The lobby was deserted. The automatic sliding doors of the entryway were locked. The Afterhours Exit is to your Left—a sign pointed toward the ER. I saw lights flashing outside and people running. Curious, I walked over to the doors. A helicopter had landed on top of the hospital. A few EMTs rushed out with a stretcher. I guessed they were ferrying someone to another facility. Someone very sick. It was one thirty in the morning. Just like babies, sickness too arrives unannounced. The thought left a bad taste in my mouth.
I turned to the vending machines and scanned the repertoire—chips, salted peanuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix, fat free popcorn, pretzels, power bars. They even had one dispensing hot sandwiches. Yuck!
I was engulfed by a sudden craving for homecooked food. Ruhi’s parathas; mom’s baingan bharta—If I closed my eyes, I could smell the aroma, almost. Mom–the word stirred a flurry of emotions. I felt my heart squeeze inside my chest. What would she be doing now, I wondered. Lunch would be almost over if things still operated as they did before. After I’d left home all those years ago. Of course they did. Why would anything change?
Did she still do the cooking, or had she handed over the reigns to my sister-in-law. I’d guess she had, she was too weak, too frail, too tired with the world. When was the last time I’d called her or even tried? Was she alive or dead? Had he finally succeeded in taking her life?
The little talk with Ruhi had scattered the cobwebs in my mind. The memories I thought I’d buried successfully were back yet again. Shiv Ahuja—the man responsible for fifty percent of my DNA, I loathed to think of him as anything more than that. He treated his family with the same arrogance and ruthlessness like he did the rest of the world.
His relationship with his wife, my mother, was a matter of convenience. It was an arrangement. That she remained with him was because she beget him two sons and absorbed his abuse like a sponge.
But then he didn’t spare his sons either. My elder brother and I bore it silently. It’s the weight we bear as children. It is our lot. We watch while our loved ones get tortured. We get beat up and cursed. We are reminded over and over how worthless we are and how nice it’d have been had we never been born. I bore the brunt of his savagery perhaps because I tried to protest. I tried to defend my mom, I tried to protect her. I even urged her to stand up to him. He didn’t like it. He didn’t spare any opportunity to take it out on me. She stood on the side, trembling like a mouse, muttering under her breath to let me go.
Why she sustained it was something I’d never figured out. Why his numerous, not so discreet liaisons, didn’t elicit a whisper from her mouth. I began to think she liked her role– of the abused and neglected wife and it irked me. It irked me more that he was proud of his indiscretions and even encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. He had no sense of morality—of right and wrong.
Morality is for sissies, he told me in not so many words and I was less of a man for falling in love with my wife. That had been our last meeting and I’d broke up with him for good.
“But you don’t get it do you Ruhi?” I sighed and dug into my pocket for my wallet. It slipped from my grasp and fell to the floor. A few coins raced in all directions. I stared at my left hand. It was still there, all the fingers looked intact. I could move them well. Then why were my ring finger and pinky numb? I pinched them together hard with my other hand and watched the pale flesh grow pink. I’m fine I told myself. I am fine. I’m a brand new father of a beautiful baby girl. I recalled the words I’d read in a fortune cookie once and laughed out loud. It made sense now–Peace comes after troubles. Have patience.
Do you like the story? Do you want me to continue? Let me know. Comment below.
PS: If you like this story and would like to know Shaan and Ruhi’s back story check out Inconvenient Relations and Now and Forever. Buy links here.