The Man.

1. Alka and her mother, finally agreed to return at half past twelve in the night after being denied with the exact information of the incident unless a male escorts them.”I will be there early in the morning. We will visit him together. Will you both please return home and take rest till then? I can’t be at peace with the thought of you both suffering.”, saying so her dada convinced them. Together, they came back. There was an awkward and painful silence between them. They sat as close as they could. Alka found solace in the scent of her mother flowing from the folds of her green chiffon saree. She didn’t process the whole thing yet for she knew it will shout out the truth loud and clear. She was not ready. When they realized there isn’t anything more left to do but to wait for the next day to arrive, they planned to sleep. But like every plan, this too failed. Alka was feeling a numbing sensation and an intense desire to speak, both at the same time but she lost her vocabulary. All she could manage was to give a painful smile from one corner of her mouth which reached her Amma’s seemingly void eyes. Amma nodded in approval to Alka’s gesture to try and sleep. It was not until dawn that sleep finally took over their tired bodies.
The next morning Alka woke up to a little bird chirping at the slightly ajar window. “Amma has probably woken up already”, she thought to herself “I shall stay strong for her no matter how things unfold.” She folded the bed-sheet nonchalantly while glancing out of the window at the parked, now disoriented bike, sitting on which he always waved good-bye. She played yesterday’s moment of good-bye with him which now felt like a dream. Just then she heard a call from the drawing room. Her Amma’s voice that came running across the hall was comforting yet emotionless. Unlike every-day the voice wasn’t shrieking near her ears. She kept the folded bed-sheet which they have brought together with him from art exhibition that year, and moved towards the voice which although was familiar, the pain in it felt unfamiliar. The drawing room had everything as it had yesterday, the day before and the many days before it but today, the vibes it gave was none like she ever witnessed. Alka saw the two people she needed to be with. Her mother was sitting while her brother was composed in a kneeling position with his head bowed down, as if he won’t ever lift it again. He was holding his Amma’s hands. All the four hands were joined in praying position. Alka ran towards her Dada, stumbling upon his luggage on her way. As she ran, for the first time since yesterday’s return from the hospital, she let the conversation make sense. Her conversation with the hospital head which although never gave a confirmation of the non-existence of her father still conveyed it in an eloquent way. Everything fell into place, everything seemed painful and tears started their journey from her welled up eyes on to the white marbled floor, on which her father walked. She reached her Dada’s hand and soon they all for the first time started wailing in pain together. For a moment in that togetherness, Alka had an illusion of the familiar strong hand with the golden ring on the thumb embracing them in a warm hug. After that everything happened involuntarily. They were now at the mortuary waiting for the akin strong build, dark to medium skin color, 55years old and 5’7” body but this time the body will emerge lifeless. As she got a glimpse of the trolley, she turned her back and for a moment held her breath. The trolley came to a halt. She heard her Amma sobbing and from the corner of her eyes she saw Dada trying hard not to make a sound from his mouth. She then turned to look at the man, her father, her nana, the one who unknowingly bid his last good-bye yesterday. She was in conflict now. One part of her wanted to collapse to the ground where as another wanted to act strong for her mother. In the moment of conflict her hand reached her father’s pointed nose, the one feature she always wished she had inherited. It felt cold. The moment stayed still for a second after which everything followed in a more chronicled way. The night arrived and everyone was too exhausted to even think of what’s next, to even realize that they have not eaten anything. Sitting on the cushioned bed with the tiny blue bed-bulb giving the much needed condolence, they retired from the horrific present into a deep slumber.
Few days passed. It was now time to move on with the rest of their lives. The morning of the day on which they were supposed to leave their home, finally arrived. It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house on whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. She moved out to find her Amma cooking and her Dada packing necessary stuff. She walked towards him and sat on the floor next to him. He smiled at her and handed over a diary embedded with her father’s initials. The diary was empty except for the first page which read “Life : It goes on.” The curves of the handwriting are the ones she grew up admiring. The words were as beautiful as all the other words that hand wrote. She looked at her Dada when her Amma came with breakfast and announced “We will move with Dada to Mumbai and take with us all the memories our Man has left for us.” They went to the breakfast table, when Alka glanced at the parked old bike and declared ,” Dada will teach me how to ride Nana’s bike. It’s mine now.” Dada smiled as a tear escaped his left eye.
.2.
Winter has already arrived and Alka was getting accustomed to the busy roads and swarming train crowd of Mumbai. It’s been 6months, 12days and 4hours now, living without the Man, her Nana. Sitting on the evening local train, Alka felt as if her family was actually doing the impossible. She again saw the date, 13th December and tomorrow is 14th December, the day on which as a child she waited for the delicious cake that her father would get from his staff as a celebration for his birthday. She now felt silly at the thought that back then she remembered 14th December as the “cake day” rather than as her Nana’s birthday. She wasn’t entirely at fault either, the Man himself never made a big fuss of his day. His children’s day was his day. He made his sacrifices look like his duty. While the dim lit train compartment reflected more dirty yellow light as the sun went down, she caught herself thinking for a wee-bit moment about her father taking birth somewhere. She believed in reincarnation. At this thought the train seemed to swing her left to right as if to bring her back from her delusions. At the next station she was getting comfortable with the crowd moving out with only a handful of people scattered here and there. Few seconds for the train to leave the platform when a hunched lady grabbed the pole at the center of the train door with her right hand while holding a cloth bag that had more dirt on it then there was on the train, in her other hand. Her hands had infinite wrinkles at every corner. Her veil was now revealing her face which seemed to have aged more than her hands. A smile left her dry lips when she realized she was now on the train. After adjusting to the pace of the train she slowly walked to the corner where Alka sat. She grabbed her cloth bag tightly as she took a seat opposite to Alka. Alka gave a recognizing glance at the old lady and then continued with her train of thoughts. After about 15minutes, the old lady said “Hi” with the sweetest smile and continued, “You seem sad. Any problem?” Alka always kept every thought to herself but today she was weak, she needed company. Her lips trembled as she opened them to speak and finally uttered ,”Tomorrow is my father’s birthday and I miss him. He is dead.” The old lady’s expression didn’t change. Alka expected sympathy but she got none except for a plain face. After waiting for few seconds the old lady said ,”See girl! You are young to understand this but still you need to know that people will die. Everyone you ever knew will die one day. When their part is done, they leave. Nobody will stay, neither me nor you. It’s painful when someone leaves but just ask yourself how far is it right to suffer and not give the ones who are alive some good memories to cherish when we leave? I am sure your father must have left some beautiful memories, cherish them. He too would want the same. And start living for the ones who are here before it’s too late.” The old lady’s voice was so clear that each word she spoke seemed to meditate. Alka felt a sense of calm. This was all she needed, plain blunt truth about the impermanence of life. It did the job of pushing her from her apathy. Alka opened her mouth to speak and all she could say was “Thank You!” A genuine heart-felt gratitude followed the words. Alka’s stop was nearing, she quickly hugged the lady and gave her best smile. As she got down, both waved good-bye.
14th,December. Alka made a big cake and celebrated with her Dada and Amma. They created some more beautiful memories to cherish.

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10 thoughts on “The Man.

  1. Vishal says:

    Hey.. Super dear.. Hard truth of time.. Thanks for sharing.. Keep writing more like this.. You have a vry a very nice talent of sensing the real life moments in stories.. Proud of you.. Be happy.. Take care.😇

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vikas says:

    My heart ached more and more as I progressed with each lines of first para… I was hoping a relief from the emphatically driven pain after half of the story, but it all started manifesting itself into snobs and blurring eyes… Afterwards the pain felt not poignant that much as some tears rolling out of the eyes assured me that am not going to hold these effusive emotions forever within…. The story moved on, and by the time i neared to the end, I was feeling a dead silence, perhaps much more of a silence in my whole being …. Engrossed in something without doing anything…. But it was ur last line of the first paragraph that broke up the illusion and made me to smile …. Such were the effects of ur narration ….. Bravo 🙂

    Like

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