by Kiran Jhamb
(Nagpur, Maharashtra,India )
‘What are you feeling?’ The TV reporter had thrust the mike into my face. Wasn’t he being funny, insensitive? Perhaps he was simply doing his job. I was not an individual to him. I was an item of a newsy juicy story that people sitting in their cozy homes would lap up. I had looked at his moving lips; I must have heard his words because I’ve retained them. I was stunned, numbed - noise, shrieks, smoke, fires, suffocating fear and the realization that Vasudha and Rohan were missing had inundated me - I could not scream.
I still cannot feel anything even after a fortnight. She will come back from office in the evening. Today I am home. Where is Rohan? He should have been back from school by one o’clock. I must ring up his school. Has the maid prepared the lunch - his favorite paranthas? Otherwise, he would holler at the top of his voice and remain hungry. “Sunita bai, is the food ready? Sunita bai…”
‘Papa, please, lie down’, said Sumit and tried to switch off the TV.
I snatched the remote from him. This Sardar family on the screen - where did I see them? Yes, they were the ones who had insisted that the bits of fingers belonged to their child and I had insisted that they were Rohan’s. We were asked to go in for DNA tests. They had performed their Sikh rites and I had performed Hindu rites.
On that day Vasudha must have taken Rohan to market from the school. Rohan had been pestering her to buy some crayons. Did I, too, buy crayons recently? Yes, Rohan had dragged Vasudha and me to the market. He is becoming very head strong. I’ll have to be strict with him. After making purchases he wanted to eat chaat. They both know I hate junk food. Vasudha spoils him. Now Rohan will crow that he had chaat and Sumit will grumble. Sumit being in high school comes back in the evening and Rohan’s first triumphant comment to him would be, “We went to market. I had chaat and coke. Gee sorry you were left out.” His five year old cunning mind had taught him that he had to show the good manners which his mother taught him and he could get away with murder.
“Papa you bribe me with a coke. Then I won’t tell
Sumit.’ The imp, he had read my mind and he knows bargaining. He will be successful in life. Hiding my smile, I frowned at him. Vasudha smiled at me; both of us found it difficult to deny him his childish pleasures. I crossed the road to get the drink for him. Vasudha was scolding him to wipe his face with a tissue paper. My step was light. I had everything that a man wants. My circle was complete. The next moment it was shattered forever.
Perhaps Vasudha and I had only these six years of happiness to our share. Her first husband had been a wife beater who had tortured her endlessly. His finding another woman with a better salary than Vasudha’s had released her from that hateful relationship. My first wife had been a rich bitch who had wanted me to dance to her tune, stripping me of my self-respect, threatening me with anti-dowry laws and false complaints at women’s cell. The rage and the helplessness I experienced still haunt me. A chance to work abroad had made her divorce me.
A lonely man and a lonely woman, both very unsure, very cautious, had met through matrimonial columns. We had taken each day as it came, unable to believe that fate could be so kind. Sumit had accepted me with all the exuberance of a seven years old that finally gets to call someone Papa which brings a smile and not shadows of pain on his mother’s face. We started believing that there is goodness in this world. Rohan’s entry into our lives was a miracle.
I was born in Delhi. Innumerable times have I gone to Sarojni Nagar market. Little did I know that one particular visit to this market one day would change my life irrevocably.
What do I feel?
By now Vasudha and Rohan have become part of statistics. Who hatched the plan, who brought the bomb and why, whether police finds the terrorists and punishes them or not - it does not matter to me. A God who blasts the loved ones and keeps terrorism alive cannot be benign.
My relatives have already started hinting - why should I bring up the cuckoo in my nest? But I am not cruel like God who for his sport breaks loving relationships. Sumit is all I have of Vasudha and my reason for living. Love never dies. ****