Where peacocks fly-25

by Prema Sastri
(Bangalore)

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Chapter 25


Meera felt disconnected from the world. She went through the routine of the house without knowing what she was doing. She felt she should get closer to the children. They had become shadows flitting in and out of the house. It was as if they regarded her as an intruder. Time had turned her children into strangers.

She had taken part in their development. She had taught them nursery rhymes, told them stories from Indian mythology tried to nurture them in a sense of value which would shield them from mistakes. She had involved herself in their progress through school and college. She shared their disappointments and successes. She patted shoulders, laid their heads on her lap, scolded and listened to their problems. Yet, almost overnight a barrier had sprung up between mother and children.

She decided to have a talk with Mangalam. When her daughter came home that evening Meera greeted her with hot masala dosais.

“How was your day?”
“Since when have you been interested in my day?”
“Since you were born. Only then I knew what your day was about.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“It was when you couldn’t leave home. You were once eager to share what happened.”
“Nothing happens. There’s nothing to share.”

The turn of her lips, the hardness in her voice showed resentment and hostility.
“Eat your dosai. I made it for you.”
“You think that every problem can be solved with food.” Nevertheless Mangalam picked up her plate and started eating. She swallowed a few mouthfuls and ran out of the room. Meera could hear her in the bathroom. Throwing up. She returned wiping her face with a towel. “I can’t eat any more.”
“I’ll get you something to drink.”

Meera got her a cold Coke from the refrigerator. “What’s wrong? Have you been out in the sun?” Meera felt Mangalam’s forehead. “I think you have a fever.”
“I don’t have a fever. You might as well know – I’m pregnant.”

Meera felt something had gone wrong with her hearing.

“What did you say?”
Mangalam shouted the answer – “I’m pregnant.”

Meera stared at the floor as if hoping it would help her.
“You know the facts of life?”
“How many months?”
“Almost three.”
“Who is the boy?”
“Amrita’s brother, Surinder.”
“No wonder you were so keen on joint study.”
“So what are you going to do, mummy?”
“Nothing! I don’t know what to do.”
“You never did, You let things happen. You let me be beaten, by my father.”
“I’m sorry, Mangalam. I am ashamed of myself.”
“Ashamed of me too.”
“Not ashamed. Frightened.”
“Why should you be frightened? It doesn’t concern you.”
“Mangalam, what are you saying? I’m your mother.”
The tears which had been suppressed so long burst out. Her chest heaved with uncontrollable sobs.
“Mummy stop it. It’s not so bad.” Mangalam used her towel to wipe her mother’s face. “I’m the one who should be crying.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“Have the baby.”
“It will be difficult for you. Does the father know about this?”
“Yes de does.”
“What does he want?”
“For us to get married, as soon as possible.”
“Better sooner than later.”
“You’re thinking about the scandal. What will people say? They don’t care a damn.”
“Mangalam, I’m not thinking of people. I’m thinking of you. Of the plans we had for you.
“What about my plans? Don’t I have a say in my own life?”
“You do. I wish things had not happened.”
“It has. It’s natural. I saw Surinder at Amrita’s house. We were attracted to each other. Often we were alone in the house. We made love.”
“That is obvious.”
“No need to be so snooty. You don’t know anything about love. You live by rules you have set for yourself. All you said was “do this, do that. Be careful. Work hard.” You never said, “I love you.”
“I did. I do. That’s what I wanted to convey.”
“That’s not what came through.”
“Can I meet this young man – before I tell your father?”
“You’ve already met him.”
“I have? Where?”
“At Singh And Singh. He helped you to choose the coffee set.”
“Can you invite him here?”
“I will. He wants to meet you. Don’t be judgemental about him.”
“I won’t. He’s going to be my son in law.”
Meera went up to Mangalam. “I love you.” Mangalam did not shrug her off.
“I’ll bring him over in a day or two.” Mangalam retreated to her room.

Meera went to the chair in the verandah she sank into its comfortable depths. She could not take in the events of the day. A maid servant was pushing a baby in a stroller, on the road outside. Meera looked at her and the baby, taking in every detail – the brown sari, the baby’s yellow cap and sweater, the green stroller. She let the scene absorb her so that everything else was pushed aside.

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