The Apple of My Eye
I am reposting this poem and a short story ‘The Scent of a Woman’ which I wrote for my mom, after I read the post ‘Cancer’ on Word press. A very moving story, it left me flabbergasted for days. Cancer is definitely a killer disease, so is ‘stroke’. I was nine years old when my world collapsed. My mother had a stroke; it left her a living vegetable for the rest of her pathetic life. She died after years of suffering at the age of 42.I still wonder how I grew up without her tender care.
The Apple of My Eye
She was walking on the beach,
A long skirt hiding her knees;
Dotted with tiny blue florets,
A white linen blouse flattened her bosom,
She never wore a swimsuit;
Immaculate as the sunset,
Pretty as a picture,
Mysterious as the sea,
Smiling to herself,
Poetic, in love, sweet,
She fell in love only once,
The blessed day was her wedding day;
A long trail of footsteps,
Printed in the moist sand;
In joyous innocence,
Behind her I walked,
Placing my steps,
One by one in her wake,
She was the apple of my eye!
She was my mother!
The Scent of a Woman
After the Second World War, there was a shortage of food stuffs in the island. In those years, Mauritius was a colony under the British rule.
Nonetheless, our family did not feel the immediate pangs or the aftermath of the war, as we were quite well off. My mother, I fondly remember, splashed herself with Yardley Eau de Cologne every morning after her tub bath. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and, I could follow her around the whale of a house that we had, sniffing her perfume like a little dog.
My father was a whole sale merchant and he was bringing home our share of ration rice. It was our basic food and also the basic food of the whole population of some 500,000 heads.
A hard, little, yellowish pearl, unpolished and unrefined, my mother told me that this grain of rice came in its husk during the war. In those days called ‘le temps margoze’ (the sour gourd days) by the local people, the women folk had to pound the rice in a mortar to separate the husk from the rice. They used to call it ‘di riz pousse femme’ (the rice that drives women away) because it was a real nightmare for women to pound the rice.
We were fortunate, I gather, because we did not have to pound the rice. But once a week, in a ceremonial manner, my mother sat on a small wooden bench; surrounded by the maid servants, they would busy themselves at cleaning the rice. The rice was placed on large aluminium trays in small heaps. It was winnowed and then the grit was separated from the grain. In a small tin, my mother kept the small black pebbles to throw away and in her lap, the broken rice to feed the birds.
Close to her, on a smaller bench, I sat down to be with her. I felt like a big girl because I could pick out the stones from the broken rice in her heap. The foreign traders were crooks, my mom told me; they added pebbles to the grains of rice to cheat on the weight.
After she had finished and filled a big iron container with the clean rice, I had the liberty to hide my head in the warm and loving lap of my mother. I breathed in the intimate scent of a woman interlaced with the perfume of eau de cologne and the smell of ration rice.
Years after she passed away, this scent still filled my whole being with the sweet memory of my mother.