by Kashmiri Nath
(Guwahati, Assam , India)
Meena is staring into the ceiling, the broken white coloured walls around her, seem to mock. Every shift into a new house would mean repainting the walls, apple white or coffee au lait, her two favourite colours. But, not her present home, she did not even once ask the colour of the walls. This last shift was not about her wanting or not. It was thrust upon her. All she lugged was her memories and she set out to make a happy space for her family, with an vengeance, no one could take that away from her. But, when she is alone, like now, she would drift into a space and weightless space, for her mind weighed, her shoulders weighed, her air around her weighed, her world weighed, heavily on her fragile shoulders.
The sound of the front door opening jolts her. Sam, their pet goes into frenzy, greeting with joy. Meena, does not move but waits patiently. She hears the quick steps up the narrow stair, those excited urgent steps, Meena smiles and waits.
“Ma, I can take you out to dinner’’ says the tall slender girl with flushed face, disheveled hair, as storms into the room, clutching in her hand a trophy, a certificate and an white envelope. The pain that was in Meena’s eyes a few seconds ago are gone, they are replaced with joy. Her children, her two joys bring her hope, faith and belief.
‘’Really Ma, I just won the Best speaker and I won 2100 Rupees….she said”. I have also been chosen to go to Delhi for the National level and they pay for my passage and one parent can accompany, she announced flopping next to Meena. Anita, her daughter has returned from a State Level Inter School Debating Competition. She goes with the idea to win, it is as if every small achievement of her will wipe away her father’s and Meena’s failings. She has taken it upon her to carry and throw away all their wrong decisions and the consequences there after. Anita’s eyes, those small tiny eyes on her face, if you look carefully will only reveal her steely
determination and they are hard. Meena sighs and hugs her.
“Go take a bath, I will fix you something to eat”…says Meena.
Meena walks downstairs, into the tiny kitchen, only one person can stand, it has no room for another, this small space is her sanctuary. She puts the kettle to boil and pours herself a cup of tea. Her heart threatens to stop and her brain freezes, every time a piece of good news comes. However small, she cannot accept. Happiness is no longer hers, she is used to barbs, people laughing, commenting and generally looking down on her and her family. Any good that happens seems unreal.
She takes her tea and sits by the window and looks out, the thick black wires from the mobile tower on the next building looks ominous in the setting dusk, the sky beyond is slowly turning inky, the sound of traffic filtering into the room. She misses the quite of her old home. She needs to hear some familiar voice, comforting words. She longs for some comfort, not the physical ones but her soul seeks to be comforted. She reaches out for her phone and makes a call. It rings, the tea on the table looks inviting, she takes a sip….” Hello Ma, there is a pregnant pause, "How are you? Just wanted to share this, Anita has won a prize today. “Good” that means she is like your sister, who would win all the debating prizes but you know I never was as never very supportive” Meena’s heart knots up and her pain just swells in her mind. Her mind, trailed off and she stares into the sky turning black, her mother’s voice on the other end continued. Anita’s recent achievement just a footnote in her grandmother’s world. It’s always about her older daughter and her younger son, it’s never about Meena. She never mattered.
The tea no longer tasted same. Meena would never matter to her mother, she was not successful, and she lacked money.
She looked at her calloused hands and she felt rich. Aman and Anita were hers and she had enough love left in her. ***