The sun grappled with the clouds all day long. Tired, it went to the bed a bit early than the usual days. By the evening, the clouds had enshrouded the sky, convincing Shama that it’d rain, but it didn’t. From her room on the seventh floor of a nine-floor apartment, Shama sees lights everywhere — or till where her eyes permitted her to see. She looks down, in her own apartment, and there are a few families that have come out for the Diwali celebrations. Children — some supervised, some not — are burning crackers, a few scared ones indulging themselves in the lesser dangerous sparklers and pencil firework. Diwali was, after all, a festival that symbolised the victory of good over evil, of light over dark, and so everyone contributed their bit to overcome the darkness around them.
The last sparks from a few flowerpots manage to reach till the third floor, she bends over the balustrade, counts the floors again, and corrects herself, ‘No, the last green sparks reached till the fourth floor. She thinks of the time when she used to burst the crackers, her uncle supervising her, carefully placing the rocket in a glass bottle before setting it alight. She would then run to a safe distance and stretch her neck to its limit and witness the trajectory of the rocket. So perfect were her launches, the rocket went straight up, into the sky and then after some time, it vanished. ‘Where does the rocket go Uncle?’ she always used to ask after these launches. ‘To the other world.’ always came back the reply. She still believes that the other world is a place where many burst rockets lie piled up. But it was all long back when there were no scruples about the pollution, no dillema between buying e-crackers or the normal ones. And it seemed such a distant memory. She was 43 now. She went inside her room, shut all the windows, played some music on her Bose speaker, and picked up a book.
She is in her reading room and switches the reading lamp by the side of her recliner on. The recliner inclined at just the right angle, an angle that she had arrived at after so many adjustments, with her daughter aiding her in the process. ‘A bit more back… no, no, bring it a bit forward…hold it there, let me release the lever… ahh, no, this is not as I had imagined it to be… And then finally, stop, stop, stop…This is perfect’. And then the mother and the daughter had rejoiced, on this feat, and she had finally found that comfortable position, and so comforting had it felt then. So many books she had read on the same recliner — laughed with the characters when they were happy, mourned the deaths of some of them, stared at the walls when she read a profound statement — and all of this at the same angle, which has remained unchanged since. But today — like on many other days in the past — the book lies on her thighs, and she thinks of Anant. Should she have given him one more chance? This question had become the centre around which her life now revolved. And then, whenever she thought about Anant, what he did on that day follows, waking her from this self-inflicted misery, corroborating that what she had done was for their good; telling her that in situations like those right or wrong didn’t exist.
Aren’t our lives a sequential chain of events that we cling to, a kiss, a person, a bike, a dream. Add to them a few more events that cling to us, that no matter how hard we try to get rid of stay there inside us. Shama’s reminiscences about her life invariably led her to that one incident that had marked her life differently from others’ around her, an event that had etched itself into her memory and had defined her future — the present that she was now living in. She often wonders about how people have so many prominent events in their lives, by which they live, the stories about which they keep on reiterating. Some good, some bad, some humorous, some sad. But she had just one, or perhaps, that one was so colossal that it superseded everything else in her life.
She thinks of that day, and how the weight of her daughter’s tears doused the last fire of love she had in her towards her husband. But are humans capable of that, capable of unloving someone they once loved? Shama still remembers how the wetness of those tears had stretched across the skin of her daughter’s face, and how that sight had weakened her, broken her heart. It should have infuriated her, but it had just enfeebled her. Some sights are so disheartening that they leave the seer incapacitated.
She could have let Anant do anything to herself – like she had let him do so far, his fantasies when they had just married, his occasional tantrums when he was down, and though they were infrequent even his beatings – for she had seen her mother do the same, leading a life that was always subservient to Shama’s father. “Love brings along certain duties Shama,” she recalls her mother’s words “and time changes people, rarely making them any better than they already are, dragging them towards the abyss, and it is only in times like these that we have to cling to the ones we love, and prevent them from falling into that abyss of hopelessness, the point of no return. And this is what Love is all about.”
But on that day when Anant had tried to hit their daughter – her daughter – it was different. Beyond what she could have passively acquiesced to, and when she had seen that fear in her daughter’s eyes and those tears on her cheeks, she had known that it was time to call the whole thing off, and save her daughter from the scars that would otherwise have stayed there with her forever; blemishes that, albeit won’t be visible to the world from outside, would still be perceptible and be sensed by someone whenever they tried to look closely. And what about her daughter, wouldn’t she be like one of those persons who are left scarred for life and live their entire lives scared, of love, of anyone’s company. If love brought along any duties, she thought, remembering her mother’s words, then protecting one’s child from such scars must be one of them.
And so, she had forced herself forward, trying to reach where they were standing – Anant and their daughter, no, her daughter. His hand, aimed towards her cheek, had begun its journey but was now hanging midway between her daughter’s cheek and his torso. In hindsight, she often thinks, was something in him still alive, something that had prevented him from hitting her. But would that something have been enough to keep the relationship going on? Relationship is such a tricky thing, she now thinks, especially when it comes to the families where each member has a different relationship with the other, and in wars that included the family members, there were only losers.
She had mustered all the courage, but even then her feet had refused to budge, even by an inch, as if jammed, by the years of submission before him. Is that what requited love did to the people? Crippling them, rendering them helpless even in situations that could otherwise so easily be dealt with. Her mother had never dared to confront her father and bring him face to face with whom he had turned into, with what he had become, and now here she was, in an almost similar situation. She had thought it’d be different with her husband, who had promised her everything — mostly everything sweet and good in the world. But she was wrong. After all those years, had she become her mother? Submissive, scared, and wavering. And what about the tears in her daughter’s eyes. She couldn’t have let that dejection – him – scar her daughter. And so, off she had run – to her mother’s house, where after her father’s death, her mother lived alone – with nothing else but her daughter, for no one else but her daughter.
The lights go off, leaving the entire flat in dark, the brown leather of the recliner now imperceptible from the black floor, giving her a feeling as if she were levitating. The frequency of the power cuts in her city had risen lately. And this sudden change in the ambience brought her back to the present. It would take at least two minutes, and that too if Gopal, the guard, is in the old apartment’s premises before he goes ahead and turns the power backup on, and things restore back to normalcy. And she wondered that, if like the old power generator in their old apartment, she too needed someone, who would, when she was beginning to drown in the flood of the memories of the past, save her by extending a hand to her. But it seemed like such a sad thought now, and so she turned on the flashlight of her phone, saving herself from the darkness, all alone and on her own, just like she had always done.
The image used in the write-up has been downloaded from here…