REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

4  

REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

The Conflict Within

The Conflict Within

11 mins
253


Sarla tossed and turned but sleep eluded her. She tried to recollect when was the last time she had a restful sleep. Counting back, she realised that she had peacefully slept on the day prior to her wedding! Five years had gone by! Her wedding had been the talk of the town too. The newspapers carried reports of a saga of love which ultimately culminated in the bond of marriage when the bride and groom were in their sixties. They were interviewed by the local TV channel and their love story spread far and wide. They had both created some sort of a revolution when they married for companionship when they entered their second childhood.

Somehow Sarla’s mother had never wished that this friendship be sealed by marriage. She had never objected to their “living together”, which some three or four decades back would have been frowned upon. As long as Ma was around, Sarla too had not contemplated a marriage. She felt secure with Ma with her and though senior by at least twenty years, Ma was both physically and mentally agile. Ma who had probably done only her high school, loved to play scrabble with her gynaecologist daughter, and the best part would be when she always won hands down. Ma was interested in many things – she would never miss a cricket match on TV and all the quiz and reality shows too, kept her glued. She was an expert cook and an all-rounder and could engage the attention of the smallest to the eldest in the family.

One fine day, everything changed. Ma had finished cooking lunch and had kept the oil to fry pappads, but felt uneasy and switched off the gas and came out on to the lawn waiting for Sarla to return from the bazar. Sarla was back quite soon and one look at Ma told her that all was not well. She was hospitalised diagnosed with a severe heart attack, was in the ICU for a fortnight, but finally died of kidney failure.

Sarla was lost. A cousin had come to be with her to tide over the sad period. Shammi too was around, trying his bit to cheer her up. Sarla’s siblings came to pay their homage to their mother, but soon had to return to their families and responsibilities. It was around that time that Shammi had proposed that they should be formally married and everyone in the family thought it to be a good idea, as there would be some responsible person to take care of Sarla inasmuch as he had known her for many years.

The wedding was solemnised in a simple manner and friends for forty years became man and wife. Sarla was not very healthy, but very frail – she had inherited Diabetes Mellitus from her father, had bouts of asthmatic attacks, thanks to a love failure in her teens, an Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a compressed disc in addition to osteoporosis of the knees and arthritis in the hands. After Ma passed away, Shamli, a teenager from the nearby village known to them, joined the family to cook and take care of the home. She was a very sweet and charming girl and discharged her duties lovingly. Sarla’s brother, sister and her cousin were happy for her, that at last, she could live the way she wished to. 

However, the happiness was only short-lived. Shammi and Shamli could not see eye-to-eye on many things. Shamli was a straight forward, simple charming girl and could not tolerate Shammi’s suggestive physical advances towards her when Sarla was not around. She just left all of a sudden and there was a hurried search for a household help. Sarla was not aware of the reason for Shamli’s departure and felt very much let down. Shammi managed the house for a couple of days by which time, he himself came across an orphaned girl begging on the streets and brought her home, saying that she was known to one of his friends and had lost her way in the city. Since the need for a domestic help was prime in everyone’s mind, nobody inquired further and Mili joined the household. Shammi had bought her new sets of clothes for her and once she had a thorough wash and cleaned herself, the girl looked quite pretty. Sarla being soft-hearted by nature, immediately took to her and the household started functioning well once again.

Unlike Shamli, Mili responded to Shammi’s overtures and soon little Mili started assuming more power in the house. Sarla’s interests, wishes were all side-lined and whatever Mili said, was the final word. Since there was no work the whole day, Shammi got her admitted in a tutorial class so that she could appear for her degree course privately. He also got her a scooty so that she could use it for attending class, going to the bank, buy groceries etc.

Sarla got used to Mili, though sometimes she would wonder why Shammi spent more time with her. She presumed that he was helping her with her studies and did not let it bother her. Sarla’s cousin paid them a visit one weekend and could immediately understand that all was not right in the house. She hinted to Sarla to be a little more careful, lest Mili get the upper hand, but Sarla brushed her aside.

If Sarla had shown even the slightest determination to manage things on her own, she could have looked after her bank accounts etc. Her lethargy to even get up from where she was seated, made things easy for Shammi and Mili. Soon, on the pretext of getting passbooks updated etc., Shammi took the cupboard keys from Sarla and handed them over to Mili. As if waiting for this opportunity, Mili conducted a thorough survey of the cupboard’s contents and slowly started pilfering, which ultimately ended up in theft.

Shammi was her guide and both together planned to divest Sarla of all her belongings. They had drawn up a list of all of Sarla’s investments and had noted down where all the documents and jewellery were kept. Since some of the jewellery was in the locker, they managed to get a signed application from Sarla for surrendering the locker and had a local doctor to certify that she was immobile and so could not appear in person at the Bank. Over the years, as a practising gynaecologist, Sarla knew most of the people in the city, who were prepared to help her in whatever way they could. This goodwill came in handy. Shammi was able to surrender the locker and empty its contents, all unknown to Sarla. She had merely subscribed her signatures on many blank sheets of paper with a blind faith on Shammi.

Citing her various illnesses, Sarla had made it a practice of lying on the bed all the time. She had the television in the room and if she felt like it, would watch something, but for the most part she would love to sleep. It was a rainy day and it was by chance, that Sarla saw a huge rainbow from her window. What made her wish to see it more clearly, is anyone’s guess, but the fact of the matter was that she did get up from bed and walk a few steps towards the adjoining balcony to see the very beautiful rainbow. Just as she reached the door, she heard voices in the neighbouring room – Shammi and Mili were talking to each other. Sarla froze when she saw through the gap in the hinges, Shammi and Mili in a very compromising position, discussing her assets and how they could grab them.

The rainbow no longer lured Sarla. She was crestfallen. She recalled her cousin’s words, but now it was too late. She stood still and was shocked to hear them further. Shammi was reminding her to increase the dose of medicine to be added to the glass of milk she was taking regularly at night. He was chuckling to himself when he said that one of these days Sarla would be paralysed and then they were free to do whatever they wished. Hearing this, Sarla tip-toed back to her bed and started to think what she should do. Her brother and sister were far away and were not in a position to come down to her immediately. She had not kept in touch with her many local friends for a long time and even if she did approach them, she could not bring herself to tell them what was going on.

As she tossed and turned, she felt cheated. She could not even bear to think that Shammi who had professed his love for her would behave so cheaply. In the recent past, they had disposed of a plot which stood in her name for Rupees Twenty Lacs, and though Shammi said that it was credited to their account, she was now doubtful. After she parted with her keys, she realised that she had not worn any jewellery even on occasions such as Dussera or Diwali. She now wondered whether they still existed or not.

Never had she been so gullible and easily taken for a ride. What hurt her most was the person in whom she had reposed faith and confidence had schemed against her. Probably Ma knew his nature and that was why she had not consented to her marrying him. Now, there was no sense in regretting about the past – she had to act, act before they ended her life or made her a handicapped person as per their plan.

When Mili smilingly brought the glass of milk, she asked her to leave it on the table saying that she would take it later. Mili had no cause for doubt and so left it on the table and went. Sarla did not switch on the TV that night and had also left her room door ajar. So, when she moved on her bed close to the wall, she could hear them laughing and talking. “If only I had been more alert, I would not be seeing these days,” Sarla said to herself. “What audacity to slow poison me for grabbing my wealth?” she wondered. Everyone is out to get easy money. She was surprised that Shammi was stinking rich having inherited all the wealth of his forefathers as he was the only son in the family. Yet, he was greedy for more!

Sarla could not think anymore about this. She closed her eyes in prayer. “Dear God, if you feel I have been true and kind to everyone, I seek Your Hand in getting me out of this mess”. She knew that she had been generous and very compassionate and had not wronged even a single person. She believed in the strength of her prayer. After she said her usual prayers, one last time she invoked Divine interference in solving the issue. She felt quite light-hearted and relieved and slept peacefully.

Well past midnight, she was awakened by some weird noises. There was also a blast accompanied by shrieking and immediately the flat was enveloped in darkness. She thought that she recognised the voices of Shammi and Mili but was not too sure. She also saw that the lights were on in her neighbour’s flat as well as on the streets. The silhouette of her neighbour working on his laptop could be seen through the curtains and she decided to call him for help. She hesitated to leave her bed for fear of falling down as all was dark. She stretched out her hand over the bedside table and found her mobile. She had registered her neighbour’s number on top of the emergency list and auto-dialled it. 

He was kind enough to respond immediately and agreed to come to her flat with the security guard who had the duplicate keys of all flats for an emergency. Within minutes, they had reached and replaced the fuse from outside itself. Once the lights were on, Sarla braved herself and walked to the next room. The neighbour and security guard had also arrived at the spot. Both Shammi and Mili were gone forever. Their mobile chargers had heated up and both mobiles had exploded causing all the noisy damage. Since the fuse had auto-cut the power, the fire had not spread.

The police took over from there. Some kind neighbours hearing the commotion woke up and offered to provide solace. Sarla had mixed feelings - she felt as if poetic justice had been done. Here was a couple scheming to grab all her belongings, and by a mere Act of Fate, their end had come. As the saying goes, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world ever dreams of!”  

Sarla waited a few days till all the rites were conducted. Through a friend she could identify a peaceful retirement community which also provided assisted care, and shifted there to spend her twilight hours. The residents took to her quite easily. Sarla shared her knowledge and experiences with the newly established extended family and in turn benefited from their affection and support.

On an odd day, she would remember the hard times she had, facing the conflict within – out of frustration, she had even contemplated killing herself to save them the trouble. Before leaving for her new home, she had undergone a complete medical check-up. The panel of doctors were unanimous in their observation that if only Sarla had continued the slow poison administered by the duo even for a couple of days more, she would have had to suffer severe damages to the brain, kidney, liver and other organs. She would have been reduced to a vegetable state. She thanked her stars that the tragic end they had met was the fruit of their own karma. A fleeting image of the beautiful moments she had spent with Shammi appeared before her eyes. “How naïve I have been? I had not for a moment suspected that he could be so wicked. However, I can never forgive him for his affair with a small girl, who was young enough to be his grand-daughter! Thank you, God, for your kind mercy!”

She folded her hands in deep gratitude, very much relieved of the inner conflict.


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