It was a slow Tuesday at work and Chhaya had one of her familiar headaches. Her headaches had really worsened over time and the best part of the day was right before bedtime, when her husband gave her a head massage. Sitting at her desk and staring blankly at her screen, that was what she wanted now.
She glanced at her phone and spotted her Mom sitting inside, smiling at her from the wallpaper. Chhaya wished she knew how to turn it to an animated GIF, like those wizarding pictures in Harry Potter. That way, she could feign a “Hello, how are you Mom?” every now and then and Mom would actually move her lips in answer!
Back home, Chhaya had a large picture of the two of them atop the television cabinet. It had been taken in happy times but all it now did was make her sad. Mom sat looking morose, upset about their separation but helpless and frozen in the frame. Before leaving for work every morning, she kissed the picture goodbye and promised to be back home in time. After all, Mom looked sad if she got late. Though she was no longer a little girl, Mom still thought she was vulnerable to tripping over a rock, being scared by a honeybee or splashed by a water puddle.
Earlier, when she got tired or bored at work, she called Mom up. Mom was really the perfect person to rant to – about her irritating colleague, about needing a break, about wanting home-made chicken. These days though, she had been calling Mom less. She dialled the number and the familiar picture from Delhi winter popped up on the screen. But Mom didn’t pick up at the other end. Talking to anyone else, of course, was a total anticlimax.
Sometimes, Chhaya thought it wasn’t fair to the people in her life that she was so disconnected. She mechanically did what she had to but none of her former joys – no, not even the Anando Mela at Durga Puja – seemed exciting or worth it anymore. Her world, which had once gone round with Mom’s love and company, had now whirred to a standstill.
It was 7’o clock in the evening when she looked out of the window and saw the sky was overcast. Chhaya logged out of her system, took a deep breath and stood up to leave. She mentally repeated the mantra that was still keeping her going: with every day that goes by, you’re closer to heaven.