The Last Ode
The Last Ode14 mins 179 14 mins 179
The sun bloomed on the horizon, stretching its golden petals outwards into the rich blue sky as if inviting a brand new day. Above those majestic and mesmerizing mountains, kissed to their heady blush by the sun, were clouds that moved in shoals. Under the sunrise, the dew on each tea leaves sparkled like diamonds. The small branches of each tea plant spread out as if proud of the bounty they brought and the sweet aroma that they spread. Birds had started chirping amongst the Mahogany and the Sal of the mystic wildlife sanctuary which was surrounded on both sides by the tea gardens and overlooking the hills of Bhutan. A turquoise-blue stream wound its merry way through the forest. Babbling and burbling, it sprung over the limestone rocks in its way. Pebbles whisked about in the under wash like pieces of glitter. Chords of soft light from the rising sun speared down from above, bathing its surface in gold. It was glinting with little sparkles, like a thousand diamonds blessed with an inner fire. With their fingers intertwined stood on the roof of the guest house the couple was cherishing this delighted picturesque moment of the sunrise.
When Mrs. Tapadar entered with a tray with a teapot, cups, saucers which had biscuit and cookies.“Good Morning Mr. and Mrs. Roy, how was your stay last night, did you face any difficulties?” said she while settling the tray on the small tea table surrounded by 4 beautiful and comfortably crafted bamboo chairs. There was a smile on her face, bright as the sunlight, so was her hospitality, this was the possible reason that the “Family Guest House” was so famous in Dooars which was run by the couple Mr. and Mrs. Tapadar. A very jovial Mr. Tapadar walked in towards the tea table with a newspaper in hand. Aniruddh and Parama Roy were newly wedded couples who had come to the Dooars for their honeymoon from the suburbs of the city of Kolkata. The forest, tea plantation, scenic beauty, and the beautiful climate of Dooars had made them fall in love with the place at once.
“No Mrs. Tapadar, it was so nice of you and the place was quite welcoming, we had a good sleep after the tiring journey,” said Aniruddh with a smile and gratitude on his face, while taking the cup of aromatic flavored tea from Mrs. Tapadar.
Mr. Tapadar had already handed over the daily newspaper to Aniruddh, which now rested on his lap.”Did you see the news today?” Mr. Tapadar questioned his wife, there was a worry on his face, “a gang of poachers killed one of the oldest tuskers, the villagers had gathered in the police station, the cops are quiet about the poaching, the Tusks were stolen only the dead body of the elephant lay deep in the forest, how cruel these poachers are!” said Mr. Tapadar with great disgust.
“How pathetic this is, how come these people kills the harmless animals” an emotional Parama exclaimed. “They are not human madam, they are poachers, they can kill anyone for money, this has been going on since ages, the cops do not speak a word, the wild life is coming to an extinct because of these inhuman activities, this needs to stop ….the forest officers, the cops everyone gets the shares, the poachers enter the forest and kills the animals independently if at all the cops and the forest officials had taken steps would they have gotten any chance to kill these poor animals?” fired Mr. Tapadar. He was quite jovial, a short man with a bald on his head always “ready to fight for justice” kind of a person and when he would see any mishappening and recklessness around it would just add fume to his anger.
Bahadur had already arrived with his jeep,Aniruddh and Parama were to go for a short trip in the tea garden. Against the back drop of the dense wood forest,the lush of green tea bushes stood orderly in rows with tall shady trees behind them spreading across like sea as far as the eye could stretch. The tea pluckers moved busily amidst the rows with a basket carried behind them and tied to their heads , they continued to do their chores without noticing what was happening outside their world. The glimpse of the tea garden was soothing in the eyes of Parama, she exclaimed,” how beautiful nature could be! If I was asked if I loved this place I would say, I can live here forever” Aniruddh smiled at the childish behavior of his wife, but he was happy at heart, he was able to bring in that enchanting smile with dimples on his wife’s face, a smile which brought out the innocence of Parama’s heart, a smile which was priceless and that which he could have died for, it meant the world to him, never would he let this smile fade off, he was there for her to make her smile throughout, keep her happy. The vows that he had taken during his marriage , he would not let them fall apart. They would never be separated whatsoever the situation is. They would always be happy, live happily.
But what one conceives, Fate deceives, twenty eight years later this was the day when both Aniruddh and Parama were cherishing their memories of the tea garden through the black and white photographs in their meticulously kept album in their 4by4 room of an Oldage home.
Time flew by, Aniruddh and Parama had 2 sons, well educated, well established, well settled. Maybe when these well beings come to the children they forget the wellbeing of their parents. Old age is an important phase of life when the aged parents can sit back and relax at home after retirement. Aniruddh and Parama both had to pour their sweat hard to bring up both the children, get them well educated, and fulfill all their desires. The modern life which had made people too busy to earn their livelihood and forgetting their moral values, breaking of the joint family into nuclear families, people become selfish and socialize less with their parents. They intends to forget the unconditional love, care, and the hard work that their parents had put upon to bring them up and get them establish in the society. Today it took great pride for Aniruddh to say that their sons are doctor and engineer settled outside the country but does he feels proud when he sees himself in this cornered room of the old age home?
The people around here in the home which was named the “Shesher Kobita” which literally means “The Last Ode”were good,they took great care of the couples and other old people in the Home.Roshni, the manager cum the home keeper was a very beautiful, kind,empathetic and intelligent lady. She had never married and always spent her life helping others, she had worked for NGOs and did great works around for the poor and needy , for which she was awarded a number of times. There was never a time when anyone would have seen her in an angry mood, she always wore a smile on her face no matter what. The hardships of life teach one to either flow along and become rude, selfish, and hard-hearted with reckless attitude, or it may bring in compassion & sensitivity amongst people, one decides which phase to choose from. Roshni chose to be compassionate and sensitive. She had seen all the rough phases of life, from being a daughter of a gambler and a drunkard who always had stolen money from her mother and beaten her up. As a child Roshni had seen all the tortures that her mother had been into because of her father and she had seen her mother hang from the ceiling unable to bear the pain and the torments, they were poor, but poverty did not take her mother’s life, it was the distress, pain, torments, and insults that took her life. Roshni was only ten then with no one to take care ,her identity was her father was a gambler and a drunkard and they were poor. Roshni at that age served as helping hand in few houses or polishing boots or washing cars, that would earn her a piece of bread may be. Her father had tortured her for money as well and tried trafficking his daughter for money. Roshni somehow fled from the clutches of the traffickers.
She was later rescued by a Sister of a Convent and admitted to the orphanage ran by the Church and the trust. This is where her life took a turn, she started to study & live a good life.
Several years later, she too became the member of the trustees and opened this Old Age home “Shesher Kobita” and like her name she had been spreading ray of hope amongst the tormented old parents.
Now this was her family , her home and she loved all the members of the family.All the family members who were aged parents , retired officials, old parents thrown out by their children and had been admitted to the home since they have no one to be taken care of all loved Roshni.She had few helping hands to look after the residents of “Shesher Kobita”
Aniruddh and Parama had been there for few years now, both their sons were settled outside the country and they had decided to keep their parents in this Home. The room they got to live was moderately furnished with a double bed, a writing table and chair and a cupboard. It was next to the rooms where ailing elderly people were kept. The residents of the Home had lost all their hopes of life being dejected and insulted from their near ones, here they were trying to forget everything and live the remaining life with little happiness. The residents were happy, they seemed to have found meaning in their life. Roshni and her co-workers took good care of them all. Dr. Nath was the doctor for the residents. He was there that day to check an old woman who was found in the entry gate all with old torn clothes smeared in mud and dust, she had fainted with high fever. It seemed that she was a beggar and Roshni took it to herself to take care of this ailing woman.”She is very weak, probably not eaten for several days”said Dr.Nath with a worry on his face.”Roshni, you need to take good care of her. she is very weak.” Said the doctor.” she needs healthy food. I will write a few medicines, get for her, give them to her on time, this should cure her.”The woman seemed to be muttering something in unconsciousness. The residents were quite worried about the woman, “May be she is like one of us, dejected by her children in old age!” exclaimed an elderly man. Parama had also come to see the woman, how withered, slim and slender was her physique, she had not eaten for days, running a high fever, everything made Parama shed a drop of tear, she was also dejected once when she was running a high fever and could not wake up, she had to cook for her son’s family since the son’s boss was coming home. Boss was just an excuse, the house help took a leave that day and her daughter –in –law would not invest her time in the kitchen and burn her fingers, also they thought ordering food from a restaurant would not be good as the boss had been expecting an authentic homely food. They had treated her as maid,used her as cook, clean house , do the household chores. To their father they had made him go shopping, take their children to school and bring them back , fix all that needed to be repaired, he worked as plumber, electrician, sweeper, sewage cleaner everything for his sons. Aniruddh had earned a good sum of money in his life and never gave a second thought when both his sons asked for the money to invest in buying apartments. Aniruddh had divided the entire savings into two equal halves and gave it to his sons, with an expectation that his sons would not leave them, they were the prop of their old age and now they had just treated them as garbage and thrown them to this old age home to suffer and grieve, the only asset that they were left with suffered and grief.
Days passed by, the old woman who are brought to the home was not getting cured,she was admitted to hospital on Dr. Nath’s advise. One rainy day few elderly people from the home went to see her, Roshni had already made arrangements to look for the old woman’s nearest kins, they had advertised her pictures 5 days passed by , no one turned up. Aniruddh and Parama too went to see the women, she was diagnosed with intense pneumonia and was not able to speak. This is another phase of life that may be, where none of your kins, near ones love you and think that you are a burden to them , a piece of element for which they have to waste their money on treatment,medicines and care. By afternoon, the condition of the woman was critical. Parama looked through the glass window of the ICU. She could feel the pain that the woman was going through, it was visible on her face, the pain which clearly mentioned her torments from her children, the insults, the grieves, the crest and troughs that she had gone through in life, everything as if were described on her face, she kept on murmuring something in an unconscious state. Parama had heard it once when the woman was in the Home, she might have uttered her son’s name. A mother takes such pain to give birth to a child, carry her in her womb for 10 months, with great pain and agony she gives birth to the child and when this child is careless about the mother, throw away this mother from his life as a piece of useless thing, how a mother is grieved, only she knows. Every insults and torments that her son had given her during her stay with them flashed in front of her eyes, Parama could feel the tears rolling down her eyes, now this was only her fate. During the end of the day the breath of the old woman stopped, she fought to live but God had other plans for her.No one came to claim her body , she was cremated by the workers of the Home.
This incident had great effect on Parama, her vision towards her life changed, her sons had not taken care of her, they had not even taken a news of her all these years. Will her sons ever come back to her when she dies, will they perform her last rites?
Often Aniruddh and Parama took a stroll in the lakeside which was behind the grand building of the “Shesher Kobita”.That night they were taking a stroll, Parama was feeling suffocated and wearied, the death of the old woman in hospital, ceaseless thoughts about what would happen to her if such situation occurs in her life, who would look after Aniruddh everything had assembled in her head like a thick cloud of smoke. The night was brightly lit, the moon reflected on the lake, beautiful ripples formed on the lakes turned into giant waves and then faded away. Aniruddh and Parama arm in arm intertwining their fingers strolled on the lake side. They sat on a bench nearby and started to cherish their olden days, these were only the memories left for them to cherish, all of a sudden Parama said, “what will happen if I die?” The question shocked Aniruddh, angrily he said,” never dare to say such things Parama, how would I live without you?” Parama smile, the same enchanting smile with dimples on her cheeks, the smile for which one-day Aniruddh would have done anything, he held her hands with great care and bowed down to kiss her forehead. Age had grayed out their hair, wrinkles had taken the place of the smooth skin, dried and chapped lips ached but their love was still the same, fresh and young. They started to talk again about their olden days, Aniruddh tried to ease out the situation, he started to recite a poem, which he used to recite when he was young.” The Last Leaf”…….he was excited about the poem and stood up to express his recitation, giving it a different level, he had a great voice, the words of the recitation seemed to leap out of his mouth and turn live. When his recitation was over, he turned back, there had been no appreciation from Parama until now, which was weird, he saw Parama had fallen asleep, he smiles and gently stroke her hair. He was old now, he could not carry Parama in his old hands now, he smiled, he shook Parama a little, “Wake up Parama, we need to return.”Parama did not open her eyes, she was into a deep sleep. Aniruddh shook her again, and with a thud Parama’s body dropped on the bench……her body was cold…. She was not breathing…her face was calm, happy that her life partner was there with her during her last hours.
A worker came looking for them and gauging the situation called for help from the Home, Dr. Nath was already there in the Home. He came and checked Parama’s pulses,” No”, with a pause he said, “I am sorry, she is no more….”
Aniruddh was seated next to Parama’s cold body, the moon was reflecting off the lake, there were ripples on the lakes turning to giant faded waves, he was looking to the reflection of the moon, just a few moments ago they were cherishing the scene together he had recited, “The Last Ode” to her, now he was alone looking into the reflection of the moon in the lake.