by Rakhi Jayashankar
I entered the premises. Unlike any other day when the front yard is impeccably clean, today I could see dry leaves littered everywhere. I recognized the man standing in front of me. How I couldn't? He is my husband after all. We didn't smile, neither did we acknowledge each other's presence. It is not natural to do so.
I silently stepped inside. She is lying on a table. Her eyes are in a pit. Face wrinkled, body unnaturally lean, hair as white as cotton. "She is 94" ; someone said.
I turned to look at her son who smiled at me. Should I smile back? Is it natural to smile now?
"when did you come" He asked
"Just now" Is natural to have loose talks now?
He introduced me to his wife and brother. Is it natural?
"How is your health now? Do you have morning sickness?" His wife asked me. I stared at her goggle eyed. She might have thought that I am deaf, for she was meeting me for the first time.
The 94 year old body,lied neglected. Yes, after the soul of life leaves, we are all just bodies.I kept on thinking if it's natural to discuss about a new life when another is no more. I simply nodded and stood aside to avoid further prodding.
Familiar faces flashed in front of me without any forceful pleasantries. The smell of camphor filled the room.
Being allergic to the smell, I decided to stay away to avoid taking away the little attention she got.
Suddenly a caterwaul shook me.I realized with relief that it's from the daughter of the body. At least there is some one to shed tears. I realized why my grandmother said it is necessary to have a daughter to cry by your head. Suddenly as if with a disc brake, the howling stopped. I saw the minister who came a minute before, walk out of the room.
"Is he related to them?" Someone asked from behind.
Before I could reply, the answer came from my left. "No, election is next year. So he goes to every funeral and weddings."
I suppressed my laughter realizing that it's not natural.
Again the frightening squeal started when the municipal counsellor came.In between the shoe she kept on asking her mother to take her along. I wondered what would she say if her mother agrees to the plea. The whole scenario seemed like a comedy skit for me.
Finally, it was time for her to go. They took her away.
The family started discussing the monetary share to be paid by everyone for the 16th day ceremony.
All was natural. She is 94.
No one has time to pray for her.
Had she died a few years before they would have cried.
Now it's unnatural to cry since she is 94. ***