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"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in this world."
Illustration by @luciesalgado
Busy, Monday morning. Nothing exciting to happen in my life. A strict routine follow up to consume myself all in work. Morning 8’ to evening 8’ engulfed with counselling of the people who came to me. This was my daily life within this small blue & white painted two BHK flat where except my colleague Venu and the couple of black bean bags any one barely arrived. Yes, of course sometimes Mr & Mrs Roy my neighbors came to bring a change to this daily routine.
Mr Roy was from army background. But besides that he was my fatherly figure too whom I missed so much. A warm smile from Mr Roy or kind words from Mrs Roy just soothed my scary heart which was bruised daily from the effects of every patient counseled by me.
Although I had very lovely childhood my relationship with my younger brother during adolescence had got complicated. He seemed to be arrogant against my every word and act. This imbalance seems to increase day by day which took up to a clash for love of parents as we reached youth. This intruded me to leave home for good thus bearing the deep scars of leaving my parents whom I loved so much.
Here, at Kolkata after 2 years I had everything including a deep hollowness, which survived within me. I knew everything couldn’t be perfect in life all the time but then every time the question that buzzed in my mind during my loneliness was, “What went wrong?” And probably to get to the root of this I chose psychology as my specialization after completion of my masters. Still, I stay aloof and just like a maze of threads the relation between my brother and me seemed to get more muddled, the more I tried to mend it. This has turned out to be my daily morning sickness, which caught itself high when I tried to crawl back to sleep again.
Sharp 7’ A.M there was two consecutive knocks on my cabin. I knew who it was. Being an ex-army man time meant the most expensive thing to Mr Roy. Without waiting for the second slot of knocks I rushed to open the door as if I had been eagerly waiting for this. A 6 feet 4’’ person with tanned skin smiled in front of me. He greeted, “Good Morning Snigdha. I am back”.
I responded, “Good Morning Mr Roy. How are you this morning?”
Mr Roy, “This morning seems to be very good. See I have got red poppies in my garden. They are smiling at me saying my son shall arrive soon”.
My face turned pale I understood. Just behind his back Mrs Roy stood apace with tears in her eyes which protruded the pain of her womb. I revived. Raising my left hand I gestured to console Mrs Roy which I knew was of no use. Greeting back Mr Roy I said, “Please come in.”
Although quite surprised to see such a strong person act in such a way I tried to act normal keeping aside my doubts & concerns.
Mr Roy said, “Hey no I came to invite you to my home to have breakfast with us.”
I saw him with astonishment and said, “Thank you for your invitation but breakfast some other time. But please join me for tea. I shall be happy. You too Mrs. Roy. Although Mrs Roy has to make the special tea with extra cream for all three”. I just tried to lighten the situation.
Mr. Roy seemed adamant & said, “Yes, of course. But I have come to invite you because today is my son’s birthday. He rang me up and said he shall be arriving today evening to take us with him.”
I replied, “Ohh, really that’s great news. This calls for a treat then. Come on lets have breakfast in my place then. A departing treat from my side since you both shall be leaving. ”.
Mr Roy replied, “Come on Snigdha please”.
I looked at his face and just couldn’t ignore his child-like smile and replied with a smile, “Yes”.
In the back of mind I understood that something wasn’t right because neither Mr. Roy had a garden nor it was the time for poppies to grow in summer. I closed the door at the back of me & followed Mr Roy to his flat where Mrs Roy waited eagerly.
But in the half way Mr. Roy mumbled, “No let’s go to your place. It’s better. Soumi (Mrs. Roy) please get some tea”.
Mrs Roy greeted, “Good morning Shree”.
The bells rang in my ear because except Snigdha nowadays I wasn’t used to hear my pet name very often. It only happened when my mother rang me to ask, “Shree when you are coming back?”
I said, “Very good morning Mrs. Roy. What’s Roy special in today’s breakfast? Bring it over to my place. ”
Trying to conceal her pain & tears she replied, “Ya, of course. What shall you like to have tea or coffee?”
I replied, “Ahh strong tea for sure with extra cream in it buttttt Mr Roy has invited me to have breakfast”. Turning towards Mr Roy I asked him with a mischievous smile, “Isn’t it Mr Roy?”
Mr Roy replied unmindfully, “Mmmm. Did I? Might be”.
I clinched my eye-brows together possibly because now I understood something was definetly wrong. I replied, “Ohh sorry Mrs Roy I was just kidding. Mr Roy come over. Mrs. Roy can you arrange some tea please”.
Mrs Roy said, “Ya, I will bring tea for us”.
I turned back to enter my flat & Mr Roy followed me just like a disciplined kid.
I said to Mr Roy, “Please have a seat”.
I guess he understood my words intensity and sat down beside me on a bean bag just like a little boy who although doesn’t want to sit to study but have to because of the dearth from his mother. I reposed and spoke, “Mr. Roy what’s going on in your mind? What is bothering you so much?”
Mr Roy as if unsatisfied with my verses said, “No, nothing”.
I touched his hands warmly and said, “Please you need to talk”.
In my sub-conscious mind I was surprised by my own act. I guess this happened because Mr. Roy was very close to my heart. He resembled my father somewhere whom I missed every moment. But I noticed that he was getting quite uncomfortable and irritated. Probably because, he was more used to my social soberness than my childish emotions. So I left his hand & said quite coldly, “O.K”.
Mr Roy raised his head & what I saw melted me. He was weeping just like a small child weeps soundlessly when being scolded by a beloved. This tensed me. I understood that Mr Roy was going through mental trauma something which he isn’t able to speak to. I stepped down from my seat and sat on my knees next to Mr. Roy. I noticed that even my voice was quivering with emotions. Clearing my voice I assured him, “Please speak”.
He questioned abruptly, “Am I mad?”
I was stunned, “Who said that to you?”
Mr. Roy answered, “My son”.
I literally gaped and paused for a moment, “why?’
Mr. Roy continued, “I couldn’t recall where the family album was kept. I asked him if he knew or not. Probably I had asked him more than two times. He got frustrated. He yelled at me & said, “Baba you have gone mad. Why do you need that crap now?” You see Snigdha”.
He paused. I could clearly see the tears re-appearing in his eyes which he tried hard to suppress. Biting his lips together he continued, “Family album…” he gasped, “my no, no, our family album. Is it of no importance to him? Or now his own family is more important to him than our family. Don’t we belong to his family? Where did we go wrong?”
I kept quite not because I knew he was speaking the truth but even because his pain was somewhere linked to mine. I stared hard towards him but still couldn’t speak.
Mr. Roy said, “Can the sedatives relief me from this emotional pain, where my only son stays in the same apartment but barely comes to meet us. I wait for him every day but at the end of day just a call. Are we meant nothing? We have every luxury in life yet stay in a bed full of emotional thrones.”
I found myself shaking my right leg vigorously. This happens mostly when I get tensed. I stood up & started strolling around but knew Mr. Roy’s eyes were following me to & fro eagerly to get an assurance, an answer. Of course I didn’t have any & was wishing the arrival of Mrs. Roy with tea”. He asked again clearing his, “Probably I am bothering too much. I must be leaving”. Saying so he got up at once and started to leave.
I observed him carefully as he walked towards the door. My mind responded, “Time is running out. Don’t let him move back into darkness”. But then I suppressed the urge because I knew even I couldn’t help him since he was the only one who could help himself. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven….one.” The next moment he stood turned towards me smiled and came back to take over the seat again. My profession demanded me to stay and listen but right at this moment I was myself crippled with emotions.
This scene from my buried memories of 5 years re-occurred in front of me when I opened the email dropped in my inbox from a quite irrelevant address. The email read, “He died peacefully dear. Yours Mrs. Roy” My heart sank. Probably now I realized how much Mr Roy was important to me. His last words from his last meeting banged within my head, “Snigdha, Probably I think I am crawling back to womb”.
As if a dismayed small child I asked, “Why do you say that?”
Mr. Roy had replied, “When I was small I used to think the elders to be very dominating and wanted to grow fast. This intention became fruitful when I grew up and was able to dominate all. I guess during that period I almost forgot that what was coming in front of me. But now I know that the reward has come back in the form of my son’s verses my Karma”.
I knew, he was speaking the truth. But still, I stopped him from being so pessimistic & said, “That is not the complete truth. You are also a kind person”.
Mr. Roy looked towards me in astonishment saying, “Am I? I don’t think so. I am arrogant and because of this strict nature I guess my son is not with me”.
I chose to be the silent listener. Mr. Roy continued, “Spiritual moral aspects me to believe that we all spiritually need to be alone but then why the soul itself endives to think about family, and intends us to be in group. I am afraid to be alone”.
Saying so he broke down again whereas I stood still like a statue. The begotten life of mine was hatched with emotional pains but here stood in front of me the side-effect of our decisions coming from elders. He sobbed and I thought of my mother sobbing when I left our home because of the in fugitive moral clash with my brother. I remembered how she said, “Snigdha this is your home too. Please don’t go.” My dad just said, “I have never asked you to go. This is as much your home as his. You mean same to me. But you are an adult now & know what needs to be done”. I didn’t listen to them & left just because my ego was hurt. Now I know how they felt. How badly I wanted to go back to them.
I heard Mr. Roy’s voice again, “As days are passing by I am feeling I am crawling back again”.
Still wrapped in my thoughts I tried to re-concentrate through his words, “What? Crawling back. Crawling back, where?”
He smiled amidst tears, “back to womb dear. Only I guess if I could re live the time again with my family whom I adamantly had hurt in one way or another to prove myself correct”.
His words pinned my ego down. I understood my family was so important to me whom I betrayed just because of my false possessiveness. He was indeed teaching me a lesson through his life which I needed the most.
His words floated again, “When we are born we have no teeth, less hair, wrinkled skin and as we grow we beautify with youth but then the old age reverses everything balancing us to get ready for the ultimate. We get wrinkled skin, loose hair and teeth and even start behaving childish. Hopefully, now you know why I said crawling back to womb”.
I dared not to see towards him because I didn’t want to show my tears of guilt. Then he said again, “Go back Snigdha, Go back. Family might make you spiritually feeble but it’s the only light that helps you burn your energy throughout. Or else one day you shall be standing at my place and saying someone about “Crawling back to womb” which you would want badly but you can’t.”
Still totally engulfed in my thoughts I heard a voice, “Snigdha come tea is ready. Bring your baba’s (father’s) newspaper. Risi (my brother) is waiting for you.” I re-conceived my ma’s voice & closed my eyes.
Tears fell from my eyes as condolence for Mrs. Roy and gratitude towards him who helped me to be back to the place where I belong. I repeated his words in silence, “Crawling back to Womb”.
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