(A short story)
The sky there wasn’t cut short into by the buildings surrounding one and thus it wasn’t a mere roof of open streets as was the case in the city that her son had taken her to when she was no longer able to live by herself , her legs had already started turning into what they were now – logs who won’t listen to her will, she wondered why didn’t they decay as they would if she was dead – the only sign of life they ever gave was the feeling of intense pain she would suddenly start feeling in them every now and then.
It actually didn’t seem strange – the fact that she was now suddenly walking, after being bed-ridden for so long. How long? A year or two or three, she didn’t remember either. Her dream-self didn’t remember that she could no longer walk, and so it walked – though it also felt that helplessness which her immobility had created in her but as that feeling of helplessness didn’t seem to have a reason behind itself, the dream-self didn’t show any curiosity towards this helplessness.
… One didn’t need to look up to find skies there, but she did, and she did so with kind of happy anticipation with which a bird suddenly freed looks at sky it is about to fly too, and for a moment, the sight filled her with a sense of bliss of newly gained freedom, she couldn’t remember when she last saw the sky – the replacement for same was a roof of her window-less room, it’s sad purple color full of those little dark spots which, her eyes, weakened by age, saw everywhere. This sky didn’t have those spots, it wasn’t clear either – the whiteness was blurred as if it was just after dusk but this was a sky she knew, a sky that was, as we mentioned, a large inverted bowl that seemed to meet the sandy plains of this place somewhere far away in horizon; no building, or houses to cut it short, no people either, the whole place was like an uninhabited desert – except for an occasional tree or the house they were heading to. Being under this vast sky, reminiscent of the sky over farms in her village that she remembered from her childhood, gave her a feeling of returning home, a home nevertheless, that seemed to be in the last chapter of its decadence – with that darkness already setting in. The indifferent atmosphere of the place left her with a feeling that her suffering was nearing its end. He, her son, was soon going to relieve her of her pain.
She knew somehow that the house was their destination, it had no gate to close the door. This sight of this small house – somewhat like the one where she lived as a child; those old memories were so difficult to believe in now, they may be the lies she or someone else had told her and she had decided to believe in; the small house a small single storey structure comprising of three adjoined rectangular stucture forming the letter L, the entire structure made of earth in the way of old days – in her nostrils she felt, with a momentary bliss, perfume of cow dung cakes (though there was no cattle to be seen anywhere in the dreamed place), so hated by her son, that she had lived surrounded by all her life, not ever conscious of the smell – all her life until the day she had to admit that she could no longer live by herself with her weakening knees and was forced to move to city to her son’s place – the dream wasn’t the first time she had felt the anxiousness one feels upon being forced to live in an alien land. She had felt it back then, and not long before that when she was forced to sell her cattle being unable to farm them anymore because of those very same cursed knees. But knees were merely the first to betray her – her senses, memory, and arms followed, each losing its strength.
….. All this, she sensed, felt and was conscious of in an instant, or so at least so she would recall later when she would be up and have pondered upon her nightmare for a while. All she would remember were visions of a few moments that had leaps of several other moments among them – the moments in-between either no longer available for recall to her failing memory or had never been dreamed.
Her second vision started when her dreamed-self was staring at a wall, desperate after that sudden realization that she was late for something, that her son had left her and was gone – to where? She didn’t know, he must have told her, but she hadn’t listened, her ears were weak, she hadn’t been paying attention, and she had forgotten to ask him to repeat – or was it the fear of making him angry that had kept her from asking him to repeat?
Anyway, now he was gone, her first instinct was to go after him but for some reason she found she could no longer leave this place without him even though there was nothing barring her escape from the door or window – perhaps this was because of that same old helplessness she had learned after being bed-ridden which was now forcing its way to the dream, but she could still go to the window and call him, if it wasn’t too late. In next moment, she was at window (figuratively next moment, for she had no memory of walking those couple of steps towards the window) and there he was, or it seemed like him, she could only see the back of a man who was dressed and seemed very much the same but could it be? How come he hadn’t gone out of sight already in all this time? Maybe she was seeing things, she had been seeing things for a while, yet she called aloud “SHRAVAN! SHRAVAN!!” her arm stretched towards the firgure, as if yearning to touch his face, that face in which she still saw that infant, as she remembered seeing him for the first time soon after his birth – the happiest moment of her troubled life, that face which was her harvest from this life.
She couldn’t let him go like that – she didn’t grudge him leaving her like that; hadn’t he done, sacrificed enough for her sake in all this time caring for her, yes, he was getting rather touchy lately but that was only to be expected given that he had her burden on his shoulders but he still cared for her despite his moods? Hadn’t she been herself wishing for death all this time? And feeling anxious that she couldn’t kill herself because her limbs were completely useless to her. Often wondering, if she was alive – she, who couldn’t destroy take the life that was hers? Hadn’t she pleaded with him for this very death, a death that had been teasing her for years now, always threatening its appearance anytime soon, never showing up – a wish that he had laughed away this far. So why grudge now that he had decided to grant her wish? No, she didn’t want to question him on that account, she didn’t feel betrayed on that account but …. but, there must be one final goodbye, she must say something, must hear him say something that could be worthy of that farewell which she … they, deserved. “SHRAVAN! SHRAVAN!!” she called after HIMagain.
Her memories of the dream would later tell her that he or the figure she was seeing didn’t turn back, perhaps he didn’t hear her but a voice inside her would argue that he did, that the face turned back and did take a long last look at her with an indeterminate expression on it before resuming on its path.
Her next vision was that of lying in her bed, tired of standing – the bed, the old village stlye manja must have appeared in that otherwise completely empty room out of nowhere because she didn’t recall noticing it before she needed it, tired from standing at the window.
She would have wished to move the bed near the window, so that she could still look out, for him, or for anyone else who might pass this uninhabited place, anyone to talk to – even Meera, her beloved cow, whom she often talked to in her solitary years back in village, when Shravan was gone to city for higher studies but she somehow knew she couldn’t move her bed, in fact now that she had chosen to lie down, she won’t be able to rise again – that feeling of helplessness had caught on. “Shravan! Shravan!!” she said in a hopeless voice, though she couldn’t make it loud enough now, if only he had stayed and waited patiently in these final moments – her death can’t be long now – she had suffered more than enough, she deserved the peace now.
The roof of the house was no longer visible in darkness in her last remembered vision. “Shravan! Shravan!!” she had said once more, though, this time not in a painful effort to call him but, in a quit satisfied voice, to that promising darkness that was engulfing her, as if making sure that she hadn’t forgotten to take along her most precious moments now that it was time to leave.
That darkness must have lasted a while – long enough till the moment, her aching body brought gave her cruel realisation of its pains breaking the tranquility of that dreamed darkness as well as her sleep; though her eyes, sleepy, still refused to open to that oblivious ceiling; the discovery that all this was a dream hurt her; and feeling terribly thirsty as well as in her desperation of breaking out of herself by talking to someone, “Shravan! Shravan!!” she called him in what must be the real world, and soon heard his voice – asking her “WHAT?” angry at being woken like that, just when he had just closed his eyes to fall asleep.
- By Sidharth Vardhan
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