Rajat has been living like this since the past 2-3 months. This self proclaimed seclusion has made him more resilient and indifferent towards life, or so he thinks. At times he feels if he’s behaving alright or not? His depressing ways of leading life has made him think of changing at least for his own survival. But unknowingly he has found a way to vent out his frustration living like this. He’s learnt not to give a damn to this world and the people around him. He’s learnt not take things to heart, and just shake off the dirt of his body, if by chance he rubs shoulders with somebody. He was contemplating on taking a week long leave from office and set out somewhere, his excuse to himself was to escape to Calcutta dust and the human griminess. But the real reason was, he knew; was he was afraid to face the realities of his own life anymore. Incredible India! The advertisement in the web page read, he clicked on it, a few links here and there and few pages refreshed and he was looking at mystic Arunachal Pradesh. The lazy hills undulating caught Rajat’s fancy. He loves to travel around, it takes his mind off, makes him feel human again, amidst all this madness.
That night Sreelekha had called up Rajat. It was half past midnight. Rajat had been expecting a call but it was undesired. They used to talk late, very late, but that night everything seemed unusual. She was sobbing uncontrollably. He just listened, until Sree started speaking.
“Just tell me what you said that day was a lie. Please Rajat tell everything was a lie.” gasped Sreelekha.
Rajat still remembers the first time they had met, the first year of the medicals in the anatomy practical at the morgue. “What an incredible place to find your soul mate”, they used to joke at the fact. But everything seemed so smooth, in this relationship of theirs. The 8 year long courtship, the secret meetings, and the nostalgic walks through the rugged lanes of the college street and then there was obviously a break at the coffee house.
“You know me Sree, I have thought over it, and I have let you know my decision, don’t push me over it.”
“But, Rajat you just can’t end everything, as if you had been the only one in this relationship.”
“I have given this decision my everything, you have to accept It.” said Rajat.
“You people are fucking mad. All of you people are freaks, your mom, your dad all of them” shouted Sreelekha as she banged the phone down.
He had felt his blood boil over, but deep inside he knew that what Sree said was right, and something inside him told that Sree knew it. She knew everything. It’s not that she didn’t want to compromise but Rajat just couldn’t agree to the fact where his life would lead him to.
The bitter-sweet past
That was the fateful year, when his mother’s illness was first detected…
It was a happy time for the family. The youngest member has been born to Rajat’s youngest aunt, Nilanjana. The entire family had gathered in their family home at the Dover lanes, and there was laughter all around. Every face wore a smile for that day, and it seemed like everyone’s coming up with their indigenously novel idea of naming the baby boy. Somebody suggested “Joy”. Rajat was ecstatic because he had never seen a new born before.
“You are the big bro now”, Nilanjana smiled at Rajat.
“Ol, mol, bol, pol…Oh Yea, yap…. bubu, lulu….!” Rajat replied without looking up, he’s been busy with youngest member ever since he came into the house.
“Here take him to your arms, hold him.” said Nilanjana.
“No, no he’s too fragile, you hold him, I‘ll take him once he’s a few days old. Nilanjana just gave Rajat a caring smile.
“Mashi, now you have two sons! Whom would you love more?”Joked Rajat, after everything had calmed down, and Nilanjana was rummaging through the gifts for the huggies pack.
“Two sons… umm … yea … let me see… whom would I love much? Nilanjana came near Rajat, ran her fingers through his curly hair and said, “Why? Both of them equally.” She could feel a tinge of disappointment in Rajat’s eyes. The sadness she knew was because of his mother.
“Rajat, you should consider marrying, you are already 32 and it’s high time you thought of it”, Nilanjana searched Rajat’s eyes hopefully for an approval.
“Mashi, you know, I won’t marry unless Ma tells me to!” said Rajat, and I can’t leave off my responsibilities, just for the sake of living happily, I can’t be so selfish”
Rajat had a motherless childhood. He has always felt a dearth in the bonding of every relationship since childhood, and it has increased more as he reached his adolescence and then adulthood. He has always been close to Nilanjana, since the day he learned to say, “Ma”. Rajat’s mother was kept away, from him. Rajat was her obsession. She loved him. But she loved him unnaturally. She feared that whenever anybody would come near Rajat, they would steal her son away from him. She would not let him come near Nilanjana. She loved Rajat like she possessed him, but Rajat started thinking on different lines. He started avoiding her. He wouldn’t come home after school, he would cocoon into a shell in the presence of his mother. He used to go to Nilanjana, and find a mirror of his mother. From herein started the rip in the family, in the sisters; Nilanjana was helpless, Rajat’s mother relentless. The condition went from bad to worse, Nilanjana finished college, she got married, Rajat lost a mother; his dad decided to take up a job in Dibrugarh, Assam, for the sake of keeping his mother away from him. And consequently Rajat was admitted to a hostel in Calcutta. It happened so fast, at the blink of an eye, destiny intervened. Nilanjana used to go to Rajat every weekend, her new home was close to Rajat’s hostel. She used cook him chicken, and bring home made gulab jamuns and Rajat never complained of a mother. It was always such a happy reunion of a “mother-son” that maybe even destiny feared for this relationship and never intervened. It grew in leaps and bounds, it blossomed, and Nilanjana was suddenly a mother. Rajat wondered why he can’t call her that. But he could never understand why his mother hardly visited him. He talked to him on phone; she visited him in vacations, but never stayed. He started covering his glum with dirt, time and insomnia. But he grew up, loving his mother like his aunt, and his aunt like his mother. That’s why he never understood the geometry of relationships… Maybe that’s why he didn’t understand Nilanjana too…
The Sacrifice: Mother and then Son
“But, Rajat, You know your ma’s not well, and you have a life too.” said Nilanjana.
“Why did ma get married Mashi? Didn’t you know that she was not mentally capable to go the distance? Don’t you people feel guilty for ruining 2 more lives?” blurred out Rajat all of a sudden.
Nilanjana was taken by surprise, by this sudden outburst, “No, Rajat, it’s not what you are thinking.”
“You don’t see, how Bapi has struggle with ma, his entire life, and he stays quiet, that doesn’t mean that he’s living a ‘life’…” shouted Rajat, by now he’s got up from his chair, and pacing around the room.
“Rajat, sit down,” Nilanjana tried to calm him down, “your ma’s schizophrenia wasn’t acute that time, and we had no clue whatsoever, that it can develop to such a stage. Even after marriage she didn’t have any problems in adjusting to life. It was only after your birth that she started to show signs of acute mental stress.” said Nilanjana.
Rajat was not convinced. In his childhood he had lost a mother, found the mirror of a mother in his aunt, but he has realized that he has started losing her too. But he was a child then, he ran where he found love, he was driven throughout his entire childhood, by the lack of love. Now when he sees his mother suffering silently, craving for him, it singes his heart. Nilanjana often talks about her elder sister to him. She is a great woman. How she had struggled her entire life, how she had supported her 5 siblings, working over here in Calcutta, when the entire family was in Bangladesh. How she had sacrificed her own career and became the only earning member in the family. She filled up the vacuum for an elder son aptly, yet she was neglected all the time. It’s the society, the perversion of the then politically and religiously crippled society that made a retard out his mother. In those days it was a sin for an unmarried woman to go out of the house, leave aside, staying alone in a different country and India was sacrilegious, to East Pakistan (Bangladesh) back then. But she was adamant, she had taken the responsibility, and she was sure that she would see it till the very end. She had not taken a step backward; she had not buckled under the pressure, she had a vision in her mind, and she stuck to it. These are the words that constantly hit Rajat’s conscience. A woman who has struggled like hell, shrugged aside by the society, dragged to the extreme, exploited mentally, should deserve better. If she can sacrifice her life, for her siblings, for her family, for her, responsibility, he too can for the sake his “mother”. It’s time he gave back to her, even though she’s not in a condition to recognize it, but still it’s for the sake of his love for her, his own peace of mind. After all following your heart is nothing but selfishness.
He came back early that day, to his flat. He still remembers his mother retreating into the corner of room, when she heard that he won’t be staying tonight at her place. She had pleaded him, crooned to him for staying, but he didn’t. He sat back into his chair, with a can of cold beer, contemplating on what the doctor said last week, that his mother is improving, but it’s not stable yet. The phone rang. It was Nilanjana on the other end.
“Rajat, Sree called, you didn’t call her for the last 7 days. She’s worried.” said Nilanjana.
“What happened? You should give her a ring back, and yes, drop by our house tomorrow for lunch Joy was asking for his dada” added Nilanjana.
“I have been from ma’s place just now. She wanted me to stay… with her..!”
“Tell Joy, I ‘ll come tomorrow.”