My mother had finished describing all her aches, pains and complaints. And I had finished my patience and silence. That’s when I decided to pop her the old question. Gently.
“Today is my birthday.”
“No, it is not.”
“Look at my passport.” Never thought I would quote my passport to my mother.
“Who knows better? Did your passport give you birth?”
A-ha! Got you! “So, when did you give me birth?”
She didn’t say anything for a while. Then she said, “Sure you did take birth, day why bother?”
“I know your star, that’s all,” she went on. “Remember I used to take you to the temple?”
Suddenly, I felt the cold boulder against my bottom and the fish nibbling at my toes, while I waited for her to finish washing the clothes. The smell of burning oil from a hundred lamps all around. The gentle plop of the banana leaf on my palms. The leaf laden with flowers, tulsi leaves and sandalwood paste. The cold of the paste as she applied it on my forehead, whispering a prayer for my long life. The sweet anticipation of the payasam that she would make for lunch as we walked home, hand in hand.
“Only you know that star business and the strange calendar you follow. Your star appears on different days, you know, at least on the normal calendar. Won’t work for my documents,” I reasoned. No use. She had closed her eyes. Conversation was over.
Apparently, my official date of birth was decided by some school clerk. My father told him to pick any date that made me old enough on paper to get a quick admission. My father was in a hurry to get to work. My mother was too hassled with caring for another four to worry about her fifth’s date details. She knew the star. That was enough.
I missed out on many astrological interventions because I had no clue about the exact time (and date) of my birth, without which the wise ones could not surmise the exact stellar field placement at that precise movement.
Many attributed my traits, good and bad alike, to my zodiac sign. In the absence of any celestial sign, I fitted myself into the zodiac by going through the daily forecast and picking whichever read the best on that day. So, one day I would be a demanding Arian determined to outshout my boss, only to turn into a practical Virgo the very next day, if only to keep my job.
Wherever I was I would get a question every year. Mother had been to the temple on the day of my star and did I bother to go? I would have had to begin by looking for a temple first; never bothered. What I did look at was the “If today is your birthday” column to see if I could Holmes out my date in the maze of planets busy ascending and descending.
As her health started failing, she stopped going to the temple and I forgot that I had a star to cling to.
I woke up my tab and scrolled through my mail. My bank had sent me birthday greetings, a colourful message.
Was this tempting! All those nice adjectives. Each one described me so well. Maybe I should bank on them and live happily ever after with their database date?
I must have laughed out loud. My mother woke up. She looked at me. I decided. “This evening we are going to the temple,” I told her.
I need help to go to the loo and you expect me to walk to the temple? I didn’t give her a chance to voice the question. “We will go in the car. I will hold your hand.”
I had a feeling that this would be one day neither of us would forget during this birth.
Image:Shaji Mullookkaaran https://goo.gl/4HRyym