Eyes Eyes Baby
Manjima Bhattacharjya describes a mom with a superpower
My mother has eyes at the back of her head. She says she was not born with it. If she had been born with it, maybe she would have seen the Redline bus that hit her while she was riding her cycle when she was 16.
My mother says that she developed this power after my sister was born. We can’t really see the extra eyes. I know because I did try. There is only grey hair at the back of her head. But either she is telling the truth or has hidden cameras everywhere, because she can prove it every time. My mother knows when my sister and I are about to step into dog poo or making faces or if we are doing sign language with each other, or I am about to light a matchstick or play with fire or knock over a glass of water or dump our breakfast in the bin or drain half a cup of milk into the kitchen sink.
It is not her only power. My mother finds lost things. Even when we have all searched for a missing item like a clip or phone or Kindle or pen or Aadhar card or chappals. She will find them. I don’t know how, because she looks exactly in the same places where we look. She lifts cushions, puts her hands into sides of sofas and beds, and always looks down and looks up when searching. She says things hide sometimes, and you have to wait for them to appear. This is not the rule when she is looking. When she cannot find something, which is rare, she says it is possible the Borrowers have ‘borrowed’ it. (The Borrowers are tiny people who live under the floors or in the walls and take things that belong to humans where they live. She read about them in a book when she was a child.)
When you look at her, though, you might miss all this. My mother looks old and harmless. She is normal at other times, like my friends’ mums. She needs my help to put on Netflix on the TV or make the wireless mouse or keyboard work. She travels a lot for her work. She is also home a lot because she works from home. She goes to all my PTMs and bakes cakes with me and lets me take sips from her wine glass when no one is looking. On the face of it, she is sweet and busy and likes to watch rom-coms, especially when it is Christmas time.
But behind that face is a hidden spy. She knows many things. Not all of these she has learnt in school or college.
She knows before something happens that it is going to happen.
She is always right.
She knows when we lie.
She is scary but not like a ghost. She is scary like your conscience. When she looks at you, it is like she is going through to your brain like a dart or a laser beam and checking every cell for rubbish. My sister and I think she should join the police and help them catch criminals who lie.
My mother has four instructions for bedtime. Can you guess what they are? Brush your teeth, do susu, drink water, put Vaseline. She says this every single day, even when we are on vacation and there are no real rules.
Last night I told my mother I brushed my teeth but I had not. She knew before I finished saying Y-e-s. Next time I will wet my toothbrush as proof.
My sister is a good liar now, but with bad teeth. She really needs to visit the dentist. I think I will also get better with age and practice. I suppose it is good my mother asks us the same four questions every night: it gives us lying practice.
Manjima Bhattacharjya is a researcher and writer based in Mumbai.
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This story was written in response to the following prompt:
The Third-Person Me: Write a portrait of yourself in the third person.
Manjima had also posted this on her Medium page.
Art by Simahina.
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