17 May 2017
5 min read
I do as I am told. I try to listen to the music, which is barely audible, and I tell her I can only make out some of it. “I can feel music even from miles away. You don’t need to hear it to feel it,” says Ama, as she hands me a bowl of saag and chiura. Then she scatters grains of rice over her room’s threshold for the pigeons that flit around the ashram.
Ama believes that pigeons communicate better than human beings do. According to her, humans filter their thoughts too much. "People chew on words and spit out only what's required," she says.
As she’s feeding the pigeons, a baby’s cry catches her attention. An ashram staff member’s baby needs comforting. Ama has brought up many of the staff’s children since her arrival at the ashram 17 years ago. “He smiles at me like I am his mother,” she says.
I sit in a corner of the room, wondering how someone like her could have been relegated to living in an old-age home.
Perhaps noticing me drifting, Ama breaks my reverie. She asks me if I want to listen to the story of when she flew over Mt Everest. I don’t remember the last time I met a storyteller this passionate. Her eyes light up as she narrates her story. “There are a lot of perks to living in the ashram. People shower us with love. I still thank the pilot who came here to fly us to Mount Everest. For showing us how tall it is. It is as white as a cotton ball,” she says.
I chew on my chiura and I wonder if I have ever taken out time to be thankful to anyone.
As I try to recall a possible episode in my life where I had been grateful to anyone, Ama is already reminiscing about another anecdote.
“Happiness is all up to you, not dependent on a place or a person,” she says. “When I came here I had no one. I used to have long battles with god, and with myself. I would wait for something to mysteriously take away my emptiness. A few months later, a young boy came to see me. Seventeen years on, I have hundreds of choras and choris.”
I spend an entire day with Ama, and as we part, she hugs me and plants a peck on my cheeks.
“I don’t understand why people recoil from sharing love. Quarrelling and fighting in public is acceptable, but displaying love is frowned upon,” says Ama, as we part ways. On my way back home, I text my mother, thanking her for “being a mother” and taking care of me. Finally. After 22 years. And I feel lighter.