Disclaimer: Please read the post at your own risk. The contents may evoke depression. Jyotsna means- moonlight.
One night when I was asleep, mom had woken me up to share something. She had “taken” her passbooks >back< from Samanta. Till then, I had been nudging her to manage her finances on her own. She used to save from the house- hold expenses, only to hand those back to Samanta. The Chetna Aptts flat that he is blissfully shacking up in, was more out of mom’s contribution. Her savings for years from whatever money dad used to pass for house- keeping was all spent up. I fail to understand why she had to save up at all, if that was to not be deposited in her Bank?
In April that year (1995), she had opened up an account on Mr. Anand’s insistence (BOB Branch manager PatparGanj) She had only wanted to fix an amount of Rs.20,000/- in our names separately. He said that she first opened an account and then transfer the sum for FD. Mr. Amrut Patel had agreed to help us and had come along. Bless my still “naive” mom, she had left the “nominee” space blank! Anand had so mentioned that since I was the only daughter, no matter what, the amount would anyways go to me- God forbidding..
Samanta had not known- thankfully. Mom had somewhat begun to understand him. Or maybe understand Me.
But not completely; yet.
22nd October, 2010
It was late at night. I had almost skipped my dinner. Mom had insisted that I ate noodles. I did. I had been painting a Huge Butterfly for my Textile Designing Assignment. Patel uncle had been helpful to “educate” me about Textile Designing”; much against my uncle’s wish (to enroll me for 6 months vocational studies)
Runa had gone along to submit the form that I had brought locating the South Delhi Polytechnic for Women a couple of days earlier. It was a Big Deal. Mom had so branded me as a Fool. That Image- was fading. How come Runa had become her favorite, again? Or was that uncle who had insisted to call Runa for the task?
I was too happy to be enrolled for TD course. Painting, that I had to leave with the completion of IInd standard Academic Year, was back in my daily Life. Colors in various media had caressed my palms. Inks, water, poster.. Bliss..!! Uncle wasn’t too happy. Moreoever, I had enrolled for the affiliated course. Which was an additional 4500/- a year, for the stamp of Longlands College on the Degree papers.
Mom had declared I had grown up. I didn’t need her anymore. She had made an uncanny observation that I could pre- empt what was to come. Or why else I had spent my days doing needle work, when I was to enter the Medical College? I had touched colors box- last when I may have been 6 or 7 years old. How come I could drag my “Hobby” or “Interest” back in my Life full swing? How come I could pull the brushes back to me when they were kept under lock and key? She had acknowledged of I being Intuitive and Determined.
Mom often dreamt of her dog Jolly who had died an unusual and sad death. She would “see” herself feeding the animal. I had told her to focus elsewhere before sleeping. Such dreams only fore cast of ..
It was pretty late when I had nestled next to mom. She had so wanted to know if I had had my meal. Some nasty fight had happened in the evening. She was sulking.
The next morning, she woke up at around 6. Samanta used to go for a walk; he was gone. She had called my name waking me up. Something sounded utterly strange. I had rushed straight to the Living Room diwan from our bedroom. She was palpitating and her voice had grown hoarse. Thinking she was wanting to puke, I had stretched my hand to her mouth asking her to throw up.
She had only looked up saying that that was not the case. She had wanted me to call the neighbors- immediately. I had almost rushed towards the main door when she had wanted me to change. I had slept wearing her petticoat (Indian skirt worn under sari). She had wanted me to change and also pick the mishri water. She had waved at me to place the glass in the kitchen. She had not yet touched the glass.
By the time I had called the next door neighbors, mom had started to collapse. Patel aunty was taking time to come. I had tele-called her. Mom screamed one last time saying that if something went wrong, Samanta was to be held. And also that that I should never ever go to masi and dad asking for help..
With that, she was gone.
Each time I recall the incident, I feel a numbing stab across my chest.
That I am a few drinks down today is helping me to compile this. I haven’t cried for the loss. I haven’t mourned her death yet. I certainly don’t wish to now- too. Too many thoughts had occupied my thinking capacity. I just couldn’t cry. Mom had taught me the last lesson only a few seconds back; i.e., to stay composed even at the most devastating situation. I was to exercise the same. I DID NOT HAVE ANY OTHER OPTION AVAILABLE TO ME.
I had gathered enough neighbors to take mom to Mangalam Hospital. The doctors had refused to see her. Good I didn’t get to become one. I had screamed my best abuses on the Doctor. While going back, we had spotted Samanta. He was returning after his morning walk.
Upon reaching home, he made me call masi and Maya. Come to think of it. A 17 year old calling up her relatives to inform her mother’s death at 7 in the morning. My nani (mom’s mother), too had passed away in much similar manner. Lakshmi Nagar is only 15 minutes drive from IP Extn, soon both the Masis had also reached our place.
Upon seeing Runa, I had wanted her to stay in the living room guarding Samanta, while I was busy transferring the last couple of hundreds from mom’s almira to mine. Cold? Selfish? Accuse me of whatever that strikes your mind; for me, it was my survival instincts. I had locked her almira the way it was before so Samanta fails to guess about the missing Bank Papers.
He had asked me if I knew of any cash lying in the house; I had feigned Ignorance. Anu’s mother had come to express her sympathy. I still couldn’t cry. I was more worried of my future to come. I could as if clearly see of what was to hit me soon. I moved around the house pretty composed.
She had wanted her last rituals to be carried on in an Electric Crematorium. Nani’s could not be done- thanks to orthodox, oh-so-conventional mindset. Mom had wanted that that way to save some wood from burning uselessly. She had shared her “wish” a couple of times and had made me promise to take care of that since it was ignored at nani’s last rituals.
I had stood harping mom’s last wishes across the room full of different religion people. Most of them had not appreciated that. I was a girl belonging to a Hindu family. I was supposed to be coy and demure and all that. Moreover, girls weren’t supposed to be involved in.. What about if no men were around..? The Living Room had hushed up. We were told to wait up till evening since there were other corpses waiting to be gotten rid of.
23rd October, 95 was Kali Puja day. That’s right, the following night was Diwali celebrations. My eldest masi had wanted me to “hurry up”. Since it was a festive night; people may not wait that long. I had politely declared that anyone wanting to go home for the festival could leave. She had immediately.
A ritual was- to offer Holy water touching gold. I had asked Patel aunty to cover me up. I had to take out my nani’s gold bangle from Samanta’s room. While performing the ritual, I had whispered in aunty’s ears that should uncle be asking about that, the bangle was hers. He soon did and I lied. Thanks Aunty.
It was decided that Runa went along with. Manu masi was so bent upon creating another spectacle. Just as I had moved to change (my cycle had started just in the morning), she had smeared mom’s face with vermilion. Why couldn’t she not butt in when dad had abandoned her? Where was she when mom was thrown out of her home? Where the hell she had been all this while?
I had diligently pulled a clean handkerchief to wipe clean mom’s face.. “Oh she was a Hindu and a married woman..” Really? Silence was all I could hear. I had warned that if anyone tried calling up dad, he would have to do that at his own risk. Masi had backed out. She had tried explaining her logic and had failed to answer my questions- however.
Upon reaching Kisaan- Ghat, uncle had made a peculiar face when those last rituals clots were to be prepared. I had calmly started preparing them. The menfolk had pulled me out. Do hell with them. My mom, my wish; who the hell were they to stop Me..?? She had so wanted it that way. Upon reminding them, they had quietly dispersed. Why were all of them so wanting to create an unmanageable mess again and again? Her face and body was smeared with clarified butter. She was pushed inside the furnace.
She had died an untimely and helpless death.
While waiting, a small group of people had walked past me holding a “Kali” effigy. I had bowed my head. Runa had wanted to know what I was bowing at? So she didn’t see that small goddess effigy passing by? Why, it was Kali Puja, so some people maybe wanting to plant a small effigy for some Puja at their place. Runa had asked me back if I was fine. I had not argued any further.
As if I suddenly remembered, I had called up at my home. Maya had taken up the task to swab the house. I had “instructed” her not to touch a single thing in the fridge. Even though the normal rituals were to get rid of the food in the house, I had wanted that the opposite way. My mom was to never comeback. How could I have afforded throwing her preparations?
Only a day back, she had screamed that may God screw up uncle’s Kali Puja celebrations for all times to come. She had succeeded in doing that. Only that he was too smug to get affected. If anything, it’s my Life that’s been affected the worst. The loss, hurt and pain was to last forever. I could so see that.
With a Blank mind, I had scattered the ash in Yamuna river. The earthen pot had kept coming back till I asked it to go. With mom too gone, I had become an orphan in an instant.
Reaching home I had drank the same mishri water and gone to my room. The next door neighbor’s dog had kept howling the entire night making it eerie. I had anyways lost my sleep.
I had just lost my whole state of being; sleep was only a tiny part.