A wonderful warm feeling embraced her as she sat beside her siblings with a hot cup of tea in her hands and a glow of happiness in her heart. Tea with her siblings whenever they could be together had become a tradition, a much anticipated ritual that promised gossip, laughter, heart to heart talks and an all encompassing joy of just being together.
"Oh ,how I miss your peacock dance ", she said to her brother Z, "the last time I saw you doing it was when you were celebrating the millennium "."It serves you right ,you interrupted my dance with your yelling ". She remembered that particular incident clearly. She was trying to sleep as she had to go to college in the morning .They used to live in a one bedroom house at the time and as the clock struck 12 her siblings started dancing and laughing. She shouted at them to stop all that noise and let her sleep. She had always felt bad at killing their joy but at the time her only focus was to get some sleep. She needed sleep perhaps more than others. She needed sleep not only to recharge her body and mind but also to escape. To escape the reality of living with parents who fought all the time shouting accusations, calling names and painting the atmosphere of the house black with all the negative emotions. She used to fantasise about a room of her own. A room with white walls, white bed and a white comforter, white billowing curtains showcasing a big window with a view of white foaming waves. Many a times she had gone to sleep with this vision in mind.
In retrospect she found it interesting that she fantasised about an all white room when her favourite colour had always been blue. May be because white represented peace and she craved peace and quiet. May be she needed the white to counter the black in her life.
'I have apologised for that, remember?' 'No, when?', he asked. ' A few years back',she replied with a mock frown. She knew he was teasing her. 'Okay, but did you apologise for terrorising your sweet, innocent little brothers?' Piped up her sister. "Hah! Innocent they were not , but I admit I was a little strict with them",she replied. Her brothers of course didn't agree and to prove their point, began a hilarious recounting of their childhood memories. Her favourite one was when she had intercepted a letter written by her youngest brother to Z. "But why did you write that letter M? Didn't you all live in the same house at the time?, asked her sister in law. " That letter, my dear, was written as a protest against the injustices incurred upon us by our evil sisters." .The funniest thing about that letter was the postscript where her brother specifically mentioned her as the "vilest"of them all. That letter tickled her to pieces. As she laughed with her brothers and sisters ,she offered thanks to the powers be for these precious moments.
It amazed her how she used to resent having such a large family but now was grateful for the same. What was once a source of embarrassment for her, was now her support system. She knew how and when this change occurred. Actually she could name the exact day when her total outlook towards life changed. That fateful day when her mother died suddenly.
It was such an ordinary day. She had always thought there must be some signs or omens before a tragedy befalls someone. But that day rolled about just like any other day. It was a Sunday. After breakfast she started studying. Later in the day she had an anxiety attack which she used to have quite frequently. She remembered her mother saying to her " Don't cry like that Anny. When you cry I feel your tears on my heart". She had stopped crying then. Her mother's words had a profound effect on her . More so after she was gone. She kept those words close to her heart. At different moments in her life ,she would recall these words and feel that love her mother had for her.
It was around 9 at night and she was sitting in the bedroom when the doorbell started ringing insistently. She felt annoyed at the impatience of the person ringing the bell. She got up to see who was it but someone had already opened the door and the family was gathered in the room nearest to the front door. She saw everyone was standing in a semicircle with her mother standing in the middle, short of breath. Someone told her to massage her mother's back as she was feeling pain there. She started to do so but her mother pushed her hands away and asked for her father's inhaler. Someone gave it to her, she tried it twice but then threw it away impatiently. Then she looked around the room. She looked at each person standing there and said I'm going and then she fell on the sofa behind her. Her eyes rolled back and then closed. There, just like that, in a matter of minutes their mother was gone.
She remembered looking at the clock throughout that night, wondering at the passing time while her life seemed to have stopped. She remembered walking in the kitchen and looking at the dinner her mother had made just a few hours ago.She remembered looking at the cup with a broken handle and heard her mother's 'sorry' as it slipped from her hands.Her mother felt very bad about it as that cup was gift. She felt such bewilderment at looking at the dinner and at that cup which was broken but still there but not her mother.....
That night changed each and every one of them. It forced them to grow up. It made them realise how uncertain life was. It made them feel alone without the loving presence of their mother but it also brought them close as a family. It made them invest more in their relationship and to take each and every moment of being together as a precious gift.
Now, sandwiched between her sisters and brothers, exchanging loving insults, laughing at shared jokes, sitting with a jumble of quilts and blankets around her, she felt peace and contentment. Peace that she thought she would find in being alone in an all white room in a house by the beach but had found in a house in the middle of the city, in a small room ,over crowded with 6 people on one bed, all talking loudly and drinking tea.