Dr. Mehnaaz curves her lips into a measured smile, and looks at me. I sip my coffee and let a sigh out. Taking a deep breath, I start speaking.
20 years earlier.
I'm sitting in a corner of the room, my legs folded into my stomach, hands around them. My hair is tied in a bun, mommy tied it. I'm horrified at the sight, my daddy is hitting my mommy, and she’s lying on the floor, blood spilling out from her left eyebrow. He hits her a lot. It's a routine.
After some time, daddy goes out of the house, angrily. I just look at him as he goes; I wonder why he's so furious. As soon as he shuts the door, mommy gets up and wipes her face with the loose end of her saree. Her bangles make a clinking sound, and that calms me down somehow. I take deep breaths as she comes near me. I know what she's gonna say.
"Vanu," as she always calls me, "Your daddy's a good human being. He just gets angry a lot. Don't worry for me, I'm good. I understand that he gets furious sometimes, and hurts me, but if I won't understand him, then who will?"
I can play the sound of her voice in my head, I'm a mere six year old, but I can. I think I'm mature enough in this tender age, and as a habit now, I've come to hate my daddy. He's a monster, I know he makes mistakes, and my mommy covers them for him. Mommy's the best. She comes and sits beside me. I don't realize but I'm crying, too. She wipes away my tears, and hugs me. I think that I know what she's gonna say, but today, she speaks differently. Her eyes seem smaller than usual, she's afraid of daddy.
"At times in life, you face difficulties. You think you'll get over them, you think you'll try hard and be enough. Life keeps offering hard times to you, but you can't give up. Not because you don't want to, but because you've come so far trying to get over it, that you cannot turn back now. Always remember one thing in life, don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it."
Her words keep spinning in my head. I try to make sense out of it, but fail. I don't know why she said that. Maybe she’s covering up for Daddy again. But she didn’t sound like that. She didn’t sound usual. She gets up and goes inside and soon gets busy with the household chores.
Dr. Mehnaaz is folding her hands, and listening to me carefully. I stop to breathe; getting those images in front of my eyes still makes me restless. I stand up, and walk around the table for a bit. Dr. Mehnaaz doesn't ask me to sit and talk, only. I like that about her, she's cool. She doesn't force me to do anything. She lets me take my time.
It's 3.57 pm, around an hour since I came. I've never been this comfortable around a doctor, but it's different with Dr. Mehnaaz. She doesn't seem like a doctor; I can tell from the time I have spent with her, she's a good person. I don't know her story, but she's a good person. I suddenly notice that we're wearing the same ring. I raise my hand and show it to her. She smiles.
I sit back again, and place my hands on the table. She keeps her hand over mine, and assures me that I can speak. She's there to listen. I blink, as if saying a yes. I continue.
20 years earlier.
It’s Thursday today, daddy will take mommy to the temple. That’s a chance for me to go and play out with my friends. Normally, daddy doesn’t let me go out. Nor mommy. Thursday is the day of the week we look forward to.
Soon, daddy comes home. Mommy’s ready, she’s always loved temples, and the serenity therein. She’s looking nice today, my beautiful mommy. As soon as daddy comes home, she hands him a glass of water. Daddy’s imbalanced, his steps are crooked and gnarled, and it doesn’t take mommy much to realize that he’s drunk again. Again.
Mommy says that she’d to go to the temple, but daddy grabs her hand. She tries to free herself, but daddy’s strong. His grip is firm. He doesn’t let her go, rather he takes her to the bedroom, and she starts screaming in pain. I don’t know what happens in there. Most of the times, mommy’s moaning, crying in pain and all I can do is hear her screams. I’m prohibited to go inside.
I sit in my corner, that’s my usual place. I wonder if our neighbours don’t hear my mommy’s screams. I wonder why they don’t save her from daddy. I clutch my frock, and close my eyes. So many screams.
After some time, daddy comes out, adjusting his clothes. He’s drenching in his sweat. I get up to go inside, but daddy asks me to wait. Mommy comes out in a minute or so.
I hug mommy, and daddy leaves again. I wonder where he goes. Mommy takes me and sits on the sofa. She’s gonna say something to me. I can read that in her eyes, her actions. It is as if she’s measuring the words she’s going to say, so as to have a greater impact on me. She’s thinking about which words to emphasize, which words to speak aloud and which to whisper. She wants me to understand, learn and inculcate certain things. I know that.
“Vanu,” she begins, “what do you want to be, when you grow up?”
She’s asked me this question millions of times before, and I know what answer she expects, exactly. “I want to be happy.” I mumble.
“Right, and do you think I’m happy?” Another question. What am I supposed to answer to this, yes or no, I know she’s got something to say ahead. I say nothing.
“Listen carefully,” she says, “YOU are important. No matter what relationship you build in future, you always remain constant. People come and go; but all you need to know is that you cannot please everyone. Learn to value yourself. Keep your happiness above everyone else’s. Be who you are, always. Always. Never give yourself too much, learn to love yourself. Think for yourself and your happiness, I repeat, your happiness.”
She again disappears into the kitchen. I cannot comprehend why she talks in puzzles, maybe I’ll understand later in life. Right now, all I know is she was talking about her, daddy and their relationship.
Dr. Mehnaaz speaks the first time since I’ve started speaking. Her voice is soothing, too.
“So, there were issues between your mom and dad, their marriage was a problem. And every unsuccessful marriage has an impact on the kids.” She says, more to herself.
“Yes, mommy and daddy always argued, daddy always hit mom, until that day...”
Eighteen years earlier.
I'm sitting in the same corner, this time more horrified than ever. I can't breathe, I can't see clearly. I feel nauseous. I knuckle, sweat beads forming on my forehead. I want to scream, but my voice doesn't come out. My heart is pounding, clearly audible to me. I'm holding my doll, tightly, and my breaths become heavier and heavier. Daddy's hitting mommy again, but it's different this time. A rage has taken over him; he's not stopping at all. I'd run to stop him, but he pushed me away with a slap. His hand is hard; my head hit the corner of the table. I'm bleeding, too. The doll I'm holding is wet now, I'm sweating so much. My vision is blurring more and more with every passing second, and before I realize, I faint.
When I wake up, daddy's nowhere to be seen. Mommy's lying on the floor, bleeding from her stomach. I'm afraid to go near her; I'm afraid daddy will come back and hit me, too. I stay in the corner for indefinite time.
A few days later, the house's stinking, a rotting smell is in the air. Mommy's still lying on the floor, unmoved. I think she's dead. Daddy didn't return. Whenever hungry, I ate whatever was in the house, but that seems to have finished by now. There's nothing to eat, I’m starving.
Occasionally, people banged the door of our house, I think because of the smell, but I never dared to open it. What if daddy came back? He’d kill me, too. This thought kept me from going out, and letting anybody in. Seeing mommy lifeless makes me cry all the time, but I’m afraid to go near her.
I want her to get up, and talk to me, but it is been so many days now, I’ve understood that she’s not getting up, ever. I’m lost in my thoughts when the door bangs again. I’m startled, but I don’t move to open it.
What if daddy’s back?
I’m terrorized. I go and sit under the bed, when the person banging the door breaks in. There are four men, and a woman. All dressed in khaki coloured uniforms. They’re the police, I guess. The neighbours would’ve called them. I still don’t trust anybody. I still don’t move.
They come near the body and start examining it. They’re searching in the house, and involuntarily, I cough. They hear me, and everybody starts looking for me, and after a while, one of the inspectors bend down to see beneath the bed where I’m hiding, and finds me. He takes me out, gives me water, and asks my name.
“Did you see who killed her? Do you know anything, beta?”
“D-d-daddy.” I say.
Dr. Mehnaaz is visibly shocked. She clutches my hand and closes her eyes, as if assuring me. I smile.
“So, is this it? Is this why you’re so disturbed?”
“Yes,” I say, “and Kartik.”
“Who’s Kartik?” She asks.
Till then, we see Amrita coming towards us. She’s smiling and waving, and I wave back, too. She comes and sits with us. Smiling at Dr. Mehnaaz, she asks me about how it went, the session. I smile and say well.
“So, Shivani, I’ll see you on Wednesday, same time, same place. See you. We’ll talk about Kartik.” She says, and gets up to leave. Amrita and I stay back for yet another round of coffee, while I see her going, adjusting her hair.
“We’ll talk about Kartik.” It keeps spinning in my head.
P.s. Stay tuned for the next part, to find out what role Kartik has to play in Shivani's life. Be in touch. Love.
Hey apurva ...ReplyDelete
It's a tremendous job.
Really, a person needs a lot courage to write sequels.
Infact, I lack that spirit to continue a story.
All the best and I wish more power to your pen.
You write flawlessly.
Beautifully written...sorry, it took me ages to respond.. I cant express my feelings.. I can understand the pain of losing mother and the trauma the girl faced.. KMU..ReplyDelete