The dead man’s wish – Short Story of Family
It was already half past nine. The bus stopped. I got down at my stop with a little difficulty. I had to walk for a little while to other bus stop. The street was empty and dark. Only light poles enabled me to walk in dark confidently. I was late. My wife had called me many times to know where I was. I had assured her I would be home in a while.
I waited for the bus. Thirty minutes passed. I couldn’t wait for long and so I decided to walk. It was hardly an hour to my house. As I was accustomed to long walks, I started walking.
The night was calm with cool breeze blowing on my face time to time. The sky was cloudless and stars were gleaming at me. It was a perfect night for a walk. I was half way towards my home. Suddenly I felt a pinch of pain on my chest. I avoided it and continued walking. But the pain continued and it was increasing. I stopped for some time and held my chest. The pain increased making me wobbly and thus I dropped to the ground.
My cell phone started ringing. I couldn’t take my phone from my shirt pocket due to pain. I lay still while the pain was growing with every passing second. I thought about my wife and how she must be worried. I tried to get up with all my strength. But my body failed to respond. I wished that someone would come to take me home. I felt helpless and weak for the first time.
My pain became my worst enemy testing my strength. I tried one last attempt to get up. But I failed this time too. My breath had become slower and slower. My eyes were weary which made it difficult to open. The memories of my life replayed in my mind time to time. I didn’t feel the pain. I got up easily in no time, realizing that I had bid farewell to my body. I couldn’t believe that I was now a dead man. I cried watching my body as I thought about the future of my wife, Mala. She had never been alone up till now. How was she going to cope up with my loss? My children would never be there for her as they were involved with their ‘lives’. Alas! She had no one to support. This fear made me rush towards home.
The house looked so welcoming. For once I forgot that I was dead. The warmth of this abode made my past memories in here fresh. I saw Mala sitting with tensed look on her wrinkled face. She picked up the handset of the phone and then kept it back. She did this a couple of times. After which she took courage and dialled the number.
“Hello Shree, it’s me ..your Amma. It’s already eleven and I am scared…” she said.
“Ma! It’s eleven! What do you expect me to do? Sing a lullaby to make you sleep. Hasn’t dad come home? No wonder, you are calling me at this wee hour. He must be stuck up some work.”
My eldest Shrikant said and kept the phone. His tone was so loud that I could hear even though he wasn’t next to me. Huh! He and his temper! You cannot deal with them.
Mala was upset with her son’s behavior. I had always warned her not to expect anything from her ‘dutiful’ sons. Anyway, I couldn’t see her sadness dropping in form of tears. I wanted her to be happy forever. An hour had passed. Mala tried to sleep, but fear of ‘where I was’ didn’t allow her to sleep. How I wish I could drive away those fear by just being there for her. This was distant wish….I was already far away from her as I was dead.
The door bell rang. Hearing this, Mala ran towards the door. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Shrikant standing outside. She had expected me instead my son had come.
“Shree! I didn’t expect you would come at this wee hour” she mocked at him for his past behavior at her.
“Ma, you are alone and usually dad comes around at 8. I know you must be worried about him. So I came. I have sent Vinnie to look out for him.” he said.
Mala allowed him inside. She made coffee for both of them. As they settled with the coffee, the door bell rang. She went towards the door to open it. It was my other son, Vineet. It was surprising to see Vineet taking up responsibility of searching me. He was always on taking end. He never understood the meaning of responsibility. Even after getting married, he has been dependent on his brothers and his wife at all times.
Mala offered him coffee as he spoke, “I searched every area in the market. It’s not possible for him to stay so late. All places in the market are closed. Are you sure he had gone to market?”
“I am absolutely sure, he had gone there. If he was somewhere else, he would call and tell me.” she said.
“Did you check the college? What about advocate Prakash? You must have not checked properly.” Shrikant asked.
With a fuss, Vineet said, “I am not so dumb, Anna. I had also searched there. No help. He hadn’t come there.”
“Ok! I was just suggesting places that you must have missed. Anyway, you are such a reckless person. I thought you must have not visited those places. Then, let’s go to the police” he said.
“I have already reported them.” Vineet said.
“How come you go to the police without telling me?” Shrikant yelled and was in verge of hitting his younger brother.
“You should be thanking me instead you yell at me. You cannot see anyone doing something you didn’t do. You think you are best. Or should I say your pride had almost broken your family.” Vineet screamed towering his brother.
“Stop fighting! I am already troubled with where your dad is. Now I don’t have any more strength to witness this. If you both want to stay here, then stay or else leave.” she said firmly.
I had never seen her anger outburst so soon. Unlike me who would get angry for smallest things, she would remain calm and patient. Now everyone had calmed down and was deeply thinking about me. I saw Mala walking towards the Pooja room. She sat down and prayed that nothing happens to me. Unfortunately her prayer would be unheard by gods as they have already decided taking me with them.
It was early morning. The sun was about to rise. Fog had engulfed outside. The knocking on door had woken up Mala and others. Shrikant had opened the door and saw two policemen standing outside.
“Who is it, Shrikant?” Mala asked while tying her hair into a bun.
“It’s police” he answered and asking them to come in.
“Have you seen my husband?” she asked.
“I am sorry. I have bad news for you.” one of the policemen said softly.
“What is it? Is my dad okay?”Vineet asked.
“No sir, he isn’t okay. We have found his body. We would like you to identify it.”, he said.
Mala had almost fainted hearing the news. Both my sons caught hold of her.
“Ma, drink some water.” Vineet’s wife, Rajini said offering Mala water. She declined the glass of water. Mala had no courage to see my body and thus remained in the house while my sons recognized my body and completed all the formalities. The last rites were to be made. My body was covered full with white cloth. My nostrils were blocked with cotton and my eyes were closed. I was laid on a white sheet covered wooden made bed.
Mala didn’t come to see me. She remained in her room while many came to pay last tribute to me. She didn’t cry or speak. She was silent and was not able to come in terms that I was dead. Everyone tried to console her and compelled her to see me for last time. However they failed. Richa couldn’t watch this horror that had stuck her mother in law. She sat next to her and said softly,
“Ma, wouldn’t you come and see Appa for one last time? Would he be happy to see you mourn like this? I am bored to see you not even speak a word, leave about cursing me.”
Mala couldn’t control her tears and hugged Richa. I sometimes can’t understand women. Mala hated Richa so much. She never considered her to be her beloved son, Vinod’s wife. Richa ‘s only mistake was she was from different religion. After Vinod’s death, her hatred towards Richa had doubled and blamed her for his death. Now she was hugging her like as if they were soul sisters.
At last my body was cremated by my family. Though my body had turned into ashes, my soul would be in peace after I see my wife happy and not alone.
Fourteen days had passed. The grief had bought everyone closer. The togetherness that was lost in years had come back. The grief was still there but not as fresh as it was before. It was evening. As everybody was preparing to leave for tomorrow, Shrikant with all vigor spoke,
“Ma, why don’t you stay with us? You haven’t seen the city and I can show you the place. You will love it. How long will you stay in this town? “
“You are saying this! Anna, you don’t have time for yourself and you talk of giving time for ma.”Vineet mocked.
“Oh so you will take ma and take care of her. Ha! What a joke! ”Shrikant said in jest.
But Vineet took seriously and said, “Why not? I may not be as busy as you. Ma, you can come with me. We can spend time that we had lost when I was away in hostel. I had missed you so much over the years.”
“No need! Ma is coming with me and that is final.”Shrikant ordered.
I was surprised and stunned to see my sons fighting over their mother. They never cared to come and see their parents. Now all of a sudden they wanted their mother to be with them. What was the hidden reason of taking Mala home? Why were they so concerned? Whatever the reasons are, I was happy that at least they were thinking about their mother. I knew she loved this house. She would never leave this house as she had spent half of life here. She had memories of love, happiness and family here. Would she leave them for her children? Everything was now depended on what she wanted.
Mala was now tired of being dragged into discussion by the brothers. “Now that’s enough both of you. I am not leaving this house.” she said. Everyone was aghast except me. I knew she would say that.
“Why…what? But Ma, you aren’t used to staying alone!” Vineet said still in shock.
“Who said I am going to be alone. Your dad’s memories will be there with me.”, she said.
I never knew this side of my wife. The fear of ‘how she was going to manage when I am gone’ remained with me till I was dead.
“As you wish, Ma. But we will come often to trouble you” Richa joked.
“You are always invited. This is your home” Mala said.
It took me three months to accept the truth that my wife had learnt to live her life with my memories. To my great surprise, my children did meet their mother regularly. I did learn something before leaving this world, grief did bought my family together. They had accepted each other’s flaws and were living together with harmony. My wish to see Mala happy and independent was fulfilled and thus bought end to my journey in this world. My soul was now at peace.