A touching, heart-wrenching saga of love, sacrifices and loss, centered on the relationship between a father-in-law and a daughter-in-law.
Lolita will perhaps never outgrow the tragic day.
Her father-in law lies serenely swathed in white on a colossal slab of ice.
Her husband Debosri, approximately fifty five, is crying silently leaning on her shoulders in between.
Lolita is rooted to the ground, looking like death warmed up.
The thought gnaws her insides like a canker…he is no more!
Her eyes bubble up.
Her legs are in no mood to comply with her urge to sit long by the dead body.
She holds back the tears that make everything look so vague. The bitterness and pain that she is somehow managing to combat resurfaces more poignantly at each attempt.
People have started gathering in the veranda outside.
She can make this out by the murmur that strikes her ears.
She nudges her husband.
He gets up with difficulty, feeling lost. He seems to have released his hold over his body, walks like a toddler.
‘Deben, nijer baba ke baayre baramdaye niye jao.’ she beckons her son.
Deben holds him by shoulders and leads him to the courtyard.
Men are preparing for the funeral ceremony.
Debosri sobs like a child.
The big house looks dreary…
Lolita’s eyes convey desolateness.
The scattered bits and pieces of past few days begin to dance in the gallery of her mind.
Tears sizzling with pain roll down her cheeks non-stop.
“I’m sick and you’re planning a holiday? Then you say that you are concerned; eh?” the old man had managed to utter between the fits of cough.
“Orrey Baba! I’m not going to spend my vacations with my husband and sons. Tomaye chede baidate jachhi naa! What all we want is to get our eldest son settled in life. He has an exam over there. He’s trying to find his feet! Didn’t you accompany your son when he struggled to settle?’ Lolita, the daughter in law had asked.
“Only I know how I manage to breathe in your absence when you people leave for job each morning leaving this old sick man alone in this big house. I somehow manage; you see.’ his eyes had watered.
Lolita had felt restless.
It was always like this whenever she proposed to go somewhere even for a single day.
Since her mother- in- law had passed away; he had solely depended upon her.
It was like a hand locked around her neck all the time and she could have no break!
‘Lolita! Amaar choti kothaye aache?’
‘Aati hun baba!’ she would rush out of the washroom to look for his slippers, glasses or newspaper or anything else on the pretext of which he’d expect her presence around him at little intervals.
She had attended upon his needs very patiently though she had sometimes to go for job on empty stomach or carry any readymade food; no time to prepare anything fresh.
He would patiently wait for her like a child taking care of himself for almost seven-eight hours.
He didn’t want to close his eyes in death in her absence.
‘You have absolutely no time for your husband. It’s always him and you.’ her husband would often tease.
‘Yup! You’re right! As long as he lives, it’s going to remain so.’ she would laugh giving him some balm or pain oil to be rubbed onto her aching back each night.
It was a special relationship.
Even her sons recognized this special bonding and respected their mother all the more for her self-effacing nature.
‘See I’m feeling very tired these days and this damn killing shoulder pain…howsoever I try, I get no time to relax.’ she had cried out one night.
‘Let’s go out somewhere for a few days.’ her caring husband had proposed.
‘Yes! But this seems to me to be the least feasible thing in the world…’
‘…what can I say? It will be possible only when Baba…passes away…’
‘Issshhh! Don’t think rubbish! I can’t imagine a day when he wouldn’t be there…time would hang so heavy upon poor me!!!’ she had burst into tears, hiding her face in his arms.
Lolita seems to be computing on a stream of thoughts.
She is surrounded by women of all ages.
Yet feeling so lonely.
His parting words to her- ‘Get your tickets cancelled. You’re not going anywhere.’ continue to ring in her ears.
‘We are going and that’s final. I have told my friends. They’ll come to you in my absence so that you may not feel lonely. Such a chatter box you are!’ she had laughed away his apprehensions.
Lolita looks congealed.
Her heart tightens all over.
A few women take her leave.
Lolita enters the house with steps as heavy as lead.
Men have gone for the funeral place but for her elder son lingering behind, a bashful youth of twenty.
‘Are you okay?’ he hugs his mother and makes sure she will be fine as he leaves for the same.
Many women are still sitting and whispering that the old man depended upon her so much…that she might now heave a sigh of relief…that it was good death had brought an end to the pains for the diseased and for the family as well…
The house that otherwise looked so full of chirrups has acquired shades far from being alive.
Lolita had left for the job a bit later than usual the previous day.
The old man had refused to be fed.
He had a premonition that he would die if she left him.
“Holiday as much as you want but only when I’m gone to the God’s place. Not before that.’
‘Baba! Don’t please show all these tantrums for God’s sake! We’ll be back soon. Your grandson needs me there or I wouldn’t leave you even for a day!’ she had tried her best to convince him.
Old age was rightly called a second childhood.
‘Don’t I…need you?’ he has asked innocently.
Lolita had made a pact with her dearest reliable friends that they’d attend upon him in her absence and was dually convinced that they would. They had assured her that she did need a holiday as she had been working day and night.
She had done the essential packing; couldn’t however pack some peace of mind.
‘I wouldn’t let you go.’ he had declared his resolution.
‘There’s still one night to go. I won’t be going if God isn’t willing.’ she had patted him as though he was really a child of eight.
‘I’m not willing! Is that not sufficient a reason? Your husband has no backbone or he wouldn’t always support you. AND…you are a calculating little devil, I know you are!’ he had grabbed her hand, laughing.
‘Okay fine!’ she had well humouredly answered placing two soft cushions on his bed as he had insisted that he’d sleep in the lobby that night.
Both the father-in-law and the daughter-in-law had tossed for long in their respective beds the last night.
The very thought of leaving him behind was a torture to her vulnerable heart. Debosri could accompany Deben but it was her father-in-law who needed her the most.
He had a right.
Lolita had finally resolved not to go.
The old man had resolved not to let her…
She had rushed to the lobby pretty late at night to tell him that she would stay on for she knew the news would put him at great ease.
The emptied bottle of sleeping pills lay open by the cushions.
The old man had succumbed to the pressure of impending separation from her.
He was no more!!!
There hung a villainous smile over his lips or…or…she imagined so?
Lolita has no escape.
The pangs of guilt slice at her gut.
She seems to have been plastered to the wall.
It’s been hours.
Debosri is back with her sons.
‘You still…’ Debosri feels raw.
She gives him an eerie look and clasps him hard, sobbing in his arms for long.
‘That’s what I feared! O.h.h! It had to be so?’ she moans.
Her senses waver.
She looks around, unblinking.
A lump of unbearable grief and regret smother her.
Her dehydrated lips quiver in between.
Somen, her younger son, strokes her face adoringly and pats her to sleep just the way she used to…put the old man to sleep.
‘You calculating little devil…’ she murmurs in sleep.
‘So I am!’ the old man chuckles.
Has she been awake…?
The Irrepressible ‘ She’ – a poem by Divya Rajgaria
I am no Goddess… – a poem about the everyday diva by Anindita Bose
Where Goddesses Cry – a thought-provoking poem by Rhiti Bose.
Woman – a poem by Daipayan Nair
Wish – a son remembers his mother poem by Amitava Nag
The Separation – a short story by Maya Khandelwal
The Last Night of My Life – a short story by Nikita Goel
Rise and Shine – a touching mother’s musing about her daughter by Santosh Bakaya
Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas – A Book Review – by Maya Khandelwal
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