The Last Ritual
I always wanted a family, people who’d make me feel like I am not a piece of trash thrown away by my biological parents who weren’t much impressed looking at my sick face. After all hope was lost, in the end two beautiful people showed up and said they picked me among two dozens of healthier kids. I was overwhelmed and started crying.
“Why are you crying? Good boys don’t cry. Aren’t you a good boy?” Neha said.
She wiped my tears, held my hands and then said “Come on let’s go home”
“I’ll get my books and clothes” I don’t know why I was even bothered to think I needed them.
“Leave them here, we will go shopping and also you will be in a new school with new friends. I am sure Lucy knows better what to do with your clothes and school bag” Avinash said.
“No you don’t worry Mr.Kapoor you just take off with your son”
“This is not a joke?” I asked.
Neha hugged me and said “No”
“Don’t you want to say goodbye to your friends before leaving?” Lucy asked.
“I don’t have any friends”
Lucy, Neha and Avinash were surprised that I didn’t want to see anyone before leaving. I was scared that if some other kid knew that I was being adopted he might try to take away them or they’d have second thoughts about me. I never explained that to them, they wouldn’t have understood. I clenched Neha’s hand in my grip and made her leave the building with me, Lucy anyway, made an attender call down all the kids. The kids were angered more than upset that didn’t bother to say goodbye. Avinash followed us and started our car. We sat in and drove off. Vijay was screaming me to stop but the only person I wanted to see then was Jenny.
Neha, for unknown reason, wasn’t talking to me. She seemed so excited to take me and suddenly something put her and Avinash off. I had to break the ice, I wanted to know who was my new mother.
“I overheard you earlier, you said you also have four daughters. Are they my sisters?” I asked her.
“They weren’t my daughters dear. Avinash and I only helped them till they didn’t need us anymore” she replied faking a smile.
“How does it feel when someone you cared for leaves you alone like a tissue paper thrown into an empty bin in a corner?” I asked her again.
“You said it yourself. I was sad that they never accepted us as parents but they were grown enough to make right choices. Did some one leave you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it”
I looked out the window at nothing, it was raining unseasonal. The sounds of rain pouring and splashing outside against the car’s body filled the silence inside. I wanted to smell the scent of rain but if I lowered the window Neha would be more upset, Avinash turned on the radio and it played “Fortunate Son”. Almost two hours later we were finally home, although exhausted by the long drive I was excited to see my new home. I ran to the elevator in the parking cellar and pushed the red button.
On my way up I frantically kept asking how was my home, what were my family like? If I will sleep on my own bed? and they only answered “you’ll find out”.
The fifth floor arrived, there were two villas in either sides of the building. Our was the one in left. Neha rang the doorbell and smiled, which was real and they looked happy. The huge double door cracked in center to show a dark room and then someone turned the lights on and the crowd inside screamed “Surprise!!”
“Wow, is this my family?!” I asked.
“Yes, we are your grandparents!” The old man in control of the lights switch said. Avinash and Neha held my hands and brought me inside.
“I am your aunt” a fat woman on the far sofa said.
“We are your neighbours and don’t bother asking just tell us where the food is getting served” the couple from the villa across said standing in the middle.
Everyone laughed, I walked further in and saw a towearing chocolate cake with ‘9’ candle lit up on it. They sang the birthday song.
“But today is not my birthday” I said.
“We missed your nine birthdays, it don’t matter to us when it is, we just wanted to wish our grandson the first day we meet him and celebrate nine times than ever” Grandma said. We celebrated my birthday, I had fun talking to my grandparents and listening to stories of my new family. How annoying could Neha’s cooking hobby can get, why the four sisters left them after the eldest found a job, how tragic aunt’s husband’s death was and so friendly the neighbors were. But it was getting overload for me, so we decided to have dinner outside. The restaurant we went to, the city, my home and everything felt too good to be real, it felt too unrealistic to happen almost unexpectedly. We came back, Avinash drove my aunt and grandparents back to their house while I was listening to my first bedtime story “Lopo: The Black Sheep” from Neha.
Before falling asleep I asked her if they were my real parents. She said “Yes”
I hardly missed Jenny, and didn’t care for her who was still a stranger to me. I was a chubby joyful child who bought new toys, clothes, went to new school in his parent’s car, and who celebrated every festival. I made a new friend, Aashish Goyal and was delighted with my new life till I turned eleven years old.
In year 2001, two new boys were admitted in the school and unfortunately they were the two other boys from the orphanage. They bullied me for a month before I tried to fight back and instead they beat me up badly and mom found out. I was getting depressed so mom took me to grandpa’s place for few days, thinking I’d cheer up. I spent most of my time playing violent video games there and hardly talked to my grandparents but was happy that I was with them. When I was leaving grandma said I wasn’t the kid who they met tow years ago.
When we returned we caught Avinash having sex with a woman in the living room. I didn’t understand what I saw then, the music was loud and that woman bled on the couch and had cigarette burns on her face but it was like she was drunk or sedated. I was sure he drank too much. Mom and him had an argument and he hit her. My mom was strong and fat, so she took it. The next instant she pulled me by collar and tucked me in my room upstairs. “Be a good boy now, momma and dad are gonna talk. Okay?” She said before turning the lights off and went downstairs. I heard them fighting, screaming at each other and sounds of heavy things falling on floor. I didn’t had balls to go and check on them. Soon it was silent, I was scared yet I went downstairs and saw mom was lying on the ground, wincing in pain and bled from her head, I rushed to help her. Dad dropped the bloody vase in his hands and sat on the sofa shirtless.
“Dad what did you do? You hit mom?!” I asked him.
“Who are you calling dad? We aren’t your patents!” he yelled.
Mom touched my face and looked at me. “Sleep my dear, it’s just a bad dream” she said almost closing her eyes.
I got up and went to kitchen, I came back to Avinash holding a knife.
“So this is it huh? You will kill me? Your father?” he said.
“You’re not my father!” I screamed.
“I paid your school fees, I fed you, I bought you clothes, toys and this what you give me? Remember I am your only family”
“My family was my mother and you killed her!”
I ran to stab him in chest but he held my hands and pushed me down, he got up to hit me and tripped over mom’s leg and fell down, I stabbed him on his back and didn’t stop till the knife got stuck in him. My head ached, my vision blurred, I screamed cried and fell unconscious.
Next day I woke up with only fragment memory of last night and found my parents were dead. I sat there crying in the blood, neighbors called ambulance and took them to Red Cross hospital. The doctor said Avinash was dead on arrival and my mom died there on a stretcher while doctors waited for police. They never found that woman Avinash was with last night, she ran away before he killed mom and was identified as a prostitute. I didn’t have breakfast that day and fell asleep in neighbor’s car.
“Wake up Rahul”
“Rahul, wake up”
When I opened my eyes I was seated on a chair facing an old woman in lab coat, my hands were chained to the heavy steel table between us and we were alone in that white walled room. I wasn’t that kid, I was an adult lunatic who well deserved electric shocks and isolation. The wall fan turned around its half-radius orbit blowing faint cold air and the stench that followed reminded me of Anarchy Asylum, which got me worried.
“Where am I?” I asked the lady doctor who was staring at me while I was soaking in my situation.
“Does it matter?” She said, toying with her grey pony tail and barely hiding the cunning smirk on her face.
“What is this place?!” I screamed.
“Its not AAMI if that’s what you are asking. You are in Mumbai far from the Quarantine City. In fact it’s not quarantined anymore”
“I remember I jumped off the school building, am I dead”
“I wish but your suicidal stunt only costed you two years in coma and frequent amnesia. This is not the first time we tried to make you remember your past”
“The SREAD? they were working on some kind of drug that would turn everyone insane and-”
“And they also successfully were able to use your body to produce an antibody for it hoping it would bring them back in business but effects of the drug chewed on your existing mind state and made you Frankenstein’s monster for them. If it wasn’t for a anonymous person who left the evidences on our doorstep, literally, they would have succeeded in their scam”
“What do you want from me?”
“You were in coma and we looked after you because we couldn’t just throw you away. The antibody was the key”
“But what does it mean to you?”
“It means that you are sitting in one of the finest mental institute who believes in giving the deranged a better future by pulling them out of their dreads. It means that some people like us still treat human the way he deserves. Although it’s proven that hypnosis techniques for recalling past memories if applied wrongly can lead to grave damage to patient’s psychology or more worse it can lead to misbelief of abuse, I took a chance to try few on you hoping it could correct your psychosis”
“The memory of death of your adoptive parents was tragic and traumatic, like in most cases your case is also a post traumatic stress leading to identity disorder which is different from personality disorder. Anarchy asylum, when you were eleven years old, thought you had STPD inherited from Priya’s schizophrenia which wasn’t real and tried to cure your disorder by washing off your memories and we are clear that it didn’t work so instead I made you remember your childhood. Huh, did you remember your parents?”
“I don’t think I understood all of that, if you mean Neha and Avinash then yes I remembered them”
“No, I meant Priya and Siddharth”
“I never met them in my life, I only read their names in a register once”
“And your mind made a vivid picture of them where Priya was good and Dhalia was bad”
“Actually I know I see things and do stuff not knowing it, they both were the bad guys. Do you know where they are?”
“What makes you think so? This is what made me interested in your mind. You are aware of your mental illness which is very rare and my first encounter”
“I thought you know enough about me now then you should also know where they are, interview them and document this whole ‘cure the mad man’ thing”
“What would you do if you ever met them?”
“I will ask why they dumped me”
“I want to know that as well but unfortunately Priya died giving you birth in Red Cross hospital and Siddharth won’t talk to anyone”
“Priya died! I thought she was the one who killed my adoptive parents. . .I know how they died now. Do you know where Dhalia is?”
“Siddharth Dhalia? I don’t think you should see him”
“Please it’s very important that I meet him and end this madness”
“Hmm. . .maybe. I will have ask my colleagues”
The fact that my last attempt failed was half expected and disappointing. The lady doctor went out of the room. There was a mirror in the wall to my right and obviously I was being observed from behind it. Few minutes later she came back but she left the door open.
“We agree to take you to Siddharth on one condition, you stay in our institute for a longer time and do as we tell you to. Its better than police putting you in jail for killing Avinash” she said.
“Police didn’t put me in for it till now, nor will they ever. I accept” I replied.
“Come on outside then”
She gestured me to hold her hand, one guard unlocked my steel anklets and stood behind me. I went outside but didn’t hold her hand. It was a dull winter day, they arranged an SUV and we drove for an hour to reach to the old age home. The doctor and one guard walked me inside the single storied building and showed me the room where Siddharth Dhalia lived. I asked them to uncuff my wrists but she didn’t allow.
I locked the door behind me and stood alone in the room looking at an old bald man on wheelchair facing the window. His hands were unsteady as he put the cigarette between his dried lips, his skin was pale white like he never got out in daylight, he wore a grey sweater and brown trowsers. There was a poster of Kali the goddess of death on wall in right, the tape recorder played a disturbing static noise and the burning incense sticks on a table under the poster spread a rosy scent.
“I used to look outside the window when I was a kid” I said loudly to make sure he heard me.
He turned his chair around and looked at me confused.
“What are you looking at?” I asked going to the window and glancing outside.
“Who are you?” He asked in a shaky voice.
“You are Siddharth Dhalia. Do you remember Priya Rai?”
“I don’t know who you are talking about”
“I am your son, Priya Rai’s son that you abandoned. Why did you do it?”
“Its you. . .I was not in the right side of my mind and I regret it. After my mother died, I was addicted to drugs and spend ten years in jail. Jail is where I felt what it feels like to die and I have been dying every day since”
“You still have some life left in you”
“Well, you are not here to have a father and son chat”
He put out his cigarette in the ashtray on his lap and looked at me like a dog who bit his own tail. My eyes were wet and I was overwhelmed with anger. I pressed his neck with my hands, he was rocking his chair back and forth in pain, his eyes reddened and looked at me before he died suffocating. The ashtray fell with a thud on the ground, the doctor was knocking on the door and then a guard broke it open to find Dahlia’s corpse I left in the room.
I ran away through the window, as far as possible and as fast as I could. Along the railway tracks few kids were bathing beside a house, I took soap and water from them to lube and slip my hands through the cuffs. I didn’t stop till I found a church in Goa. I wanted to confess my sin but I feared that Father might call the police, troubled for me he let me stay there for one night, before I left next morning he gave me five hundred rupees and blessed me.
“Whatever it is you have done shall be forgiven. Let the light guide you to him” he whispered.
Now, after seven years, I am working full time in a mart, I live in a rented apartment with my two adopted daughters. Priya is my eldest daughter and she is good in studies while Neha is the young one and wants to become a pop singer. I also work in a selfless association called ‘Hope’ to help mentally challenged kids get a bright future.
I still hear voices in night and have nightmares that wake me up cold and scared, it is very hard for me to change that but I am happier than ever. I am Rahul Kapoor.