Rathna Nagaraj



Rathna Nagaraj


Could She Be Alive

Could She Be Alive

9 mins

Charu could not move her eyes from the picture. Her heart started throbbing as she concentrated on the photograph something within her moved by it. As she was deeply thinking of the picture in the photo, the cook came and called for dinner. She overturned the photograph and kept under the book on the table and followed the cook towards the dining table. Her dad and mom were already seated and when she joined them. Her father asked about the journey and her mother enquired about her comfortable stay in the university where she was studying. Later they were discussing her studies. She also pondered over the things going on here in Kerala. Her father‘s business and other things etc., Even though she was not much interested in all these, to avoid her parents enquiring about her stay in a foreign country. When the issue turned towards her granny status she was taken back without enquiring about her granny’s food she was taking the food, to that extent that photograph had occupied her mind. She got up, to go to her granny but, her parents told her that liquids are being served through pipes, as she is in the last stage of her life, that is why they had sent word for her. So she sat back and continued her dinner. But the dinner lost its flavour as the granny’s status changed her mood off from the dinner. Her fingers were only moving and were hesitating to go to the mouth. Sensing their parent's query look she started slowing eating the dishes. After finishing and when they were wiping their hands in the hand towels a thought came to Charu’s mind and without any hesitation, she asked her father “ Dad! do we have some relatives living in the labour quarters ? “ 

“ Oh! common Charu ! how can our relative live in the labour quarters ? with an exchange look at Charu’s mother as well as at the cook who was more or less like one of the members of that family. He was there in that house since Charu’s father Madan Verghees youths days. He had witnessed the sequences that went on from the day he had entered this house to date. That is Madan’s college-going, entering into the family business, his father passing away, Nalini entering the house has Madan’s wife, Charu’s birth etc., and so on. So, the cook Shanthanu had some privilege in that house. 

“ Ok! Ok! I won't take some rest, don’t worry about unnecessary things, go and relax thus saying he put an end so that no more discussion went on between them, as it may lead to some discomfort feelings, as a businessman as well as a landlord he knew which will lead to what so he went to take rest. Nalini being an obedient wife followed him. Before going to his room he peeped into his mother’s room and asked the home nurse by action. For which she also shook her head by way expressing no change. When they both left, Charu entered in. The home nurse as a matter of respect got up. Charu sent her for dinner and she pulled a chair near her granny’s bed. She patted her head, took her arms in her hand. The touch of Charu’s hand, for a second Charu, sensed some sort of warmness feelings in granny. But she knew this only a momentary feeling. She knew that she cannot revive her granny to normal life but at least aliveness for some more years was essential until at least she could settle in her life. Though Nalini was her mother there was no much bondage as any other mothers in other families. That vacuum was filled by her granny. So her separation is a painful issue. When the nurse returned she once again patted her granny’s head and went to her room to sleep. She could not get sleep, her thoughts were rounding around her university, her future life, granny’s bedridden and so on. All of a sudden plunged out of her bed went near the table and took out the photograph. 

Once again she sensed a sort of feeling, which she was unable to give any name to it. Whom to ask or get clarification for this feeling! Since dad denied it, she was very much sure her mother will not give any answer. If her granny was ok, she would solve her this matter. Since such feelings are usually solved by a psychiatrist or an astrologist. No! No! both are not advisable. Since her family is well known to everyone in that place, which may defame the family. So thinking from all the angles, the whole night she tossed on the bed without sleep, in the early hours of the morning she was in deep sleep. So nobody tried to disturb her. 

She woke up at around 11 in the morning. With a calm mind. Groomed her hair, set righted the bed and came out of her room. There was no sign of her parents, as they had already left the home. Only servants were moving around the housed doing household coarse. She straight away went to her granny’s room, it appeared to her as if she was in a deep sleep. She enquired the nurse, she freshens up her granny. The nurse nodded her as a sign of yes. Then she moved to the kitchen. Shanthanu the cook sensing her coming, give her a mug of tea and wished her good morning. She smilingly wished him and took the mug and return to the hall and sat on the sofa. When she finished drinking the tea Shanthanu came and took the cup and told her that breakfast time is getting over, it is better to have it. She nodded her head and told him that she will have a bath by the time he heats the breakfast.

After breakfast, she moved in and around the bungalow of her house. At lunchtime, her father and mother came and joined along with them and had lunch. Asked her dad who is the doctor who is medicating her granny. Her father told the specialist doctor who is meant for such aged people treatment. After lunch, they all went for a small nap. But Charu could not relax, her mind was full of the lady in the photograph. At 4’O’ clock in the evening after snacks, her parents returned to the company. Charu felt curious about the lady picture. She took the cycle as the cycle is better than a vehicle, to go round slowly and view the nature, and so she started riding road and she passed paddy fields, the palm trees, the coconut grooves and the walnut trees and by the time she had come near the bridge, she rod on the bridge on the river. Her eyes stretched as far as the river extended, the cool breeze had tickled her. Earlier she would have enjoyed such greenery beauty of nature but now with worry in her mind, she could not enjoy nature. As she was passing she came across a small mud road leading to a small house where a lady was standing and waving towards her. At first, Charu turned around to see as to whom she was waving. There was no known nearby to respond to her wave. Then with little hesitation, Charu peddled her cyle on the mud road and even that lady was walking briskly toward her direction as if she was waiting to receiver her. When both of them met each other, Charu keeping her one leg down to the ground and another on the cycle she balanced her halt. The lady wiped her sweat in her saree pallu and smiled at her. She told Charu! you are Charu, isn’t it? while asking she patted Charu’s face and her hand moved all over Charu’s body up to where love and affections are shown. Charu was astonished and confused at her act. For which that lady told her “ Dont worry, I had a daughter who was like you, but she went away from me. After a long time I saw you, so it reminded me of her. Come home have a cup of tea and go I will be very happy “ she invited her to her house. But, How come she could recognise me, her house so far ? a thought passed in Charu’s mind. By that time a scooter was about to pass. “ Go child, go, at least to make her happy visit her house. She is like your mother, go “ they stopped the vehicle and advised her and moved off from there. Charu got down from the cycle and pushing her cycle she walked along with that lady. When they reached their house. She hurried inside the house made Charu sit comfortably and went to the kitchen to prepare tea, and brought some sweets and banana chips for her and kept on the table. Charu was totally confused. who she? who am I ? why did I followed her, like following a bagpiper? such one by one such questions were arising in her mind. She brought tea for her and pressured to have the snacks. Charu eats little snacks and drinking tea. The tea what she gave her was very tasty. It was tastier than ever in her life. Some amusing things made out of coconut shells were showcased in the house. Charu got up and started going through all the showcased items. Though they were not new to her, yet it had its own captivity. Seeing her curiosity the lady told her she is making her living by doing such craftwork and sell them to the dealers and she runs her small coffee cafe above the hills which is far behind her house. 

Hmm ! quite interesting she thought. “ Wait! I will get you one such craft for you and went into the other room. As Charu was watching her eyes got stuck to the photo which was similar to that she had found in the book. Her body, mind became motionless. When she heard of her footsteps she came to her conscious. “ Here! take this, “ she handed over coconut craftwork of a mother having a child in her arms. But seeing Charu’s questionable face, she saw towards the photo. “ Oh! it is not my daughter, it is me when I was young... and immediately she bit her tongue as if something that she is not supposed to say her she had told her off. And immediately she took Charu from the room and hurried her to leave the house. Charu’ doubts went on grinding within her. Upon reaching the house. She went inside the house and went to her room, hurriedly took out the photo. She saw and saw, it was the same photo, but how come this could be? By that time, Shanthanu entered the room, seeing him she was shockingly seeing at him and the photo slipped from her hand and fell on the ground. Before she would pick it up, Shanthanu picked it and saw it. He understood everything and silently walked back. 


After some time Charu entered her granny’s room. The nurse went to fresh up. 

She sat beside her granny’s bed. Shanthanu came with a teacup and handed over it to her. She took the cup seeing Shanthanu for an answer. “ Moley/ Child did you see her ? he asked Charu 

“ Yes, today I saw her went her house had tea “ Charu

“ You shouldn’t have met her and gone to her house, “ said he in a shockingly

“ But why? “ Charu

“ She is your surrogate mother, her sense of bondage is everlasting, Nalini your mother had no children at last for the sake of family prestige all these went on. 

But that lady remained unmarried.” Shanthanu

“ No! I will find justice to my real mother “ screamed Charu 

There was a smile on granny’s face, a satisfied smile. 

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