Months had gone by since she passed away yet the memory of her wane face was still imprinted in my mind. I was in Egypt when she died and my brother and I were by coincidence in the same neighbourhood in Cairo when we got the news. We both tried desperately to get back to her to be in time for the funeral but I was only able to catch the evening flight the day after she had passed away. Our family members had delayed the funeral so that we could attend. I arrived almost the morning of her funeral, weary and still in shock. I was still unable to face the reality of her demise. Later in the morning, I sat by her side still numb with the shock of the news of her death. She looked so frail wrapped in her light green and white saree that she used to like. The lady who tended to her had wrapped her in it and it was tightly secured in a few knots over her head.
I asked my aunt if we could unwrap the top as I wanted to kiss her goodbye and my aunt unsecured the knots uncovering her face. It was pale, thin and drawn. I kneeled and put my lips to her forehead and the moment I did so it felt like a dam had opened up in my heart and the pain seared through. The tears flowed down my cheeks uncontrollably as I kissed her forehead and held her. After a while I regained composure and sat beside her as other members of the family moved around arranging everything for the funeral. People came and went offering their condolences and asking me if I remembered them but I recognised none, my mind blank to any memory of their faces. I don’t recall much in the days that followed, except for the aching sense of grief that would not leave. I could not believe that she was gone and I would see her no more.
She was an ordinary yet extraordinary woman. She had lived a difficult life after she had married my father and joined him when he had wanted to return to his home country. Ostracised, unable to speak the language and to adapt to the surroundings she was not used to, she had concentrated all of her attention on us, her children. Later, when she had returned to her home country, it was always visible that the experiences she had lived during that period away from her home had significantly marked her. She remained despite all the hostility she had faced a woman with a positive heart and a desire to always help. I remembered warmly now – although it would drive us crazy when she used to do it while we were young, how she used to gather all the stray cats that had been tortured by some awful kids in the neighbourhood and slowly nurse them back to a healthy state.
She was a beautiful woman, not just outside but also inside and her thoughts were always about how one should be a better person and make the world a better world. She believed in the virtues of kindness, respect, caring, independence and equanimity. She lived her vocation in all aspects of her life. A nurse by profession, tending alternately to children with severe diseases or to third degree burn victims, I remember how the patients would talk of her with praise and gratitude. It was not that she was a soft woman as she could be really tough on us sometimes, having spent several years taking care of us on her own. It was that she truly cared about others and was a nurturing human being. It was not by accident that she had become a nurse, she had always wanted to help others hence her choice of the medical field.
I returned to my daily routine but felt listless as if something had been broken. I realised that it was because with the death of my mother a whole aspect of my life was disappearing. When we lose our mother, it is almost as if the last link to our childhood is broken. Mothers are so emblematic of those times of innocence when we could huddle up closer to them and feel comforted and safe. I had spent many a night tucked underneath her arm when I was raving with fever and waking up tightly held by her had always given me the feeling that everything would always be alright. Somehow, the fact that she was no longer there made me feel like I had lost the possibility of feeling that comfort again. There is something unique about the comfort a mother can bestow and that nothing else can replace.
One day, I was feeling particularly destitute and thinking about my mother. It pained me to think that a woman like her who had cared so much for others had died all alone. Indeed, by a rare coincidence, my sister-in-law had not returned before her carer left and in the thirty minutes or so between the leaving of the carer and the return of my sister-in-law, my mother had breathed her last. I was thinking about how I had been planning for my children to visit their grandmother again that summer and how this would no longer be possible. My thoughts were focused on my mother and I could feel the grief well inside me again. I had stopped writing as I could not bring myself to pen anything and the weeks were turning into months.
As I walked, cloaked in my grief, a shrill call from above caught my attention. There, just a few meters above my head, a seagull flew with its arms alternating between stretching and flapping. It seemed to fly in a criss-cross pattern, right above my head, all the while calling shrilly. I stopped and looked at it and it stopped on the rooftop to the right of my head. I moved onward and the seagull called out and flew over my head again. From the entrance to the compound where I lived until the building where my apartment was, it continued to follow me calling shrilly all the while flying above my head in that curious criss-cross pattern. As I reached my building and looked up at it again, it turned its head one way and the other almost as if it were sizing me up. I felt as if it were a messenger from above as it called again shrilly. I thought of my mother again and as I smiled up at it, I could feel a weight lift off my heart. I looked around me and noticed the intense purple of the lavender in the pot and the bright yellow of the fallen leaves. That sense of comfort would always be there. Her body may have disappeared but she was still there, in every bird that flew, in every leaf that fluttered, in every beautiful thing that shone on in this world around me. I smiled up again and the seagull flew.
Mother (in Arabic) and Woman (in English) both dedicated to my mother – Geetha Balvannanathan
The Old Souls Chronicles 3 : Aron’s trip to the extreme and the Superim Library’s forbidden data
22 August 2017
Tony looks back at Aron and Hemshaw as Hegat’s cube takes off slowly from the point where it had been hovering, waiting for them. He realises his wife is guiding the cube to drive slowly as he had lost the capacity to sustain balance within the cube. It was indeed a while that he had not used it to avoid being discovered through the cube’s biometric data tester.
Hegat turns and smiles at him reassuringly and he feels his love for her well up inside him. It strikes him as strange that he could pass so easily from a point of wishing with all his being to die to a diametrically opposed point where he wishes he could live forever together with his beloved wife. Hegat can sense what is going through her husband’s mind. She lays a hand on his forearm and squeezes his hand with the other.
Don’t beat yourself about it my Love, she says in her soft though grave voice
I am so sorry to have made you waste all those years, says Tony
It is okay now. We just need to forget the past, says Hegat
I love you so much, says Tony. I don’t want to ever lose you again
We will live together forever, says Hegat.
Tony looks back at Aron. He realises that he has a huge responsibility in communicating the vital emotional scale. He also realises that Aron is going to have to apply for a special permit to experience the full scale of emotions and that he, Tony, would need to endorse that request. The youngsters have only known mild emotions and have never experienced passionate feelings. It was the new way of being and none of the newborns had ever wanted to live the full scale of emotions that would include grief and other painful emotions. When they came to the Old Souls, it was merely for the positive experiences emotions. The youngsters had coined the series of emotions that one could experience through the simulation pods at the Superim library or through direct contact with the Old Souls the « feels ».
Youngsters often refer to the Old Souls with an endearment term such as Paps Feels or Mama Feels depending on the gender of the Old Soul in question. Tony and Hegat had taken into their ethical custody a large number of youngsters and most of the youngsters had been very promising and willing to share the knowledge they acquired to other youngsters. This multiplying effect had made Tony and Hegat the most popular and respect Old Souls so it had been a bad surprise for the health facilities authorities and the Library when Tony had stopped coming in to help youngsters.
Hegat looks back again at her husband and smiles as she sees his face resume the appearance it had just before he had left. She embraces him fully and can feel the peace restored within him flowing through her. Tony holds his wife tightly cursing himself for having been so foolish to have made her leave and praising himself at the same time for having had the insight to give in instead of making a dash for the door when Aron and Hemshaw released him as his earlier egotistical instinct had guided him to do.
Back at their home, Hegat goes through the documents they have to send to the health facilities and streamlines all the data through her’s and her husband’s retinas. Tony lets Hegat pull him and center him as he has lost his knack to get the image straight enough in front of the retina reader. At the same time that they are going through the papers, Aron reaches home, his heart beating as he opens the door and expects his wife to be there again in her preternatural form. He has never told anyone about this nor about the fact that he experiences high levels of emotions including those of what he is taught is called sadness and grief as per the Superim library. The first time he had logged in with his official id but as soon as he had realised that the emotions he felt were considered undesirable, he had only connected to off the net data to learn more about his emotions. He felt that Tony could help him but was not sure whether he could trust him fully. Something tells him however that because of what Tony had gone through he was probably the best to help him out.
The next day, after some insistance of his wife to go ahead with it, Tony heads towards the Superim library where he has been restated as Old Soul tutor of feels. At the door of the library he finds an impatient Aron who tugs at his sleeve and almost pulls him into the library.
You seem to be very eager, says Tony. I have not seen someone so eager among any of the youngsters. Your emotions appear to be rawer and stronger than anything I have seen in decades
Yes, answers Aron. I feel a lot of things stronger and I also feel things that seem to be undesirable as per the data condensers in the Superim
That is a standard labeling for anything that goes beyond what is in the greatest good of the group of young ones. If one is granted special access then the sky is the limit to what can be experienced
Can I have access to emotions that are not happiness emotions ?
You can have access to anything that is authorised once you make a request and I endorse it
Would you do that for me ?
Of course, I would.
Aron ponders this and then proceeds to the counter where he fills out the form through his thought process jacked into the Superim’s authorisations virtual plug. Once it is ready, he signals to Tony who adds his thought of endorsement of the request. Shortly after this the Superim library opens up a section that was hidden until then and Aron and Tony are requested to go ahead and enter the section. Tony knows for a fact that it does not need to be closed because not only nobody would venture without endorsement but also the section is walled off etherically and does not show as existing anymore for the youngsters.
Tony picks out a data condenser and puts it in Aron’s hands. It has on it a skull and two roses. When questioned by Aron, Tony mentions that it is the effect of the crossover on people in love as he has sensed that Aron’s quest is connected to that. When Aron had first touched him, Tony had felt something that resembled grief and had dismissed it at the time because Aron was a youngster but now, with Aron’s insistance, he realised that what he had felt was true. Aron looks at the data condenser and then back at Tony.
Not only do I feel a lot more than others but I also feel emotions that the Superim pod could not describe, says Aron
That is because you were only looking at data condensers from the general section. Here you will find an explanation to your feelings, says Tony
I am not sure how to deal with this
You need to just go ahead and process the data condenser and I will then upload you the related emotions so that you can then download the related feels into your body
Will I become a freak if I do this ?
I know you think of it as freakish but back before the Time you were born or that which is available in data condensers of the general section it used to be the standard feeling of everyone. We had not only the happy emotions but also the sad ones and both types could be light or extremely strong
I wonder how you went through all of that. I can barely endure what I am feeling these days
I think I have a solution for you but please download what you need to download
As soon as Aron signals to Tony that he has finished downloading, Tony summons within him all the grief felt for the loss of his wife and communicates portions of it to Tony. At the same time, he takes great care to also quickly communicate the feelings of joy that he had experienced when his wife had come back into his life. Even though barely few minutes have separated the two feels, Tony feels Aron cave in under the pressure of the grief so he quickly puts him in a chair and infuses him with solace through direct physical touch. Aron who had passed off regains consciousness and slowly smiles at Tony. I feel he says and in his eyes Tony can read the birth of a new sort of being, neither the Old Souls nor the youngsters but a blend of both…