Mukti13 mins 180 13 mins 180
She hesitated for a second and paused in front of the locked door. In that silence that prevailed, she could almost hear her own heartbeat. This has become a daily ritual now; pausing before the door. For she knew, entering the door simply meant that she would be lost in that world for the next twelve hours or so.
It was a small room, perhaps measuring 15 feet by 10. The walls were painted with some obscure color once, though, no one knew when. Now the plaster was peeling and it had dark brown patches where the rainwater had seeped in. The room was cramped with odds and ends; there were clothes strung on a wire tied to two ends of the room and an old cupboard with a cracked mirror on one side of the door, while cobwebs were dangling from the roof. There was only one window and it was closed. The glasses of both the window shutters were broken and were replaced with old cardboard. A single cot was put alongside the window.
There were no pictures on the wall.
She held her breath. She was used to the foul smell in the room but even for her, the stench that came from the bed was unbearable; it smelt of...…death!
She went closer and sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at the figure that was lying on the bed. It was difficult to believe that the figure belonged to a human being; the face had wrinkled beyond recognition, the head had few strands of grey hair and hands, two lopsided pieces of bone loosely held by the skin, lay on either side of the frail body hardly measuring four feet.
She gently caressed the hands and held the lifeless hands. The hands looked very small, as though it belonged to a two-year-old girl. She took out a towel and gently wiped the sweat from the face. She kept looking at the body that lay very still.
For a second there was concern on the girl’s face. She brought her ear close to the chest to listen to the heartbeat. The beat, though barely audible, was there. The human body that lay on the bed was alive! The eyes opened partially and there seemed to be some movement of the iris. And slowly, ever so slowly, the eyes seemed to change its color and widened a bit and riveted on the girl’s face.
The girl sighed and stood up. She walked towards kitchen. Leftovers from the morning’s cooking were still lying on the kitchen platform.
The maidservant was employed only to feed food in the afternoon and she dumped used plates and glasses into the already full sink.
She badly needed a cup of tea, but her tired body refused further punishment. She just wanted to lie down and do nothing. She forced herself to the task, boiled milk and prepared two cups of tea. She took one cup and a spoon walked towards the bed. She kept the cup on the ground, forced the figure lying on the bedsit and forcefully opened the lips and fed tea with a spoon. Most of the time tea rolled back from the mouth. She pushed a pillow under the head. All the while, the eyes kept looking at her. By the time she finished feeding, she remembered her cup of tea. It lay on the kitchen table, cold. She brought it and sat down on a chair by the side of the bed.
She slowly sipped the tasteless cold liquid, and looked at the frail figure. Who can tell that the figure lying on the bed was her mother? The same person who had springs in her legs and relentlessly worked 18 hours a day? Who can tell that those black holes which were once called eyes, had sparkles in them and dreamt of her daughter’s wedding?
Ila looked at the old cupboard and slowly got up and opened it. The red-colored silk sari was hung with an old hanger. It was crumpled but looked new; it was never worn, well almost. She took it in her hand feeling the fabric against her rough fingers and put it on her shoulder and studied herself in the broken mirror.
The face that looked back appeared to belong to someone else. She was only 28 but looked over 40! The once radiant face has become dark. The sparkling eyes appeared to have lost its sheen. Dark circles beneath the eyes made her look old; very old.
She closed her eyes and thought about the good old days.
It was the month of December and the unseasonal rain made the city even colder. Ila adjusted her dress as she got down from the car and looked around. The normally busy area was bereft of people.
He is late once again! She bit her lips in anger and contemplated going back. Suddenly she saw the lights of a motorbike. Arun stopped the bike, took out his helmet and grinned sheepishly at her. Ila turned her face away in mock anger.
“Sorry dear. You know the quarterly closing kept me a little late,” said Arun.
“But you always have different reasons for coming late. Haven’t I told you that I will have to take my mother for shopping?”
“I am really sorry Ila..”
“You know, I have a feeling that once we get married, you will not love me as much as you do now’ Ila pouted. “Well you are right on that one. But who told you that I love you now” chided Arun escaping a punch from an angry Ila. Laughing, the couple went into the restaurant for a warm evening meal.
Ila, her eyes closed, could still feel the warmth of the male body against her as she and Arun sat very close in the restaurant. Well, that was the last time the two of them sat that close,
Ila shivered; the memory of the nightmare that followed caused goose pimps. The scene flashed in front of her eyes; the accident, death of her father and the helpless doctor who announced that her mother would never walk, talk or move in her life again as she is paralyzed neck below.
She came out of the hospital and stood in the rain; cold wind and pouring rain hardly made a difference to her; her life was shattered.
The ordeal that followed hardly surprised her. Ila knew that her brother would shrug off the responsibility. “Ila you know as well as I do, that I can't afford to look after her, not this way. Neither I have the money nor the time. Mother would never walk or talk and would need someone looking after her all the time.” Damodar, her brother said in emotionless voice.
And worst, he suggested shifting her to nursing center or….. Slowly came the other option; “why don’t we consult a doctor and you know, an injection.” Ila slapped her elder brother; that was the last she saw of him.
"But I don’t understand this” Exasperated, Arun knelt in front her and looked at Ila. “Why you? Why not your brothers?” They were sitting the same park where they met all the time. Ila simply looked at Arun without saying a word.
She walked towards the bed, looked at her mother; her eyes wide seemed to recognize the saree, Ila had put on her shoulder.
"Do you know what day is today? How would you know?" Ila laughed out. "It is May 7; six years ago, exactly 6 years ago, this day, your daughter would have got married!" Her eyes welling up, Ila looked at her mother and saw water trickling down from her eyes.
"Arun never understood the real feelings I have for you mom. He wanted me to compromise with that idiot Damodar. How could I mom? You know how he behaves, on top of that once his wife came back from a delivery, god knows what they would have done to you. You tell me, mom. Did I do anything wrong by bringing you to a separate house?"
Ila sat on the edge, held her mother's hand and cried. The calls from Arun simply stopped coming and her calls went unanswered. Ila understood; when you are in trouble, no one helps you, not even God! Days went by. Ila simply slugged on with her work reaching late to office almost every day and became the butt of jokes in the Bank where she worked.
Ila looked at her mother. “Do you know ma? Today also I got a good scolding from my Manager, like I have been receiving for the last six years. At this stage, I would lose my job” The eyes; it’s always eyes that seemed to be giving reply which only Ila seemed to understand. She continued. “You know ma? I feel like running away from this cruel world; where people respect only money, fame and good-looking people. No one seems to have time for our problems. No one seems to understand my fears and helplessness”
Ila continued to talk oblivious of her surroundings.
Exhausted, she came back to the bed, pulled the only chair in the room very close to the bed and looked at those eyes again. “Tell me, how do we get out this?
Ila saw flickering in the eyeballs; though they were not moving now, they changed colors and started to well up. Ila took a handkerchief and wiped the tears. “I know what you are trying to say. You feel guilty for pushing me into this situation. What else could I have done? Tell me? Should I have also discarded you like your two sons? How could I”? Now Ila started crying and slowly the drops of warm tears started to fall on her mother’s frail hands.
She wiped her tears and went to the kitchen table wherein she had kept her office bag. Removing a brown color paper envelope, Ila came back and sat on the edge of bed once again.
She slowly emptied the contents on the bed and could sense the stiffening of the body of her mother when she saw a syringe in her hand. Ila looked at her mother. The eyes were wide now and there was something in those eyes… something that Ila had never seen before. Is it fear? She asked herself.
Ila remembered what Dr. Ramesh told her. “Look Ila. I have never done this kind of thing before in my life. I sure know the consequences if I am caught. I have known you since childhood. Given a choice, you wouldn’t do it either.” Ila looked at Ramesh. He was of her age but looked much younger. Being a doctor and a successful one at that made all the difference, she thought. It was his idea to provide the ultimate relief to the ailing body and mind which cannot take any more.
“You know Ila? All over the world the debate is going on about Euthanasia – or the mercy killing of those who longer can live because they are brain dead or suffering from so much pain that death would provide greater relief both to the patient and the relatives. Many a western country have even legalized it. However, in our country, it is not possible. Both of us could land in jail, if we were found. Bedsore from which your mother is suffering is getting worse by the day and that’s why you get that awful smell in the room. Explained Ramesh while discussing the possibility of ending the misery faced by Ila’s mother.
Ila went several times to meet Ramesh with her proposal of providing deliverance to her mother but was discouraged politely by Ramesh.
“Do you know Ma? Ila looked at her mother with the syringe in her hand. “How much of persuasion needed to get this from Ramesh”? The pupils enlarged once again and Ila thought that she recognized the name, Ramesh. Ignoring the look, Ila continued. “I know what you must be thinking.
No ma, this is not any new medicine. This…” Ila held and brought the syringe to the eye level so that her mother could see before continuing, “Is the ultimate of all medicines. One injection and all your pains and problems will be over.” Suddenly Ila laughed out, and her eyes welled up and tears started flowing once again.
“Who should get “Mukti” ma? By injecting you and allowing you to die peacefully without ever have to listen to your daughter's daily list of problems and the pain that you are feeling which you cannot even talk about, or is that “Mukti” for me? I honestly don’t know.”
Ila started to cry and this time without sound.
She did not know how long she cried. When finally, she recovered her senses and looked at her mother’s eyes, she was surprised that it was very calm. The cloud of fear was gone. Ila bent and kissed her mother on the forehead and whispered her tears.
“You understand what I am doing? I see in your eyes a calmness which I have not seen in ages. You understand the agony your loving daughter is going through. But…” Ila voice became very hard. “No ma… you do not understand fully what I will be doing now. You know ma, Dr. Ramesh is not very smart although he is a good doctor. I told him to give me two vials and not one”. Ila removed two vials from the bed where she had emptied the contents of the brown envelope.
She held both the vials in her hand and laughed out loud once again before continuing. “Poor Dr. Ramesh. He bought my story that vial might break as I lack knowledge of using it and agreed to give me two. Don’t worry about your little daughter. She knows how to take care of herself.
You see ma..” Ila bent her head and looking into her mother’s eyes, whispered once again. “After injecting you with the first vial, your good and loving daughter will inject the second one for herself and before you know, both of us would be blissfully sailing to another world where no one would ridicule us, no one scolds and most importantly, there will be no more pain.”
Suddenly, Ila felt her mother’s hand stiffening and eyes welling up with tears. Ila knew that her mother does not want her younger daughter to die, but to live. But, Ila thought, she is not one going through the ordeal of fighting an everyday battle.
“I know what you are thinking ma…Ila continued. “But you see ma, I have no other option. Believe me, when I say this, I need “Mukti” from this big bad world where I have none whom I can call family except you. I hate my existence as much as you do with yours.”
Ila took the first vial, broke it and filled the fresh syringe with the clear liquid without another word. Once done, she held the now filled syringe in her hand and looked at her mother and spoke in a calm voice.
“This is it ma; the end of everything. Honestly, I don’t know whether I am right or wrong. I simply don’t care. What I believe and know with certainty is, we both have no future and I don’t want to live in my past. I ask not a god but you to forgive your daughter for what she is doing. Even if I had one percent chance of helping you to recover, trust me, I wouldn’t have done this.”
Ila kept the syringe on the bed. “There is no hurry. I have the whole night to do what I have to do. So, relax and spend your last few hours on earth listening to your daughter.”
Ila, now completely at ease with herself, went on to talk. Today, she did not hold back anything. She knew that there would not be another day in their life, so why keep anything pending?
While Ila spoke her heart out, the mother’s eyes never left the gaze fixed on the daughter’s face, as if feeling and soaking in every word that was spoken.
Exhausted with her nonstop babbling, Ila felt tired and closed her eyes and soon fell to deep slumber, sitting on the chair kept very close to her mother’s bed.
As early morning sun broke through the clouds, sun rays fell on Ila’s face from the broken window and she woke up suddenly. A big sheikh came out her mouth reverberating in that small room.
The syringe kept by Ila on the edge of the bed, very close to her mother’s body lying on the bed was being held by the frail fingers which have not moved at all for years tightly and the needle inserted into the flesh.
The syringe was empty.