She seeped into her past, and the past equally eagerly gobbled her up. That night, a truck, its driver and the 50 milliliters of alcohol in his body had decided, her dad had had enough of this living business.
Since that day, mom and I were united by grief, relation by blood was merely incidental. On so many occasions I had felt that tinge of happiness. But no, I had denied it to myself on all occasions. All! How could I have allowed … allowed myself to be happy? My dad. Yes, my dad is no more. The truck, the driver, and the alcohol were mere excuses. I was responsible for his death. And mom was.
Her dad was in Nashik, to seal one of his bigger contracts. He was to stay overnight and return in the morning – the morning that was to be the one following her birthday. But she and her mom had insisted that he return to celebrate their daughter’s birthday. When he had refused, they had used their ultimate weapon that had seemed innocuous to them till then – “Dad, when will you stop running after this money? Your daughter is not important for you?” Her mom had winked at this put on act. They had had a hearty laugh when she ended the call, and that was that; they had never laughed again. Till today, that is. Her mom had breached that unwritten, unstated contract.
My mother is a whore. Yes, why am I shying away from that fact. She is a whore, so what if she is my mother. She is a whore, a depraved woman. A woman belonging to the gutters. So what if she is my mother. How the hell did she fuck my uncle? Her brother-in-law? Since when all this must have been going on? How could she do that? I should have always suspected. He’s a son of a bitch! I should have anticipated this. His wife had died 2 years back, and he must have been on look out of some easy-going pussy. Bastard! How could he do that? Did he not think of his deceased brother? Had dad been alive today? Ah, dad is dead. And so… and so my mom… She became available. How is it his fault. He saw an available pussy and…
No! I can’t take this. She’s such a professional. Such an accomplished whore. She had made ‘kheer’ for the lunch! She was humming. A god-damned r-o-m-a-n-t-i-c song! As if nothing had happened. As if dad had never died! As if dad had never lived! Why did I not spit in her face? Why did I not scratch it? Why did I not punch her nose into a pulp? Whore! Yes, why did I not call her that … in her face? What did I fear? Why did that whore have to be my mother?
She had done none of those. But had cried, cried and cried. Still, her tears had not washed away her dirt. She was contaminated. She had taken an off from her work as she was not feeling well. And when she had returned unknown to her mother and the uncle were… what she saw returning to home made her even sicker. She had to return to her clinic. Yet even here, that scene, that depravity, betrayal all – kept on returning to haunt her. They played in her mind, and on it.
Having freshly completed her dermatology diploma, she was posted in the STD (sexually transmitted diseases)-clinic of her hospital. Rest of the staff was surprised to see her back. She took it upon herself to clear the backlog of patients. But the memory of what she had seen that morning would not leave her. Her next patient was a 30 year-old elderly lady. Syphilis! She saw the white patches on her palm with reddish rash sprinkled over them. She had got bored of seeing so many syphilis patients. The 30 year-old elderly lady was accompanied by her son – not elderly, barely 15. “Secondary syphilis, it must be”, she thought. Must have acquired from her unfaithful husband. Bastards!
“Kab se hai inhein yeh?” [Since when is she suffering from this?], she asked the son who was visibly at the helm of affairs.
“Do hafton se, madam.” [Since two weeks, madam], he said with a gaze that betrayed pain as well as hope. Hope, that his mom would get well, be cured of her pains.
Somehow she felt touched. She could feel her mind developing an aptitude for things other than anger, viz., sympathy and a sincere urge to help.
“Tere pitaaji nahin aaye saath mein?” [Your dad did not accompany her?]
“Mere pitaaji nahin hai” [My dad is not there]. “Maan dhandha karti hai” [My mom is a prostitute]
That hit her like a barb!
These whores, they are everywhere! This bastard, he must not even know who his dad is. Oh, fuck! I can’t stand this.
She sighed. She could not speak out all that. Every unformed word she was keeping inside of her was now banging against her … from within. The pressure was building. Suddenly, she wanted to get it done with as quickly as possible.
“Is ke pehale is ko koi dawaai di thi” [Was she given any medication for this before], she could not keep the contempt out of her voice. She was not sure if she was trying extra hard to instead poison her conduct with as much contempt as possible.
He opened his wallet and started searching for the old prescription. It was taking some time, and she was getting irritated.
“Rehane de. Tum jaise log ek parcha bhi nahin sambhaal sakte.” [Leave it, people like you cannot even preserve a scrap of paper]
He panicked, searching a bit more frantically.
Bastard! He must not even know who his dad is. His mom must have made it out with countless pigs. Some random fucker impregnated her, she got pregnant and raised this basta…
Just then a small black-and-white photograph fell out of his wallet. She was holding him, hugging him, kissing him on his cheek, totally unconscious of the camera. And she did not look elderly. She was a girl, then. A child-mother. Her son picked up the photograph from the floor. Just a moment back he was panicking, but the moment his gaze fell on the photograph, there was certain steadiness about him. That photograph, the shared memory of a shared life… it was the anchor to a puny boat tossing in a tumultuous ocean that he was. A light smile played on his lips, and he placed the photograph back.
How could this bastard smile?!! What right has he got to smile. His mother is a fucking whore! Is he not ashamed? Is he not contaminated?
His smile too hit her like a barb. This bastard… Her mind jolted to a halt mid-thought. I have called so many men bastards in real life, yet they were all legitimate. But, this guy, he’s truly a bastard and… And, I don’t know what is wrong! Why did he smile? Why does he not hate his mother? She’s a fucking whore? How could that be?
In the meantime, he produced the old prescription. Relief was writ all over his face. As if producing the prescription was the most important thing to cure his mother. In a way it was. That was the best he could do. Her head was now spinning faster. She had never known ambivalence could be so hard to bear. She had got so used to judging people! ‘Good’, ‘bad’, ‘ugly’, ‘cruel’, ‘nice’, ‘interesting’, ‘asshole’, ‘whore’, bastard’… But this guy, her contempt did not just touch him! Her judgment felt flat before his smile, That guileless, proud, smile. A smile with knowledge of an anchor to smile for. A smile for a reason. A smile with no reason. A smile, simply for existing, and being proud of that existence. He lived on an entirely different plane. And so must his mother, a fucking whore. By now, she was not even sure if ‘whore’ and ‘bastard’ were any longer vehicles of contempt. Oh, they were just… they were just a mode of existing – external trappings, conveying nothing about the beauty of the soul within.
So, this guy he does not even know who his father was. His mother brought him up with utmost dedication. He kept on loving her like any child would. What the world thought of his mother was not important to him. He knew what his mother meant for him, and what he meant for her. She is everything for him. He is everything for her. They are happy! Save this minor inconvenience of syphilis. Fucking bastards!
She smiled. She had somehow fallen in love with those words now. Her mind returned to her mother. And her uncle. Replaying everything right from the time of her dad’s death. In her attempt to keep herself from being happy, she had replayed everything a countless times. She had not come to terms with it. Actually, she was afraid that she might.
Uncle, a widower since two years, who had been on very good terms with dad and us, helped us out of that chaos. He too was grieved. He had run around to get so many works done. Mom and I were incapable of doing that. We never realized, how many hassles must have been there to claim insurance money, the property papers and what not. We were just busy grieving and wallowing in our self-pity. Just like mom and I, mom and he too were united in their grief. They spent lot of time together, trying to pick up the threads of their life. I had my studies, my job to keep me busy. I had other things to look forward to, to plan ahead. What did they have? They both had a vacuum to fill. They both could fill a vacuum. That’s it! They fell in love! Why the hell did I get so much bothered? I jealous of mom’s happiness? How could I be? What kind of pathetic child I am? Had I accepted the society’s terms that someone’s death means eternal grieving. That feeling happiness is a sin? Why did I so eagerly embrace the guilt, the melancholy that the society is ever willing to distribute? Oh, fuck! What was I doing? How could I think that way about my mom? Yes, so what if she wanted to feel happy? What’s wrong with the sincere warmth they both are sharing? Why should I let our contractual guilt and grief come in between?
“Yeh injections hain, jo pehale diye the wahi hain. Aur do hafton tak lagaane honge. Aur, aur kahin mat jaana, mere paas hi dikhaane aana” [I’m prescribing the same injections she had been taking before and will have to be used for two more weeks. Come to show me after that, and do not go to show any other doctor], she said as she handed over the prescription. “Woh photo dikhaana” [Show me that photo (please)!]. He was somewhat taken aback, but gave it to her. She looked intently at it, and recalled days from her childhood. “Bahut pyaari photo hai.” [A very lovely photo!].
“Thank you, madam!” The mother-son duo obviously, a bit surprised at her sudden turnaround, shuffled out of the room.
She reached back home. She did not know how to face her mother. A most wonderful mother for whom her filthy mind had thought the most degraded thoughts and had engendered so much hatred. She realized, they were not united by grief, but were instead grieving in unison. Grieving was as an end in itself. Because… because, she had no answer. Because perhaps, she had accepted happiness to be a vice. Guilt and grief were virtues. Ha!
She looked at her mom, who had just asked, “how is your headache, beta?”. She started crying! She was a sinner. She had sinned against her mother. Would she ever be able to confess. Would she ever be able to forgive herself?
She jerked off her mother’s loving hand that was on her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me, mom! I’m contaminated.”