Who Is A Better Actor?
Who Is A Better Actor?12 mins 380 12 mins 380
She heard it many times from the closed office of her school. Her father’s continuous pleading discomforted her. It was not a one day episode in her school office. The Principal’s denial pounded her heart faster as the examination was about to be started. The short bell made her thirsty. She gulped one glass of water in a second. At previous instances, a written application allowed her to write the examinations. This time, it was an uncommon scene. Her father had to come to the school as her Hall Ticket was withheld. She was in Class XI. The peon entered into the Principal’s chamber and came our hurriedly leaving the door open. Now, she could see all her 10 applications lying on the table. Her father sat helplessly with folded hands. Her two years’ fee was still pending. In the last four years, her father came to the school only second time, the first, was on her admission day. The Principal advised him to deposit the fees of at least one year. There was no response from her father. He was silently sitting motionless. A deathly silence engulfed the vibes of the room. After a few minutes, his father shouted, “You want to spoil my daughter’s life, fine!” He banged his hands on the table and kicked the chair.
She rushed into the office to stop her father. Her worst fear had come true. Immediately, she closed the door and held her father in her arms tightly to calm him down. He was restless. The Principal started shouting at him. He picked the mobile to call the security officer, “Come here quickly, throw this man out of the school now. I don’t want to see his face again.” She slowly pushed his father to a corner to avoid any escalation. “Papa, please don’t shout. I have an annual exam today. Sir is helpless. How can he allow me as my last year’s full fee is still pending; for God’s sake calm down?” He was shaking terribly; his eyes turned red. Then, she bent down to hold the legs of the Principal. Her stream of tears wet the pant of the Principal. She begged for pardon for his father’s violent behaviour. Then, the head pushed back his legs and told her to sit with her father. He advised her to take him out of his office. After a few seconds, he again called her and said “Nirupa, I know, you are one of the best students of our school. I feel very bad, I have seen, talents like you will one day end up with cooking in the kitchen, cleaning clothes and fulfilling the domestic needs of the entire family. Your father is to be blamed for this. Anyway, collect the Hall Ticket and run to the exam hall as the start bell will be ringing soon.”
She wrote the exam perfectly but the worst had already happened. Her self-esteem was dusted by her father’s bad behaviour with the head. Thereafter, she deliberately skipped the prizes and awards that were meant for her for all round performance in the examination and other activities in the school. All felicitations were burdens to her. She had no courage to face the head.
The day to day trials made Nirupa a fine actor of life. She got used to such situations without any reactions. In the night, when everybody would be sleeping, she would wake up and cry silently till she got tired. All her tears would cleanse her pain. However, she had never got negative thoughts, might be her unstoppable tears stopped her mind to think. She would rise normally in the morning again to say smilingly to her father, “Good Morning, Papa”. Her father would return her wish with a kiss on her forehead.
Everything was fine until her father lost his job with a private bank two years back. Then, he took up a few assignments but failed to continue even for a month. His impatience and stubbornness robbed him of all jobs. He could not even pay the house rent, endangering the entire family to come to the road. Her mother’s little saving could manage the house rent but it would exhaust fast. Amidst such uncertainties, one day, she discovered his father’s wine smelling dress in his bedroom. As a wife, her mother protested but she was silenced by his loud shouts. To diffuse the tension, she convinced her mother to remain silent. Since then, moments like their morning hugs, evening gossips, late night jokes and loud laughs on the dining table were erased from their daily routines. Every day, his father would leave home before her boarding the school bus and return after her sleep. She remained awake in her bedroom in the dark and waited for her father’s return. The shout of his father soothed her. She was happy to see her father and mother talking through long pauses and unending silences.
After the school exams was over the Dushhera vacation began. She stopped receiving phone calls from her friends. The mimetic “Hello”, “Yes”, “Oh No”, “Bye” disenchanted her. In their all goody goody talks, she felt a kind of unexplained suffocation. She finished all her vacation works in two days only. The kitchen became her living room. She stood behind her mother to help her in cooking despite her disinterestedness. The vegetable frying and water dripping sounds filled the house with a distinct homeliness. Sometime, when no sounds came from the gas stoves and utensils, she would open the tap casually, so that the noises of the forceful water did not leave the ambience quiet. She loved the long sermons on kitchen manners from her mother. She would smile a little and hug her from the back to see her mother’s cooking skills through her shoulder. She would softly stretch lines on her waist to tantalize her. The thrill would break out a loud laughter and was chided away by her mother out of the kitchen. She loved all those moments of small happiness.
In one morning she asked her mother, “Mummy, Why don’t you talk to Papa about his job?”. She became tensed, “You Know, How your father reacts? I get really frightened at your Papa’s anger. No, No, I will not ask. Why don’t you ask? He loves you the most; better you speak to your Papa about that.” Then she asked, “Do you fear your Papa?” Nirbhika remained silent. Again, she repeated, “Do you really fear your Papa?” She replied, “No, not at all! Why should I fear him?” Then her mother continued, “Then, Today you ask him about his job.”
The evening fell quite early as the darkness engulfed the whole world as time was racing fast. Every now and then, she looked through the door if his father was coming. His father came early on that day. She opened the door and carried his small bag to his bedroom. Suddenly, the foul smell of wine filled the room; it was really pungent; she felt like vomiting. She had no idea how to ask her father about his job.
She gathered all the courage and begun,” Papa, Do you need water?” Her father was lying on the sofa and gazing at the speeding fan. He replied, “OK, bring a glass of cold water. It’s really hot today.”Immediately, she ran to the kitchen and brought a glass of chill water. He sat and emptied the glass in a fraction and again lied. Finally, she could catch his father’s opportune mood. Then, she asked, “Papa, everyday, where do you go?” He smiled and again started gazing at the fan. After, a minute of pause, again she asked, “Papa, tell me, where do you go every day?” He waved his hands around her head and replied, ”Oh, I go to the office everyday beta.” She was not satisfied, “But Papa, your bank has been closed since long?” He remained silent. On her repetitive insistence, he replied, “Yes, But it has opened again recently. Now, all have joined, haven’t you read about it in the newspaper.” His eye balls were swinging, moving away from her eyes unlike the previous reply. She wanted to ask him if the bank had reopened then why was he not able to pay her school fees and coming home drunk. But, she did not want to reduce the evening into a quarrel. She knew, it was not a routine conversation. Now a days, rarely her father talks to her like that. She was sure, her father was lying.
She remained awake throughout that night. She knew how easily her father avoided her question by lying. She must find the reason behind his uncommon replies, changed behaviour and absence of peace at home.
Next day, she woke up early and left her home before his father’s departure to visit her friend who was residing just a few metres away from her. She waited in a roadside shop for her father. She started following her in an auto. After travelling for half an hour, she found her father on the beach. He was walking fast on the sands. She followed her. There was a bushy thin forest adjoining the sands of the beach. He walked onto the top a ridge and lied there. She sat away from him. She continuously focussed her eyes on him. Minutes passed, hours passed and the whole day passed, yet he was lying on the ridge. The late afternoon put on the robe of pink to welcome the dusk. The sun went down through the meeting point of the sky and the sea. The cold breeze dried the sweats of the noon. It was about to get dark. She scanned through the beach, only a few humans were found. She started feeling unsafe. She constantly fixed her eyes on his father. From behind the shady forest background, he rose and came down to the beach. He started walking fast on the sands. Now, she felt a little relieved. She again started following him on the sands.
She fetched an auto that took her to a night bar. Now, her doubts were turning out to be truer. The bar had an iron grill and a watch man guarded the entrance. Seeing her father, he saluted him with a big loud smile. She requested the auto driver to wait for her. She pleaded before the guard to enter into the bar to meet her father. For some time, he was reluctant but when she narrated her ordeals, he allowed her. She asked for a shawl from him to hide her face in the bar. Cigarette Smokes filled the room and same pungent smell of her father’s shirt was all over. She walked to a corner and sat on a stool. Her father was a few feet behind her. He greeted a friend, “Gannu Yaar, Today there are only a few people here.” Both of them talked about their day. He told that like any other day he had spent the entire day lying on the beach. His friend was patiently listening to him. She could hear the mixing of wines and water. Intermittently, they splashed ice cubes into the glasses.
All her doubts were true. His father was drinking wine with his friend. A stream of tear rolled on her cheek. Did she commit a mistake by coming to the bar? Would it lower the respect for her father? Would she no more feel proud of her father? Would her life be the same like before, after that visit to the bar? She slowly felt sinking into an unknown gloom. Her palms and feet started sweating. All her childhood memories came afloat through the vision beneath her eyes. She closed her eyes to recollect everything: her swinging in her arms, his kiss on her cheek every morning, their dances on the bed, their small fights over ice creams. The light that her father had sparked when she got the first glimpse of the world was fading. She feared, it would completely douse leaving the residues and trails of darkness in her.
Again she fixed her ears at their talk. The friend was very empathetic, “Yaar, Amar, I can’t see your conditions anymore! Why don’t you take little money from me and start your own business. I mean, some 8 to 10 Lac, refund me, when you are well settled.”
Her father was not interested in the offer, “No, no, I am already in a bad state. Now, I don’t want to become a burden on you. You know, we are childhood friends, I share everything with you. I don’t want spoil our friendship. I know, how money can spoil relationships.”
His friend gulped little wine and continued, “That’s alright! But, how would you manage your family.”
“My family can manage themselves but, now I have to manage myself first.” The reply comforted her. Her father believed in her mother’s art of living. She knew, he was passing through hard times as far as she had known. The smoky ambience cocktailed with the staunch aroma of liquors suffocated her. She coughed repeatedly without any relief. His friend inquired, “Amar, I still can’t understand, why can’t you manage yourself and your family. Simply, you have lost your job yet the life is not over year. Why are you destroying yourself and your family? It’s a low phase that will pass; everyone has this but the world doesn’t end with it.”
“Sometime, I feel like ending myself but when I see my daughter and wife, don’t know, why I give up that wish.” Her father’s confession again soothed her. He continued, “But, Yaar, I am not able to adjust with any new job. I feel bad about it and for that my family is suffering.”Like a baby he started crying. She was witnessing her father’s first cry. It was ethereal and precious. Her teacher once said that the strongest can only cry where as the weak enacts crying. She could feel the lively rhythm of a father’s beating pulse for his daughter and wife. The light of her father was still illuminating. His friend consoled him with an affectionate hug and patted on his back like a charmer that massaged the flat head of an enraged cobra to control its anger. He allowed him to cry unstoppable to overflow all her angst and pain that he had accumulated since long. As a witness to such a natural and pure moment of life, she nurtured hope for a newer life. His father extended his confession in a child like voice, “I don’t drink, yet I come here and spend time with you!” His friend interrupted, “But, why do you tell me to sprinkle liquor on your shirt.” His replied, “Only because to act like a drunkard at home, so that they would avoid me. I deliberately shout at my wife to hide my incapacity as a father to remain dutiful towards his family. Simply, I am acting and acting. I am fed up with it and want to live my natural family life. But, how, I am clueless.” She rose from her stool and started running towards the auto. She felt a profound guilt deep inside her. The light shone brighter than before in her.