Everything was fine at ROYS’ MANSION until that fateful night when my mother, aged 37, was bitten by a viper, on a cold night,while returning after a housewarming ceremony at a close friend’s place. She writhed in pain and soon an ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital.
Soon followed a paralytic attack on half side of the body ,due to an overdose of medicines, which left my mother in an inexplicable agony. I was 16 and the only caretaker of my mother as my father spent much of his precious time in a small family business. Atleast this is what Mom and I thought, observing his inadequate visits to the hospital.
My mother spent almost a year in the hospital and requested to undergo the rest of the treatment at home. She was like a doll, spending maximum time on her wheel -chair, listening to the excerpts that I read out to her from her favourite books.
Sometimes she heartily laughed and another time it would be an incessant flow of tears at an emotional script. While reading these excerpts , I would stealthily rove an eye on her ever- changing facial contours and would admire her innocence silently.
Today is my father’s ‘second wedding’ day. No. Not his second wedding anniversary but he is marrying for the second time. Since morning, my mother is restless. She sits on the wheel-chair , gazing at the full- size mirror and all the other inanimate things lined up in the room- the bed, the side tables, the book titled “ Successful Tips on a Successful Marriage” by Godweira Guppy, the emptied tea-cup and the photo-frame consisting an old snapshot of the couple.
The clock in the room which runs short of the exact time now strikes ten in the morning. My father must have reached the church by now as his going-to-be spouse, Rosbel, belongs to an Anglo-Indian community. When love happens, no orthodoxy in any religion matters, atleast for the lovers. My mother’s usual morning smile has evaded her face today and I decide to leave her with her tears, to attend a phone call in the living room.
Once upon a time my dad loved my mom but now everything has changed with the change in my mother. The woman whose mere presence used to freshen- up the entire existence of my father’s world was now almost a forgotten dream.
His growing restlessness at the sight of my mother’s wheel-chair, periodically lessened his humanly concern for his once-beloved soul. Only I could read his mind and predict that something terrible was brewing up in his otherwise calm demeanour.
I say this with a sort of conviction because my father actually had gone to Kolkata to his friend’s place for a fortnight. They were business partners ,running a textile showroom, in the centre of the Ford Market Circle. We lived in the outskirts of the city, 245 kms far from the madding crowd and our bungalow stood amidst the lush greenery, covering an area of atleast 7 kms.
So Mother and I were eagerly awaiting father’s return after a fortnight when the breaking news of his marriage entered our bungalow through my aunt Pinky. “ Do you know why I am here?” Alarming this ,aunt barged in like a calf that had disentangled itself from the master’s captivity and run away.
“Definitely not for a good cause!” My mother silently seemed to retort, knowing my aunt’s nature of being a gossip-monger. “ Your great husband and my brother Ashutosh is marrying an Anglo-Indian girl in a Church tomorrow. O’ Unfortunate woman! What will befall you and your daughter now?”Saying this, she left in haste .
As a girl of 17 now, I always wondered at rituals, people, universe and its living beings. My mind often occupied itself with various queries whenever I gazed at the stars above and wondered what must have been the purpose behind the creation of the whole universe!What were we human beings as far as our magnificence was concerned? Why were we created?
All these queries preoccupied my senses, leaving me all alone in my own world created by me and my mother’s silent agony. I looked at her in between my self retrospection,only to find a thousand questions in one single expression. Suddenly I felt some tiny droplets at my face and body, as if it was an act of nature to console me for the forthcoming trial that I was to confront in the next few days………….perhaps YEARS!!!!!!!!!!
It was one of those wonderful afternoons, when the birds surrounded the vista of a beautiful large garden with their chirps and nature seemed in the best of its temperament, that I was moving my mother on her wheel-chair to drench her in the panoramic vision of the garden.
Our penetrative concentration on the objects of mother nature was perturbed by the sound of a car-horn and we looked at the portico, adjacent to our view. My father,draped in wedding suit, was the first to disembark himself,followed by the bride in her white wedding gown.
She was tall and elegant and ofcourse beautiful because she was my father’s choice and she had to be different from my mother. The roses, the fresh lilies, the jasmines and a few other flowers in our garden seemed to compliment the lady’s fairness and charming smile,peeping through the radiance of the sun. In a sudden flash of appearance, I liked her for her graceful personality. And at another moment, my mom’s doll-like face seemed to remind me of my duties as a truthful daughter and a caretaker.
My father took his bounty inside the house, closing the large wooden door ,made of mahogany,behind him, under the impression that we two ladies wished to spend more time in the garden. My mother too expressed her desire ,through her gestures, to enjoy amidst feel-good factors of nature and I obeyed.
That night, my mother groaned and moaned with a sort of pain that was beyond my comprehension. I saw tears roll down her cheeks as she pretended to sleep in my arms. If only I could be a magician to drive away all her miseries ,using my magic wand, and make her once again the queen of all hearts.
…….if wishes were horses………and my eyelids felt heavy. Soon I embraced sleep, lying beside my mother, slowly caressing her long opened hair.
Ashutosh Roy, my father, looked very happy and content the next morning and why not? The burden of carrying a paralytic paramour (once he loved my mother more than anything else in this world) was now replaced with the responsibility to caress the youthfulness and charm of a fit fantasy.
I secretly observed my father as he inched towards the role of a perfect lover to my step-mom. He looked atleast 15 years younger than his age and my mother atleast 20 years older. Life’s like that….
It was now almost a week and my father’s continued honeymoon was now interrupted by Advocate Gopal Verma’s arrival in our abode one fine morning. He had come with both his hands filled- one with the blessings for the new romantic pair and the second with the divorce papers.
He was my father’s best friend and a close-aid in all his shady activities too.As he sat, his eyes confronted my mother’s wheel-chaired presence. My mother smiled at him and he reciprocated with a pale gesture.
I was not interested to observe the proceedings as my maternal uncle had come to help my mother in the legal activities. I decided to spend some time amidst the different fragrances in the garden that filled the atmosphere with their heavenly touch in the roots.
I crossed the advocate’s car that stood in the protico. It stood there as a paraphernalia to seal my mother’s matrimonial fate. I withdrew my eyes from the blue colored car and entered the garden.
Three new white roses had bloomed along with white lilies , a few anthuriums, daisies and carnations.They all basked under the morning light and for a moment I forgot the human beings.I felt thrilled with delight at their sight. This was my real world-my garden.
If ever somebody asked me what I desired to become in the next birth, I would undoubtedly reply that I wanted to become a beautiful flower that will keep giving happiness to the world before it fades. I laughed at my own imagination and remembered that it was now time to medicate my mother.
I bade bye to my garden and the flowers seemed to reciprocate by gently swaying to and fro. As I turned , two tiny moisened fingers caught my palm. I looked down and saw a girl, with a limp and a crutch ,smiling at me. She must have been 7 years of age. “ Who are you?” I asked her. “And how did you reach here?” She answered politely, “ I am Diana and advocate uncle brought me here to meet my mom.” I was confused. Who was her mother and why was she accompanying the advocate?
As I pondered at my own queries, I saw Rosbel drawing towards the limping girl silently and throwing a fake smile at me, she took the girl in her arms. “She is my daughter from my first husband. He is no more.She has Poliomyelitis. And now please excuse us and don’t trouble my daughter with your stupid queries.” Her hurting words provoked my eagerness to know about the girl more. However I left the daughter-mother duo and joined my mother.
Meanwhile the formality to fill the divorce papers was over. But my questful eyes kept roving at the movements of the limping girl. My father, now and then, took the girl in his arms and cajoled her with a sort of radiance in his eyes. Was he trying to impress his newly- wedded queen? I could not guess his intention and continued my observation of the girl.
“Dolly!” My father called me. “ See your younger sister. She is leaving now with the advocate uncle and will join us soon. Take care of her as you do for your mother.”
Fantastic! So this was the whole story. My father had allocated me the role of a nanny at the age of 20. I felt like secretly blessing my father. Blessing for having got such a daughter who could become the means for his lasciviousness( God! Pardon me for such a usage for my father) by blanketting all his responsibilities.
That night I wept incessantly , camouflaging my sorrow with the regular moans of my mother.
Finally the fateful day arrived and my father untied his sacred nuptial knot with my mother. The whole house draped in a sort of endless bereavement. All the relatives from both the sides, maternal and paternal, marked their presence and left us in an everlasting gloom.
Amidst this drama, I was trying to comprehend my role as a younger member in the house but bethroned with the responsibilities of a caretaker for all.
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I noticed a kind of chilled hardness and sturdiness that had marked a deep scar on my face – the scar of ill-fated destiny which no time could heal.
“ Dolly !”It was was my father’s call. As I approached him, he mockingly said, “ Dying to get a boy-friend? Do some work and don’t keep admiring yourself in the mirror. When the right time comes, you will get married.” His words pierced deep in my heart and for a moment , I felt to slap him but unfortunately he was my creator and I rejected the upcoming evil intentions of my mind.
It was 17th of December 2000, when my father declared his departure from home to his new bungalow at Mentos Lane, along with his spouse. He was more eager than my step-mom to leave the house.They chose the next day to depart from us and we silently agreed. Did I have any other option???But need I declare how much hatred I bore for my father !!!
That night my father celebrated his last romantic night with his spouse in his bedroom that was adjacent to my mother’s room. My mother experienced their sexual noisy adventures , in absentia, the whole night and moaned without realising that I too was awake, silently taking part in her burning desires.
Suddenly I felt a deep yearning somewhere in my body and desired for a passionate hand to caress my womanhood and console me for all that turmoil that I was going through in our palace of disaster.
My desire took me down the memory lane when I was 15 and proposed by a boy. He was ready to wait for me until I attained adulthood and wished to marry me with the wholehearted consent of his parents, after exchanging a few faithful kisses. He was my Prince Charming and I loved him a lot.
But he too was a man …………………..
Neither of us actually knew that the word ‘LOVE’ with its profound understanding is far from the reach of two teenagers and that in our lives ‘LOVE’ can happen umpteen times. He forgot me and I soon embraced my mother’s responsibilities as my priority. With a deep mournful sigh, I allowed the heavy eyelids to overcome by sleep.
I woke with a gentle touch on my face and found Diana beside my bed. I looked at the ‘crutched existence’ with a stare but she kept flashing her aromatic smile from time to time. My mother tried to drag her away from me but she tightly caught my wrist until I silently and reluctantly promised her a gentle response.
In another room, the couple was anxiously and eagerly awaiting the transport to carry their belongings to another abode. I had heard my father a few years ago saying to my mother, “ See Priya! Life is a mirage and we should know how to deal with it. I never value any materialistic thing in life. If at all I care, I care for you and our dear daughter.”
Today the same man was accumulating whatever he could-his personal diary, his designer clothes, his laptop, his favourite crockery, his favourite furniture, his perfume etc. to live separately and never to see us again. At that moment a thought of wisdom flashed across my mind like a lightning- Nothing in this world is certain but Death.
By now it was evening and the sun was travelling towards its destination , spreading the saga of its magnificence through its sinking light and the return of the birds to their nests. Mr. Ashutosh Roy-yes. This is how I decided to address my ex-father in future – was now ready to leave his nest with the new bird and then one key chapter of my life will come to an end. Will I ever forgive him for my secret sobs diluted by his sexual laughter!!!!!!!!!!!
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the transport followed by the new lavish BMW which was going to be the new comfort zone for the couple. The ROYS’ MANSION silently bore the farewell of the two and soon the entire humanity engulfed in darkness.
What it feels to be left alone with huge responsibilities in the form of two ‘differently – abled’ persons !
No sooner had we retired to our respective beds than a phone call intercepted my peace. It was Ashutosh Roy at the other end. “Hi Dolly! I love you for being my best daughter in the world. I am so happy that you have blessed me to live a life of my own by adopting my other daughter. God will always be with you to guide you and do good to you. Rosbel has also expressed her good wishes to you. However she wants to be with her daughter once in two months. Love you……Good Night!”
Two drops of tears rolled down my burning cheeks. Diana was standing next to me, unable to understand the jest that life had played on me. I looked at her and lifted her up followed by a row of kisses on her cheeks. At that moment, I loved her and loved her a lot. Her crutches no longer seemed to burden me. I ran with her to my mother’s room amd kissed both of them again and again.
Today I am 32 , pragmatic and happily married to my responsibilities. God has blessed me with two children- Priya and Diana ,and has filled my incomplete cup of life. Everyday I look at my garden and teach my children the song of life and each night I look at the stars and sing my daughters the lesson of living. Life moves on …………….
Priya, my mother, has been diagnosed with lung cancer but no misery troubles her any more. I have taught her to smile and live. Diana is now doing her higher studies in a special school and I have taught her to inspire many more lives like her…………and far away from the madding responsibilities of the world, two souls sleep in each other’s arms and bless us all.