Corona Virus Strikes
Corona Virus Strikes9 mins 210 9 mins 210
Anima lived with her mother in the outskirts of Kolkata. Her father, who was a musician, had expired when she was small. As she did not have any brother, or sister, after she had graduated, and done her Teachers Training, she knew that it was her responsibility to look after her half blind mother. She had been working as a teacher for the last four years. But even at school her primary concern was her handicapped mother. She would call her between her classes to find out whether she was alright. Her daily routine was very strenuous. She had to get up very early, as she had to catch the train on time to reach her school by eight in the morning. Before she left every day, she cooked a light meal for her mother, and tidied up the house. She went to the market in the evenings on her way back from school.
People said that she had taken after her father in looks. She had a slim, tall figure, very delicate features, and one could describe her as being attractive. But her difficult daily regime was telling on her health. There were dark rings round her eyes which she ignored. She was a very caring and self-less person.
Anima looked at her watch. It was four in the evening. It was not yet time for the school bell to ring. She straightened her back, as she had had a long day, and she was finding it hard to keep sitting.
She ran her fingers through her thick bob-cut hair, and wondered if she splashed some water on her face, would she feel better. She shuddered, thinking of the ordeal which awaited her at the end of class hours. Her whole being recoiled, and revolted at the thought, but she had no option. She was like a slave fettered, and bound. She blocked her mind, and concentrated on the exercise which Ronald, her student, had brought to her for checking.
Anima had been a good student herself, and her passion was Literature. She loved children, and it gave her intense satisfaction when she could instill the same love for learning in them. When she was with the children, it acted like an elixir, and it gave her renewed energy, and will to go on.
The bell rang, and the students cheered, as it was time for them to leave. One by one they came, and thanked her for taking their class. They were very fond of her, and she forgot all her little crosses when she was with them. The Principal of the school was Mr. David Brown. He was nearing his retirement age. He used to summon her frequently to his office on one pretext, or the other. He had accumulated a lot of flab all round his body, and found it difficult to move. He had a distasteful way of talking, as well as his behavior was repellent, at least, it was to Anima. He had made it clear to her that if she wanted to keep her position in school; she had to do some charity. As she was young, it was a good time of her life when she could do some altruistic work. He told her that after school she had to go to his Quarters and wait for him. As he was advancing in age, he was having a lot of arthritic aches and pains. She should give him a massage for one hour, for which he would pay her. Anima read in –between the lines, and loathed the speaker.
She did what she was asked to do but maintained a cool aloofness. David did not have the courage to make any advances, as if his intentions came out in the open, he would lose his job. But he was hoping for a compliant partner.
This is how days passed for Anima. One day she was boarding the bus to the train station. She had a lot of exercise books with her which she was taking home for corrections. As she was getting on, somebody pushed her, and her books got scattered all over. There was a gentleman behind her, who gallantly picked up the exercise books for her, but in the bargain missed the bus. Anima was more than grateful and expressed her thanks abundantly. This was the beginning of a close friendship with Prashanta. He used to go often to her house, and regale her mother with entertaining anecdotes, and she always looked forward to his visits. When Anima would be tied down with too much work, she would tell him to reach her mother’s medicines which he did. In short he became an indispensable part of the family. Prashanta was currently studying Chinese Language at the University. Simultaneous with his studies, he had taken on a part time job in one of the schools as a Librarian. He had applied for jobs in China as he wanted to become an Interpreter. There was a very good opening in the Indian Embassy in China, and he was hoping he would get the job.
Prashanta and Anima had made many future plans. If he managed to get the assignment, he would go to China first, and after he had managed to save some money, he would take Anima and her Mother with him. Their wedding would be very simple. They would just register their marriage, and perhaps invite a few friends.
When Anima was not working, she would spend the time, planning out her life with Prashanta. In the meantime, she went on with her daily routine with clock-like precision, because she knew that she needed the money to run the household. So one day after school hours, she went to Mr. David’s apartment as usual. She was engrossed in her work, but her thoughts were with Prashanta. He had promised to take some special sweets for her Mother, as they were her favourite. But at the back of her mind Anima was not at ease. She had noticed that for no rhyme or reason David was ogling at her, and smiling in a lecherous way. Then slowly he brought his swollen puffy fingers, and closed them on her delicate hand when she was massaging him. Then scrutinizing her leeringly, he tightened his grip on her fingers so she found it difficult to withdraw her hand. Then he drawled, “Why is it Anima that when you touch me, all my aches and pains vanish?” He then sat up, and looking up and down her lasciviously, added, “Anima today we must celebrate and forget about massaging. We have had enough of that, today we will do something more exciting.” Anima’s jaws tightened, and all the muscles in her body became taut. For a moment, the image of her mother, knocking against the furniture in the room, and groping the walls to get about, hit her subconscious mind. She wanted to smash David’s head, and pull out all his teeth, to stop him from grinning in that vulgar way. She knew that had she given the man a tight slap which he deserved, from the next day she would be without a job. What was she to do? She prayed to God, as she had never done before. “God, save me!”
It might have been an answer to her prayer, or sheer coincidence, at that moment her mobile phone began ringing. It was Prashanta. His voice could be heard loud and clear, “Anima come as fast as you can!” With that he left the receiver. Anima got up panicking. She hurriedly excused herself saying that something must have happened to her mother.
Anima ran as fast as she could to the bus stop. But the bus would not arrive. Every minute seemed to be a lifetime. What had happened to her Mother! How was she to live without her precious mother? She prayed and prayed, so that her mother would not be taken away from her. If only the bus which she had boarded could run a bit faster! When she reached her home, she saw Prashanta was standing outside, presumably to give her the bad news. She felt at that moment , even he could not comfort her. She could not imagine her life without her mother. Then her eyes fell on something moving in the room. It happened to be her mother. Words cannot describe her feelings!
Prashanta seemed to be over excited. He told her that he had asked her to return home fast, as he could not wait to give her the good news. He had been offered the job in China in the Indian Embassy. He would have to leave in a fort-night. Prashanta told her that she should not go back to work in the same school. Now that he was getting a good job, she did not have to worry, for sooner or later, he would take them to China. In the meantime she could look for a job in some other school.
Anima saw Prashanta off with a heavy heart. The only solace was that he had left a bit of himself with her. It was her request to lessen the poignancy of the parting. She had been lucky to get an offer as a teacher within a week, so her time did not hang. But she missed him intensely and waited for the day when he would give her the good news that he was coming back. Finally the day did arrive, and Anima was all excited to give Prashanta her bit of the news, that their baby was on the way. She had decided that as soon as he came back, they would get married; otherwise the baby would become a bastard.
But it seemed that their love story was not going to end on the happy note that, “ they lived happily ever after.” At the Kolkata Airport he was detected with Corona Virus. Not only had he to be quarantined, but there were chances that he might not also survive. Anima went through intense mental tension, and her concern for her unborn child was paramount. If she had only waited!
Anima wanted to talk to him on the mobile phone, but as Prashanta had acute lung congestion, he could not speak. His condition was worsening day by day. His temperature was soaring despite the antibiotics. He had a racking cough, and wheezing, which made any communication by phone difficult. After that, for a few days there was no news, nor information--- perhaps because the hospital was under political pressure. They did not want the public to panic, or they wanted to cover up the instances of deaths.
Anima spent sleepless nights, and restless days, worrying about Prashanta. How could she ever live her life without the father of her baby? Now she had to think about the little one’s future too. As she combed her mother’s silvery grey hair, tormenting thoughts invaded her mind, and the years to come seemed to be bleak. For long she had stifled all her feelings, and suppressed her emotions. She had to be the pillar of strength for her mother. But the barrage of tears at last burst, and she fell on her mother’s lap, and started to sob like a baby. Her mother pressed her to her heart, and tried to comfort her. As Anima raised her head to wipe her tears, through a blur, she saw a figure in front at the door. With her sooty kohl smudged all over her face, and her hair in a riotous mess, she barged into the standing figure. With a tender kiss, and a sparkling gold ring, Prashanta wiped away all her pain--- for ever!