I entered the room wearing a loose robe and plastic slippers provided by the hospital staff. Mom lay on the bed with her eyes closed, wearing an oxygen mask, as machines all around us beeped at intervals. A thin pipe emanating from a bottle hung on a stand was connected through a vein on her left hand. She had just been operated upon.
I remember when that syringe was being inserted into her vein before the operation; my eyes had welled up. I couldn't see her go through this. Mom had also closed her eyes in pain. For someone who had given birth to two children, this pain must have been tenuous.
As a teenager, I always had my own understanding of love. It was about boyfriends, romantic dates, cheesy talk and all such stuff. But that moment, something changed. I felt the love a daughter had for her mother. That love needs no Facebook status update or Whatsapp to express its depth. It can be heard in the cry of a daughter on the first day of school when she has to let go of her mom's secure arms; it can be seen in the first drawing lesson when she draws her family; it can be felt in a little girl's smile when she dresses up like her mother wrapping her dupatta as a saree; it can be witnessed in the joy that a girl feels on rolling out her first chapati under her mother's indulgent eye; it can be gauged from the tears a bride sheds while leaving home.
These moments are rarely part of a teenager's perception of love.
Mom had been administered anaesthesia but I yearned to talk to her. I wanted to know if she was fine. "Mumma?" I whispered. I wasn't sure if she had heard. Suddenly, her oxygen mask fogged up. She was trying to speak. "Mom, are you okay?" I asked, trying to sound brave. She pointed towards her face. "Mom, I can't understand. Does your face hurt?" I panicked. She pointed to her cheek and I understood. As I kissed her on the cheek, her eyes lit up. The effect of the anaesthesia and the pain seemed to have worn off in a second. "Take care mom. You'll be fine soon," I said, feeling a lump in my throat. I rushed out of the room for I didn't want her to see me cry. I knew she wouldn't be happy then.
My new idea of love had just been reinforced. There can't be anything more pure than a mother's love. How could I forget her smile when she celebrated my birthdays; her pride every time I won a medal; her comforting words during my first heartbreak; and the sleepless nights she spent whenever I was unwell?
Those five minutes by mom's side at the hospital changed this 17-year-old's perception of love, and care.