Sushmita looked up at the framed photograph of a fiercely handsome man. Clean-shaven. Uniformed. And smiled. She had cried enough…
She never thought she’d be able to, but now Sushmita could look back on her son’s ‘wild phase’ and smile. She remembered how she used to get the creeps every time she saw nineteen-year-old Rohan’s messy ponytail, his untrimmed beard that hung rough and dry half an inch below his chin, his torn jeans, dirty shirts. She had glared, rebuked, pleaded, threatened. Nothing had worked.
Then one day, he announced over dinner that he had decided to join the army. It was not a germinating idea that he wanted to discuss with her, nor did he hesitatingly ask for permission, like he used to when he was ten and wanted to watch television for an extra hour. Even before Sushmita’s ears had stopped buzzing and the numbness in her limbs had left, he was gone.
Next time she saw Rohan was how she liked to think of him whenever she missed him, which was every waking moment. She remembered how her heart had thumped as she saw the handsome young man at her door, with his crisp uniform, perfect crew cut, and the greenish tinge of a fresh shave. If it wasn’t for the mischievous sparkle in Rohan’s eyes, she would have had trouble believing that it was her son. Every time she saw him, affection raced through her veins and sometimes spilled out in the form of happy tears. She wanted to grab every stranger on the street and say “See that beautiful boy? I am his mother.”
‘His clean shaven look bowled me over,’ she still liked to remind herself.
Sushmita glanced at the photograph again. “Rohan is just like you,” she murmured. “You would have been proud.”