This article has been submitted by Shreya Dhar for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
“Do you need any help, Ma?” Renu inquired as she entered the little thatched mud hut neatly keeping her school bag near the shabby cot.
“No dear.” Ma replied smiling fondly. “Lunch is almost prepared. Go wash your face quickly. I’ll set up the food.”
“Yes Ma.” Renu hurried off merrily. After all, she had caught the scent of her favorite potato curry that Ma had cooked after a long time. She was bound to be delighted.
Renu reached the local pond to wash herself. Although ecstatic to have her favorite dish served for supper today, she wasn’t quite very happy; something seemed to be troubling her for a long time. As if something had been seized from her life. Maybe it was the support of a father? Renu thought sometimes. Even after constantly pestering Ma about it, all ma said was “papa is away dear Renu.” She would then give a soft cry and embrace Renu. “I don’t think he will ever come back so, Renu, I’m your Papa and I’m your Ma.” She couldn’t endure to see her mother weeping, so Renu had dismissed this idea. Perhaps it was the lack of money she speculated? She didn’t quite mind having to do away with two pairs of clothes and old torn shoes nor did she mind only two meals a day as long as she had her Ma. But if not Renu the needle of poverty indeed pricked her mother. After alI it wasn’t an easy task to rear a daughter when you lack sufficient wealth to sustain your own life.
“Whatever it may be,” Renu thought aloud “As long as I have Ma, I don’t care about anything.” she finished washing herself and ran back towards her hut.
“I’m back, Ma,” she declared as she went in, but the hut was vacant. Renu went to sit on her mat near the stove. The little food that was made hadn’t been set up yet. Ma couldn’t be seen either. Renu was surprised. Ma would always sit ready, with the food served.
The food was also left uncovered. She covered the food. A little tensed, Renu went out to look for her. After a searching her neighborhood, she neared doctor-uncle’s home. She hadn’t met him, but she’d heard a lot of things about him. The neighboring aunts called him a miser but Renu wasn’t quite sure of what it meant.
As she approached his home, she heard her mother’s wailing. She wanted to barge right into his chamber but a kind of fear glued her to the ground. She went near a window to eavesdrop, but she kept a distance so not to be found out.
“-but Doctor-Sahib, Rs. 80,000 is too much for someone like me, you know it…”
“But it is essential for you, its your last resort if you want to live anymore.” the doctor replied unsympathetically.
“What about the medication? Wouldn’t it help improve my condition?,” she inquired frantically.
“Now that you mention it, Lata, you should know that it is too late for medication,” the doctor paused. “The ones I prescribed were for initial stages. For now, operating on the tumor is mandatory.”
“Please don’t say this now doctor-sahib, you know we don’t have the money. I have to take care of Renu too. Soon my Renu will go to the city to study. It’s her dream. I cannot be so selfish. I need to take care of her. She needs me. I’ll be fine with the medicines doctor-sahib” mumbled Lata, as her eyes turned moist.
“If you say so,” articulated the Doctor, hardheartedly and scribbled something and gave the torn piece of paper to Lata.
“Thank you, doctor-sahib,” Lata pulled out a note from her tattered purse and handed it to the doctor who accepted it avariciously.
Lata walked out and went towards her hut.
Outside, Renu could finally assess all that she’d heard! It was her ma’s ill health that had been troubling her for so long. All the sleepless nights that ma used to spend outside groaning, the sudden shrieks, the terribly pale face, the seizures and Ma’s hand stroking her head, softly saying “I’m fine Renu, don’t worry about Ma,” flashed in her mind. She couldn’t believe that Ma had been suffering for so long. It mortified her to believe that all along she had been blind to Ma’s pain.
Renu ran into the hut shouting, “Ma I’ve heard everything you said in doctor-uncle’s home. Why didn’t you tell me Ma! I will do anything for you. Please, I want to help you. All this time you had suppressed you pains, but not anymore, Ma!”
“-wait Renu,” Ma screeched as Renu took doctor-uncle’s prescription from Ma’s hand and dashed towards the exit. “What did I do! Oh God! What will I do now!” sobbed Lata, her chest felt extraordinarily heavy.
“I’ll go the medicine shop,” thought Renu. “I’ll plead Kaku for the medicines. I will not leave until I get them. Please believe in me, Ma.”
Renu knew what she had to do. Ma was in urgent need of the medicines, but she wasn’t going to buy it herself. It seemed that Renu had no other choice. She knew her mother’s wages weren’t sufficient. So she strengthened her mind to beg, borrow or steal. It was her last chance.
Renu hurried into the medicine shop. The assistants and customers gave her an inattentive stare. She sprinted up to the owner.
“Kaku please help me. Kaku please help Ma. She’s very ill. The doctor prescribed these medicines” Renu said as she handed the paper to him. “but we do not have enough money. Please help us. Please help us. Ma is very ill!” Renu began to sob.
“There child,” the owner said helplessly, looking around the shop. “I don’t think I am in any position to help you.”
“-but please,” Renu begged in between sobs.
“Come with me,” came a faint whisper. A well-mannered lady came towards Renu. Gently stroking her head the lady hushed Renu.
“Tell me child how much money do you need?”
“….the doctor said about Rs80,000 was needed for Ma’s surgery..” Renu answered sorrowfully.
“Is that all? What about the medicines? She needs them too, doesn’t she?”
“Get the medicines for the child, I’ll pay for her,” instructed the lady. Renu was stunned.
“-but Mrs. Gupta, these are expensive!” he protested in vain but obliged nevertheless. He handed the supplies to the girl while Mrs. Gupta paid.
“Thank you very much, madam,” Renu cried out.
“What’s your name child?” she enquired.
“Renu, tell your mother to come meet me tomorrow, I live right across the road, there,” Mrs. Gupta pointed a finger in the direction, “In that bungalow. I want to help her. You will tell her to come meet me, right?”
“Now go tell your mother. I will be waiting for her tomorrow evening.”
“Thank you very much madam,” Renu was taken aback by all this. Miracles do happen, she thought, as she scampered her way home. Dusk had fallen. It was getting dark. Renu almost fell twice owing to the setting dark and her newfound joy.
“MA!” screamed Renu excitedly, as she entered the hut. It was dark inside. How odd. Ma would always light the place before dark. Renu searched about and lighted a lamp. She looked around. The sight made her drop the medicines and the lamp.
Amidst the room Ma’s body lay motionless. Flies buzzed around. Renu darted towards the corpse.
“MA! MA!” Renu screamed with terror. Tears began to swell in her eyes. It was too late. Renu, merely seven-years old, had lost her all, without even a final adieu.
Shreya Dhar is a class twelve science student, whose favourite subjects are history, physics and biology. People say she’s very good at studies and quite intelligent, but her family says quite the reverse. They always complain that she spends too much time on the computer (which is completely justified). As a kid she believed that those black screens would annihilate her one day. She loves to spend her time writing short stories of every genre. She also likes poetry and horror movies. But what she likes the most is anime and manga and Japanese pop-culture. She aspires to be a mangaka, although her drawings aren’t what you’d call perfect. Other than that she likes playing the synthesizer. She wanted to become a concert pianist when she was a kid because she thought she could skip studies that way and play all day. but now she realises it’ll just be a dream forever. Overall, she is just a quirky high schooler who wishes to live life to the fullest.