A Tribute To



Sushmita Mukherjee

1930 - 2009

You morphed into a portrait flat and fixed and disappeared into the red bag which stored Jathamoni, Bapi, Moni and Kakkeji all living jeevas, once now fixed and flat in my bag of red memories. 

You were plump, warm plump always smelt of turmeric and mustard oil, fish, and fowl, weather beaten fingers would dip into a jar of afghan snow at 5 pm to meet who?

I hear father knocking at the door! Then you smelt of another mother, a woman perhaps?

I remember that scent, Albeit a little hazily as I was busy, my hand on the brown covered text books and my heart on the neighbour’s gangly son

Your plastic dark glasses. How inexpensively fashionable they stood on your proud perky nose. It made poor company with the  printed silk saree that you had worn, shyly grouped with relatives, against an azure blue sky, up on the terrace on a hot summer evening Baby Ma, you morphed into a portrait, flat and fixed.

Your breasts plump with milk for my youngest sibling pouring straight into his greedy mouth as your eyes wander around the house noting all the household duties, still to be done. “Leave me baby dearest,” you croon “others are waiting” You gather up your saree pallu and leave the infant. I rush to cradle him but he is sound asleep, awash in your motherly milk.

And now you morph into a portrait fixed and flat


When did you grow old?

When did you bend?

When did you first shuffle?

When did you moan, alone?

Where was I then?


You saw are from your womb to any adulthood. Why couldn’t I share your dance from adulthood back to the womb from where we came, the mother of all  wombs.


I miss you dearest

My dearest Baby Ma

The most beautiful princess born to a rich handsome couple, left blinded by fortunes bitter blow.


The princess was Laxmi,

The princess was Grace,

The Princes was Baby, My Baby Ma


Your heart was always pure like a baby and that is why I christened you “BABY MA”. You only understood the sense of words, never the words themselves.

Now you sit in front of the TV, empty hands, no work, no sight, but you still feel the joy of peace. No one to attend, no mouth to feed as you gloriously savour every second of freedom  - the freedom to just sit in front of the TV, sightless and breathe …..Breathe….breathe…

 Baby Ma, Whatever was yours was mine, Only I didn’t know then what I know so clearly, now that you have morphed into the portrait, Your love for music and poetry and theatre. You always spoke of the grand old days. When you were a princess in the old haveli of Hijuli, Hijuli Badi, where theatre was a grand event. The uncles and aunts are wonderful, black and white glorie of you introspection as you Baby Ma, peer short-sightedly into the jagged photo of you past.

 Baby Ma, fourth of five sisters, is the first petal to drop off the ancient flower. The eldest grieve, the youngest implodes, one petal gone forever, Five pm every evening Baby Ma shuffles behind her walker down the hall to the only friend every she has in this dark, last walk to the freedom.

The telephone –

She wants stoically. 

Over there is another part of the country, the sisters finish their evening tea and lift the phone. Treeing! Treeing! Baby Ma leaps to pick up the receiver and slips into a baby yet again. She is loved. She belongs, She scintillates, she pouts, she demands. They require “Have you had your medicines? Did you manage to do your ablutions? “Have only one chapatti if your stomach aches.


My heart aches.

Where was I in all this?


I was working …. Working…. Working to collect a corpus so that I can be around to hear her stories of the time when she was a baby and now alias! too late… Baby Ma has gone.

You ask for some water at dawn. Then you ask for some tea. In between the quiet moments, you slip away…..

Your tea turns cold as you morph away.. My dearest tender Baby Ma…. The funeral, the flowers, the incense, the shroud and of course the portrait, hand picked by us to be placed at a height, bedecked with garlands from where you watch the drama of your funeral unfold.

We three siblings pick three different portrait of you, Three children remember you in three different ways.

You watch from that portrait …. I can sense your expression…. Sometimes a little displeased, as if I let you down.

But always sending rays of love …. Rays of love ….. As I sit weeping before you Ma… My Baby Ma… You morphed into that portrait that disappeared into the red bag which is housed in the ancestor’s corner. You didn’t wait for me. You couldn’t. I know.

At least wait for me when I reach the end of my tunnel…. May be into yours arms once more…….

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Editor: Manohar Khushalani

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