|Celebration of love|
|A Slice of Sun|
|This was the third time Shomita heard her mother scream. It was nearly bringing the house down but everybody by now had learnt to take it in his or her stride. Nobody paid much attention to her abusive torrent of words and did the needful only when they felt inclined. "Pathetic!" thought Shomita.
An invalid in the house was a means for others to show their martyrdom in the beginning, later on, only a trap making them look like pinned butterflies on the wall in a beautiful casing.
She got up from her reading of the latest novel ''Listening Now'' by Anjana Appachana reluctantly. An appalling stench greeted her as she approached Shubhashini's antique four-poster. ''What's the matter?", she said in her steely voice betraying no emotion. "What's the noise all about?'' Shubhashini had got the cue. She rattled off. ''It's noise for the likes of you, yourself, your scatterbrained aunt and that lecherous new girl what's her name I forget All the same and I have to depend on all of you. I just want to be turned to the other side. The bed's wet and look at her --------standing at the window trying to woo her visitors, I think. What a household! May God never give anyone a family like this and make anyone as helpless as me!"
"So why didn't you ring the bedside bell? You know I'd come anyway." gasped Shomita with the effort of turning the heavy frame of her mother to the other side. Spraying powder generously to keep the bed sores at bay she tenderly removed the bed sheet and the plastic sheet from underneath her mother and looked at Trina's expressionless face. Trina had suddenly torn herself away from the window sensing the hullabaloo for the first time. She took the soiled linen for washing as quietly as she had been standing through Shubhashini's expression of helpless rage.
Trina was new to them and so were they for her. Poor wisp of a girl; only fifteen and she'd seen the world only with its warts. The beauty, the tenderness of life would probably always elude her.
Shomita now felt that Shukla Pishi had perhaps done the right thing. A fortnight back, though, when Trina stood at the front door with a bruised, battered face with huge fearful eyes darting from side to side like a frightened deer trying to sense danger, her blouse held together with safety pins, her skirt torn, muddy, her hair straggly, brown, hanging limply, Shomita had been surprised and annoyed.
Another unpredictable, absurd move by Pishi. The victim of repeated physical assaults by unknown shadows of her bustee which hid criminals and crime in its filthy bosom, a teenager just released from police custody after the initial enquiry and almost fainting of hunger --- would this be her home?
''Why did you bring her here now; Pishi?'' Shomita asked as if it were a routine question to ask for a member of the house. But she knew that Shukla Pishi would offer no explanation; she was impenetrable when it came to issues such as these. These were too close to her heart to bother about people's rights or feelings or even resentment. Immediately she would raise a wall and would make no effort to remove it. It was her armour without a chink. The house, after all, was as much hers, as much as her niece's.''Till I make the necessary arrangements with a ''home'', she'll be here''. Pishi's social-activist voice with its note of finality, of course, could not be contradicted or challenged.
That night had been an awful one. Trina screamed all night. She tried to jump out of their first floor balcony and woke up the neighbours. The morning had seen her throwing up every hour and Pishi thinking it had something to do with brain damage had rushed her to Dr Palit, their next door neighbour.
Shomita's worst fears were confirmed that day. Trina, a child herself, was carriying another child in her womb. She had no idea of what a mother was; she had never had one to care for her. Her father had promptly remarried when her mother died and she was born. And then man and wife sold her off for a pittance the moment they felt men could be interested in her. Trina had no home, no blood ties and here was one who was being tied to her through the umbilical cord for life.
The cord, of course had to he snapped and Pishi went about this serious business with practicality and efficiency that belied her puny five-feet-frame of sixty-one years. In the last year after her retirement from active govt. service her zeal had almost doubled.
Thirty years back, the same soft-spoken firebrand had separated from her husband of five years only because he had objected to her bringing home a seven year old orphan boy from her office canteen without his consent. Pishey- moshai had of course relented, asked for forgiveness a million times and had even agreed to educate him, but Pishi claimed she had seen through his undeveloped soul. She had returned with the boy to her brother's house. Although the next morning the wide-open front door had a separate story to tell. The canteen boy had run away with a rich booty of their tape recorder, money from Baba's trouser pockets, ma's wristwatch from the dressing table and Pishi's gold earrings (left carelessly on the basin in the bathroom). Shukla Pishi had remained unfazed.
Bijoy Pishey took a rented flat close by, kept calling up now and then and Pishi kept smiling away her gullibility. But she never returned to the four walls of the man with a dark soul. For the last thirty years Bijoy Pishey had spared no efforts to whiten his soul by helping her out in all her altruistic projects, his Einstein-like-moustache quivering with inexpressible emotion every time there was a call from her! He felt like a god then. None of them had remarried. Another union between them or with someone else was a sacrilege. Divorce was a blasphemy.
Everyone at first had indulgently looked at the curious arrangement as a joke but gradually got reconciled to the show as an expression of two equally scatterbrained people brought together by a strange stroke of providence.
Trina was again at the window; gaping at the sky with unseeing eyes. It would be hours before she would be dragged from her post with Shomita's and Pishi's concerted efforts to bathe, to comb, to eat. But neither a word, nor a smile ever came from this lonely waif. It was as if she had been sucked dry of her lifeblood. Her large vacuous eyes almost entreated you to set her free, free from this life - a cross she was bearing - to embrace that great escape from which none returns.
The sunbeams filtered through the grill in the window and reached Shubhashini's pain-filled face every morning. The moonlight cast a silver shadow in the corners of the room where Trina slept every night but she remained awake, watchful, waiting. Waiting for what? Shomita did not find an answer. All through the night Shubhasini would shower her daughter with curses for being a woman and a widow. Trina's silence would echo in the room, in the corridor, the whole house like a heavy pillow on one's face, claustrophobic, stifling. She had suffered from high fever and delirious nights leaving Pishi undecided about her joining a "home". A soft, tender, affectionate arm caressed her burning, tiny abused body night after night; Pishi prayed and cried by her side.
Suddenly, very suddenly, Shukla Pishi burst into the room with Bijoy Pishey in an embrace that nearly knocked Shomita down with surprise. Even Trina looked with wonder-filled eyes.
"We've decided to adopt Trina; Shomita. What do you think your mother will say?" Pishi said sheepishly winking away a teardrop.
"Ma? Ma wouldn't call you a scatterbrain anymore".
Near the window Bijoy Pishey's reassuring caress brought a slice of sun on Trina's face; old with suffering.