Whistler’s Mother


Its April of 2020 and Day 23 of A to Z challenge. This year, I am doing Metaphors. Be it a movie, song, painting, book, idiom, etc. I plan to give a perspective to it with an explanation and a 8 line poem.


Metaphor: Whistler’s Mother

Whistler’s mother is an iconic oil painting on canvas by James McNeil Whistler of his mother Anna. The painting done in 1871 is also known as Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1. The painting is in 56.81 x 63.94 inches(That’s huge!) canvas and also known to be Victorian Mona Lisa. The painting is culturally popular. It’s been featured in several movies and my favorite is in Mr. Bean. It’s been used in posters, music, etc. and there has been a stamp a well.


I am inspired by the brilliance of the painting which plays with black, grey and shades of light. The image has been used since the Victorian era as an icon for motherhood, affection for parents, and family values (especially in United States). Paintings are viewed with a varied meanings as per each individual and there is always a personal level connect.

A total absence,

Presence with absence,
In any other sense,
And every other sense,
– family and values.
But everyone can see,
Whistler’s mother.

Everyone in the world isn’t gifted with the same. Not everyone has learnt the values of family and some never will.

Unknown Repeats


Well, Leelavati knew the task would work out exactly the way it was planned. Everything was made sure that everything else in the plan would lead to no supplementary superfluous consequences. It was for her vivid potential future which she had visualized for the upcoming days. Her husband who had fled saying he would be back with money had not returned yet, even after a year had passed by. She had no idea on where he was, what he was up to and would he ever consider returning back.  Her work at farms barely supported her two kids. She had twins, two little cute girls. Only right thing she sensed was finding a shortcut means, no matter where it leads but hands her with well off fortunes.

She sat in the middle of the woods, sipping a glass of lemon water and staring at the blue sky.  The blood stained knife lay next to her homemade handbag, covered with her blue woolen scarf. She had poured her faith on the ‘old magic guy’ who had said that offering baits to the goddess would bring back her fortune and all her desires would be satisfied. She herself had slaughtered her two goats at the early sunrise. It was those two goats which her two daughters had adopted as pets. They used to play with them and the goats had become like members of the family.

There was no looking back. She had killed them. She had realized the mistake she had done; by listening to someone whom once she knew was a person never to be trusted. Her husband was all against such not so worthy ideas. She even had offered him all the left over money to perform ‘Bali-Pooja’ as he had named and performed it. Now it was many hours past and there was no change. As she was told, she would find a treasure before the blood stains go dry on the knife.  She was wondering in the woods in search of treasure. It was almost six hours of search and she was growing very impatient. Her daughters saw the slaughtered goats and fainted. The little kids could not bear the fact that the goats were no more. She sprinkled water on the little faces and as they got back their consciousnesses they started yelling out loudly. Leelavati felt she was left with no other option. She thought of killing herself with the same knife and end up all this mess.

Sometimes, it’s just the inner gut feeling one gets to achieve and conquer. At a moment she had this feeling, “If I can give so much importance to the unholy thoughts and sacrifice the goats; why not trust her positive instincts”. She decided she will live. She will thrive. She decided she will not revenge on the person who asked her to do so as it was her mistake that she had trusted him. Instead use all her energy for betterment and she did.

She took the dead goats and sold the meat to the butcher. She got some money and wisely used it to buy some seeds for the farm. There were good rains luckily and monsoon was bright. Everything slowly turned to hope and just when they were being from a lower to middle class family, her husband returned and they were one of the rich families in the town.


Leela had a small family. It was in-fact small because they were not graced with kids yet. Though they were planning to grow the family from few years, the efforts seemed not to fulfill the desires. She had two pet dogs. Though she used to treat them as her children, the cry of not having one always haunted her. It was ten years of her married life and they had spent initial few years in building their career. Now, the worry of kids was bothering them and all the money they had earned to buy every needed little or large comforts of the life was not helping.

Leela, was growing anxious day by day and losing her control. It was also reflecting on her work. She had started firing her employees even for little mistakes done. She used to blame her husband for all the mistakes at home. She had the stronger intuitions that he was the reason for not having kids. That weekend they had a sturdy fight. She was in kitchen and the argument got stronger with time. In rage she pulled out the knife, drew it across his hand and eloped away from home. Her husband was screaming in pain. She neglected his cry and rushed out towards the city. She entered the coffee house.

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. She saw a young couple next to her table. He proposed her with a ring, kneeling down and everyone around was supporting with claps. The event took her back to her days. It was the same place where she had met him for the first time. She was wearing the dress he had gifted her during their first anniversary. The blue scarf was her favorite gift from him. She had a meltdown. It was that one moment of thought she had realized how rude she was being. She dropped her coffee and rushed back her home immediately.

Her husband was first aiding himself. She cried out loud. She did not ask for sorry. She knew it was not worth asking for. She hugged him tight and kissed him. It was that moment where they drew themselves to bed and had the best sex ever. Nine months later she had twins. Two little girls and the family were complete. All the worries of life had drowned away. She had realized the courage to accept things and looking at brighter side will always help in cherishing one’s own life.



The technology had so much advanced that life was technology and technology was life. No one knew why humans had life. There was nothing called nature or natural. Machine was mans new best friend. It was the biggest unanswered question. There was no importance to money anymore. One always used to compare why humans are not like machines? Machines were so cool and different. Everyone wanted to be a machine. Leels was working on a technology where one could see the previous past. She was experimenting and her results seemed successful. May be it would be the key to all unanswered questions.

She was pregnant. Her husband was working in mars. Mars was not suitable to carry a child. Leels had to come back to earth to give birth to those children. Yes. She had twins. The technology was so much advanced that one could let the baby grow in the artificial stomach. She had transferred her fetus.  Mothers used to keep only till the stage of embryo. Later it was all the fact that the fetus grows to a full healthy baby and mother can see it all. She only had to stay nearby. There were processes where mother and fetus were connected though they are not really in stomach.  She used to do all possible things to kill time. Though she had two pet robots, they were not much of entertainment. The robots were family, boring like every other family member.

Leels was able to see her last two births through her research. To kill the time she used to imitate her previous birth actions. She had written down all in her digital diary and used to enact them. She had not revealed this research yet to the society.

Time passed and she gave birth to two twins, both girls. Both were the thread of her from the previous past. Leels had given birth to leelavati and Leela.  She being the inventor, of past-present phenomenon, did not want to reveal this to the world. She knew it was mentally attacking. She had intuitions that people would go wild to know they were better than machines back earlier and they wanted to make machines behave like human. All this had led to new world where now humans wanted to behave like machines.

Wait a second! Oh my god, she had given birth to herself of her previous past. She wanted both Leelavati and Leela to give birth to leels again. The only hope was to give a life back to the mankind. She had strong hopes that giving birth to her previous past can help in setting and settling the things back. She had hopes, the hopes which are most positive ones. She did not know how yet. Mess! It was a mess! She decided to imitate one of the actions which was common in her both of the previous births so that it would lead to something hopeful.

 She sat in the balcony, sipping her wine and staring from the 54th floor of the apartment. The blood stained knife lay next to her digital handbag, covered with her blue artificial clothing scarf.


The Gosavi House

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.

‘Why mother’ questioned her little daughter Hardiki, with eyes squat, with an endearing little face and slowly lying down on her mother’s lap.

Hardiki was six year old kid and she was brought up with oodles of love and care by her mother. Hardiki had brown eyes, captivating face and looked like a charming little princess. Though her father Budha, was not very happy having a girl child, Ilaa never made that feeling occur to Hardiki.  Not only was her father, even the whole family was not actually very contented with Hardiki’s birth. They had expected a male child, one who is going to bear ahead the family name. Though they had tried for the second one, Ilaa was not able to conceive until last few months.

After a lengthy gap of around 5 years, Ilaa was expecting a second child. The d-day was almost near. She had all the assorted feelings of what if it was the girl child again and how the family is going to receive her. The hormonal rush was to its peak and she used to be literally anxious every single moment, though knowing it’s not healthy for her and as well as the baby.

How will the family pleasure her? How will the family pleasure the kid? On top of the whole lot of things, there was an assortment of work piled up. If the bales of cotton were not ready and if they don’t have the seasonal earnings, it would affect the whole family of twenty members staying together. Every year she used to enthusiastically stand beside with her husband and help him with the effort. Budha used to get a bundle of support from her.

This year, with her pregnancy it was all different. Though she used to work more than her capability would permit, it was still not keeping up to her own expectations. She had even started an innovative work to support the family from her side. She used to sit and work on weaving saris. She had created some design and patterns and wanted to possess her own variety and trademarked saris calling it as ‘Hardiki Paithani Silk’ saris. She had created new patterns intricately embroidered with gold and silver borders. She had secretly used some of her ornaments not letting her family know about it. She had sent around ten samples to the market and there was no reply yet.

All along everything around ten of her family members were to the shrine of great saint Eknath, as a part of paithan yatra to pay the home-age and had not returned yet. She used to share her feelings with cousin Sopandevi and now she been in yatra, she was missing her too. Ilaa was lost in her thoughts. Completely, in a way which hardly made her realize the pains of carrying the baby.

‘Why mother’ queried the little Hardiki again.

‘I wish you will never understand or be in such a situation my little princess’ said the mother by moving her hands on her little forehead. I pray to god that there will be a day where women is not blamed for the kid she delivers. Instead it’s treated as the contribution of the whole family. I wish boy or girl, the greeting remains the same.

‘Mother, what?’ Hardiki was only confused.

‘Not a thing, Hardiki. I just love you. And want to see you happy at all times’, said Ilaa in a very delighting tone.

‘Mother, I want a little sister for me to play with. When will she arrive?’, said Hardiki with a never ending smile on her face.

Ilaa was clueless on what to answer. She kissed her forehead. She had the mixed feelings and the thoughts flowing all at random, just like the river Godavari. She remained silent.

The innocence of her daughter took her back to her childhood days when she used to play at the 12 Jyotirlinga temples. Being in ‘tirth khamb’ park was her all time favorite. She always used to drag her mother and father to the tirth khamb and spent most of the evenings. It was back then the days where, the only effort she used to put was in making new toys out of cotton every day. She used to demand variety of food to eat every day. She used to play with coins and collect them. She used to help her father burn bricks with her little hands in the way she could support. She used have a very deep sleep at night and wake up with unbounded energy every morning. She had never seen her father ignoring her because she was a girl child. All she wanted was the same here for Hardiki.

A while later they started heading back home. On the way Hardiki requested her mother that she would play in the fields for a while and promised to return back before the sunset. Ilaa could not say no and she started walking towards home. As she reached home, she noticed her husband being upset and sitting all alone in the garden. She slowly walked towards her husband and queried on what the matter was. Although she knew there was work pressure, but this was something else.

Her husband Budha declared that workers had eloped and there was consequently much to do in subsequently less time. It was the question of needing more workers at the time. He was also missing the support from his wife, like it used to happen every year. This year was different.  Every year they used to produce around five bales of cotton weighing about 500 pounds each. This year they had an excellent cropping and looked almost the double. Budha expressed that he was entirely clueless and needed her support.

Ilaa had a rush of thoughts. She felt as if she was not from this world.  She prayed to the saint Eknath for his blessings. She was looking very tired. Budha could see her tiredness in her eyes. He could see that his wife was not completely her. He knew she needed his support. The situations were being so much awful to him that Budha was feeling guilty on what time had turned him into.

Ilaa slowly moved towards the wooden chair and sat down. She made herself look comfortable, though she wasn’t internally. She wanted to be supportive to her husband. She had gathered her words and about to articulate. Then, just then, there was this moment! The moment when,

Ilaa got her labor pains and it was clear sign that she was going to deliver. She was rushed to the room and neighbor women were called. There was clutter, mess and running shouts all around.

Just then, the family members who had been to yatra had reached back home. Budha’s mother Muktabai quickly updated him that they are going to have a child which will change the family fortunes as said by one the saints. Sopandevi and other women rushed towards the room.

The person who had carried the sari samples designed by Ilaa returned back announcing everyone in the trade market had appreciated the patterns and he had a huge order of hundred saris to be delivered in next six months. The family members were happier when he proclaimed that he had already got some advance money as well.

Hardiki came running in hurry with a big surprise on her face holding a bag in her hands. The bag was full of gold coins, atleast a fifty of them. She had found a treasure in the farm while playing and was clueless of what it amounted for. She was only attracted by the glitter and wanted to share it with her father.

Suddenly a bunch of twenty people appeared in-front of Budha asking for work. They were hired by one of the rich families to work in cotton farm but due to farm fire he had lost the crop and workers, the job. So, these people who had traveled a long distance to earn bread and butter were ready to do the job even for half the price.

Budha’s heavy heart was now like thin air. It was like the life’s worst day suddenly turning into the perfect day in a moment’s time. Budha’s mother thanked the almighty and they all together offered the family prayers. The only wait was the news about the child from Ilaa.  Budha knew he was going to offer infinite love to the child. He promised himself to give all love to Hardiki as well. So were the thoughts of the most of the family members of gosavi.

Sapondevi came out running, announcing,
It’s a baby girl’!

This story was submitted to TOI Write India Challenge (Month – July 2015)