And so it will come to pass

The Mother

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

 

The 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

The Father

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 .

 

 

For the very first time

The Father

It was a cold December morning as we walked to the hospital . I was shaken to my core at what she had done , swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills and washing it down with insecticide . I am a good husband, a good father and yet she was willing to abandon me , my children …. her children, our children . Did she not realize what that would do to these young kids ? With morose thoughts, I walked taking my young son along to see his mother . We stopped by a bookstore , my son is a bookworm , takes after his mother . I bought him his favorite comics . Something to keep his mind occupied . I wondered what was going through that tiny mind , did he realize what his mother had done ? I wondered if I would have to deal with some long term damage to that tiny mind . I cannot imagine abandoning him and depriving him of my love and security and yet that is what she had done . Some boys gravitate towards their father, some towards their mother . I had gravitated towards my father but my son gravitated towards her . I imagine that is so because he is very similar to her ; overly sensitive , extremely imaginative and very emotional . He actually walked out of the house when he was barely six because he got mad at me for chiding him . His mother had to run after him and beg him to come back . I was stunned at the ego and pride that he displayed and have tried to be more sensitive to his needs but it has been a challenge for me. Looking back at my childhood, I don’t think I would have dared to walk out on my father. I don’t resent that he has gravitated towards her and I do realize that he would be far more devastated losing her than losing me so that leaves me pensive. We entered the hospital , nurses in white uniforms walking around with pads and trays made the place look alive and helped alleviate the sepulchral feeling.

Thankfully we had pumped her stomach and managed to save her but I wonder if he realizes that she was willing to abandon him, the apple of her eye. He is only seven but he is a very precocious seven . At the age of three , he could repeat things that teenagers would have struggled with. He also has a memory like a clap trap, one of the few things that he seems to have inherited from me so I wonder if this  will come back to haunt and torture him,my mind was in a jumble as I opened the door to her room. I watched them , mother and son , so alike ; along with my daughter , they are the most important people in my life but at that minute , I might as well have not existed . But she ignored him after the initial look and asked me some mundane questions about groceries . I realized she was making small talk so that she would not have meet his eyes . I answered her questions and  eventually she ran out of steam and turned to look at our son. His face broke into a grateful smile at her acknowledgement.My heart broke when I saw his smile of relief. How could anybody imagine abandoning this child ? I sank into the couch with the newspaper but I was watching both of them. He was saying something to hear that I could not hear and I saw her eyes tear up and she motioned for the glass of water that he helped to her lips . I could not hold my tears back any longer , I had to leave . I got up and asked her if she wanted tea , she mutely shook her head and I started to leave when she suggested that I take him along . I shook my head and ran outside so neither of them would have to see my tears .

The Son
I had some books to keep me busy in case things took too long at the hospital . My neighbours told me that my mother had swallowed some pills and insecticide . I was curious if she knew that she drank insecticide . I decided to smell it yesterday and almost gagged . It is a foul and disgusting smell . No wonder she was sick , I would be sick too ?
My thoughts abruptly came to an end when I came to the hospital , supposedly the place of my rebirth . I had been given up for dead and I was resurrected here . Perhaps some memory of that remains in my unconscious and I had developed a natural distaste for the place , more so than any other hospital that I have visited . Couple of years ago, my dad had taken me along to visit another hospital to see my new born baby sister , somehow that did not leave an unpleasant memory .  , I would have been happy to skip the whole thing but I wanted to see her . I quietly accompanied my father through the long  corridors lined with white doors . My father opened the door and went in and I followed him quietly . She was lying on the bed , looking pale . She seemed to ignore me and focused on talking to my dad. I stared at her closely. She had a gown on , not the nightgown that I was used to seeing her in but a white hospital gown . She had no jewellery on , not even her ear rings or bangles . As I looked at her hands , I could not help but notice the needles pocking into the back of her right hand and another on her arm . The lines from those needles went up to several different bags filled with liquids . The bags were  hanging from a metal pole with hooks that seemed specially designed for this purpose and these bags . The liquids looked colorless . I looked at the shiny steel and saw the reflection of the bags and looking closer at the reflection  , I caught her looking at me . I turned to her and smiled . At this point my father had sat down on the couch and started reading a newspaper that he had purchased from the bookstore . She asked me what I was holding in my hand , I handed her my comics. She took it from me with the left hand that was not riddled with needles and seemed to wince at the effort . I asked her if she was in pain , she looked at me and swallowed and averted her gaze from me again . She seemed to like the comic , she started turning the pages . She never reads these comics and she would always tell me that I should be reading books not comics. She has always been a fast reader , much faster than me . I was mildly jealous of that and had always tried to catch with her but miserably failing but at this instant I knew her well enough to know that she was not reading. Her mind was far away, racing towards some unknown destination . I wanted to ask her if she knew that she was drinking insecticide when she was drinking it , but my sensibilities would not permit me . She was silent for a long period and then she turned to me , her eyes glistened and she motioned for a glass of water which I handed to her but realizing that she probably could not reach, I held the glass to her mouth . She sipped the water gratefully and murmured thanks . My dad got up abruptly and brusquely asked my mother if she wanted tea, she shook her dad and he said he will be back. She murmured and asked him to take me along, he merely shook his head and walked out. I told her that my sister was silly , she was so attached to our neighbour’s cat that she did not want to come with us to visit mom. My mother simply smiled and I was suddenly relieved and happy.

The mother

I woke up on a cold December morning in a strange hospital bed . Somebody had undressed me and put on this flimsy hospital gown that made me feel overly self conscious. But it was not modesty that was not on my mind right now , I had vague memories of yesterday . I had started fainting yesterday morning and my husband had caught me before I hit the floor . My last memory was that of my young son looking at me as his father caught me , his look of concern and fright had etched itself in my mind . So what happened ? I had washed down about 15  sleeping pills with an industrial strength pesticide .  I wanted to be absolutely certain that I was going to go through with it . However the sleeping pills never seemed to kick in and I could not sleep a wink and next morning , I was groggy but awake . But my husband sensed something was wrong so he promptly sent word to his work that he would not be coming in . I sometimes wonder if I don’t do him justice  , the man can be thick but he has an intuitive understanding that can be quite alarming and at times flattering .  He helped get our son ready for school but before the kid ever set foot outside the door , I passed out as I mentioned earlier and he had caught me . He had got a cab and got me admitted to this hospital . This hospital brings back memories for me  , 7 years ago they had bought my infant son back from the dead , seems strange that this hospital has saved lives in my family twice and while I could not have been more delighted about saving my son’s life , this time around whilst saving me,  I am not so certain . I am more than a little embarrassed . There will be streams of people pouring in with wishes and I don’t really wish to indulge them and stoke their need for gossip and make myself an object of mockery . The anger inside me wells up and turns everything inside me putrid. It was a welcome relief to see my son this morning , his large brown eyes writ with concern . There was no judgement ,no expectations just pure unadulterated love , untainted by society and its traditions of poison and expectations. He is still innocent , unwary , trusts me completely , his world seems to revolve around me and his father . I do have a daughter as well but she is very young , just turned 2 a fortnight ago and while I do love her , she is too young to know . But it was too hard to keep looking into those brown eyes so I turned to his father and I asked him about the groceries and the laundry, anything to avoid looking into those large brown eyes on that tiny face but my heart was not in groceries . I had to look at him , I saw him looking at my saline bags and I wondered if he understood. The thought of him judging me was too terrifying to contemplate. He felt my gaze and turned around and grinned at me. The same grin , utterly devoid of any machinations , any motives just pure adulation. I asked him about his books and he handed me his comics and I turned the pages listlessly , all the while feeling his eyes on me. He asked me if the needles hurt and I choked but I did not want him to see so I motioned for the glass of water which he held out to be me but realizing that I could not reach with all my tubes, he held it to my lips which I sipped gratefully . My husband got up abruptly and asked if I wanted tea, he loves tea , strong and syrupy . I murmured no and he said he would be back soon . I asked him to take our boy along but he said he would be back in a flash and turned away and left the room but not before I caught the break in his voice and the tears in his eyes. This has been hard on him , it is a wonder he does not have a nervous breakdown but I know he is resilient.   I imagine that if I had succeeded ,my husband will probably marry again . My daughter is young enough that she will bond with her step mother easily. My son on the other hand,  I wonder if he would accept any other woman in my stead . But I have faith in him . He will get by fine without me ,  he is a strong boy , he is sensitive and emotional like me but he also has his father’s resilience and strength . My sense of grief is too overwhelming for me . I have suffered too much loss for one lifetime , the world is just ugly shades of grey and I don’t feel wanted or needed nor can I trust anybody.  I just want it to end , once and for all . They have managed to save me this time but I am persistent, I will succeed…