The whimper began.
“Oh, no..please no. God, I will break coconut as an offering to you. Let her sleep. I need some rest. God, please.” She tried to make a pact with God is the only style she knew, the ever- prevalent barter system. It made for thriving business at places of worship.
The tally of coconuts to be offered at the temple seems to have reached a dozen or more. She was yet to honor the commitment but then God had no business expecting her side of the contract to be honored when he had not offered a single solution to her myriad problems. Truth be told, the solution he had to offer frightened her more than the problems for there was an inevitability about that, which left her more bereft.
After a few minutes of blessed silence and just as she was settling down more comfortably on the sofa, the whimper turned into a full-throated bellow. Sobbing, she ran, tripped over her nightie, and hoped that she could pick the baby up before…..
“Anu…Anu..come here please.” The querulous cry of her mother enveloped her in helpless despair. “Give me something, anything for this pain. Please sit by my side.” Her mother’s plea made her feel helpless and closer to tears than ever before. It was past midnight before the baby settled in its crib and her mother fell into a fitful, morphine-induced slumber moaning in her sleep. The pain of the dying couldn’t be completely obliterated by drugs.
Feeling dejected and depressed, Anu wondered, how long could she carry on like this?
Her husband had not yet returned from office. Citing long hours, she knew he avoided coming home. She had called him a few hours before, only to hear; “It will take time. It’s more peaceful here than coming home! Moreover, I have to earn for four.” He had thrust the knife deep and twisted it to ensure that it hurt the most. Her home was falling apart and she couldn’t do much.
She was exhausted and the finances were stretched to the limits. Taking care of a fretful infant and a mother who was succumbing to cancer wasn’t easy. Her mother had been far from the helpless woman, she was today. Her father had died on the morning of her most prestigious, competitive examination needed to seek admission into one of the engineering colleges in her state. Her strong mother had set aside her grief and faced the censure of all, only to send her off with a wish and a blessing. It was only after the very successful test, she was informed of the loss.
Her mother had taken the mantle of educating her and making her independent despite the hardships. She gave her retirement benefits to her daughter and son-in-law so that they could buy a house for themselves. She had made her home with them and had been of great help throughout. Anu was into the second trimester of her pregnancy when her mother was diagnosed with metastasis in its final stages and she had to quit the job to take care of her mother. As the caregiving and child-rearing turned expensive and enervating, her husband became more and more irritated and indifferent. Moreover, Anu was in no mood to take on the role of a wife and was in the ubiquitous housecoat having no energy left to change and that added to her husband’s grouse. She now saw the selfish side of him. He conveniently forgot about the contribution of his mother-in-law towards the purchase of his house but kept cribbing about the money that he had to spend on both the baby and the ailing mother-in-law. How could she have made such a monumental mistake in choosing this man as a husband? When she had brought him home claiming him to be the ‘ideal man’ for her; her mother had embraced her choice. If she had any reservations, she never let them know. He was turning to be a total jerk, yet she needed him for the money. Deprived of sleep, her tired ears and brains played tricks. She walked from the crib to the sickbed hearing the voice of the baby or the mother calling out to her.
The roar in the head of one caught between a rock and a hard place, unable to find a way out of the maze troubled her. She wanted to sleep, she wanted to rest, she wanted to support and yet there were only screams of resentment from the only adult who could give her a shoulder to lean on. Relatives had the penchant of ‘doing an eel’ when there was unpleasantness all around. Moreover, being an only child, she was truly alone.
Give it all up!
She sat up. Where did the words come from? Exhausted, sleep-deprived with no sign of light at the end of the dark tunnel, she walked to the tiny balcony of her fourth-floor apartment.
The doorbell pealed!