This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nazia Dhanju. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“Those 17 Missed Calls Still Haunt Me”: The Last Conversation With My Mother

More from Nazia Dhanju

By Nazia Dhanju:

The last time my phone beeped with ‘mommy’ calling was almost three years ago: 22nd October 2012. I was in Satalana village of Jodhpur, on field work conducting a survey on child marriage. It was a typical October day, sweltering heat, and there was no electricity. I was visibly irritated by the heat, the over enthusiastic sun and my phone beeping with my mother’s call. I put it on silent, thinking I would call her after finishing my work. My mother had a habit of calling me every morning, afternoon and evenings. We would talk for a minute, maybe two in each time. Sometimes she would call me continuously if I didn’t answer her phone the first time. She was very protective of my brother and me. She repeated the same exercise with him.

Image source: Pixabay.com
Image source: Pixabay.com

That day, after finishing my work, I went back to the house I was staying at and went for a shower, considering the heat. I completely forgot to call her back. Once I got out of the shower and checked my phone, I remembered that I need to call her. Otherwise she would be unnecessarily stressed. I made the call; she asked me how I was and whether I had lunch. I replied with irritation in my voice.

After the conversation, I decided to go to sleep. Since there was no electricity, I had to sleep on the terrace along with the housemates. I went up and tried to sleep, failing miserably. After tossing and turning a while, I called home. My mother answered and was taken aback since it was unusual of me to call. She was the one who called, always. She thought something went wrong with me, I pacified her and told her that there was no electricity, and I couldn’t sleep. She sensed the uneasiness and asked me what the matter was. I told her I was bored and missing home. That was it, she broke down and started crying, asking me to come home as it had been five months since I saw her last. I was not the most expressive daughter, so the fact that I said that I was missing home made her cry. I wasn’t good with dealing of emotions face on. I didn’t know how to soothe her. I just told her not to cry and that I would be home in a week’s time. After that, I made up an excuse that I’m sleepy and hung up.

The moment I hung up my phone’s battery died, and I couldn’t charge it. I kept awake till the wee hours of the morning, tossing and turning, playing with my thoughts. It was for the first time in my life I was having thoughts like how would I survive if something happened to my mother. I quickly pushed that thought away, took God’s name, offered a small prayer for the sin I had committed in my mind.

The next morning I woke up around seven, groggy eyed, tired and mentally fatigued. I couldn’t get over my thought from the previous night, I felt I had committed a sin. My phone was switched off; I assumed if mom called she would know there was no light so I couldn’t charge it. Around afternoon, I started worrying that I need to call my mother otherwise she would panic, considering my phone was off all day. By one pm that uneasiness grew to a level that I started looking for phones to put my sim in. I found the neighbours phone to do the same.

The moment I switched on my phone I called her. There was no answer that was strange; she usually answered my call in the first four rings. I called her again. No answer. That moment I got a call from my brother, he was crying, and I knew something had gone horribly wrong. He told me I had to take the next flight and come back to Punjab, and that mother had met with an accident, she was in a coma. Little did I know then that she had an accident and had passed away due to brain hemorrhage. My world froze; I went numb. I disconnected the call. The phone beeped with a message. I opened it. It was from Airtel. 17 missed calls from my mother. I started getting continuous calls after that, from family, friends, relatives, coordinating my return. In my head, she was in a coma, and she would be fine eventually. There was no second option. She had to be fine. There was no other way. I, in my state of numbness, like a mechanical robot, packed my stuff and made preparations to go back.

On my way from the village to Jodhpur, I kept calling my mother’s number. I don’t know what had engulfed me. I reached Punjab and was taken to the village. When I reached turn that took me to my village, I saw white tents and white sheets and cars and loudspeakers. That moment, I knew I had lost her. The rest happened in a trance; I knew I would never hear her voice again, never have my phone beep with ‘mommy.’

Till today, three years later, those 17 missed calls haunt me. What would she have wanted to say, that she called me 17 times? I curse myself, curse my fate and curse the electricity. I hate myself for every single time that I was rude to her, that I put her phone on silent and didn’t talk to her. I resent myself for never expressing how much I loved her, what she meant to me, how I would give my life thousand times over just to hear that warm voice again, to hug her, to hear her call me “beta”. I live and fight these demons inside me every day, every hour. Sometimes I get busy in my life, and the guilt grows bigger, that how can I forget that integral part of my existence and keep living.

I decided to write this out after three years to give a message, a message that I learned the hardest way: don’t take anyone, anything for granted. Pick up that phone call her, tell her how much you love her, miss her. Express and be vocal. I am living with my guilt and demons, I still call on that number sometimes, thinking in vain she would answer. But that’s never going to happen. I don’t know if this pain, this void, this guilt will lessen with time. But I do know that every day I long to tell her how much she means to me. And I vow never to take my family for granted. I answer my father and brother’s call without fail. I learned it the hard way. And I’m living with that.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sinjini Sengupta

    Speechless!

  2. Babita

    no words to describe anything..

  3. Anand

    I’ve been rendered speechless,

  4. soumya

    This guilt is difficult to live with but I’m sure she called to say “She Loves you and She will be with you always ,no matter what “.
    These heartfelt stories actually put a message across “We must never take our loved ones , our family for granted”

More from Nazia Dhanju

Similar Posts

By Parul Sharma

By Pawan

By Soumita Sen

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below