by Shefali SK
It was three in the morning when dad woke me up.
“She is no more!” he said.
I didn’t utter a word; I couldn’t believe my own ears. Everything was blank in my mind. My brain was numb. My muscles could not move. My heart was not ready to believe my minds message, which said- “She is no more.” I just curled like a cat under my blanket.
The silence of the night was destroyed, the air around me uttered- “She is no more”.
My cheeks could feel my own tears: I cried, cried and cried!!
My beloved aunt was no more.
She was just 36 and death knocked the doors of her life in the name of cervical cancer. Her death was expected; still the news gave me an enormous pain.
All good days which I spent with her, came before my eyes like a movie. She loved me a lot, may be more than I did.
I heard dad telling mom, “Her body will be brought home by 9”. His words drilled my heart. Yesterday every one called her by her name but today she is addressed as body, just a dead body, without a name.
Dad hurried, grabbed a few clothes, stuffed them in his bag and left to Mangalore. Because of the numbness of my brain and the pain of the situation, I cannot recollect how he travelled to Mangalore.
As my heart started to believe the sad news, the pain became more intense. I picked my phone and called my friend even without thinking that it was an odd time to telephone someone. She picked my call after a long ring.
“Hello,” said Ria drowsily.
“My aunt passed away this morning”, I wailed.
“Oh! Let her soul rest in peace”, she prayed.
She tried to console me, but I hung the phone without letting her complete her words.
There was darkness all over; outside and also within me. Thoughts were battling in my mind and I was lost in the darkness.
I saw her for the last time, in my uncle’s house- warming function. Because of the therapy, she had lost all her hair and beauty.
“How are you aunty?” I asked.
She just smiled and gave no reply.
“You will get well soon,” I consoled.
“I came here to see you all. I knew, I would meet all of you together here. May be for the last time”. She said with a smile.
I could see pain in her eyes, but she managed to smile. Just to see us, she had come to the function. I sat next to her, holding her hand. Silence communicated between us. May be because of the pain, she couldn’t sit for long. She left early that day. Before leaving she hugged me.
“All the best for your future. Study well. Hope we will meet again”. She wished.
She was in tears and everyone else too. Now she is no more.
I had many questions, but there was none to answer. Had my aunt lived a contented life? Or was she feeling guilty about something? I don’t know, but I can surely tell that she was eternally relieved from all her misery.
She was married to my uncle 17 years ago when she was just 19. Just like any other newlywed couple they were happy together. After 2 years of their wedding, she gave birth to a baby girl. The baby had red lips; it seemed as if the baby had applied some lipstick on her lips. Their happiness didn’t last for long, fate had different plans for them and one day, the baby fell sick. Nothing much had happened, the baby caught cold and fever. But during those days, my native had no electricity and other facilities. My aunt and uncle lived in a minute village near Mangalore. Government doctors rarely visited the hospitals. My grandma prepared some native medicine and it was given to the baby. My aunt sat next to the baby, watching her angel go to sleep.
It was 2 in the night and the baby started to cry loudly. My aunt tried to console the baby, in all the ways she could think off, but the baby cried at the top of her voice. So she took the baby outside the house, thinking that the cool breeze would make the baby feel better. My aunt stood near the well, looking at her baby and the moon which were equally beautiful. The child was inconsolable, she tried to show the moon in the sky, but the baby didn’t look up, so she tried to show the reflection of the moon in the well saying that the moon has fallen into the well. It was a very silent night and suddenly my aunt was frightened because of the church bell which rang behind.
Before she realized what had happened, the baby wriggled out of her hand and fell into the well. Now deadly silence had occupied all around her. She could neither hear the church bell nor the cry of her baby. In a state of shock even my aunt jumped into the
well to save her baby. Hearing the sound outside, my grandma came running out of the house. She yelled seeing her daughter- in- law in the well. All these screaming roused some villagers nearby and a few of them came running to enquire what had happened. They saw my aunt in the well and a man jumped into the well and pulled my aunt and baby out of the well. My grandma covered my aunt with a blanket and few ladies pressed her stomach and drained the water, which she had swallowed. My aunt survived because she knew how to swim. But the baby didn’t cry ever again. Her beautiful red lipped daughter never smiled again.
My uncle who was out of village had no clue of what had happened. When he returned home he was shocked to see so many people near his house because it was just 4 in the morning. He pushed people and made his way to see what had happened. He saw his mother and wife crying before the dead baby.
He walked to his wife and asked “Hey! What happened? Why are you crying? Why have you made the baby sleep here and what are these people doing here?”
He knew that something wrong had happened, but didn’t want to believe that.
My aunt fell at his feet and said, “I didn’t kill the baby”.
He went near the baby, picked her up, gazed at her face and said “My baby is not dead, she is alive”.
He brought the baby near his wife and said “Our baby is not dead, she is alive. Look at her, look at her lips. It is still red in color. She is not dead. She is just sleeping”.
He gazed at the baby’s face and cried. He was holding his dead baby in this hand. He hugged my aunt and cried and my aunt said “I didn’t kill the baby”.
My uncle cremated the baby and meanwhile rumors had already spread in the village like forest fire stating that my aunt had killed the baby.
My aunt, who was already feeling guilty for accidentally dropping the baby into the well, felt even more pain hearing the rumors. Day by day she was becoming weak physically and also mentally. She used to sit near the well every day and cry. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and scream “I didn’t kill the baby”. My uncle trusted her, he knew that it was an accident but something was killing my aunt from within. She even attempted to kill herself by jumping into the same well.
A Few years later, my aunt gave birth to a baby boy, everyone else had forgotten the pain of the death of her first baby but she hadn’t. Guilt had destroyed her completely. She was under severe depression too. She neglected her family and her baby.
My uncle tried to support her, console her but he failed. She was even taken to psychologists for counseling, but nothing could bring her out of her guilt feeling.
Even after many counseling sittings, nothing changed in her.
She had joined as teacher in a government school nearby so that her mind would be diverted. She had become very weak mentally and started to believe every one’s words. She had lost her ability to differentiate between truths and false because of this, many in her work place took advantage of her. They even tried to exploit her in all ways they could.
From years she had irregular periods, she even neglected that and one day she was taken to hospital, because she had severe stomach ache. After several examinations and scanning, doctors concluded it as cervical cancer. They operated upon her and removed her ovaries, but it was of no use. The cancer had already spread in her stomach. She was under therapy for 9 months. But soon she was admitted to hospital because she couldn’t bear stomach pain and cancer had conquered her completely.
She was in her death bed; she called her 12 years old son and said, “I love you a lot”.
“Don’t leave me and go mama” he cried.
She held his hand and cried.
“Years ago, I dropped a baby inside the well, so god punished me by giving this cancer.” She said.
“No mama, don’t speak like this,” he said.
She held her husband’s hand and said “I didn’t kill the baby”.
Saying so, she took her last breath.
Doctor was called immediately and he declared her as “Dead” and it was 3 in the morning.
Even though she was a great loss to the family, I feel that death has brought some peace to her. She is relieved from all her pain. Even though she was alive, she was dying every day. Guilt was the murderer. Her family supported her a lot but she couldn’t overcome her guilt. Death has brought end to everything, all the pain and the misery.
Now she will never wake up in the middle of the night to say, “I didn’t kill the baby”. ***