The Voice At The Other End Of The Line

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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.

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10 thoughts on “The Voice At The Other End Of The Line

  1. Sigh. I know. Amma lives in the same city and we talk everyday. So reassuring and sometimes just listening to her voice is enough to tell you that everything is going to be all right. That’s Amma. Lovely as always, Laksh.

  2. I want to put in what I think and I am going to refrain. Glad that you have Amma you connect to 😊 . Hope my son feels the need to connect with me when he heads to live on his own and not feel forced to do so!

  3. So true about the initial calls being ones that were forced and the ones after we became mothers ourselves an expression of love, gratitude, companionship, and understanding. Your writing is like a sweet lullaby, ebbs and flows with the right words and a right tone. Addictive!

  4. How beautifully you describe something I take for granted. When I was first moved from home it was she who was calling me all the time. Now its I who feel the need to pick up the phone more often. And it’s always reassuring to talk to her.

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