“Sign the papers that my advocate sends you. Don’t just waste time doing some drama.”, she said in a very plain tone, which actually contradicted her actual emotions.
“As you wish.”, his words faltered as his throat crammed in with some unknown pain.
“And my daughter would stay with me. You should not come up with any objections in the court.”, she grabbed my hands and walked away, not bothering to hear any reply.
We reached home in no time. I sat on the chair in the living room, numb, while mom crashed straight into the bed. After two long hours, she came, eyes all red and puffed up, clearly because of overly exploited lacrimal glands.
“What do you want for dinner, lemon rice or chapathi?”, a normally sweet voice of hers took a hoarse diversion due to her congested nose. “Whatever”, I said, in an unadorned tone.
I sat to eat. She took only a few mouthfuls before she ran to the bathroom to puke. She just got sick of crying. I made lemonade for her. “Once you had severe diarrhoea when you were a small kid. I took you to the hospital. The doctor said that it is difficult for her to identify whether it is urine or faeces. Those were the times where the test result would take a day or two to come. But the doctor said if we wait for all that we may lose you. I asked her what can be done. She said that if it is urine, it would taste salty. I didn’t go for a second thought and tasted it,” she said in a monotonous tone, more to herself than to me. Her puking and my diarrhoea - it made no sense to me. Besides I knew this story already. But I doubted whether it is the distraughtness of a mother that she will lose her daughter, although it is crystal clear that I will stick on with my mom
“You should get some rest, mom. Go to sleep now,” I made the bed for her. She was totally devastated.
I and my mom had been living in this house since I was born. Dad was working abroad. It was a beautiful world – just me and mom. She fed me with her hands, washed my clothes, helped me do my homework, kissed and caressed me all the time, and whatnot. She was just a perfect mom.
I went to the study room in hope that I will prepare for the upcoming exams. I lit the lamp, opened the book, but all I could do was to stare at the stool beside me where usually my mom sits to help me stay awake while I study late night. However badly she dozes off, she won’t go to sleep. Well that’s she.
My thoughts started straying around.
I hated drinking and smoking. My dad did both which was why he wasn’t on my favourite characters' list. Dad had almost been a guest in our house as he works abroad. When he comes, mom used to make sure that each day, something special is cooked to eat. Everything had to be special for him.
The next day when I woke up, it was already a lot late, but mom was still on the bed. I got up, brushed, made tea and woke mom. She pressed her temples, probably a headache. Her eyes got flooded with tears. “Oh, mom please don’t start over again. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Come, have this tea. I will order some pizza for us. It’s already late.”
Some old memory related to dad rushed to me. Once when I ordered pizza and macarons online, the miser in him said, “You know how much is your fees in school? How much would have been spent till now for you? We have to learn to live within our limits. Just grow up.” Ugh..
“Mom, get ready, we’ll go out. You really need some fresh air.”
I took her to the park where I went before with friends for a late-night party.
While I was getting ready to go with them, dad came with his cynical words, “It’s not safe for girls to be out late at night.” How male chauvinistic his words are! He will be home only about a month in two years. But that’s enough for him to irritate me to hell.
Mom sat down on the lawn, not uttering a single word. “Mom you don’t have to worry any more. It will be over soon.” I tried to soothe her within the limitations of my stupid words. “Okay, I will buy ice creams for us. When I come back, you must be the ‘chill’ mom.” I went to the stall. Beige cones hung in front of stalls. Cotton candies, all other colourful sweets and toffees that will allure kids adorned the stalls. I ordered two pista cone ice creams, my mom’s favourite. I had to wait there till the shopkeeper scooped ice creams for the girls who came before me.
I noticed a middle-aged woman looking at me or I should say, staring at me. Her dark, thin eyebrows creased as if in confusion. Her sun-tanned skin glowed. Her deep eyes gleamed like she knows more of me than I can really expect. But I am kind of sure that I haven’t seen her in my life. “Aren’t you Mithila, Prakash's daughter?” Her words shattered my surety. “It’s me, your Pintu aunty.” Pintu aunty! Dad’s friend. When we go trips to Ooty, our stay would be at her house. She was a lovely lady. Her Pomeranian puppy was my favourite. But she was a plump lady with rough skin. She can’t look this young and beautiful. She must have done some treatment for this drastic transformation. “But aunty, you look so di..dif..different.” “Oh, yes darling. I was just going to the gym, yoga, healthy diet, blah blah!”
Meeting someone who is an acquaintance of the three of us, mom, dad and me, made me burst into tears. She inquired about the reason and of course, I blabbered out everything. Now I know, like anyone, she would also sympathize a little and leave. “I pity you,” but her words had a more sarcastic tone, contradiction to what I expected. “You will be a fool to lose him, he is gold. The adjectives that you used for him – old fashioned, male chauvinistic, spiritless, unloving, cold-hearted, miser, these are just antonyms for him. You will not find someone who is this forward in our generation. Every girl in our college dreamed of having a boyfriend like him. But only your mom was that lucky.”
“To be popular in the college, become someone who is envied upon by everyone, all this won’t help him serve as good family material. It will be easy to show off. But the true colours will be visible only to family.”
“Oh, come on, I have known him for years. He was my childhood pal, college mate, and besides all, I have lived in his house as a renter, for about ten years. I was the occupant of the locked room, upstairs your house. I left to Ooty when your mom was pregnant. Won’t that be enough to know someone? He can’t act daily, right? If I start to point out the things that he did that will impress us, just like you did to show him as evil, our conversation would never end. You know what, once his mother got ill and bedridden. It was he who took care of her.”
“It’s just a son's responsibility.” I rolled my eyes.
She closed my mouth shut.
“He had an eight to eight job. But he himself took care of everything – bathing, feeding, changing her clothes, helping her to go to the toilet, cooking, cleaning the house. I asked him a thousand times why can’t he appoint a maid, but he said that it is to him that mom gave birth and not to any maid, it is his urine and baby poop that she cleaned. And you know what, when she got her periods, then too, he didn’t call me for help. He did it all alone.” She continued, “After marriage too, it was he who did all the household chores. He stayed home quitting his job when you were born because your mom’s salary was a bit higher than his. When you were admitted to school he had to leave to work abroad to find money to remit your fees.”
She preached for about half an hour. I blinked, just like a girl who woke up on another planet, overwhelmed with a lot of new information.
“Go home. Think about everything I said. Rethink. Ask mom the exact reason behind her decision. Solve everything. You are grown up enough to handle this. And it is your responsibility.” She rushed with her words, “I must be going then.” and took off.
I and mom spent some time in the park and then went home. I sat on the couch and thought about everything Pintu aunty said. Is she right? Was mom wrong? Where did I go wrong? Maybe he wasn’t actually that bad. Was I blind to see the right things? I retrospected the whole scenario. It took me a while to get the clutter off my head. I felt like it took years for the facts to dawn on to me that dad had sacrificed his youth, his life with his wife, everything for giving me this comfortable life.
Then it struck me that, it is their long-distance relationship that made them feel that they don’t love each other anymore. Misunderstandings that follow the meagre deep - conversations must have made the situation worse.
How fool I was to misunderstand his care to male chauvinism when he said it is not safe out there at night. He didn’t say good girls don’t go out at this hour. He said it is not SAFE and can accompany me if I wanted to. It was just because he didn’t have the money to pay for pizza that he scolded me when I ordered for one. It is me who triggered all this. Whenever mom told me any small complaint against him, I didn’t console her that he wouldn’t have meant that, because of the dislike ness that I had for him. I didn’t tell her that he really loved her. The small disputes between them became a world war with my intervention. I just stood neutral when they fought. Since mom didn't use to scold me I didn’t develop a hatred for her. How mean I was! I now understand that scoldings and restrictions from the parents' side are necessary for a healthy social life.
Okay. So now why should I suffer when God has actually given me two beautiful souls as my parents? I will become the aid that they need to make their ‘fine togetherness' which is at stake now, into a ‘perfect togetherness'. That may be my first purpose of life.
Two years later. Mom and dad were cleaning the house. I was playing with my little brother. That puke that mom had the other day wasn’t as I thought as of sick of crying. Afterall!