When he arrived unexpectedly at his home in the countryside in his office car and got
down at the gate, his mother, who was lying in an armchair on the veranda, made a futile
attempt to get up.
‘Kamala, there is somebody at the gate,’ she said, ‘somebody is in a car.’
Kamala, her eldest daughter, a widow, who was sitting huddled up on the thinna on the
veranda, her head and ears covered with a thin bath towel, got up reluctantly, walked slowly
to the gate and screwing up her eyes peered into the darkness.
‘Oh, Gopi!’ She said in her grating voice. ‘Why this sudden unexpected visit?’
‘Kamala, who is it?’ Her mother asked loudly from the veranda.
‘Gopi,’ the man said. ‘There was a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram. I just dropped in on
my way back.’
‘Who? Kamala, who is it?’ There was note of alarm in Amma’s voice.
‘Amma, why are you so scared?’ Kamala, Gopi’s eldest sister, asked her a little
awkwardly. ‘As if you are seeing Gopi for the first time!’
‘Amma, it’s me, Gopi,’ he said again.
He bent down and brought his face close to her wrinkled cheeks. ‘Amma, it’s me.’
‘Gopi? Kamala, I can’t believe it! Has his school closed for vacation?’
‘Amma is often like this these days. She doesn’t recognize anybody,’ Gopi’s sister
explained. ‘But sometimes her memory is quite sharp. Then she asks me if you have sent
any letter. I tell her everything is fine with you, Vimala and the kids. What is the point of
telling her that you haven’t written for a year? Poor thing! I wouldn’t dream of making her
‘I got a promotion last year. After that I am always on my toes. And there are tours
quite often. I don’t get any time to write letters.’
‘Why don’t you ask Vimala to write, or doesn’t she get any time too?’
‘What are you mumbling over there?’ Amma said loudly.
‘I heard somebody coming in a car. Who is it?’
‘I told you, it’s Gopi.’
‘But Gopi is in Delhi, isn’t he?’
‘Yes, Amma, it’s me. I’ve come from Delhi.’
‘Who did Gopi marry?’ Amma said, suddenly lowering her voice. ‘I mean, what’s his
‘Don’t say you’ve forgotten her name too. Don’t you remember, Vimala, District
Collector Nambiar’s eldest daughter?’ Gopi’s sister said.
‘Oh, I forgot the name. Was there a letter from Gopi today?’
‘There was. He writes every day.’
‘I’m terribly upset if I don’t get a letter from him every day.’
‘He knows it. That’s why he writes every day.’
‘Look at the way she talks,’ Gopi’s sister turned to him. ‘Just as I told you. You know
nothing about what’s going on here, do you?’
‘Who is that?’ Amma said again. ‘Who is that in a car?’
‘It’s me,’ Gopi said. ‘I had to come to Thiruvananthapuram. I thought I should drop in
to see you, Amma.’
‘Who is your Amma? What is her name? Where does she live? Is it far from here?’
‘No, it is quite near.’
‘I don’t know how I can bring back her memory’, Gopi’s sister said to him exasperatedly.
Gopi placed his briefcase on the thinna. He opened it and pulled out the contents.
Clothes, files, a shaving set….
‘Do you know my son, Gopi?’ Amma asked him. ‘He is in Delhi… a Government
Officer. He has Kesariyogam…. He draws a salary of two thousand five hundred rupees.
Do you know him?’
‘Yes, I know him.’
‘Tell him to send me a blanket. There is a cold mist in the mornings. If I catch cold it
doesn’t leave me for a long time. Tell him to send a blanket, won’t you? A red one. I had a
blanket, the one he brought for me when he was studying in Madras. It is all tattered now,
just a ball of knotted yarn. Tell him to send me a red blanket, will you?’
‘I’l tell him,’ he nodded.
‘Please don’t forget to tell him. The mist is not good for me. I think I’ll stretch
myself out for a bit. I have been sitting too long in the armchair. I have a pain in the neck.
Gopi’s sister put Amma to bed and came back to the veranda.
‘You didn’t come to see Amma, did you?’
‘Delhi is too expensive. You know I have four children to look after now. I can’t make
both ends meet with my salary. And one has to keep up one’s status. It will be a great help if
I can raise some money by selling my share of the family property. I came to talk it over
‘You’ll sell your land and go away with the money. I know you won’t come here
anymore after that.’
‘Don’t say that. I’ll come when I get time.’
He saw the irritation on his sister’s face.
‘It took you more than five years to find time to come here. Amma is eighty three
now. I don’t think she will pull on much longer. It took you so long to visit her after the last
‘But Amma can’t remember who I am,’ he said smiling feebly.
‘But do you remember your Amma?’