It is a cold morning in January . I came back about a week ago from my hometown because my son has his examination this week. I hate this place, this city , this life . What happened to me , I had potential , I was the university topper . I am suddenly 31 years old with two young children that I will have to raise to adulthood . Is this what my potential was meant for ? My life was meant for something far greater than that. My husband went to work as usual at 6:45 AM . I had to get my children ready for school and they were actually out and ready by 7:30 AM. The maid who would walk them to school , came by at 7:20 and the kids left with her . I watched in the window as my children went out of sight . As was customary with my son, at a certain spot he would turn around and look for me in the window and keep my face in sight as he passed out of sight. It was inexplicable , my daughter does not act like that . He is older but he is more sensitive and vulnerable . He acts like that around his father too . It was almost as if he does not like to let either of us out of his sight , like a annoying pet!!! The devotion and neediness only goes so far, after a point it is annoying but today I am not annoyed by that. I keep him in sight until he walks away because I will never see that face again . I watch my daughter too , her attention is on her brother and she wants to do what her brother does but distractions tear her attention away .
I have made up my mind , I am exhausted . I really do not wish to continue living like this . The futility of living with no purpose leaves me drained and actually astounded that anybody would want to continue in this mindless fashion
I have played this in my head as to how this plays out , my previous two attempts have been failures . But I have read in the newspapers on all these dowry deaths where women are burnt and seems as though that is the ticket for me . I had made up my mind that today was the day to go through with my plans , in the privacy of my own house unlike the previous time. I eyed the kerosene can in the corner . We used Kerosene stoves as a backup when the gas stoves were occupied and it has come in handy finally . I hate the smell of kerosene but I dont have to put up with it for much longer . That smell or anything else for that matter . Ironically as the flames consume me , all that I can think of is my son
We had to come back from my mother’s hometown because I have my exams . I love living at my mom’s ancestral place which is a 1000 miles away and I enjoy hanging around with my cousins and uncles and aunts . This time , it has been a nightmare. My mother has always been extremely religious but this time her father has found her a religious teacher who lives 2 hours away so my mother stays gone the whole time and so does the entire family with the exception of my step grandmother and me. It is extremely boring and after two weeks, I started complaining but I did not want to seem too whiny so I tell everybody that I am worried about my exams . About a week prior to the exams , my mother reluctantly decides to head back but my grandfather makes arrangements for the religious teacher to visit us . I hate that idea but I keep mum .
My father picked us up at the station and I was happy and relieved .I was actually glad to get back home this one time , I would finally have my mother all to myself.
We got into the routine of studying for the two exams each day. I was actually happy to be back even though I disliked the stress of exams.
Today is Tuesday , the second day of my exams , I had reading and history exams today . As always I practiced the previous day with my mother . We left for school before 7:30 AM . School started at 8:00 AM . It was a 15-20 minute walk , our maid walked me and my sister to school and end of school , she would be back there to pick us up . If it was not her then it would be one of our neighbors or one of her daughters . On a rare lucky day, it would be my mother . Today the maid came to pick us up as usual at 7:20 and my mother helped me put on my shoes as well as my sister’s shoes and we went down the two flights of stairs and finally out on the street where I could see my mother in the window. Ever since her prior two attempts to leave us , I feel an incessant need to convey affection but the only way that I know how is to convey neediness . I imagine that mothers like to be needed . I see her face in the window and I wave to her and she waves back . Memory is a funny thing , for decades I would be tortured with guilt since I am the last person to see her alive and I imagine that somehow I had seen a sign of things to come and could have prevented what was to come if I had raised the alarm. But I am afraid my memory plays tricks on me .
School was uneventful and I finished my first exam when I look up and see my mother’s best friend whom I called aunty , talking to my teacher . I see my teacher crying and then aunty comes over to me and takes me away ignoring my protests that I have one more exam . We go over to my sister’s classroom when I see a repeat performance of my sister’s teacher bursting into tears . I was still clueless as to what was going on and then aunty takes me and my sister to my paternal grandmother’s house . That is where my paternal uncles and aunts live along with my grandmother . But today it is overfilled with people that I dont recognize , the women in the household come and take me and my sister inside . I am getting claustrophobic , I have never been an extrovert and this just makes things worse for me .
At this point my father comes in to the house along with his friends and brothers and cousins . He comes in and he only talks to my grandmother . He tells her “She is at the hospital but she is completely burnt” and he leaves without ever seeing me even though I was standing in front of him .
Comprehension is a funny beast and I heard the facts but I refused to comprehend them . I found religion that day and prayed long and hard that ‘completely burnt’ might mean just a completely burnt finger or toe .
At one point I insisted on going to my house which was about 3 kilometres away and my aunts and grandmother were vehemently opposed to it. I did not see my dad again until it was almost 6 PM when he came in with my maternal grandfather , step grandmother and one of my uncles. I was really surprised to see them . The journey by train takes over 24 hours . Listening to everybody talking , I found out that my grandfather had to fly to the Financial capital which was 4 hours away by train and then come over .
My grandfather seemed to ignore me and wailed loudly that he could not believe what she had done . He also added that had it not been for my exams , she would be ok. I am still not certain what possible relation , my exams had to do with my mother or what she had done but I was too timid to interrupt and protest.
I was happy to see them but still worried sick about my mother and nobody would tell me anything except deny whatever it was that I asked for which was mostly wanting to go back to my house . That night I slept along with my step grandmother and grandfather and uncle. I had always been closer to my mother’s people .
As was customary for me , I woke up early in the morning but I did not get get up . I stayed in the warm bed and it was then that I heard the conversation that made my blood run cold
“She was so young, why did she do it? Especially when she had such young kids” , said my grandmother’s voice
“Had it not been for his exams , she would still be here today” said my grandfather’s voice
“I hope that she does not turn into an evil spirit” replied my grandmother’s voice.
With a sinking feeling , I realized that my mother was gone . I would never see her again . I did not quite realize which was worse , the fact that she was gone or the fact that I would be blamed for it by the people who loved her who were incidentally also the people that I loved
In retrospect I have often wondered if I have behaved like the man who slaughters the golden goose to get all the eggs , I resented being left alone when she was trying to get the help that she needed but I was annoyed at being left alone and had demanded to be go back and now I suddenly found myself all alone
It was an uneventful day , a Tuesday . That meant two days until I was off . My work was almost an hour away so I had to leave early , catch the company bus at 6:50 AM and I would get to work by 8:30 AM.
It was a normal day and we started by drinking our morning tea . That was my second cup of tea . I smoked my first cigarette of the day with my tea . I love my cigarettes and my tea . My friend who has some relatives in England tells me that they drink tea with Lemon and even black tea . I cannot imagine how godawful tea would taste without milk and sugar .,the cardamom and ginger makes the tea delicious. I like my cigarettes strong and unfiltered . It is a perfect start for a day , strong syrupy milky tea and unfiltered cigarettes . After I finished , I went into the storehouse to procure parts that were supposedly faulty in the last batch of gears that had come from the machine shop . They had installed new lathes in the machine shop. I got the call when I was in the machine shop inspecting the lathe . It was my landlord . He called me to tell me that my wife had set herself on fire and they had called the hospital but the hospital insisted that they call the police first. I was stunned , she had been back for less than a week. I sat down in a chair in a daze , my friend had already talked to the neighbour and had started making arrangements with the boss to get a cab back to the city. The ride back was a blur , my co workers were trying to manage everything . I am overwhelmed with emotions , anger , hurt , shame, bafflement . Anger at my wife for doing this, anger at her parents , anger at my kids . I am in a predicament that I cannot see any way out . Who is going to help raise these kids ? If I stay at home taking care of them , how could I hold a job trying to play mommy . Who is going to take care of these kids? The hurt is overwhelming too , she essentially proved to me that me and my children were not worthy enough for her to stick around. I am going to have to live with the shame for the rest of my life .
I called up my wife’s best friend after we reached the city and told her to get the kids from school and get them to my mother’s house . I called up my mother and told her what had happened , after that I called up my brothers .
I had to go to the hospital first . They took me straight to the morgue . I had to identify her half charred remains . The upper part of her body was unidentifiable . The only identifiable item left was the necklace and the bangles . After identification of her body , I had to go to the police station along with the constable for their investigation . I come from a good family , we have never interacted with police . That was something that was exclusively reserved for low life and scumbags and I cannot believe that she had put me in this situation . Every moment stretched out to eternity and eternity poked back at me with worry and terror. The police asked me questions , they wanted to know if she was being tortured by me. My friends and neighbours had to vouch for me. They wanted to talk to her parents . I told them that they were in their hometown a 1000 miles away and gave them the phone number for my in laws . They promptly dialed my father in law and they were on the phone for a whole 3 minutes before hanging up . They told me that I could go and they will let me know if they needed me. They told me not to go out of town until I cleared it with them . My landlord who had called me on the phone , told me that what had alerted him was my wife screaming my son’s name . They had to break down the door to get inside . I would find out later that the Good Samaritan had also cleaned out the gold jewellery that was in the house.
My brother in law who lived a hundred miles away in the financial capital had come down to join me along with his brothers and cousins . I was later joined by my brothers . I called up my father in law and talked to him briefly , the man was sobbing uncontrollably . I hung up after he told me that he was on his way down . There was no direct flight, he would have to fly to the Financial capital and then take a train down . He would be here late in the afternoon . My brothers and brother in law started insisting that I needed to cremate the body . The son is supposed to be cremate the remains but he is too young and besides I could not bring myself to tell him that his mother was gone. I have no idea how to break the news to them , let alone tell my son that he had to cremate his mother.
Again it seemed as though my social circle took care of everything . One called up the crematorium to reserve the spots, the others started calling around relatives and before I knew it , I had already lit the funeral pyre of my dead wife . That evening , her parents and one of her brothers came down. My father in law was distraught and kept blaming my son’s exams for what happened . While it annoyed me , I also understand the reason , I am a believer in fate , I believe that whatever was ordained by destiny will come to pass but I also believe that if one can escape the god of death at the ordained hour then one is safe . The thing that struck me was that my wife had 9 siblings and only one of them had actually bothered to come down . But I had too many things to worry about so the apathy of my sibling in laws took a back seat , I had little idea that it would come back to haunt me as the years passed but right now my most pressing engagements , the death rites took up all my bandwidth .
I dont want to live with my mother and my siblings but I dont see a choice ahead , all I see is a bleak future ahead of me . A once joyous and happy family reduced to shades of ashen pallor by the one person who was meant to be my friend, my fellow traveler . My children’s life forever scarred by the vacuum left behind by their mother.
The only lesson that I have learnt from this is that suicide defies all the laws of the known universe , the guilt of the survivors explodes and multiplies as it touches more and more people .