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By Adreyo Sen
When I was very young, I broke my mother’s heart.
She loved me, so she hid the break. But finally, the cracks appeared in her eyes.
“You are no son of mine,” said my father and sent me to fetch a cure from that garden at whose center all rivers meet, where the great nurse sits awaiting her patients.
I travelled many roads and traversed many mountains. I reached the garden and stooped to take a drink of water.
“Stop,” said a terrible voice.
I turned to face the nurse. She stood over me, glaring.
“You must go straight back,” she said, handing me a wooden box.
I rushed home, thinking of my mother, of the garden her lap had once made for me, the tea she would make for me with cloves and cinnamon, how her laughter, when she held me, had the wetness of July and the innocent mischief of a child who was only masquerading as a grown-up in her sarees.
When I returned home, everyone backed away from me.
My father, who’d grown old, placed a trembling hand on my shoulder.
“She died,” he told me. “But, she felt you were with her as she set forth on the black river. She was happy.”
My mother was on her way to the garden I’d left behind. She would return to childish ways. She would never grow old again. Her heart would never be broken.
I wear on my wrist the watch I found in the wooden box, a watch made from wood and fire. I’ve seen my wife grow old and die. I have cremated my grandchildren and their grandchildren.
Immortality is my penance. But, as yet, it does not cut deep.