Sheena looked at her mother, her beautiful black button eyes burning with faux pas rage.
"How can you tell that to me, Mamma? It's downright insultful. Hema and the gang would throw a fit if their mothers were to say such a thing to them?"
From inside the kitchen, her Mamma, Aruna's voice, calm as an ocean, wafted over the dining room and landed on Sheena's table.
"That's because my dear you're my daughter, my only child to boot. If I don't have..."
Sheena's eyes darted towards the kitchen where her mother had been closeted for the better part of the morning preparing breakfast for the family of three. It was when something distracted her.
From somewhere in the balcony, someone coughed. It was a man's. Broken and frail, the sound was a shrill shriek not unlike a ravenous crow's.
"It's Dada. Go fetch him his medicine. But before that give him a glass of water. Seems his chest congestion has returned."
Sheena, who had by now, picked up her smartphone and was peering through all the text messages she'd received in the past fifteen minutes, made her annoyance amply clear by stomping her feet in the hard wooden floor before rushing in to the wall cabinet where the medicines were kept.
In a jiffy she'd in one hand an oval shaped red tablet and in the other a glass of water.
"Here, have this Dada. You will feel better".
The old man, who looked frailer than his sixty eight years, managed a toothless grin.
"What's the rush? Today is Sunday, and your Dada knows there's no college on Sundays. After all.. "
"After all your Dada had spent over half a decade in college. And your Dada, who retired as a Principal knows only too well that no student goes to college on a Sunday, right?"
Dada looked at his one and only grandchild and smiled- a slow, barely decipherable curl of his ever thinning lips that was a melancholic melange of interlocking half lines.
Sheena smiled sheepishly, but then quickly recovered to make a dash for the front door.
Her last words were lost on Dada: 'Bye Dada, shall be back before night. Shall bring your favourite dark chocolates. Stay happy.'
Dad's last words were also lost on Sheena: "My baby, if only you knew what would make me happy."
The call came the same evening, a few hours later.
'Mrs Satpathy...it's about your daughter. She's met with an accident. You need to rush to St. Judes Hospital.'
"She's lucky to be alive. Her main organs are fully functional. It's just her lower leg. A small area around the knee cap. The bones around them have crushed like a fully crushed metallic strip. We've inserted a blade, six inches in length. The patient needs to stay put; no venturing out for the next six months.
No physical movement whatsoever."
Dada and his daughter nodded their heads !and then looked at Sheena, their own blood and sweat, now in tears.
Sheena his face under the pillow. For a long time thereafter, the spartan cold
as death hospital room fell silent.
Then, after what seemd an eternity, and long after the doctor on duty had departed, Aruna, in her usual slow and measured voice, a sound that was synonymous calmness and strength personified, proffered, "Baby, let's accept the reality and move on."
As Sheena opened her mouth in a bid to say something, her Dada added, "Moreover, look at the bright side of this. For the next six months you get to stay at home and eat to your heart's content, binge watch all your favourite English movies, and not to forget spend quality time with.."
Sheena didn't want to hear the ending words. How and why would she? After all which 19 year girl, an out and out extrovert to boot, and one blessed with oodles of charm, would want to spend even a minute leave alone a day with two insufferables, two whose idea of having a great time was either watching breaking news that threatened to break yet persistently refused to break every breaking, waking and non-waking hour, minute and nano second. This, and the next: playing chess.
As the thought of being closeted in her home slowly began to sink in, all Sheena could do was request very politely her Dada and Mamma leave the hospital room.
The father-daughter, in tandem, nodded their respective heads, and quietly exited.
A moment later, Sheena dug deep inside her bes cover, and began to sob- slow indeciherable sounds that died out in no time.
The thought that she ended up taking into her sleep a little while thereafter was: How could she be so stupid to drive drunk when all sh needed to do was hail a cab from Sandy's, her favourite night club, the one she lived to hang with her gang-Nitin, Isha, Trina and of course she herself, the ring leader of the infamous yet hugely magnetic Gang of Four.
"My baby, the doctor's reports are positive. It says here, and I quote, "The fracture has now almost healed. The patient is able to walk unassisted. It is quite an achievement fo have happened in a little under 90 days of her surgery. Still, the patient needs to be closely monitored, and hence, for the next 60 days, the patient needs to stay at her home."
The words of the doctor were a sharp jab of a barber's knife: it went straight inside, piercing her lungs, hitting her where it hurt the most.
Sheena shrieked out in sheer agony: I can't sit idle and so nothing. I am used to go out. I am used to meeting my friends, am used to going out with them- for movies, for hiking, for partying, for the sun's rays on my face, for the..."
"Why don't you play chess with your Dada. It's a win-win situation. Your Dada gets bored, needs intellectual nourishment, loves chess. And you my baby will feel better, more lively and intellectually possessed when you spend a few hours every day around the chess table",
On any other day or occasion, Sheena would have protested.
I mean, what bubbly vivacious effervescent personality would have liked to stay put in a room and indulge in a game that according to her esteemed opinion was highly overrated and was a game meant for retirees, very old pensioners and failed writers.
But as the famous Bon Dylan number went- the times the're a changing.
The times indeed have changed, if only for a short while, mused Sheena,
And that realisation brought along with it a new maturity, a new way of looking at the mundane, the routine, the things she'd hithero considered ordinary, banal, boring and hackneyed,
Such as her Mamma's sitting in front of the telly, watching reruns of old clasic Hindi movies...her Dada's peering out from his favourite spot at the balcony and watching the worl go by...such as his fondness for a game of chess...
Sheena peered out of her bedsheet, her beautiful kohl lined eyes peering over its rim.
She then, looking at her Dada volleyed, "Come Dada, wait to get thrashed at your favourite game."
All Dada could do by way of a rejoinder was a smile.
It was a curve that this time screamed 'game on'.