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Friday, June 25, 2010

Amma (Mother)

Original in Telugu by:
Tripuraneni Gopichand

Translator: GRK Murty

As Babji is getting ready to leave for Madras on some work, his three-year-old son cries saying, “I will also come.” His wife says, “Take him with you, he can see Chennapatnam.” But he has no interest whatsoever. However, owing to the child’s crying on the one hand and his wife’s suggestion on the other, he can’t but agree.

The train going to Madras comes to his town at 9 o’clock in the night. Ensuring that his son has his dinner and after himself having dinner, he and his son arrive at the railway station by 8 o’clock with minimum luggage for convenience of the journey. That day the train arrives one hour late… In the meanwhile, the child starts pestering him. He wants him to buy everything that he sees. He just had dinner, yet seeing the vendor, he insists on buying the tyrusadam[1] packet. Despite his repeated pleas, he doesn’t give up till he purchases. After purchasing, he says, “I don’t want”. He does not keep quiet till it is thrown off. At last, the train arrives. Taking the kid, Babji boards the second class compartment. The lower berth is vacant. Another upper berth is also vacant. Spreading the bed on the upper berth, he sits on the vacant lower berth with his son.

The train has crossed four or five stations. Everybody in the compartment is drowsy. The child is also droopy. The train will reach Madras in the early hours of the next day. Thinking that he would put the child to sleep in the lower berth and that he would sleep on the upper berth, he gets up and spreading the bed sheet asks his son to sleep. As he is already feeling sleepy, no sooner is he placed on the bed than he sleeps. Babji goes to sleep on the upper berth.

* * * * *

Late in the night, he suddenly wakes up, feeling that somebody is pulling his shirt. He peeps out with heavy eyes. The gentleman sitting in the lower berth is pointing his finger towards the berth where his son is sleeping. Babji looks. His son is not sleeping. Sitting in the middle of the berth, he is weeping profusely.

Rubbing his eyes, Babji gets down and sits beside his son.

“Why are you weeping?”

The son continues to weep.

“I am here with you!” he says.

His son tries to hold back.

“Sleep, my sweet!” Babji thus tries to put him to sleep.

Rubbing his eyes, he says, “Amma too sleeps beside me.” It seems Amma too was sleeping beside him. Perhaps, he meant that I should sleep beside him. The way he puts forward his desire, makes Babji laugh.
“Alright, I will also sleep beside you, come on go to sleep”, says Babji.

His son lies down. By his side, Babji lays down. Piercing through the darkness, the train is passing. Passengers in the compartment are all swinging in sleep. Babji could not get sufficient space to sleep. Yet, fearing that if he moves, the child may wake up, he manages somehow.

A station has come. Gone. Babji feels that everything is alright. Feels that his son is asleep. He decides within himself never to entertain such a relationship with him again. But in the meanwhile, Babji doubts that his son is crying within himself. He turns to look at him. His son is not sleeping. He is sobbing silently.

“What babu[2]?”

No reply.

“Aren’t you getting sleep?”

He has not stopped his weeping.

Babji is fed up. “Sleep”, shouts Babji.

But his son intensifies his weeping. Babji fears that the co-passengers, being disturbed from their sleep, may despise him.

“Quiet babu, quiet!” he pleads with his son. After he cools down a little, he enquires,

“What my child, what, not getting sleep?”

“Yes! Getting.”

“Then sleep”, says he.

Amma…”, says the child.

“Ah! Amma? Amma what?” asks Babji.

“After putting me to bed, amma used to lull me to sleep besides singing a lullaby…,” says his son. It seems amma used to put him to bed and sing a lullaby! He now wants me to do all that. He can be put to bed; he can even be lulled to sleep but how to sing the lullaby! Babji becomes quite angry. In the meanwhile, the son intensifies his crying.

“Sleep babu, sleep”, says Babji. He puts him on the berth and lay down beside him. Lulls him. Yet, his son does not stop crying. Babji realizes that the only thing left is to sing a lullaby. But how to sing a lullaby? Of course, he has heard his wife singing lullabies, but…it immediately struck his mind that if he stays awake for long his son might ask him to perform all else that his wife was doing. He feels his primary duty is to put him to sleep. He looks around the compartment. Everyone is sleeping. Even the gentleman who awakened him is also sleeping. Slowly, Babji starts singing:

jO achyutAnanda jO jO mukundA!
rAvE paramAnanda rAma gOvinda!
jO, jO…

* * * * *

[1] Tyrusadam—curd rice.

[2] Babu—affectionate way of calling a son.

                                                                                                                                             - GRK Murty


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