A bird could be heard chirping excitedly, perched on a branch in the courtyard.
The water was gushing out of the tap to an overflowing bucket. The pot of tea was whistling incessantly. Shama rushed to open the shutter to an irritated milkman.
The newspaper was lying behind the open door. She picked it up to get back to her work.
Her eyes were burning, each part of the body was seeking comfort, one soft cushion, a quilt to swathe her, or just five minutes of peace where she could cease to exist. It had been three days of sleepless writing. Although it had provided much turmoil for her grey matter thinking, enough to pen down the best of her frustrated thoughts, but it had also created a rift in her body and her will.
The story was still incomplete yearning for an end, much in the same way as her. Shama got up suddenly, rushing towards the pot. Thankfully she had had only a hall for a home; demarcation with walls would be too cumbersome, too time consuming.
From the kitchen window she looked outside. At a distance kids were rushing towards a waiting school bus, waiving fervently towards their concerned mothers.
Her schooling had been a tragedy. She had not wished to leave home although that had been one place which she had most detested. Probably then, her whole life had to be like this, where she happened to loathe potential recluse and imbibe herself in the seeming comforts of an ill-fated life.
As she sat in front of the screen once again, she wondered why she was doing this to herself.
After all had she not been fired from her job in wake of lack of interest as well as efforts that were meager owing to the present turmoil? Her life was being consumed in something of a black-hole of empty spaces and vacuum.
She had wanted to be on her own, to shove the world around. People had been a menace; she could not bear the torture of introspection of her world, her life, her acts, her words, her attitude or her presence. The axiom of man being a social animal had been true in her case too, but the concept was just too utopian. There were times when she would be harsher on herself, much more than what the society could ever be.
It had been this speculating analysis of others versus her when it came to seeking shelter which left her more bemused. She had been living on the edges of tragedy ever since she could remember. As a result her life was a constant struggle with intermittent seconds of joy which had been forced by her mind as a defense system to her anxieties. She wished for a dead mind. Then, she would not have to contemplate on anything, her blessings, the everlasting gloom nor life itself.
Shama poured out her cries in her writings. Those were her only attempts at seeking comfort. But most of what she wrote was never advanced for the public and the little which she did allow to be delivered out of the domain of her own reach was highly complicated and confusing.
Taking a sip from the glass, she wondered whether access tea could ever kill someone. She laughed mockingly. Perhaps destiny would have a strange way of introducing her to readers, making her name appear in headlines across national newspapers with the following caption adduced to a naked body lying on the floor,
“Naked girl found dead owing to tea overdose.”
She even figured out what the news item would read.
“Yesterday the body of a girl was found lying naked in her home. She was a resident of a rather peculiar showroom which had apparently been bequeathed to her by the deceased father. While neighbors are certain of the case being one of suicide, police is still investigating into the causes. Talking to one of the high officials who are in charge of the case, our correspondent found out that they are not over-ruling murder or even rape. Most of those who live in the society have divulged that she might have been a lunatic. It is said that she never appeared in public except for the monthly round that she made to the shops nearby in order to buy huge bags of tea. Once or twice she was also seen at the grocers buying vegetable that would not last more than a week. These estranged visits to the grocery were witnessed every six months. Some even speculate that she might have had a job sometime ago. Even at those times, the girl who was in her twenties dressed more than what was required, covering herself from head to toe. This revelation seems rather interesting and peculiar to the way in which her naked body was found.”
Shama would not let her thoughts go astray.
It was true that she had preferred staying in the showroom. Many people told her that it had been an unusual residence, but to her it was the most comfortable surrounding for her tired self. Unlike home, where she had grown up, this place did not witness the noise from apartments nearby. Nobody shouted in the middle of the night, there was no cheer too-on time when she was desolate. People did not knock on her door intruding in her life; ominous windows were absent too.
Shama maintained a small wardrobe. There had been two over-coats one black and the other purple. A pair of pants (grey and black striped) was present along with a couple of shirts and three baggy over-sized t-shirts which had been torn from the base in order to be of the appropriate length. She never wore any of these pieces of clothing at home. She neither wished nor felt the need for them. They had been her magic robes, things to be used when facing the outer-world.
Her mother had used the place as a beauty parlor when she had been a child. As such the corner cubicle that had been specially built at the time now served its purpose as a bathroom. Tara, Shama’s mother had lost her life to cancer when Shama had been only eight years old. While she could not completely remember how she looked like, she still got glimpses of her sometimes. She remembered her mother being content with whatever little she had had at that time, devising methods to add to the family’s meager income but always appearing welcomingly warm. She had been the perfect dash of sunlight in everyone’s life. Michael, Shama’s father, was not able to cope with the loss of the only support in his life. He looked after Shama for another eight years, making sure that she could sustain when he was gone. One evening, while she was coming back from her evening classes at the college, fairly happy about the piece that she had written she saw her father walking across the road. Shama called out excitedly and began at once to move in his direction, traversing the busy road. Michael, concerned over the safety of his child attempted to move in his direction, shouting at her to stop, that he would cross the road to reach her. Intoxicated about the flights of her fantasy which she had successfully penned down that evening, she rejected everything other than the man who was moving in her direction. Soon she realized that he was paving his way from the footpath to the road and in order to outdo him, she rushed more enthusiastically. A speeding car which was approaching her steered in the opposite direction, preventing an imminent collision. Instead it struck a van which was heading in its way.
In a few seconds time ceased to exist. The turmoil on the road came to a halt. A child was wailing in a distance. People were rushing in from all directions. Shama forgot to breathe; her body felt numb. The flutter of birds flew away to some distant place. She looked ahead unable to grasp the intensity of events. Soon people were blocking her view. It was then that her senses surfaced and she found the will to order her limbs into action. Pulling at the crowd, she made her way forward. It seemed to be a jungle of not only people but of voices, reactions and questions. It had been too noisy and suffocating; yet she wished never to emerge in the centre. She simply didn’t wish for answers or reality.
Michael’s body lay on the floor. It seemed to be of a stranger; covered in a pool of red liquid it appeared to be a huge mass of highly dismantled limbs.
Taking off her gown, Shama sipped away the tea which was left in her glass. She attempted to write more. However her will to continue ceased to allow ventilation for her dead mind.
Suresh was talking with the doctor when a nurse entered the room with the reports. Dr. Kamal explained that Shama’s condition was similar to her mothers. Both of them were suffering from multiple personality disorder. Since Mahima’s syndromes had been discovered too late she could not be saved once she realized how desolate her situation was.
Even though it had been the same centre where Mahima had committed suicide, Suresh was sure about Dr. Kamal’s excellence. What had happened with Shama’s mother had been a mishap.
The doctor explained that Shama’s condition was peculiar since her alternate personality was being carved out from her reality somewhere down the line. With the passage of time, she had accepted the hospital room as her home. At times she would imagine looking out of the window which was otherwise completely covered by black paper on her request; at other times, she would neglect it as a part of the wall of her showroom. On hearing birds chirp outside she would often imagine them as being from her own courtyard, neglecting the fact that there could have been no courtyard in a lane of showrooms. A small kitchenette had been made in one corner of the room when the doctor assured everyone that Shama would not hurt herself till the time she was confronted with her own truth.
Shama did remember the sad farewell from her father. The only exception was that she remembered the nurses and the staff as people on the road, who had been present as a block between her father and herself. That was the day when Michael died for her.
Apparently she thought herself to be out on grocery shopping when once in six months, she was allowed to venture out to the vendor who had been present in the compound of the hospital. She did not allow herself to be out for long, in fact she was very quick in her transactions since she did not like the way nurses and patients looked in her direction.
Suresh who was a very successful business, tried to steal away time from Shama’s own world. As soon as he got to know that Shama was writing regularly in her room, he had found a sudden urge to read all that she wrote. At times Shama came to deliver her piece of work to the doctor’s cabin, acting as hastily as she had done while buying the vegetables. On realizing that it was doing her no good, the doctor decided that her job should be terminated, that she should be left alone. Suresh too realized that he was intruding in her privacy by mischievously reading all that she had to offer.
Wiping the tear mid-cheek Suresh thanked the doctor and left the cabin only to return as the milkman who had appeared meticulously on Shama’s doorstep every morning.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
A bird could be heard chirping excitedly, perched on a branch in the courtyard.