. Her husband’s career tossed her on to the far off lanes of Paris. Motherhood, responsibilities of a wife and a daughter-in-law and running a household with a scientist husband kept her busy for a good part of her energetic years.

When the demand for her other roles diminished – she had time to reminisce. The stored up memories gushed out in a deluge. She started writing short stories for local newspapers.Her first book “ ON THE SHORES OF THE VITASTA” was published from the Writer’s Workshop of Calcutta. The other book “ WE WERE AND WE WILL BE “ was published from Utpal Publications, Delhi. Her stories depict a celebration of life – a continuation of life. Parineeta and her family have been living in Hyderabad from the last twenty eight years.

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This is how emotions speak when a mother expresses her love for her offspring. I have seen it in my mother and I will continue to see the same in all mothers. Thanks for putting it in words dear Parneeta.
Added By BL Dhar