This story i will dedicate to a friend who has been there for me through thick and thin, one who has clipped my wings when i was flying too high and reminded me of my wings when i was falling down. if true frienships are bliss, then i am certainly blessed.
Thanks a lot for what you are, angel.
Eleven springs old.
“Hello. Is this Mrs Saakshaat speaking??”
“ I am your daughter Misti’s class teacher. I am afraid we have difficulties in promoting Misti to the next class. She scored just thirteen out of hundred in her maths paper this annual exam. We are arranging a re-examination for her coming Monday. I hope you will prepare her for the test.”
A hiccough was sordid response to this news.
“hmmmm… Maths has always been a problem for her. Though I assure she will score better this time”
The call was hung up. Mithya took to closing her eyes for a moment. The class teacher did not know what Misti had been through. She looked at the clock, and was rather surprised to see what time it showed.
Mithya called out, “Misti… come quick. Nani will be waiting”
“Should not have married him in the first place”, a voice bellowed through the corridor outside.
“He was never yours”, Mrs Sen continued, “I still do not understand how you fell for him… what troubled waters have you sunk your life in??” she paused, perhaps one of those moments when she would gesticulate to emphasise what she was about to say. ”see… Mithya.. I know it not how to make you understand… but beta… he was a fraud”
“NO MUMMY! He was a magician… a skilled magician.” The more familiar voice replied. Soft. Very sweet. Defiant. “And he was the best magician in the country”
“He did magic on you…”
“No one in the world could contest him in his disappearing acts”
“And what a disappearing act he performed. He disappeared from your life”
“HE DIED, MOM!!!” Mithya shouted.
A pause followed.
The cry echoed in the big, great house. Mithya sniffled. This used to be her house once. Lovely childhood memories hooked to the objects that surrounded them. But life had changed. That was then. This was the present.
The sole listener to this conversation was eleven year old Misti. She stood by the window looking out to the garden. The dissuading conversation had again started, as it did every time she visited grandma!
Mrs Sen continued, now in a very grave voice, almost a whisper,” Mithya.. beta I do not intend to make your life worse than it already is… but think of the child… Misti needs a better environment. She needs to go to a better school than the one you teach in… look…”
A hush followed, and Mrs Sen entered the room with Mithya by her side.
“…at her. She needs a better growing environment. Please make your mind beta… your father wants you here. He really loves you”
Mithya walked over to the window and put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. Misti was shaking. She looked up with eyes that sparkled, a distorted image of her mother reflected in them.
“All Misti needs to grow up is my love and your blessings mom. She has her dad’s sharpness. She does not need flat screen television or air conditioned rooms. Her father had a dream of a house for her. It’s my responsibility to keep it alive. And all that she requires… is love”, Mithya said as she stooped to kiss Misti on the forehead. Any they both walked off.
Two roomed flat. Numbered furniture.
A bed occupied most of the space in the room. The roof was slightly blackened by the soot that rose from regular burning of incense sticks. Clothes were kept in wooden racks, properly folded and adjusted. Old mended chair was adjacent to an old table. Not-so-bright table cloth, perhaps due to the number of times it had been washed. An old bookshelf, books stacked in it in a very proper manner.
A slight look on the floor might not have caused much thought; however, a closer inspection would yield evidences screaming the hard work of someone. It was not exactly a fully furnished floor. No. No marble finish, nor even the flat, smooth, cemented look. Rather, it was those unfinished rough cemented surfaces that are generated midway during the making of a fully furnished floor. It seemed the floor-making process had been stopped midway.
And someone had softened that rough cemented surface almost horizontal by constant washing of the floor. By continual hand washing through the years someone had managed to flatten rough cemented chips.
There was a small section dedicated to the supreme. Small idols covered in red cloth adorned the corner, with a stack of small envelops by the side. A child’s handwriting read, “I love you, Bhagwaan Jee”, on one of the envelope.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the room was a life size portrait of a smiling man, in his early twenties. He wore strange attire and his smile was infectious. A black suit with a overcoat that touched his knees, he seemed some kind of showman. The garland of flowers and a small candle burning at the base were enough to say that the man was no more. The portrait was clean and kempt, as it was talked to everyday.
The room had two occupants who sat in front of the deities, praying.
“Will you please get me the incense sticks beta?? “, Mithya whispered into the ears of the girl sitting in her lap.
Misti stood up and hushed to the other room.
A scurrying sound followed by a hustle and steel hitting wood was heard. Perhaps a glass of water had been disturbed carelessly and spilled over.
Misti entered the room, walking slowly, skulking actually. “Mama… I was taking out the incense sticks and… and by mistake I spilled water all over them”, she said, spreading out three incense sticks in her little fingers, “I am sorry mumma… you can’t light them now!”
Mithya turned around, had a detailed look, and her gaze stayed for a while on Misti’s expression, and she smiled, “oh come on beta… over here, yes”, she said, as she took the soaked incense sticks from Misti’s hands, “ bhagwaan jee will take care”.
And as Misti looked on… Mithya tried to ignite them.
First attempt. No success.
Misti shivered unconsciously as next two efforts also went in vain. “mamma, they will not burn. Am sorry mumma… I am really sorry.”
Mithya smiled as she rubbed the match one more time. The spark flashed, the fire growled, and to Misti’s amazement, this time Mithya was successful. A holy smell spread through the room as Misti looked on, bewildered.
Mithya kept smiling, “I told you bhagwaan jee takes care”.
Misti seemed restless, and after a few moments of thought, said, “ but mama… if Bhagwaan jee takes care why is papa not with us??”
“Cause papa is up there with bhagwaan jee, doing his magic.”
“But Nani says he was a fraud. Why? Nani says he disappeared from your life. how??”
Mithya took a deep breath. Misti was growing up. Her questions were getting persistent and deep.
“Saakshaat… your father… was no common man. People called it magic, he called it art. If they said it was magic, yes, he was a magician… his magic was love. And his last trick…”, Mithya kissed Misti on her head, “…were you.”
“But why did he disappear?”, Misti repeated.
“No he did not. If he had disappeared, he would have come back, as he did everytime. That day… before you were born, when he attempted his most ambitious trick in the middle of the ocean, there came a hurdle which he had not foreseen. He got himself chained up and the ends of the chain were locked by a lock. He was then locked in a crest and thrown into the river. The trick was that he would unlock the lock, unchain himself, open the box and come back to surface and be greeted to applause by the boarders of the ship, as he was after each of his disappearing acts. It never took him more than a minute. That day… that time.. five minutes passed… then an hour. He did not appear, and we sent people looking for him. But they did not find him. Not even the crest. There was a huge underwater current that day, and it led his crest to an underwater trench nearby”.
Misti’s eyes sparkled in the dim light as tears emerged on the edges of her beautiful eyelashes.
“They never found him. No sign. Nothing , Mithya whimpered.
A long silence followed.
“And he was a proud man. He had a dream of the future, of a home.. of you”, Mithya paused to hug Misti, “and today… you and I are that dream. This home is that dream. we must carry this dream forward… as he always said, the show must go on”
And with this the final silence fell in that room. it was broken by occasional sobs. But the air was heavy to breathe in.
The man in the painting did not move. He had been dead for eleven years.
Raindrops. Incessant, vile raindrops.
The afternoon wore a shroud of grey clouds as rain pummelled the earth below. With the raindrops came down despair on two souls… on THE two souls. The umbrella only saved them from the rain, not the tragedy that had struck them then.
The two souls stood outside a two roomed flat. OUTSIDE. The smaller of the two clung on to the hand of the other. There was something that was heavy in the air. The rain did not seem pleasant.
Mithya’s cheeks were marked by the trail of tears that flowed down from her eyes. She felt helpless, broken. It seemed something inside her was breaking. In bits and in pieces she stood there, as Misti sobbed vehemently.
“Mumma… I want. I want to go in. I want to sleep in my bed mumma… sob… sob… mumma I want…”, Misti kept crying, “why isn’t bhagwaan jee taking care???”
Mithya stood silent. She had no answer to Misti’s query.
They could not go in the flat… in the home… in their dream house. Cause there hung a big lock on their familiar door. There also was an eviction notice pasted with it.
“in regard to the due payments of the loan sanctioned from the bank…..”
The silence in the lodge was lipid. Scourging smell of moist walls and ran through the air. One room in the whole lodge was different though. The same incense sticks that once enthused the two roomed flat a week ago were flinging off the moist smell outside.
The luggage was still packed in bags, as if the stay in the room was temporary. Or perhaps the one to whom it belonged to did not feel at home in the room, and hence had decided not to unpack.This small room that Misti and Mithya had occupied since the eviction was in no way comforting. But at least it was a shelter where she could look herself in the eye through the mirror.
Eleven years ago when she and Saakshaat got married against her parents’ wishes, she had sworn to ever live in a house of her own.But every dream she had had, was now down the drain. The almighty had tested and wasted her will, and scarred her heart. The loss of Saakshaat was still alive fresh and perhaps it may never heal. Mithya had found a reason to smile through Misti’s eyes. She looked around and found her asleep on the only bed in the room, her school bag as her pillow. She had been studying relentless for her math exam. It had come and gone, but she had not told Mithya a word about it.
Mithya looked up, a tear rolled down her cheeks.
“ oh.. Saakshaat… your girl finds it tough to carry on. I have tried. And I have lived with pride. With your name, your memories, your ethics, I have stood thorough the years, relentless, defending our love… your love and you.”
Another tear scrambled down her cheeks. “But the higher powers have tested me again and again… now the bliss seems to be fading into nothingness… the only thing that we both had ever dreamt of, ever, was a home for our child… and I am sorry, I have failed to fulfil that dream… I am sorry Saakshaat”
Despondence rode into her veins as tears did not stop. Ever since the eviction, Mithya had tried not to breakdown. Not to panic or cry. But it was not happening. The pain was ever lasting. As a lady she once had everything a lady ever wants… she had the best man in the world, she had a home and she had a sweet daughter… but the heavens seemed to be squarely unfair to her, as it was all taken away.
The silence was loud, and screaming. There was grief in the air. Hopelessness seared through Mithya’s heart as she shook with sobs. The walls were all empty and conversations with god were unyielding. Maybe it was that talking to Saakshaat that had kept her moving through the years, even though he was long since gone and could not reply her anymore, though she was sure he listened to those one sided conversations.
Misti turned over in sleep and her schoolbag toppled over the bed. Few copies and a report card came sliding out of it. Mithya stooped to pick them up and while putting them back in the bag, her attention was arrested by the report card.
She opened it, wearingly, and her eyes immediately rested on the red mark on the box that followed the subject Math. Initially it was marked three. But an editing had been done over it, and now in red ink it read hundred out of hundred!
A tear fell on the report card.
God has a million ways to send hope to those he cares for.
This time it was an eleven springs old.