A foundation: A short story for Mother's Day

What can you do when a tragedy has made it difficult to build a new life?

Sajid Khan
Published : 14 May 2023, 01:34 PM
Updated : 14 May 2023, 01:34 PM

The following is a work of fiction.

Rekha watched the sky from the window as a nervous twinge ran through her gut. It was Sunday, and the forecast said there would be heavy rain.

Below her was their garden, tidy and green, maintained with ruthless efficiency by her mother, Sabina. Sabina was very sensitive about her garden. She rarely allowed Rekha to help, even when time seemed short. But, looking at her mother now, Rekha felt a sense of calm.

Sabina was tending to the chrysanthemums that had bloomed last week. Even a year ago, the garden had been a mess. Her mother had struggled at first, spending hours and hours trawling through YouTube tutorials. Her steely determination won out in the end.

As Sabina stood up and wiped the sweat from her face, Rekha caught sight of her smile. A lopsided quirk of the lips that Rekha had seen for 15 years now. It was a startling combination of cheer and combativeness.

It was typical of her mother. Sometimes, Rekha blamed herself for her mother's constant struggles and the many challenges they faced as a family. But she was met with that same smile whenever she voiced these concerns.

"Beta," she would say, her voice on a knife's edge between anger and amusement. "I love you dearly. It has been my privilege to give you life and help raise you. And I'll take that same life away if you think like that again."

Sabina was doing her undergraduate degree when she fell in love. A year later, she was blessed with Rekha. But Rekha's father had left the picture early, not intending to be part of their lives.

Sabina was lost. She initially hid her pregnancy from her family, terrified her parents would shun her. She kept thinking that she had ruined her mother's dreams of her future.

At one point, Sabina thought she would run away, setting out on her own because she wanted to keep the baby. But she couldn't do it. She knew she would miss her mother too much.

Sabina revealed the truth to her mother Sharmin when it became too difficult to hide. Sabina's mother was shocked, of course, but she understood immediately. Whatever her feelings about Sabina's actions, she loved her daughter and recognised that she needed her mother more than ever.

For the next decade, Sharmin did everything she could to help her daughter raise Rekha. While Sabina pursued her education further, she took care of her granddaughter. Sharmin cooked, cleaned, and looked after the house during exams, allowing her daughter to reach the top of her class. She even babysat when Sabina got a job at a reputable company and started rising through the ranks. Sabina called her mother her 'rock'.

Then came the day of the diagnosis, when doctors told Sharmin she only had a year or so to live.

It came as a massive blow to Sabina. Without her mother, she felt the ground give way beneath her feet. For years she believed she didn't need a partner to raise her daughter. After all, she had her mother.

But, on May 14, 2018, she was gone. Rekha was devastated, but she knew her mother needed her even then. She put her mourning for her grandmother aside and went to her mother.

Those had been their darkest days. The two had to learn how to work together as a family. It wasn't easy. Tensions rose, tempers flared, and mother and daughter had to keep going while nursing the hurt in their hearts. But even in their worst moments, they were still a team. A united front against the world.

The years passed, and they grew stronger. Despite Sabina's troubles at home, her performance at work drew steady praise and, eventually, promotions. Rekha, who inherited her work ethic from her mother, did well in school. But, despite their success, a sadness lingered in the air. A pain that grew keener every Mother's Day. They never spoke about it, but it hung between them regardless.

But, this year, Rekha was determined to make a difference.

As Sabina put away her gardening tools and turned back towards the house, Rekha rushed to the kitchen to grab the cake she had carefully made in secret. She had little experience with baking, but her mother wasn't the only one who knew how to use YouTube.

As Sabina entered, she saw a fluffy and slightly lopsided cake on the table with purple flowers and slightly smudged writing that said: "To my rock".
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, but she kept her composure.

"What's all this?" she said, casually going to wash her hands.

"Ma," Rekha said, embarrassment burning her cheeks. "It's Mother's Day."
"Is it?" Sabina asked.

"I thought we could celebrate just once, you know?" Rekha said.

Sabina nodded. Her face was still impassive as she put together a few plates, a knife and some forks and brought them to the table.

Carefully, she cut out a thin slice and put it on a plate, cut out a small piece and put it in her mouth. The smile that had been threatening to spill out finally did.

"You seem to have inherited your grandmother's baking skills," she said.

"That bad?" Rekha asked, panicking and putting a forkful into her mouth.

It was thick, chewy, and had the unmistakable zing of baking powder.

"I tried so hard!" Rekha moaned, her mouth still full of gloop.

Laughing, Sabina took her in her arms and gave her a firm kiss on the cheek.

"Next time, I'll make the cake," she said.

This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.