Till recently, my morning chai was given to me with little said. Mother had things to do and a mission to fulfill – set me and Father off packing to work, armed with our tiffins, extra fruit and ‘phone rakh liya?’
But in the past few weeks, this routine has changed. And my morning cuppa is now accompanied with news of the latest wrong of demonetisation that Mother has gleaned off the papers.
Not the biggest Modi supporter, till a few weeks ago, like most homemakers, she would express her sadness with all that’s going wrong in the country, curse the government in power, and then move on to daily chores.
But this was till the battle landed on her own turf.
You see, Mother (like most of her kind), has Purse. Purse is that mythical being that lies tucked in the deep caverns of her almirah, curtained off by lovely saris, its location changing frequently, for security purposes.
I have on occasion caught glimpses of it. It’s round-ish, made of red silk with black embroidery on it. A tad worn out, proud of its loyal years showing. I might have seen it, yet I have never touched Purse. It is Mother who is its Keeper. She alone knows it GPS coordinates and what it carries. It is sacred in a way. Its magic owned, and controlled, by Mother.
For it is Purse who has made sure that we have always had the token money to give as shagun ready. Purse who has ensured that there is ready cash to pay for a food delivery (or Amazon, if I’m out) or extra rations. When emergency strikes, Purse rises to the occasion. Never shown off, it has served as Mother’s sidekick in situations only Mothers know how to solve. The medical bill that suddenly sprung up or the relatives that almost always suddenly sprung up. For everything that needed taking care of, Purse never failed Mother.
Purse even made sure she gave us birthday presents and surprises without ever having to swipe that plastic card she shares with Father. She just doesn’t trust plastic, you see. Not for cooking in her microwave, and not for digging into the savings. Someone might get too much access she fears. And OTP etc is all bakwaas. Hacked, is her favourite and most feared word these days. I don’t blame her.
But then, one fine evening, Modiji came asking for Purse. And that’s where the battle lines got drawn. Mother vs. Modi.
For years, Mother had put into Purse all that she had deftly saved from our needs, only to use it to fulfill more needs as they arose. Never questioning how much it held, we had never even given it a thought actually. Perhaps, somewhere undermining the important purpose it served. Undermined it, just as we had possibly undermined all that Mother did/does for us.
That evening, I saw Mother come to us saying that Purse would need to be emptied out, and deposited. Imagining it might be a small amount, Father and I asked her how much was it.
In that moment, I felt Mother letting go of her security blanket, as if. Her defence, her security, her unquestionable ability to fulfill all needs was to be laid bare. It wasn’t that the amount was really big or that it was hidden. I mean, we all knew of Purse. But in its unquestioned existence, in how it served as her support, it gave Mother confidence. The confidence of never having to ask for anything. Yes, she has an account and all the accompanying paraphernalia of debit card, credit card and what not. But those didn’t have for her the security ‘ready cash’ did.
And now, she has had to give it all up.
The cash crunch has ensured that we cannot replenish Purse immediately. The piecemeal withdrawals that are made have gone into paying rent, the domestic help and in everyday things. And it will definitely be sometime before she can get her buffer back.
And so she is mad at Modi.
Angry, as she reads about other Mothers with lesser resources.
Hurt, as she reads of Fathers whose sick children died while they themselves waited in a long ATM queue.
Pained, as she sees the photo of a farmer sitting on his haunches next to his ploughed land with no money to buy seeds.
And in all of them, she sees herself and imagines their Purse.
Modi, with his big words, has struck her small Purse. He has struck their small Purse. And Mother is mad at Modi.