Most of us, for a good part of our teenage are desperately trying to get away from our parents. Not just physically, but also from the idea of resembling them in any particular way. Some of us have also nursed fears of ever becoming like them, the ideals of supreme sacrifice, having lived their entire lives around their children, never indulging even for a brief moment in a whim that we have come to call life. I was like any other child, always aware that I had to get away from my set too unsure of my set of unique reasons for doing so. In retrospect it could have been from the over-protective, attention-seeking upbringing I had been subjected to like most first-borns (especially daughters) in India. Hence I was eager to get out in the world, taste the dust and get my ass kicked, only I hadn’t known then that it could be really rough!
So when I had managed to alienate myself from all that and more over years of trying hard, missing my mom’s footsteps in the rooms in my very quiet apartment in the US felt like spraining a muscle i never knew existed. Sometimes I lingered longer in bed in the mornings, almost expecting her to show up with a cup of tea, a ritual I didn’t even care about in India. Hence began a friendship I never knew possible, over hours of sharing details of my shopping over web-cams, exchanging recipes of new vegetables I had learned to cook with and listening to her crib over something my brother had done or not done. Hence when I complained about feeling lonely, she agreed to get her visa and visit me solo, something she had never done in the last 22 years I had known her. I remembered being agitated for having to pick her up from New York, because she wouldn’t fly domestic alone to Campus, after her 20-hour long journey across the world, but she made the trip worth it. It was only when I saw the lights reflected in her eyes at Times Square, the pain in her feet disappearing through our walks in Central Park, and her refusal to go back to the hotel at 3 am in the morning, did I really truly fall in love with New York. I did more stuff on campus during her visit than I did through my entire stay at Ohio State- going to open-air movie shows, riding across town to eat Italian or just boy-watching over scones at the Oval. She was always game for everything, being a sport, always ready for the new.
Through our travels in Europe, she never once complained about my obsession to walk across the entire city, keeping pace like a young hungry traveler. Never did she once refrain from smiling through the notorious streets of Amsterdam, or riding out into the country-side with us to see where the wind-mills were.
She made more friends than me anywhere we went, talking to young students about their travels, exchanging notes with a Yale graduate once about his hippie life, and getting invitation for drinks from young men at a pub crawl I had dragged her to in Chicago, my mom unlike anything I had known over the years. I had a companion for once who didn’t leave me numbed to death with their lack of passion for life, because with mom around there was never ever a dull moment.
When I went to Paris for the first time, I promised a couple of my girlfriends to be back in the city with the right person in tow the next time, to see the city through the eyes of someone I deeply loved.
A year later, I remember one night in Paris, sitting along the Seine, crossed-legged with my mom for company, sharing my stories of travel across the magical land of Europe over bottles of wine, and her listening with rapt attention. I knew I wanted no one else for company, not a lover, not a friend. Only the rapt attention of the woman who taught me everything I know, and the opportunity to recount back some of what I had learnt in the world.