The phone rings a few times before her voice comes on the line.
Reassuring. Available. Just there for my taking.
We exchange pleasantries. We talk about what we cooked, how we slept, minor aches and pains, the cost of medicines, the cost of a kilo of tomatoes. We talk of bank balances, siblings and children. In between words are pauses. Spaces that lets us just be. Something alive that traverses the air waves 8000 miles to let me know we inhabit the same space. We are connected. We matter.
I do not rush these spaces, instead I hold on to them, these pauses in conversation. I let the silence fill the space between us, allowing us to inhabit our physical space knowing there is a person at the end of the line even if I am not saying anything. More often than not, these conversations are not to exchange information. They are stand-ins for the I-love-yous and I-care-about-yous.
I call twice a day. Sometimes thrice. In the first few years after I left home, these phone calls were irksome. I called because I had to. I answered these calls because you know, I’d rather answer than have the phone ring every few minutes until I picked it up. The smell of anxiety and paranoia pervaded me then. After I had a family of my own, the calls became about reassurances that I was well and she was coping with the absence of the children who had ruled her life for most part. As I graze middle age and she considers herself a senior citizen, the roles have changed, mutating from tolerance to need. A craving to be connected without agenda.
I often wonder in those moments when the time and space are suspended about what would happen once there is no voice at the end of the line. Where there once was a reservoir of connection, there would be a dead end. A void into which I can only send messages that echo back to me.
I shake myself from morbid thoughts and realize that the phone calls to Amma are a metaphor for something else. Unconditional love. Complicated feelings. The innate human need to want and be wanted. To validate our existence.