Yellow gerberas always remind me of my mother. To this day. And she’s been long gone.

My Mom always loved flowers. And I knew it. Once in a way we’d get flowers for her. But that was to do with an occasion. She’d lovingly put the flowers in one of the two large vases we had. But first she’d trim the stalks diagonally, fill the vase with fresh water, then place them perfectly in the centre of the table. Then, over the next few days, she’d regularly change the water, carefully pick out the few petals that had obstinately dried up and rearrange the bunch. Somewhere she had heard that a pinch of salt or a tablet of aspirin prolonged the life of the flowers. In they’d pop.  Often on the phone, she’d continue telling me how the flowers were still doing – they were that important to her.

Often for no occasion at all, I’d pick up flowers on the way to meet my mom. Sometimes, it’d be from a corner florist. Sometimes it’d be from the flower-sellers who came to your car at the signals. Whatever it was, I’d pick flowers and watch what joy it gave her. The simple joys of life. In giving and receiving.

Yellow gerbera
Photograph courtesy Anil Gandhi

But the yellow gerberas fell into neither of those categories.

The yellow gerberas – and orange ones – were actually hand-picked for one of my photo shoots. It was for what we called ‘ a low-interest category’- the plates used for printing. My idea at that time was to take the centre of the flower to showcase the perfection of the dots on the plates. Long story short: I had an idea, and the yellow gerberas were part of it.

It’s too long back to remember where I took the shots. All I remember is, while working with the photographer, I kept thinking that Mom would love the flowers. I was going to meet her the next day. Preserving them for that day, I carried the entire bunch to Mom when I went over.

“Here”, I said as I handed them over. Then over a cup of coffee – she had tea – I went into explaining my entire idea and how I had picked the flowers for the shoot.  Mom listened with great interest to all the projects I was involved in. I thought it gave her vicarious pleasure in knowing what I was doing – something she had always wanted to do. I prattled on about the shoot, and how it was for an exhibition stall that I was working on and how it would be blown to a massive size of 8 feet by 8 feet, while Mom busied herself cutting the stems at the diagonal and placing them in the vase.

My exhibition stall was a grand success, the yellow gerbera looked spectacular. To top it all, I even won an award for it. Glowing, I called up Mom. I won an award for that gerbera idea, I said. And they are still as fresh, she replied. I smiled. If there was anyone who had prized those gerberas as I had, it was her.

The gerberas lasted for a good 15 days. She told me when she had to give up on them. I am glad that day I took those brilliant yellow and orange gerberas to Mom. That was the last bunch of flowers I gave her.

Two weeks later, she was no more. That was the last bouquet of yellow sunshine that I shared with my Mom. Her sudden departure left me completely bereft. It was almost 20 years ago. Two decades past and I still cannot see, or even think of a gerbera, without thinking of Mom. The yawning gap. The gaping void. As the years go by, instead of diminishing, it seems to grow in galactic proportions. Sometimes mammoth, sometimes large. Sometimes just big. But when the yellow gerberas come to mind, it’s an eight-foot by eight-foot black hole and getting bigger.
I miss my mom.