I set to read newspaper one fine morning downstairs with Amma as always going in with maximum enthusiasm at her command in making tea for her beloved son. As she was walking in the kitchen, she murmured that she did not get to read the Hindi newspaper yesterday. As she completed her sentence, something hit me. The newspaper had been delivered for sure and I had read that myself. So how could she not get that to read. I could read the sense of resignation in her statement as she moved further by few inches into the kitchen to make tea. Because of her age and weight she makes penguin like steps to move, but she moves with determination for sure. Her weight also does not help but her will power is still strong enough to move inch by inch to make tea for her kids. She is perhaps happiest when she does that. Even at this age she is the last to eat at the dinner table and she is proud of that. I could listen her murmurings coming from inside the kitchen as she was preparing tea.
I got uncomfortable on hearing her not so much expressed pain of missing the newspaper and could visualise the whole day as she would have tried to get hold of her daily dose of news. I have seen her since last 4 decades and more reading the newspaper daily immediately after finishing her first daily tranche of work in the morning. She did not studied beyond 9th but that had been no impediment for her reading a newspaper as avidly as possible. She would not recall the names of all foreign politicians as easily as I could and sometimes she would mix and mismatch the news and curse the one who was gentler, she has been more than aware of what has been happening around her in India. She can win I believe any quiz show if she had to face contestants similar to her background. She gets angry sometimes more than she ought to, when ever she reads news hurting the interest of the nation. She would not stop short of prescribing immediate and on the public square sort of punishments for the greedy and the culprits. I remember her reading same news multiple times whenever there was any, about her native place. I still remember her preserving a copy of the newspaper which had published the news of a dacoit attack in her native village Ujhaiyya sometimes in 1980s. That copy of newspaper neatly folded might still be there somewhere in her closely guarded old steel trunks. She still guards them well!!
So in this backdrop it was a heart wrenching moment for me as I could visualize that how hard and how helplessly perhaps she would have tried the day before to search for the newspaper as she is an octogenarian and finds difficult to walk without the support of a walker. I could not help myself for my visualization of her looking for the newspaper here and there and sometimes waiting in vain for that to arrive from outside. She might have gone out too albeit with much difficulty to see if the hawker had thrown it somewhere in the small garden on the front. She would have asked her woman Friday Rita too to look for the newspaper and finally settling down to resign to fact that she could not get the newspaper. As on the day I was out to office till late, she could not have got any other help to get that so she could have preserved her half a century ritual of reading a newspaper for an hour or so. In fact she uses newspaper to sleep also as many times I have found her sleeping and snoring post lunch beneath the two folds of newspaper. Perhaps the tough bone-breaking daily routine would squeeze out even the last ounce of energy by afternoon and she would sit down to read the remaining newspaper after having her lunch and more often that not she would fall asleep in next 10 minutes.
As I understood her pain, I went upstairs to look for the newspaper as sometimes they do get mixed with my steady supply of newspaper. I found her Hindi newspaper hidden in those multiple reams of read and unread newspapers. I picked that up and went downstairs to deliver that to her. Though the day had passed by, she was happy to see that and without saying any other word, kept it on the table besides her to go through it, later in the day . Finding her settled, I sat down to sip the tea and just then few drops rolled down my memory lanes marking a path on my cheeks.