Inspired by Talaash
She finished the last sip of her coffee that had turned entirely cold and almost tasteless looking at the framed photograph sitting atop the table, Suresh and herself. Suresh, young, back then, in his crisp khaki uniform, clean-shaven and trimmed moustache, he looked handsome. And few more tacked to the walls. Whenever she looked at them, she was reminded of the fact that despite her best efforts, nothing had turned out the way she had wished.
Leaning back to the chair, she wondered, how quickly years had passed. Memories flooded. Life, for them was a fairy tale, years ago, until that fateful accident. After losing their six-year-old son, Kishan, it had taken for them four years to gain semblance. But with Sahil’s birth, life had started afresh for her. But for him, his suppressed guilt had overpowered him. It was on one moonless night when she saw Suresh staring at something, his gaze transfixed, something weird and something inexplicable, she had sensed and that was the start of it. She had kept a close watch and had noticed his strange traits. He had changed in many ways; he either would be lost in thoughts or would be tensed and worried. He never was at peace. His conversation had come to the bare minimum. From the charming, suave man she had fallen in love with, Suresh had changed into a remote stranger.
‘He seems to be disturbed all the time,’ one of his colleagues had said. ‘He needs rest,’ some had remarked.
‘Mamma, Papa behaves weird sometimes. Is he okay?’ Sahil had questioned. And above all, she had seen, he had sprung up in a bolt from his bed, grabbing his phone, at an odd hour of one night. He had answered a call and had stormed off immediately. Shell shocked, she had sat in the dark, his cell phone had neither rung nor had anyone spoken on the other end. That was precisely when she had realized that something had seriously gone wrong. He had relapsed into the same delusions.
‘It’s a clear indication of visual, auditory and olfactory hallucinations. He is also suffering from paranoid and bizarre delusions,’ the doctor had concluded.
‘Quiet difficult. It may take a day or a month. It could take years, or worse, it might never end. And in some cases, it may lead to suicide,’ he had said when she had questioned, ‘Curable?’
The much-wrinkled, too-often-read letter, Kishan’s last letter had been in his closet for years. She had seen him, reading and re-reading that letter, many a times. He had wept, running his fingers on those letters; he had clutched it to his heart. His guilt had got the better of him, she had thought, but she was wrong.
‘Better, you leave him here, we will take care,’ the doctor had suggested, but she hadn’t agreed. She had believed in miracles. All he needs was love, care and attention, she had argued with hope. She had played her part with all her might. Patience and perseverance, would make things work, she was confident. Days rolled into months and months into years. But nothing positive had turned up. Instead, another uncertainty had knocked her door. He had begun to get lost in mid-sentence. The amusement soon turned to horror when the condition was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s. Turning from bad to worse, there wasn’t any hope of recovery. With his condition deteriorating, managing him had become impossible for her single-handedly and she had to leave him in the hospital. She refrained from informing Sahil, as he had settled with a good job in London.
‘Find a girl and get married,’ she had said.
‘I have found one, will be visiting you’ll very soon. Love you all,’ he had said.
A loud gust of wind coming from the large open windows, hurled her back to the present. Waiting for the sun to show up, she sat by the window. Her lips stretched into a faint smile with the sight of the first rays of sun peaking over the horizon, soft light illuminating the surroundings. Silence hung in the air and in her being as well. There was an unusual peace in her. The uncountable confusing questions weren’t there this morning. Walking past the turbulences, mentally and emotionally, she had come to a decision.
She looked at the clock. Time showed 4.30 a.m. One more hour she could spend sitting here in her favourite place, recalling her past, reliving those happy moments one last time before she heads on with her morning work. All she had on her agenda that morning was to cook a special breakfast for the two of them and then an elaborated pooja, with special offerings, being her thirty-third wedding anniversary.
The sun crawled over turning the dark sky into hues of orange. Letting out a big sigh, she rose from the chair and made her way to the kitchen. Today, the porridge had all his favourite vegetables along with cashew nuts and ghee. Going as per her plans, she had shopped all the vegetables and the groceries the previous evening. And as a wedding gift, she had purchased him a white shirt. The boxes sat on the dining table to be filled and the bag was kept ready for easy access. She had cooked his favourite sweet rasgullas too the previous evening, two for him and two for her.
Now, with the time ticking 5.30, she walked to the kitchen. Like any other days, chanting the names of gods, she took out the vegetables from the refrigerator and washed them before chopping. Adding in all the ingredients she closed the lid of the pressure cooker. With the aroma filling in the air, a sort of happiness surged in her heart. The cooking would take some time, in the mean time; she filled the sweets and some pickle in two small boxes. ‘One spoon, one plate, a few napkins,’ she reminded herself to be packed.
‘That’s five. Should be enough,’ counting the whistles she rushed to the kitchen and switched off the stove. Suresh always loved it, just right, soft though, grainy and little spicy. ‘Thank God, the porridge wouldn’t be mushy,’ she said, to herself as she hurried for her bath. And then followed her elaborated pooja. ‘My 108 japa beads string too, and one family photo,’ she remembered to be packed as she walked out of the pooja room.
The porridge with mild spice and with the grains cooked just right, it had turned out to be the best. She filled it in the box. Fighting back the tears, that had just started forming, she packed the bag, placing the three boxes, a plate and a spoon, two bowls, the framed photograph and the japa bead string.
Going through her entire closet twice, she finally chose a cream Kanjeevaram sari with thin brown border. She had Suresh’s appreciative look when she had worn it, the previous year, on the same day. He had gifted it to her. Exactly one year ago, she recollected, she had worn it for the first time and today it was for the second time, rather the last time, she corrected her thoughts. Tying her hair into a neat bun at the nape of her neck, she placed the jasmine string, pinning it with a few hairpins. She adjusted the red coin-sized orb of kumkum on her forehead and pulled out the drawer of her dressing table for the sindoor. Appling a small pinch of it, on the hairline, she looked at her reflection in the mirror. ‘Perfect’ he had always said and this was his favourite look of hers, in the past, not so long ago. Even at fifty-five, with those graying hair adding on to her elegancy, she looked pretty.
Up until now, she was strong and determined, going by her plans. But was it right? A conflict set in for the umpteenth time. Inevitable, she reasoned herself. Without any hope for recovery, dragging on with the days wasn’t a solution. She had been sensing his pain. He couldn’t take it anymore. It had to end. ‘No, I shouldn’t step back.’ she reassured herself.
The driver was supposed to have come by now. She walked to the balcony of her apartment on the second floor, waiting for her phone to ring. Settling on her chair, she waited. Her phone rang.
The driver reached. She walked out of the house and before locking the door, she took one last look of her house. Descending the stairs, as she reached the main entrance of the building the car pulled up. Placing the bags carefully beside her on the backseat, she nodded to the driver. She leaned back and closed her eyes as the car picked up the speed, swallowing the overwhelming emotions of pain and guilt.
Screech! The car came to a stop. Before 7.00 she had planned and there she had reached. She got down and as she walked along the path, her heart pounded. Collecting her courage, composing her calm, she maintained a stoic appearance and walked into the room, closing the door behind her.
Week, unshaven and unkempt Suresh lay on his bed. Once so self-made, lively and energetic, now lean and bony, eyes lost in some far-off, unknown realm, lying helpless, dependent, her heart wrenched. The agony and the pain, he suffered, she had sensed. It was unbearable. Tears copiously formed and rolled down her cheeks, helplessness engulfing her. Was this destined? Was it meant to be her life? She questioned her fate.
She took out the framed photo from her bag and placing it on the side table, she sat by his side looking into those eyes that conveyed nothing, a blank stare. Holding the frame before him, she looked up for any sign of cognition one last time before she headed with her plans. None whatsoever was forthcoming.
Planting a soft kiss on his forehead, she took his palms in hers and whispered,
‘Happy anniversary, sweetheart. Today we have completed thirty-two years of our togetherness.’
Kissing the back of his palm, she continued, ‘I am tired of life, want to relax with you.’
By now, Sahil should have called but he hadn’t. If she calls, talking would take time. And by talking to him, she may go weak and may back out, she feared. With the time ticking faster, the final countdown had begun. She couldn’t miss the auspicious time; she had referred last evening, in the almanac. Before 12.00, it had mentioned.
Taking out the boxes, she laid the items on the table beside his bed. Opening the boxes, she poured in some porridge in one bowl. And in the other, four rasgullas. Placing the two bowls on the plate, she put in a little of pickle. Finally, she took out the small vial from her bag and added some of its contents on the porridge. She mixed it thoroughly. Taking one spoonful, she started feeding him the poisoned food, alternating with pickle. Stopping halfway, she finished the remaining. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. And, now, were his favourite sweets, two for him and two for her. Ten minutes later, the plate emptied. There by eight, she had finished feeding him and herself as well.
Being Monday, there wouldn’t be rebirths and one could get moksha, she had heard. Lying next to him, with the japa bead string in her hand, she started chanting prayers, watching his chest rise and fall in a slow rhythm as he breathed. Her mind now relaxed, for she had freed him from the pain, the endless pain, he had been suffering from years. Tired to the core her vision started to blur. Just then, her phone rang. Sahil’s name flashed. Even before she had said hello, she heard him say, ‘Maa, I am leaving tonight. See you’ll tomorrow. And I have a surprise for you.’
‘Take care, son.’
Silence filled in the air.