The Everlasting Smile

By Anita Thomas

N.B: Written after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai.

 “Close your eyes and think of the happiest memory you have”, had said the priest to my mother lying on the bed. She was 31 and I was 6 years old. I could see fear in her eyes and knew it was not because she was dying but because she was leaving me behind…all alone. She obeyed to what the priest said, closed her eyes and was prying into her past to extract the happiest moments of her short, sad life. The priest finished his prayers and sat on the chair with me on his lap. Then she smiled. The everlasting smile… The smile remained with her till the coffin was closed. I do not know what she thought of but after that I never mourned her death, never cried. Whenever I thought of her I could only see her smiling face which would make even me smile.

 Now I am 28 years old. I am thinking of the happiest memory of my life. Yes, I remember. It happened yesterday at 5:45 am. As always, I woke at 5:30 am to complete my office work, made coffee, poured warm milk in the bottle, brought her crib to the hall and kept it beside me so that I could look at her every few seconds, sleeping peacefully and safe. I started with my work on the laptop. The next time I saw her, she was looking at me; eyes wide open with curiosity dancing in them. I was sure she would start crying and wake Suzan. To avoid that I showed her the milk bottle and took her in my arms. Still her expression remained the same, just looking at me. I was wondering whether something was wrong or is it common for children to behave like that. She opened her lips and said something but I could not comprehend what she meant. She said it again and this time it was clear.” Pa… pa, pa.” I could not believe it! I had been waiting to hear that from the time she was born. I could not help but to scream myself and run towards the bedroom clutching her in my arms. Hearing the noise Suzan woke up, scared. And I was trying to explain to her with tears streaming down my face that my baby had just called me “pa, pa” for the first time. She soon understood and gave me a tight hug. I asked Suzan to click our photograph – my baby and me. I would preserve every moment…

Today, I had a meeting in the Taj Hotel, but now there are people on the floor, some dead, some trying to survive. Now I am smiling, like my mother did and my daughter will never mourn or cry for me, like I did. She will know that her papa was not crying or sad, even with five bullets in his body…

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