July 15, 2014
The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
- Theodore Hesburgh
The Orwellian year had been slipping away with its penultimate month in progress. Microsoft wasn’t a household name with its antiquated Disk Operating System, but on the threshold of throwing WINDOWS wide-open to the world unleashing the mighty computing power.
This story, however, is nothing concerning the totalitarian state or the advent of the computer, but about a woman and me coming together and getting acquainted mysteriously on a bench outside the Saints Peter and Paul Church, Ruwi, Oman, on a Friday morning, that year.
We the two strangers had been sitting for quite some time exchanging glances and watching people promenading before us, but without uttering a word. And then, she tilted her head, smiled and broke the ice. “Are you from Mangalore?” She inquired. I nodded affirmatively.
And as we began a conversational journey, I took the liberty of studying her. She was medium built with a comely face, tawny skin tone and long jet black hair. The laboriousness was evident all over her chapped hands. Her voice generated compassion. There was much age disparity between us. I was 24 and she 44, I reckoned.
Her name was Felcy. She had been working in Oman as housemaid for 6 years due to the estrangement of her husband. He abused her and their only child, Roshan, in an alcohol-soaked haze. As the clouds of sentiments started getting darker, she wept.
“Please, don’t weep,” I pleaded. “I can’t stand weeping women.”
She stopped weeping and wiped her face with a handkerchief. Slowly she removed a Pepsi Cola from her bag. “Have a Pepsi!” She slid herself to my side and handed over the can. With the distance between us cut to a foot, she now smelled of Yardley English Lavender commixed with the sweat of hard labour.
With another Pepsi can in her clasp, we began to fill ourselves with the sweet fuel for our talk. “I love Pepsi Cola,” she revealed, smiling beautifully. “Its delectably sweet taste turned me into an addict. I always carry some cans for Roshan. Why don’t we get Pepsi Cola in India?”
“It is a political play, Felcy. You won’t understand if I told you.”
We talked on into another hour and parted with a promise to meet again on the same bench on the following Friday as she was confined to a single outing a week.
During our second meeting, I learnt that she didn’t make many friends in Oman. Neither had she been in any kind of illicit relationship since she still loved her husband despite his atrocities and abandonment. She ached for her son and her predominant talks revolved around him and herself as if she had pitched a separate world for them.
“I had a nightmare last night,” she said abruptly.
“Let me hear it.”
“Roshan and I were hanging loose on a tightrope in the sky with a substantial distance between us. It was a perilous crossover across the deep gaping ravine of certain death. He was screaming for help. With my heart thumping in horror and hands bleeding, I was thrusting myself forward, but the tightrope kept getting elongated, taking Roshan far and away. And then I awoke with a start, bathed in sweat, with an incomplete dream,” she paused and took a sip of her Pepsi. “Does it make any sense to you?”
I remained silent for a few moments rubbing my chin reflectively. Introducing Felcy to Sigmund Freud’s 'The Interpretation of Dreams' would be pointless and a cumbersome process. But her stare demanded an answer. “Some dreams do come true. But the majority is deceptive,” I philosophized.
“Anyway, it is no time to break heads on interpretation. Instead, drink Pepsi Cola.”
She giggled. “Oh, yes, I forgot.” Soon we were sipping the Pepsi from the frosty cans.
“Roshan will be completing BCom next year,” she announced with a sparkle in her eyes. “Thereafter, I will bring him to Oman, get him a job before I return to Mangalore for good.”
“That’s a right decision,” I reasoned.
Our discussion progressed into the next couple of hours with another couple of Pepsies. Finally, we rose to our feet and set forth in different directions.
When we hit the bench for the third time on the following Friday, I noticed blisters on her right arm as she handed me a Pepsi can. “Did you hurt yourself?” I inquired. For some strange reason, Felcy’s pains had been becoming mine.
“The hot oil splattered across my arm while deep frying,” she explained. “Often, my employer wakes me up from sleep in the middle of the night and makes me fry snacks in entertaining his nocturnal guests.”
My heart cringed. “That’s inhuman,” I bawled. “You must leave the job after finding another.”
“No, no. It wasn’t a complaint,” She clarified serenely. “I am happy working there, all through which I keep Roshan before me. He alleviates my pains and sorrows. He wipes out my fatigue, satiates hunger and quenches thirst. All the sweat and tears I shed are entirely to earn a livelihood for him and create a better future.”
I was moved by Felcy’s words more so because she wasn’t much educated, yet she had enough wisdom to create a splendid future for his son. She then inquired about my health and work with motherly concern in her voice that I felt as saccharine as the beverage in my mouth.
We talked a lot, rather, she talked a lot and then we departed.
Yet another exciting meeting emerged with the dawning of a new Friday. Along the way, I bought four Pepsi cans with a resolve to sweeten Felcy’s mouth. It was, in fact, to hush up my inner voice taunting repeatedly that I was more interested in drinking her Pepsies than sympathizing with her miseries. I then headed to the bench with a joyful heart. As if by a divine arrangement, the bench was empty with total privacy reserved for Felcy to verbalize her thoughts. I dropped loosely on the bench and waited anxiously.
The time had been ticking off, well past the appointed time. Yet, there was no sign of Felcy. Perhaps she’s praying a little longer today, I thought. Some more minutes were added into my waiting, but there was no show of Felcy.
As I sat there in disappointment, hunching forward and staring at the ground, a pair of legs fetched before me suddenly. I jerked my head and saw an unknown tall lady towering before me.
“Are you Simon Monis?” She quizzed.
“Yes,” I replied, my voice tinged with surprise.
“I am a friend of Felcy, who has asked me to convey you a message. She left for Mangalore night before last as her son committed suicide by hanging himself with a rope,” she rattled out with no hint of mourning for her friend’s son.
The news shook me violently. I felt gobs of electricity flowing through my veins. Surroundings blacked out momentarily. I sat there clutching the Pepsi cans. Soon I regained my composure and asked, “Did she tell you the reason for ending his life?”
Her pat answer filled the air. “Roshan had left behind a letter. It was due to the pangs of separation from his mother, whom he loved dearly. His long suffering through the terrible trauma of separation led to his cruel action. One last thing, Felcy said she would never leave India again. I must leave now, I am in a hurry,” the messenger turned round and walked away with a man waiting afar.
All hopes, dreams and ambitions of a lifetime that Felcy had been building brick by brick upon her son were shattered in a flash, shaking her world to its foundation.
That night I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning in my bed. I cried bitterly, seeing in my mind’s eye a devastated Felcy wincing with pain. Her life, that had been like a half filled can with the estrangement of her husband now drained completely with the demise of her son. Whatever sweetness had been there in her life sucked up completely by a quirk of fate. I craved to be beside her during the darkest hours of her life as she bid goodbye to her deceased son – to console her, to wipe her tears, to hold her like my mother as my brother Roshan’s coffin lowered into the grave, and uplift her spirits with God’s promise that Roshan is in the stately splendors of heaven. As if God sent, she showered on me motherly love when I had been missing my mother as much as she’d been missing her son in an alien land. I cried…..cried……cried.
It is almost 30 years since Felcy went out of my sight, during which the world has witnessed sweeping changes. Today, the computers are as commonplace as fathers and mothers. MS Windows 8.1 hit the store shelves trying to satisfy the ‘want more’ greed of the computer buffs. But for me, it was Felcy, who, on mere three Fridays, threw open the windows of the World of Mothers – her version still prevails everywhere as I watch mothers from all walks of life engaged in labours of love for their children.
In a short span of time, Felcy took me to the depth of the motherly love, a love that is inexplicable, and a love that is so pure, sincere and unconditional which is more precious than anything on Earth – mothers sacrificing their lives for children to create better tomorrows, and yet expecting nothing in return. No matter whether a mother is beautiful, blessed, blissful or battered, her love for children is undiluted and undying.
I never met Felcy again. All my efforts to learn her whereabouts proved futile as she had relocated to an undisclosed address. I never sat on that magic bench again deliberately to avoid getting overwhelmed with nostalgic vibes.
Every time I crack open a can of Pepsi, Felcy pops out of it and stands before me not as a gallant heroine, but as a role model for young mothers, who had unwittingly demonstrated the selfless dedication of a mother. If I had a grateful heart for my mother’s love for the past three decades, I credit Felcy for it, wherever she may be right now, in body or spirit, for opening my eyes.
Married with children today, I see the reruns of Felcy’s motherliness in my wife as she dotes on our children.
God bless Felcy! So also all the mothers of this world, including mine and the one of my children!