‘Turn Backward, O Time in Your Flight, Turn Backward’

By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN Group

KOLKATA: Approved ! One word and one punctuation mark conveyed it all. The message brought her a  sense of relief . Well, the visa that had been much awaited for, was granted, sans hiccups.

With work visas becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in that part of the world, the fact that the company was relocating her son there on a ‘premium’ visa was in itself something to be elated about.

As a mother, she was proud that he  was treading beyond geographical boundaries to explore the new world.

At the same time, the thought of his crossing the inevitable thousands of miles, traversing the vast expanse of seas and oceans seemed too intimidating  to ignore. And it was not a feeling that she had not felt earlier. It was strangely yet most definitely familiar.

How could that day ever fade into oblivion? It was the same restlessness that  had tormented her not so long ago. She still remembered the day she had seen her daughter off at the airport.

The realization that the newly married girl was flying to reside in a country that followed an almost reverse time zone was not easy to accept. And now she could see History  being repeated. There was a void that seemed to engulf her very being, as a mother.

A friend of hers asked her, “ Why are you allowing your son to migrate? Is there any lack of opportunities in our country? How will our country prosper if there is continuous ‘brain drain’? ”

At first, she was taken aback by the volley of questions hurled at her. Notwithstanding, she regained her composure to say,

“ Before responding to your queries, I would like you to dwell on what I now have to tell you.”

“India, like many other countries had been colonised by Europeans, specifically the English for decades, nay centuries.”

“If those countries,  are now classified as First World countries, why is India still categorised  a Third World country ? Why after more than seven decades of independence, India is still branded a developing country, not a developed one?”

She continued, “ Why cannot we address the basic problems of pollution and corruption  that are perennially corroding the air of our motherland? Why is it then improper for our younger generation to migrate to countries where they can earn more, and perhaps live more comfortably ? Is it wrong  to long for a breath of fresh air ? ”

As her friend nodded, she went on to say, “Is there anything cringeworthy in the desire to want the better than the best if that exists beyond the political boundaries of one’s own country? Is it not human nature to strive for better living conditions? Do we all not long for the same?”

“We teach our children to be focused and aim high to carve a niche for themselves in life. Coupled with their unfettered dedication,it is this, that propels them to surge ahead in life.”

Her friend smiled at her emotional outburst. But the mother was still not convinced that she had been able to  be convincing enough . She looked into her friend’s eyes to say, “Why should anyone wish to pepper my son with questions seeking endorsement of his love for his motherland and his mother? ”

As Silence answered with silence, with a sudden jolt, she realised she was quite alone. She had been alone in the room for quite some time. There was no one else there. There wasn’t anyone earlier even. All the while it was a mother trying to convince herself that all was well.

As her blurred reflection stared at her  in the mirror, she could almost hear her child whisper Elizabeth A. Allen’s imploring words,

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,

Make me a child again just for tonight!

Mother, come back from the echoless shore,

Take me again to your heart as of yore;

Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,

Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair…….

Time stood still for a moment. Then, the clock struck – a harsh reminder that time, on its onward journey can never, ever turn backwards. Time is irreversible.