We fought that night too. It was about dad again…. I felt we should wait for some time and dad might give in;.He was annoyed with dad’s threats to kill him if we married.. I know that was too bad of dad to say all those... But I could not stand listening to him talking ill of dad too… he always scored a touch down bringing dad into our fights. Picturising my father as an irresponsible, insensitive man who never cared more family, and minted money. Perhaps his utopian promises of giving me a family, being a husband and a father both who my dad could never be, kept me with him these years, but last night the fight drained all my energy. I hate fighting on Sundays, simply because I get up for work with a mongoloid face and my mood swings persists till noon, it’s worse than hangover from booze, I say. I often go empty stomach after fight, and when you live all alone you cant hope for a cup of tea , unless you get up to make one.
And then Monday is “THE DAY” when corporation water reaches our “ HOLY PIPE” and that means I got to clean the kitchen. My darling room mate goes on her family visits every weekend to save this trouble.
Whom can I crib to, my parents never wanted me to work in this rural town and 'he' wanted me to join the corporate world.For the first time in life I disobeyed everyone, maybe I needed some time for myself. Monday is also a horrible day because the beneficiaries of our projects keep calling us from morning, some even travel down to this “Ethiopia” with “celestial tarts” to lure us.And our dingy office turns into a rural haat .
I waited for his call, sometimes addiction to phone develops into an auditory hallucination, I halted in between filling water to make sure I had not missed his calls. Of course he will call to apologize, he always does, but silence kills me, reminding me of my sole existence, don’t know why some called it the best music - silence between two notes , I thought . Switching on the “entertainment contraption” ( The T.V), filling water and cleaning the rooms I waited for that one call, which could make my day.
Finally it rang, making me smile, when life goes on your terms, you feel euphoric, but my smile was wiped out when my mobile displayed “H O M E”. Calls from home worried me, because I felt they would be sermons to come back home, stop working or quit my relationship.
It was my sister who spoke, she was one year younger to me but spoke like my boss, and she was so formal that at times I felt choked. She said mom wanted to talk to me just like messengers announcing the king’s presence. I knew something was coming down.
“Mole” – mom never calls me that, she never expressed emotions through words and I always blamed her for it, seems like she passed those genes to my sister too. Dad was very impressive and no wonder we struck a chord, if there was a split between us it was after I fell in love. It’s amazing how one word can trace you to numerous thoughts in micro seconds. Mom was searching for words. “There’s a bad news” she paused; I thought my brother was in trouble since I could not hear him in the background.
There was a call from Kuwait, she said and I paused, “ok dad had a stroke perhaps, he was healthy but his family had a history of Heart ailment”. "Is dad not well", I asked.
“When uncle came from church they saw him lying on bed”, she said, very restrained. Ok so did they admit him? I asked. “ Teena , daddy is no more, ‘ HE IS DEAD’.
“Should I scream or cry, should I rephrase this statement, but mom is not crying did our fight last night come true, when we were fighting was dad breathing his last breath, did he think of me???????????????????????? All these thoughts crossed in a micro second and I was yelling too.
Mom , was crying and then there were noises in background, Asha took the receiver and told me that the neighbors and relatives had started coming and she would call me later, but I am all alone so I should take care of myself.
“Take care of myself”, mom always said that- when she went for work, when we were left home all alone, she said this. Take care means, not to do anything notorious, keep safe, but what did it mean now? Water was overflowing, calling me out of my reverie. I loved being alone at this moment without anyone. I could take leave by calling office, but what will I do all alone, I tried walking to office but I was trembling, so decided to take an auto to reach a place I needed five minutes by walk.
Dead, car accident, murder, raped, how often we read this in newspaper and flip pages, there’s something intriguing about these news that makes us want to pry in insensitively, how many movies we see, these scenes flashing ruthlessly and man still clings to the belief that he will be spared.
Kiran was on the system, I pushed him aside, poor fellow was romancing with his girl friend, maybe I looked like a dead woman myself, and he dared not to ask me what happened. I opened the e paper to see the news, and there it was with a photograph “JEWELLERY OWNER MURDERED” I stared at the screen, Kiran read it too, I cried too loud perhaps, thatthe staff came running, unfortunately none could decipher the language, leaving Kiran in anguish to explain.
It was my 13th day in office, is number 13 unlucky? It was as if god wanted me to get a job and then take dad. Dad had called me four days ago, but spoke very erratically “Now you are the responsible one, take care of everyone”, did he suspect a danger? Why had I not bothered then?
I had to do something, keep things moving, I decided to work on my files, I had to be practical, life had to move on, or I wanted to get diverted, I started reading my files, while others stared at me, all kept their files aside, talked in hushed tones, my boss called me up from Delhi and told me to go to church and call home whenever I wanted ,two liberties bestowed. I thought I should do some work if I needed to take leave ahead.
‘Mom called, this time calmer, she said I need not come home , because body would not arrive until one month because of formality, “ life must go on , she said” , a woman whose courage was my inspiration, who lost her husband , who never got what she wanted in life, who struggled against the tide, was telling me, life must go ahead” , I could imagine her face when she said this, people say I look like her, I looked at the mirror and repeated” life must go on” with a glint of tear, that’s how mom might look now, I told myself.
I called him; it was a telegram call…. Dads no more, I said, you are kidding, he said. It was difficult for him, I knew, we both knew what lay ahead without dad. I could not bear it any longer, I left for Bangalore, Oh garden city, epitome of modernity and joy to many, “with you I share a bond of pain ,for its here I departed from dad twice, once mentally and now physically.
My aunts told my co – passenger, poor girl , lost her father, the nuns in convents, kissed me each time saying poor girl , lost your father!!!. I reached home, my dad’s dream house, how he wished he would live here for years, Man always wastes his health on things he never can consume eternally and for a generation who never contributed for it. Neighbours surrounded me, many questions popped up; I realized some journalists were amongst them too. “This is the girl, elder daughter”, did dad tell mom about assets? Will government give compensation?
There is no photo with a garland, should get one, an aunt said, should get some sober colour dress for your mom too, someone else said. Inside, lay mom all helpless, she looked aged suddenly, and with her lay my brother smiling saying some stories. "He is in a state of shock, denying what happened, said a neighbour".
What should a daughter do when she meets her widowed mother first time, I didn’t learn that in grief counseling, at least an open line would do I told myself. “ Mom got up, relieved to see me, Now you have come, we will set things straight, for we have no one now, she said, making it easy for me, and hugged me tight.
First get her some sober clothes , blabbered someone, and in that season of onam when people got colorful clothes, I saw my mother walking through aisles for black and white, colours I somehow detest today. Do men wear sober colours when wife dies, I don’t know? My mother never followed all this, how helpless societal pressures make you. You daughters should wear sober colours too, remarked someone. "And why not my brother? asked my sister, go to hell, we got better things to waste money on", she snapped.
Phone calls kept pouring, Government, politicians, family friends, journalists.
When a body is dissected twice and lay frozen in an unknown land, politicians were shedding tears, asking about compensation, setting our marriage proposals and cribbing about dad’s audacity.
Now there was a family drama too as to who should take active role home, mom's side or dad's, who will get coffin, who will buy flowers, both called all officials to get security clearance when my sister and I ran up and down offices, making clearances, and arrangements. We have done everything they said interrupting what important chores we had. Flowers should look grand, and coffin should be made of teak wood, for something that had to decompose, how extravagant can we human beings are?
We did not sleep that night, I was scared if I did it would end and the day of funeral would start. Sometimes friendships are tested in adversities, with friends cleaning your house to cooking for you, you never miss family, my friends were strong enough to support me , I don’t remember when they moved in and when they did what was required , some even discussing what happens on a funeral day. Packing expensive things away from where people can access, so trivial to us at that moment though important later.
The sound of ambulance haunts me even today, its scary. And I thought I would not cry, but I never realized I would go hysteric and hide behind a cupboard, when my sister handled it so bravely. My brother said he would not join and locked himself up . Later he came down and sat with his eyes closed even when the photographer asked him to pose with dad.
Dad's sister was perhaps the only sibling of his to cry, counting stories of his childhood as we moved to the cemetery. It poured heavily that day worrying us if the burial would be a problem. Oh how dad hated things rotting in the rain. The jackfruit, sacks, coconut husk they all look yuck when they rot he would say,and now he was meeting the same end.
'He' was there too and stood right across me, with dads coffin between us , a position dad always maintained when alive, he did the same when he was leaving us too .
He looked straight at me, and for the first time I smiled. He could not force me to join his paradise, when his gates were going to close. He invited me, I could see the light shining ahead, and I walked away from it, folding my hands, pressing towards my chest, turning against him…. I did not want this paradise anymore, no dreams he showed me could soothe this pain, fill this void. I looked at the sky, it was pouring heavily but, the sky was clearing, I knew what my decision was, clinging on one side of mine mom said, “ lets go , I am tired” . I did not turn back to meet his gaze, I did not believe in futile days in front of a compromising future, I had nothing to offer him, for my battle with life began here. To many cemetery is dead man's land, to me its battle field where I go each time to gain strength, from my mentor, to carry on unfinished tasks, his warrior proceeds.
I left love brutally to die and I might be held guilty but I did what was right to salvage a family and I did survive so did us all and so will you all......
He didn’t turn back either for fear he would not go back to paradise, had his door closed waiting for me.