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I Tried to Kill My Daughter

by Shashi Soreng
(Bangalore, India)

When Laksmi opened the door that day as usual, she froze at the doorstep for few seconds. The sight in front of her was no less chilling. Four years old Sia sat there on her little play chair; she loved sitting on it every other day and reciting her nursery rhymes. But what unusual today was, she was fastened securely to the chair by a red georgette dupatta. To further raise an alarm, Sia was gagged so that her cries dissipate in the air and never make it to the windows. Her neck and chest was damp as if she was sweating but Lakshmi knew it was the tears of helplessness, hunger and unfamiliar emotions of a child.

Lakshmi immediately speculated the scenario and took out her phone and dialled a number.
“Hello, Ramesh babu, jaldi ghar aa jayiye, madam ne aaj hadh hi kardi. Sia ko chair se baandh rakha hai”(Ramesh sir please come home immediately, madam has tied up Sia to the chair).

She leaped towards Sia, removed the handkerchief stuffed in her mouth and quickly untied her. Moved by the child’s marred condition, she grabbed her in her arms and rubbed her hands on Sia’s back simultaneously checking if she was hurt anywhere. Sia was inconsolable. Priya, who was lying unconscious on the sofa till now, woke up hearing the incessant cries. She rushed to Sia, but Laxmi wheeled around. She was in no mood to show the woman’s face to Sia. She kept whispering in Sia’s ears, “Aankhen bandh kar lo beta aur count karo” (Close your eyes and count numbers).

Priya tried her best ways to tear Sia from Laxmi, but Laxmi stood there as a rock. Soon after Priya started sobbing at her powerlessness and sank on the sofa. She clutched the cushion beside her and pressed it against her face and expelled a helpless cry.
Laxmi was shivering in anger.

Ramesh entered through the open door followed by his parents. They all rushed to Sia. Sia’s cries grew louder at the sight of her father. He took her in his arms and walked briskly to the bedroom, his parents and Laksmi followed.

Priya jumped to her feet to follow but Laksmi closed the door at her face. “She is my daughter too. Open the door” Priya yelled at the top of her voice. No one bothered. The banging and howling continued till her hands gave away.

After 40 minutes, Ramesh opened the door. Priya was up on her feet again. Ramesh grabbed her by her arm and almost dragged her to the other bedroom on the other side of the hall and the shut the door behind them.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ramesh jolted her back and forth as if to bring her out of a spell.
“You could have suffocated her, she is just 4 years old” he plucked his hands from her arms.
“O, you think I would do that to our daughter?” Priya fought back.
“You are a crazy woman, how stupid of me to leave Sia in your hands. Doctor was right. I should have left you in that mental health unit or maybe I should put you in there now. Come let’s go” Ramesh was clearly annoyed and once again reached for her arm.

Priya stepped back in refusal.
“I am not leaving Sia and going anywhere,” she snapped.

Ramesh dashed to the door and yelled “Just go to hell then” and slammed the door.

Priya was undergoing treatment for her prolonged depression which she had acquired after the loss of their second baby during delivery just 9 months back. She believed she could have saved the baby if she kept her conscious for some more minutes. This self claimed torturing was pushing her into a deep well of darkness. When she didn’t seem to come back from her trauma, Ramesh took help of a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with severe depression. She was given daily pills. The first few months Ramesh had his parents to look after Sia, but when Priya showed recovery he sent them back. Her pills were now reduced to alternate days.

Things took a toll when one day Ramesh and Priya had a feud fight over an irrelevant matter. Crossed over it Priya drank a whole bottle of wine, against her doctor’s strict prescription. She slept off that day but soon after she started talking to curtains, utensils even to her toothbrush as though they reciprocated to her words in some parallel universe. She drifted from this universe to parallel one. Priya would eagerly wait for Sia to leave for school, after which she would plunge into the parallel universe. Lakshmi informed Ramesh of her activities
but he clearly had no time for this. Things got worse eventually. Priya’s subconscious mind knew of her unusual activities but conversations comforted her. The parallel world was more welcoming. And since she was calm Ramesh came into agreement with her state.

Priya threw herself to the bed after Ramesh left and tried to figure out what actually happened that afternoon.

As usual Sia came back from her school and Priya bathed, fed and sung her to sleep. Soon after she went back to the kitchen and meandered in to her parallel world through that invisible door only she knew existed. She must have been there for quite some time because Sia was awake now. She walked to the kitchen and saw her mother in intense conversation. She called out for her to which Priya responded by showing her palm. Sia was impatient, she kept going on ‘Mama Mama’ as a rhyme, and obviously it was fun for her. When she didn’t seem to stop, Priya turned to face her. Sia saw a different Mama in Priya. Her chin was almost touching her chest, and her eyes were wide open filled with rage, the iris sticking to the upper lashes. She took a few steps back. “Mama sorry” was all she could say. When her mother didn’t respond to those words, to which she would always respond, Sia made a run for the door frightened. Priya leaped for her and grabbed her in time. Within a few minutes, Sia was bound to the chair by her mother’s dupatta and soon gagged to silent her pleas. Priya went back to the kitchen mechanically, as if she had kept someone waiting.

After an hour when Sia’s tears dried, she went in a deep slumber on the chair, helpless. A few minutes later Priya too exhausted sunk on the sofa. She saw Sia, but the parallel universe had made her forgetful of her own daughter. She woke up to see Sia in her maid Laksmi’s arms, it is then her mind slipped into the real world.

The reality felt like an arrow which just made a clean hole in her heart and crossed over. Priya sat awake on her bed now. She looked around and it was black. She reached for the side table lamp, and once the light flooded the room she broke down into tears, tears which showed no signs of stopping. She was shamefaced, fearing to remove her palms from her face even to an empty room as though every single article in that room was watching her. How could she? Sia was the greatest blessing to her in this world. She wanted to open that door and run to hug her, but will she hug her back? She wanted to tell Ramesh everything, but why would he believe her?

Guilt started consuming her, as she couldn’t ignore Sia’s crying face dancing in front of her eyes. She started looking for a sharp object convinced that she is unworthy of life. Her hand came across a Swiss knife in one of the drawers; she flipped the sharpest of all, because she wanted to feel the pain. In her desperation to dig her veins, she missed the photo frame on the same drawer table. Her flickering eyes fell on it by chance. Sia was smiling there, her arms outstretched, Priya threw the knife as far as she could and began to sob uncontrollably. She yearned to hug her daughter again, feed her again, and sing to her sleep again. She had to be punished, but not kill for kill. She decided to repent.

And she immediately knew what to do for it. She made a call and poured her heart out. The person on other side comforted her. She asked for a favor repeatedly and kept the phone. She clutched the photo frame the night.

Morning doorbell woke everyone up. Ramesh opened the door. It was Priya’s doctor and a nurse along with her. Ramesh was confused.
“I didn’t call you doctor,” Ramesh said cluelessly.

“I called he,r” Priya called out from the bedroom. She came out with a small duffel bag.
Doctor explained everything to Ramesh, about the call late night, about how Priya was so sorry and wished for being the mother Sia would look upto.

Ramesh turned to Priya and looked at her with watery eyes.
“Say no more” Priya spoke before he could say anything.
“I will come back soon and be the mother Sia wants me to be, till then take care of her and forgive me if you can.”

She walked out of the door looking at her feet, thankful to God that she threw the Swiss knife just on time.

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