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Lalu Krishnan

Drama Tragedy


Lalu Krishnan

Drama Tragedy

The Mother's Daughter

The Mother's Daughter

8 mins 233 8 mins 233

Perched comfortably in a bean bag, I stretched my right hand to take the Benson & Hedges packet from the centre table. With the other, I balanced a glass of Old Monk, with just the right portions of ice and cola.

There were four cigarettes left. “Enough to last me for today.”

I flipped out one and placed it between my dark, dry lips and lit it with a dexterous flick of the lighter. I sucked the smoke deep into my lungs and blew out the remains – chin up, into the warm, wet, June, Mumbai night. The rings of smoke added to the murkiness of the overcast sky. I sat entranced by the chequered interplay of lights and shadows in the Mumbai night sky – a nebulous reflection of my chequered past. The rain had stopped. The view from my eighteenth-floor balcony enthralled me. The wet, illuminated road on the shores of the Powai Lake shone like a chain of gold and diamonds. I puffed and sipped, legs raised on to the railing, admiring in awe, the odd, gigantic, picturesque lightning cracking up the deep, dark sky. The intermittent thunder interrupted David Gilmour’s soft, melancholic vocals, which emanated from a Bose system in the perfectly lit living room next to the balcony. A million myriad thoughts clouded my mind. I gazed aimlessly into the horizon, trying to make sense of the vague silhouettes of the distant hills beyond the lake, wondering what the future had in store.

It was 9pm. I did not know why, but I was irritated and a trifle scary. I went back into the room, the drink and cigarettes in my hand. My body sank into the sofa. I turned off the music and pushed up my thick glasses from my eyes on to my forty-six-year-old, wrinkled forehead. As much as I wanted to move on from my current state, I failed. I placed my palms over my eyes – for a moment of solace that the resultant darkness would provide to me.

The temptation to tune in to the news channels, once again, got over me. They continued to report on Nandini’s gruesome rape and murder at Kodanad, in Kerala. Twenty kilometres from the Kochi airport, Kodanad, a beautiful, green hamlet on the banks of the Periyar, is known for its exotic elephant training centre and an eco-tourism project. I was born and spent my first seventeen years here before I moved to study at the premium RIT Madras. I had last visited Kodanad twenty-two years ago, when my father, a widower for eighteen years, had passed away.

More than twelve hours had passed since the news first broke. However, nothing incremental was being presented in the reportage or the visuals. The incessant exhibition of the obscure images of Nandini’s gory frame heaped up at one corner of her room, left me numb. They also showed the horrendous spectacle of her body, wrapped around a white shroud with drops of blood spattered on it, being carried away by policemen. I continued to stare, in disbelief, at the television screen, listening to reports by the different news channels about how it all happened earlier that day when her mother was away at work.

Details of how she was beaten up with a steel rod and how it was inserted into her, were nauseating. Poor girl! How much pain would she have had to go through before finally giving up? What trauma would she have had to experience before latching on to her last gasp of breath?

Oh…for the shame, the agony, the repulsion…on being approached by those repugnant, murky shadows, as they rubbed against every inch of her body...

Oh…for her disgust even as she breathed her violent last!

Could a human have done this? It felt awful to even imagine that! But then, perhaps, only a human could have been so inhumane.

Fleeting images of her wailing mother, Shyama, were disconcerting. How would she have felt after seeing her daughter as a hardly recognizable macabre pile, kicked into a corner? I felt insane at that thought.

And then there was Nandini’s photograph, which flashed intermittently amongst all these unsettling visuals. A beautiful twenty-one-year-old in her final year engineering, she was all set to step into a fruitful career, having received a job offer from Infosys. She was all set to make her single mother, a state government clerk, proud. And to prove that you do not need the name and address of a father to do well in life.

But now, that was not to be. All destroyed by a few nebulous shadows, a few reeking pieces of crap, camouflaged amongst the millions who throng the streets every day.

Amongst these millions, would also be Nandini’s neighbours, who were oblivious to her eerie shrieks for help. Amongst them, would also be the policemen who preferred to ignore the repeated complaints from Nandini and Shyama about threats from specific individuals; and who now, supposedly, did not have any headway into the case even after twelve hours. These millions would also constitute the politicians and government officials, who enhanced their bank balances with the money earmarked for providing street lighting and security to the locality – sweeteners that most political parties would promise as long as they campaigned for votes, but would forget once they came to power. These millions would constitute so many more.

A sharp, burning sensation in my fingers jolted me back into my life. My cigarette had burnt to the butt, forming a rather long tube of ash. The half-conscious swing of my hand dropped the ash into my drink. I gulped it down my throat. My eyes fell on to my daughter’s photograph, which covered a good twenty percent of the wall in front of me. I looked at my fourteen-year-old Nyssa. She was looking into my eyes, smiling.

She was on a two-day trip to Mahabaleshwar from school. She would be enjoying the break. But was she safe? I was paranoid. I tried calling her mobile, but it was not responding. I then realized that it was already eleven. She would have slept and she keeps her mobile on silent before going to bed – I reasoned.

Once again, I was unable to look into Nyssa’s eyes for too long. It was sinister. I switched off the TV. I was drunk and it was time to go to bed. It was raining again. The Mumbai traffic would be awfully slow the next morning. I would need to leave early to be on time for a 10am meeting.

I lay on the bed, but sleep eluded me. I have always believed in making the most of the present moment. There is no point in thinking about the past. I would not be able to change it anyway. As for the future, who knows what that holds? Why sweat about it? ‘Life is here, life is now, and this is how!’ – has been my philosophy.

However, at that moment, it was impossible to live up to this attitude. I was reminiscing the past and dreading the future more than I ever had.

Twenty-two years. Almost a lifetime.

The scenes were still distinct, even as they played out in front of my partially closed eyes. I had gone to her house, to comprehensively experience her beautiful form, one last time. With my father dead, I knew that I would not return to Kodanad. I was prepared. I drugged her dog with some biscuits. The noisy, rusty mongrel had always been a menace. It would bark right through and attract undesired attention.

The vivid impressions of her earnest implorations to be a little compassionate and safe, filled my corrupt mind. Her requests fell to deaf ears. I imposed myself on her. After all, I was the man; a young engineer earning lakhs in an MNC. I could do anything I had wanted.

As our bodies touched against each other, I was drowned in ecstasy. I could hardly identify her shame, her agony and repulsion, while she was approached by my repugnant, murky, shadowy form. It rubbed against every inch of her body, in the same manner as their forms rubbed against Nandini’s.

Yet, she continued to tolerate me, although she knew quite well that I was, long, emotionally detached from her. Perhaps she had loved me. Perhaps she had not quite expected that this would be the last time that she would see me.

But, that was, indeed, the last time I had seen Shyama, before I saw her mourning her daughter’s death, on TV, earlier that day…

Well, I am a high-flyer. I have my family; and although a broken one now, I love my daughter, Nyssa, and want an impeccable future for her. Where would I have the time to look beyond all of these; least of all, a Shyama, whom I had dumped for Providence to take care of, twenty-two years ago? What happened then were just strokes of indiscretion…the novelties of youth…nothing more than that. Life goes on.

And then, it definitely had to be the fantastic handiwork of my flustered mind or sheer coincidence that Nyssa’s face bore an uncanny resemblance to the photographs of Nandini, which were being splashed across the news channels that day.

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