The Silent bond of Love
by Shilpa Nair
It was already 9.30 PM. Sumi, as always, was waiting near the verandah of her house. She was walking left and right; and then sat for some time.
“Sumi,” called her mother from inside. “Come and help me with the dishes, will you? Why are you wasting your time there?”
Amma can never understand.
Sumi didn’t leave the place till she sighted a faint figure in the dark.
She ran out and hugged him tightly. Her father smiled and patted her head. All of 10, but she was his pet. She would never stop waiting for him, how much ever late he got from work. And he would forget all his tensions and tiredness as soon as she hugged him with her little arms.
“There you are, you father-daughter duo! How many times have I told you not to venture out alone at night?” Amma asked. “And you are so late today.” She took her husband’s bag. “Now come in and help me with the dishes.” She gestured Sumi.
“Don’t make my princess work in kitchen, Ratnamma.” Appa said caringly. “She’s still a kid.”
Sumi smiled. Her Appa always cared for her. His eyes were so warm and re-assuring. It held the depth of an ocean of compassion, and limitless love!
“Kid?” Amma taunted. “For you she will never grow up. One day she has to get married and go away!”
"I am never going to get married. I will never leave you, Appa." Sumi’s scared eyes looked at her father tenderly.
“Don’t worry, my child. Your amma is a fool. How can I let go my doll away? You are my heartbeat after all.” Appa caressed her head gently.
She loved his touch. How warm were his hands even in this cold weather! And surprisingly how well he could read her eyes, even though nobody could understand what she felt. She could never express her thoughts or feelings. How could she? She was born mute! If anyone in this world could understand her, it was her appa. Without even saying a word, he could gauge what his daughter wanted. Perhaps that was the bond between hearts; the bond of love!
Appa wanted Sumi to study hard and earn a good job in the city. They lived in Thogarshi, a small village in Shimoga district, Karnataka. There wasn’t a proper English medium school closer to her house. So he sent her to a nearby town to study. People mocked him saying it was a waste of money to invest on a girl child’s education. A girl has to finally marry and settle down. What was the use of her education then? It was like watering a neighbor’s farm! She would work and earn for her husband, not her father. But Sumi’s father never thought education as a waste. He himself couldn’t continue his education due to his family responsibilities. Hence he wanted his only daughter to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. He always encouraged her to study hard.
When she was doing her P.U.C, her appa worked double shift in order to meet her tuition fees. By the time he reached back home late at night, Sumi would have been fast asleep. And in the morning she would leave for college early. There were no dinner meets now. There were no silent talks now. He would gently run his fingers on her head while she slept peacefully. He never let her know his hardships.
She had already suffered much since her birth. People had taunted her saying she was her parents’ previous birth sin! He had seen her weeping silently as she had no friends. The mothers felt their children would also get influenced by her and would stop talking and start sign languages. She was discarded from all the events like a plague-ridden person. Hence her appa too stopped visiting others’ house. He cared less for people who didn’t care for his daughter.
Day and night appa worked harder and harder, not caring his own health. Finally, when the Medical Entrance test results were out he couldn’t believe his eyes. His daughter had secured 52nd rank, which meant she could join KMC, Manipal for M.B.B.S., which was his dream come true! He distributed sweets to the whole village and danced with joy. After all she was the first girl from their village to get a seat in KMC.
Though Sumi was overjoyed, she also worried how her further education would continue. Further expenses meant further burden on her appa. But appa was as positive as ever. “God has taken us here, He will guide us further!”
Sumi always thought from where her appa gathered so much courage.
True to his words, the education finances were finally met in the form of Ramamurthy, a rich man from the same village. Though illiterate, Ramamurthy was filthy rich. He always wanted his only son to study well and he was ready to spend any amount of money for his son’s education. But as luck would have it, his son turned out to be a total duffer. He couldn’t even pass his S.S.L.C exams. But when Ramamurthy heard
about Sumi, he felt a soft corner for her. Here was he, who, even though had money couldn’t make his son study, while there was Sumi, who in spite of being poor, was highly brilliant. Ramamurthy decided to sponsor Sumi’s education. But like all other businesses here too a deal was placed. Soon after studies, Sumi would have to marry his son, Venkatesh. Though the villagers gasped with envy, Sumi’s appa was a bit reluctant. He never decided anything without Sumi’s consent. But seeing her appa’s plight and monetary condition, and in the quest to fulfill appa’s dreams, Sumi agreed.
The next six years flew swiftly. Sumi finished her internship and as decided her marriage took off with great pomp and splendor.
A year passed by. Sumi was a devoted wife as well as an efficient doctor. Though she couldn’t communicate with the patients, her medicines and knowledge were enough to attract quite a many patients. Her father-in-law had opened a small clinic in Bangalore and Sumi was busy throughout the day. She hardly found time to visit her appa. At night she would often dream of appa. How would he be? Would he be taking care of his health? Would he be missing me?
In the Initial few months they exchanged letters, but soon Sumi got even busier with work and hardly found time to even write. At the back of her mind she was always guilty of neglecting her appa. The neighbours were right. Appa spent all he had on my studies and marriage. What am I doing in return? Was he really watering a neighbour’s farm?
Sumi was getting stressed. The work as well as guilt was swallowing her slowly. She couldn’t concentrate on her work. Finally she got the news she dreaded to hear. Her appa was no more!
Sumi was shattered. She didn’t know to cry or kill herself? She didn’t deserve any sympathy. She accused herself to be her appa’s killer. How could anyone be so selfish? How could I forget my appa and my duties towards him? He was the only person in the world to have understood my feelings! And here was I who never bothered back. Those compassionate eyes, that re-assuring smile, the 'don’t-worry-i-am-here' touch was gone now! He would never be back. How much I wanted to tell him about how well I am doing in my profession now. How much I yearned to tell him what he meant for me, even though I never confessed. He knew it but I never told!
Back in the village, Sumi sat on the floor of her verandah; the same place she sat as a child waiting for her appa. She wished he would walk towards her from the darkness. She wished she could hug him one last time and tell him what he meant for her. She wished she could hand him some money and gifts. He would have been so proud and happy. She cried bitterly.
Sumi never went back to Bangalore. Venkatesh was kind enough to give her time to cope up with her grief. She left her practice too. One day Sumi’s amma handed her a letter which appa had last written but never posted. Sumi opened and read it with teary eyes. “Dear Sumi,
I know you are too busy to write to me. I have absolutely no complaints. In fact I am proud to see you doing so well. When you were small, I had first expressed my desire to make you a doctor to amma. She laughed at me. But it was you who fulfilled my dream. Appa’s little girl!
There was always a reason behind this. My mother loved her children so much. She often remained empty stomach so that she could feed us. We never bothered to ask if she had food. That made her weak and finally she died due to poverty and poor medical negligence. That’s when I decided to study hard and be a doctor myself. I wanted to open a clinic in this village and treat the poor and needy. But unfortunately, being the eldest in the family, I had my responsibilities towards my siblings too. We couldn’t spare money on education. But when you were born, I had a strange feeling that you will be the one who would fulfill my long lost dream.
A job always makes one complete and independent. But what brings satisfaction is seeing a smile on someone’s face.
God bless you, my child.
Sumi dug her head on her folded knees and cried her heart out. The time to mourn was over. Now was the time to act; to repay her appa a portion of what all he did for her. She made up her mind.
With Venkatesh’s support she opened a clinic in her village in her appa’s name. She claimed fees from those who could afford. But she never charged the poor. The smile on their face meant smile on her appa’s face. That was the feeling of satisfaction he spoke of. He was right. All this while she was just doing a job. Now had she started working! ***