With you...till eternity
by Parul Tyagi
(New Delhi, India)
Thirteen days passed amidst a flood of high and low emotions. The house was filled with visitors- some came with genuine concerns, others to mark attendance. Today, when the rituals are over, Arpita’s empty house is an exact replica of the emptiness within her. There is no one in sight, no words that fill up the air and no one she can touch and feel. Except, of course, Sarthak and Sanya- her four and a half year old son and three year old daughter. She knows her Mother in Law has stayed back for a “few more days” but a time will come when she will have to join her husband back in Cuttack where he is posted in service.
As the last set of visitors leave, Madhu, Arpita’s Mother in Law asks her to catch some sleep. Arpita knows that even she is exhausted all her words and energy to console her daughter in law. The loss after all, is hers too.
Thirteen days ago when Arpita was on her way back home after picking up the kids from the bus stop, she missed a call from Anurag’s mobile phone. She was carrying two school bags, two water bottles, manoeuvring the busy lane with two toddlers and it was Anurag’s everyday habit of calling just before or after he had lunch in office. As she got home and settled the kids, she saw his name flashing on her home screen and decided to call back. This time Anurag did not pick it. “Must be eating lunch”, she said to herself and dug her nose in the afternoon re runs of the daily soaps that Anurag never let her watch at night. An hour later, she picked the phone and dialled his name again
“Hello”, an unfamiliar voice answered it.
Arpita checked again if she dialled correct. It was correct.
“Hello. May I speak with.....is this Anurag’s phone...yes it is his number...who is that?, she managed some words.
“Madam. I am a police officer. I had called you earlier. Your husband is in hospital.....”, whatever he said after that, Arpita cannot remember today.
Anurag had just stepped out of his office to have tea across the road. He was hit by an irate bus. His life sniffed out within seconds of the impact. But what lasted seconds for him was to last a lifetime for Arpita, Sarthak and Sanya. There was no explanation to an abrupt end. In fact end should never be abrupt! She should have been given a chance to see him. To ask him some questions. To answer some of his.
Today was the day when reality had hit Arpita. She will have to deal with this emptiness. She will have to mould this emptiness into laughter, into moments, into words for her small children. Most importantly, she will have to live!
“Ma, can I sleep in the guest room?” Arpita asked her Mother in law.
“No Arpi. Let me take you to your room. You cannot run away from this reality anymore”, Madhu knew she will have to use a firm tone otherwise Arpita will never come out of this. “I cannot be with you for long Arpi, you have to gather up and stand by yourself.” she added.
Arpita wanted to cry aloud. How much
she wanted to plead Anurag’s mother to never leave her alone. But she knew this would be in vain. Over the last thirteen days enough and more people, including her own parents, have come and told her –“Everyone is alone in this world Arpita. You have to LIVE for your kids now”. She stood up quietly and started moving slowly behind Madhu who was leading her son’s widow to the room he once shared with her. As they reached the threshold, the door bell rang. Madhu turned back to open the door instructing Arpita to “go inside and sleep”.
As Arpita stood on the door, she had a huge lump in her throat. She could see every corner, every wall and every memory that filled the room. Somehow Anurag had not seemed to have left this space. His cologne on the dressing table and his slippers on the bed side were breathing. They were in fact shouting. They were asking her to get out from there. “You have no place here woman. Go away”- Arpita could clearly hear them saying. As she struggled to stand still, she wanted to throw up. Her vision blurred as her feet gave up and she collapsed. Miraculously she didn’t hit the floor. It was as if she landed in a safe net. What was it? She quickly stood back on her feet to face him.
For a moment it was a dream. “Anurag!”, Arpita screamed when she looked at him. Just as she said she realised her mistake. Tears filled her eyes and she flung open her arms to hug Anirudh.
“Sorry Ani! I am so sorry....”, she said embarrassingly moving away.
“Don’t be sorry Arpi. You can think..... Its him only“, completed Anirudh- Anurag’s identical twin.
Anirudh lived in California. A technology geek unlike his twin brother, Anirudh had rebelled against his parent’s wish of getting married seven years ago along with Anurag. Arpita’s first cousin seemed a perfect match for him but Anirudh was clear it was not going to happen. He left to pursue his PHD and knew that if he returned to India, he will be taken to his wedding pandal straight from the Airport. He was therefore following up on his family’s lives through skype as Anurag insisted -” You should see my kids grow!”
Anirudh’s words “Its him only” pierced through Arpita’s ears like spikes. She did not know if she should slap him or ask him to repeat as she must not have heard them properly.
Before she could ask, he held her hand and took her into the room. The room that had a picture of her and Anurag- but only the brothers knew that it was actually Anirudh in it. It was before their wedding, when Arpita had bumped into Anirudh at a mall’s parking lot and her excited friends clicked them together ‘just for fun’. Since the meeting lasted only five minutes, Anirudh had come back home and teased Anurag how he had managed to fool his fiancé and how easily he could ‘take his place’ whenever he wanted! On their marriage when a bunch of those excited friends framed and gifted this picture to Arpita, Anurag had kept it on the corner table- for the unusual memory, actually a secret, that the brothers shared.