My Nani (grandma) told me the following story when I was a kid. Dunno why it just remained in my heart...and then I wrote it in college for a class assignment. Not wanting to let it remain in those pages forever, I’ve published it on my blog! Read it…
An old woman is sitting on a bed. She is dressed in a white sari, brown with dirt. Her hair is a combination of black and white, and is so unkempt; it would be difficult to imagine she had ever combed it. Her eyes are sunken in their sockets and she has dark circles under them. Her face is devoid of happiness and laughter. All one can see is shriveled up skin, bathed in gloom and despair.
Her face is expressionless as she looks around her 8x8 dark windowless room. Her gaze rests on the iron trunk beside the door. She gets up with a great effort and walks towards it. Sighing softly she opens it and takes out a black and white picture of a young couple with a little child. She is holding the picture in her hand, kneeling in front of the trunk, when without warning the door of her room flies open. A little girl of about 3 walks in; she has a very cherubic face, full of life. The contrast between the two is glaringly obvious. Dressed in a pink frock with sequins she looks very adorable.
As the door opens, the woman’s attention is diverted from the picture. She hears a lot of noise coming from outside, of people laughing and talking, and loud music. The girl shuts the door and sits beside her, looking at her with love. She looks at the girl with a mixed expression of joy and trepidation. “You shouldn’t have come here Ritu. If Amar and Reena find out…” she says.
Don’t worry Dadi, mom and dad are busy partying. They won’t know. I just came to say goodnight. Oh! Goodnight then sweetheart says the old lady. Ritu kisses her grandma on the left cheek and leaves, shutting the door behind her. Sounds waft in momentarily on opening the door, and die down the minute it shuts.
For some time the woman sits in silence by her trunk, then she clutches her stomach tenderly and groans. She’s hungry; the anguish reflecting on her face. She rests her head against the wall, shuts her eyes and goes into a flashback…Amar is yelling at her. “So what if Reena scolded Ritu. She is our daughter. Why can’t you just mind your own business?” Another memory comes to mind, that of Reena reprimanding Ritu for sitting in her grandma’s lap…
With a start the woman comes back to the present world. She gets up with difficulty and opens the door. Slowly, very slowly she peers out, checking if anyone’s around. Making sure that the coast is clear she creeps out.
She goes to the kitchen and is looking around the room. It is huge, at least 5 times bigger than her room; has a high ceiling, a microwave on top of a cabinet, an OTG; the mixie rests on the kitchen counter beside the juicer. She seems disappointed and turns to go, when as if struck by a sudden thought she opens the door at the other end of the kitchen and walks out.
She is standing in the backyard, complete with several potted plants and a little pool. It would have been pitch dark, if the neighbours had not left the lights on. She takes a few steps uncertainly towards a huge pile of plates and forks. After ensuring that there is no one around, she sits down by the stack and starts eating whatever food is left in the plate hungrily.
Just as she is reaching for a plate a shadow falls on her. Startled she looks back and sees a very confused Ritu standing there. The woman is terrified. Without uttering a word, Ritu joins her grandma in eating, smiling serenely and looking at her with love.
“Ritu, where are you?” comes Amar’s voice. Before she can move her dad materializes in front of her. His eyes take in the scene and his face is filled with remorse and understanding…