My giggling, chirping days were soon over. They were halted quite abruptly. I had as if grown up suddenly. I could read and understand things. Minutely. I had started to brood. I would often sit and ponder upon mom’s falling health, dad’s indifference and my uncle’s developing Attitude. I was not talking to people around anymore. Sitting at one corner, I would cry for hours- only in solitude. To the world outside; I was becoming “quiet” instead of being the usual “Happy-go-Lucky” Girl. My age- 9 years.
I had almost stopped talking to dad. I had served him his food once on his slippers- and no; I don’t regret having done that. He used to throw great tantrums if I shifted his slippers. We ate sitting on floor. He often in his room. Yet, I would feed him the days he was unable to lift his hand because of pain. He suffered of a typical pain in his right arm and leg too. Mom would watch me doing that teary-eyed.
Often at dinner, he would throw tantrums and mom would go starving. I would then sit her up in the middle of the night, tip- toe to the kitchen and come- back with food in plate and make her eat in the dark. I would preach her to be “strong” and “indifferent”. I would tell her to not skip her meals because of her un- caring husband. What was I doing; preparing myself??
Dad had bought 2 melmoware plates and bowls and kept them in his room. He wanted to and had then led a secluded life. I do have those 4 pieces still with me. I helplessly think of him whenever eat out from those. He would buy Favy Instant noodles and prepare them in a steel glass with boiling water. It is sad that a man so orthodox was compelled to lead a life of a Bachelor in his own house with a wife and his daughter. He had built up circumstances such as those; which not only affected his family life but the rest of my Life too. And everyone else’s as well!!
I had witnessed how he had led a Life of a Loner. He lived like a stranger in his own house. Not speaking with anyone, he would resign to his room after returning from work. Just the sound of the door- bell was enough for me to tell who had rung that- my dad or uncle. Like an offender, he would remain disappeared in his room when at home. We had spent evenings together enjoying eating bread- rolls; and then dad commenting obnoxiously “sweet” since wrapped up in biscuit crumbs- the days were fading away like the milestone when watched from a moving train.
Dad’s loner days were not limited to those alone. He had very conveniently moved out soon and as if spelled the curse on me. Without getting into reasons and causes; I now spend my days in utter loneliness. My Weekend celebrations- locked up at my house with writing or brooding (before I started to write). On better days; a chat or two- on the internet. My cellphone is only a communicating device- which nowadays my boss over- utilizes to slog me. That is with me for just in case; the irony is- then what? Who to call? Where to go? Silence and Void grows on me.
Both the men were non- smokers- so what? They smoked up my mom’s life and then squashed me under their feet. Literally. The words and phrases here are how I had felt then. I kind of transpose myself and then start typing. Masi had anyways cautioned that I could never depend on dad. He was to move on anyday that he may so decide to. Uncle too had prophesied about my Ill- fate. I was too small to have reacted or taken any steps as a prevention. I had only put up a brave face whenever something major happened at home.
Mom’s constant nag of “Meena, study well” had ingrained deep inside every pore in my body. My annual visits to Trade Fair had also ended. I don’t have the pictures. Dad had made me stand next to the Fighter Plane. I had cried for 1 hour and dad would just not give in. That was the 1st time I had experienced that I was scared of air- planes. Even though the fighter plane was hardly any size; the machine looked mean.
At home, I stayed so divided. When in dad’s room; I was not to talk of “them”. When in uncle’s room; I was not to talk of “him”. When with mom in bedroom, she would only sob.
During that Mussourie visit, I had felt dad’s closeness to Shambhu uncle. His daughter Charu was exactly my age. I was expected to gel around with her. Something was brewing..
We shifted to one JandK pocket in Dilshad Garden. Oh, I had called that house as a pigeon-hole accommodation. It was not as large. I don’t know why mom was unable to stop expecting wonders out of dad. Wasn’t becoming crippled at my age enough for her? No, there was more to come- a lot more from him and him. I was beginning to “see” yet another dimension. Uncle was not as he seemed to be. I had noticed him bitching about me when he thought I wasn’t around. Out of frustration, I had called him ‘Idiot’. Of course, I was beaten up. That 1cm dia stick had broken into two. I had not even as much as cried. My fears had stood confirmed at my face. Mom had not intervened. She had sat being a spectator to her daughter being punished- so severely.
Our stay at that house was a shameless face of misery. The whole day, mom had spent her time, filling up water- bucket by bucket. Both dad and uncle left in the morning; she alone then maintained the house, cooked and washed for all. And filled up drinking and utility water from ground floor till 3rd floor. The poor woman had exceeded her expectations clearly; anyone, what is a woman’s deliverable? Just to slog her rotten life to the ultimate degree and get submitted to men, so they could mess up with her health?
My Bus Route had changed from GF- 23 to GF- 2. Made friends with Pooja Goyal; studied in my section. Anyways, as kids we always looked forward to who we could get along with. We used to be excited towards any new opportunities to make friends; so was I. She was my bench partner in IIIrd standard and 1st standard. Often she had swallowed the whole of groundnuts and the entire of Pencil lengths. She had now changed. We had made good friends now. A few of us took turns to sit on the Conductor’s seat. That’s when one Vibha (maybe) had said that it’s never “most- favorite”; that was wrong grammar. My earlier school bus was a private bus- my bus stop was last. GF-2 started from my place and was a DTC bus.
One day, after his return from work, dad had made a big deal out of the fact that the shutters of the Weston B/W TV were not properly shut. It had remained a bit opened. I felt there could have been a little different way of addressing the same- or was I growing up and hence, getting touchy and conscious? I vowed not to touch the Equipment ever- and I din’t. I do gaze at my Sony TV at times to watch Ben10 or Balika Vadhu now. Yeah, I love Cartoons- Tom and Jerry, Ben 10 and the Barbie movies- how kiddish!! Actually not- each of these cartoons has it’s own place. They had joined me at different phases to cheer me up. They stood by me, making me smile at their cost; now I feel I am related to them. An unspoken cord of some understanding has developed between me and the characters.
A teenage girl named Mona was “brought” from uncle’s village. She was elder to me by 4- 5 years. Oh yes, she was supposedly our domestic; however, I was often slammed with the charges of “jealousy” against her. Was I to be spared at all? She had tried to pierce a needle through my right eye- mom was around. She had noticed that. Now she had become a little vigilant.
The place we had shifted in was just next to 1 big Cemetery. One could find the carcasses buried almost everywhere. The Neighborhood had changed, with no Market Place nearby, the colony was yet to become. In short, it was deserted. I can stay on in a remote area, she couldn’t, and neither could I back then. By remote, I mean the lack of transportation, commuting means as well as market places. The house often used to get electrocuted, we couldn’t touch the taps i.e., if at all any water supply happened any day.
Within 4 months of our short stay, we had shifted again. Uncle had looked for a house back in our pet B- Block. It was on Shambhu’s insistence that we had moved-in there. He had probably bought his house. He stayed just across the park. Why he had to set foot in our haphazard life at all? He is yet another”gentleman” to have joined in to celebrate my ill- fate. Mom felt dad was under his influence. Today, I stamp that. Actually make that twice. Once, when she had passed away and Shambhu had refused to me my dad’s whereabouts. 2nd time, it was only a few months back when he had repeated his nasty act of ignorance- yet again. Do you have any better phrase than b*astard please?
When talked about the latest development, dad had declined to move in with us saying that the Rent was high and that he would try and work out about that Water Problem with the Land Lady.
He had been out, as in over- night on the day of shifting. He had joined Theaters. I haven’t watched his plays at the auditoriums. He could hardly act- thanks for asking. We had shifted bag and baggage to the house searched by Samanta. And dad’s belongings too. What were you expecting? Should we have left them there? Dad didn’t shift. He stayed with his theatre group for days and nights together for some time then. Mom would often joke that all he would do a role of is that of a dead soldier- only he is not 1; neither is he dead yet!!
B-19/G-1, Dilshad Garden
Dad had gone absconding for days.
A letter had come flying by. Dad had complained why his books and clothings too were taken..!! He had completely feigned ignorance about having known of shifting- CONVENIENT.
How could mom have not noticed Dad’s trial to escape? I was hushed when I had pointed that out. As I write this, I wonder and am trying to think- since how long this had been brewing? He had once introduced me to a Lady saying that whenever he didn’t go home; he stayed with her. Her son was a year senior named Rahul; had participated with me in that cultural event 2 years back. Her few more years elder daughter had just looked through me. Upon reaching home, I had parroted out everything to mom. At the age of 12, I had known that that wasn’t a comforting fact for my dad to be staying with a lady who was a widow and without any information at home.
Too many foreign acts in a small period of time. Even recalling the correct sequence and the exact stance is stressing me out. Given the fact that they were not so nice.
I wish to test my level of endurance. For my own betterment. I don’t wish to become an elastic and melt in heat; instead, I want to be a metal with a great tensile index.
I had been unknowingly striving to achieve the same..
The art of Indifference has been practiced since then. My poker straight face did not let my dad know that I had registered everything- detail by detail. I had sat mom and made her recall of Rahul. She could; and then I had shared what I had to.
Her response and my situation- Vacuum.. Void.. Trance..