UN­RE­SOLVED CON­TRI­TION

About Ms Linda.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Enakshi Johri

What is the hu­man mind – a trea­sure box of mem­o­ries? A box that cages our emo­tions that are let out only when we least de­sire them! Ev­ery­one has a mem­ory box and it is vi­tal for them to keep it safe for, if it falls into the wrong hands, the out­come can be dan­ger­ous. Who would want to give some­one the power to con­trol the mind? T he whistling wind in­ter­rupted the lov­ing in­ten­sity of my thought. Crum­bling the pa­per-back into its orig­i­nal shape, I put it in­side the azure wooden box, try­ing to erase every­thing from my mind. But the mem­o­ries had been un­chained. And it all came rush­ing back to me. My heart started throb­bing faster and I be­came deliri­ous. Hal­lu­ci­nat­ing about my dead mother and my beau­ti­ful wife, I was caught un­awares when I saw an­other woman in my vi­sion. Draped in a faded yel­low sari, she looked aged, not old. I could not see the face clearly but I felt I knew her. She had a frown on her face, and it looked like she wanted to talk to me. She lifted her hand and sig­nalled me to stop. But a mild haze came and my vi­sion was soon lost. All I re­mem­ber was my fam­ily call­ing out my name again and again, de­lib­er­ately try­ing their best to make me con­scious.

Draped in a faded yel­low sari, she looked aged, not old. I could not see the face clearly but I felt I knew her. She had a frown on her face, and it looked like she wanted to talk to me. She lifted her hand and sig­nalled me to stop. But a mild haze came and my vi­sion was soon lost.

Ear­lier that day The mo­tion and the an­noy­ing sound of the cuckoo clock at the stroke of 7 am, woke me up from a deep slum­ber. Un­like my usu­ally ac­tive days, I felt un­easy. Com­ply­ing with life’s rules, I gath­ered all my strength to get ready

Hal­lu­ci­nat­ing about my dead mother and my beau­ti­ful wife, I was caught un­awares when I saw an­other woman in my vi­sion. Draped in a faded yel­low sari, she looked aged, not old.

for work. For days I had been pre­par­ing for the prod­uct launch and it was that day, but the shadow of doubt dark­ened and I felt weak in my knees. Reach­ing of­fice on time, I spent an­other half hour re­hears­ing my speech, the mir­ror be­ing my au­di­ence. But soon it was time.

“Top notch!” shouted my boss the mo­ment I said, “Thank you.” I felt on cloud nine. With such an ex­u­ber­ant per­for­mance, my pro­mo­tion was con­firmed. I called up Ramola and shared the de­tails with her. The du­ti­ful wife that she is, she started plan­ning for a lav­ish home­cooked sup­per im­me­di­ately. I de­cided to leave from of­fice early and ap­par­ently that was the worst de­ci­sion I made that day for, no sooner had I reached the main high­way in my small Ritz than I was hit by an over­tak­ing truck. Baf­fled and weak, I tried to pull my­self away from the steer­ing but I soon re­alised that the ma­chine was more pow­er­ful than hu­man force. The steer­ing had cut through my ribs and pierced my di­aphragm. I did not feel any pain be­cause I passed out soon af­ter I saw my con­di­tion.

What hap­pened next, how I reached the hos­pi­tal and who in­formed my fam­ily- are still some unan­swer­able ques­tions for me.

While at the hos­pi­tal, my fam­ily had ini­ti­ated a flood of tears. My el­der son was on his toes keep­ing pace with the re­quire­ments of the doc­tor, my younger daugh­ter stood near my wife, both wail­ing and pray­ing at the same time. My fa­ther was too old to show any emo­tions and since my mother had passed away just a year be­fore, my ac­ci­dent was too much for him to digest.

A fter two hours of op­er­a­tion and im­mense pain, the doc­tors fi­nally gave up and spilled the beans be­fore my fam­ily that had al­ready made up its mind to not let me go. But sooner or later they had to give in, for death is our great­est enemy. We know that we will lose the bat­tle, yet we spend our en­tire life fight­ing.

Ly­ing on my death bed, won­der­ing what wrongs I did in the past, I asked my son to get the mem­ory box from our house. I had trea­sured so much in that box – my mother’s pho­to­graph, the nail of my dead dog, the first band-aid that was put on my daugh­ter’s knee, my wife’s old ban­gles, the first aro­matic can­dle I bought for my hon­ey­moon, my first love let­ter, my medals, the key­chain my mother gifted when the twelfth grade re­sults were out, the yel­low English note­book and the first pen that my fa­ther bought for me. Each item forced me to walk down mem­ory lane and I re­alised that I was liv­ing the last few hours of my life. Among all the things, the yel­low English note­book didn’t re­mind me of any­thing. ‘Class 4’ was scrib­bled in graphite on the cover. As far as I could re­mem­ber, I had not kept that book in the box. But then who did? Mother?

Present time The sud­den chaos of peo­ple around me brought back my con­scious­ness. The blurred vi­sion made me un­com­fort­able. I wanted to know who that lady was. But with so many drips and a ma­jor surgery, my lips re­fused to aid my mind. I could only think, for the mind was still un­der con­trol: the body was not. The doc­tor gave me an­other in­jec­tion, prob­a­bly anaes­thetic to re­duce my pain and my eyes fol­lowed the com­mand. Yet again, I saw a sim­i­lar vi­sion – only this time the lady’s face was shown. She wore a tiny red cir­cu­lar dot on the cen­tre of her fore­head. Her small ear­rings twin­kled in the light. And what I vi­su­alised next, made me stop dead in my tracks. She had the yel­low note­book in her hand: she was my English teacher!

It took me a long time to re­mem­ber the time when I had had a squab­ble with my teacher.

Af­ter two hours of op­er­a­tion and im­mense pain, the doc­tors fi­nally gave up and spilled the beans be­fore my fam­ily that had al­ready made up its mind to not let me go.

Twenty-nine years ear­lier

I al­ways thought marks are noth­ing but a fa­cade be­hind which the real hap­pi­ness lies. My par­ents al­ways wanted me to be­lieve that grades are what will de­ter­mine my fu­ture. But I ar­gued the toss and made a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to en­joy my life to the fullest. It was dur­ing my twelfth grade that I came across Ms Linda, my English teacher. The en­tire year I tried study­ing hard but to no avail. Ms Linda al­ways en­cour­aged me and helped me prac­tice a lot. But I de­spised her for all

that she did. As the year pro­gressed, my in­cli­na­tion to­wards the sub­ject faded, yet Ms Linda kept on coax­ing me to study harder, for the scores in English mat­tered.

O n the day of my fi­nal exam, some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pened. I missed my school bus and hence, my fa­ther asked the driver to drop me in our car. Un­for­tu­nately, I reached the school late and was de­nied en­try into the ex­am­i­na­tion hall. How­ever much I tried to ex­plain, the ex­ter­nal in­vig­i­la­tor re­fused to ex­cuse me. Fi­nally, not left with an­other choice, I ran to the prin­ci­pal and blurted out the false truth.

“Sir, Ms Linda had locked me in the de­ten­tion room be­cause she wanted to pun­ish me for mis­be­hav­ing with her. I tried to clear the tiff but she did not lis­ten. I shouted for help and when the peon un­locked the door, I fled.”

“What non­sense is this?” shouted my en­raged prin­ci­pal.

“I am telling the truth. My mother had come with me to school. You can ask her.”

As he di­alled my mother’s phone num­ber, I panicked. Though I had ex­plained her every­thing, I doubted her pure con­science. What I had asked her to do for me was some­thing she would have re­fused. But to my ut­ter sur­prise, she agreed.

A fter the con­fir­ma­tion from my mother, the prin­ci­pal called Ms Linda in his of­fice. The young lady walked in with­out a clue. The next thing I knew was that she was fired from her job. She had tried to ex­plain, she had tried very hard. But the man­age­ment wanted to pre­serve its rep­u­ta­tion. In the end, I was given the per­mis­sion to write the exam and she was left job­less. I en­coun­tered her a few times in the city later, but ev­ery time I man­aged to ig­nore her and walk past her. I con­soled my­self by be­liev­ing that she de­served this be­cause she pestered me to study even when she was not my par­ent. But that guilt did not die. It re­mained with me till I de­cided to bury it deep within my heart. But my mother had other in­ten­tions, for she kept the yel­low note­book in the mem­ory box, hope­ful that one day the mem­ory will be re­vived and I will go and apol­o­gise.

Present day The sud­den pat on my shoul­der brought me back from the mem­ory lane. I opened my eyes only to find my wife stand­ing be­side me and sob­bing. Guilt en­gulfed my soul. Breath­ing be­came dif­fi­cult and the rest­less­ness in­creased. Only if I had the time and en­ergy, I would have got up from the bed and gone in search of Ms Linda. I would have held her hands and cried for apol­ogy. It was only then that I re­alised what I had done to her. She was the one who helped me save my ca­reer. The yel­low sari that she had worn on that fate­ful day had been haunt­ing me for years. But only when I was the most vul­ner­a­ble, the vi­sion over­pow­ered my mind.

looked at my wife and I cried. She, too, gave me com­pany, for she could not bear the sight of her dy­ing hus­band. Words did not mat­ter at that time. The un­ful­filled de­sires and un­re­solved guilt had won the game. It was time for me to kick the bucket. But my soul re­fused to leave the body. I tried to speak to my wife but could only man­age to say “I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop”.

Af­ter the con­fir­ma­tion from my mother, the prin­ci­pal called Ms Linda in his of­fice. The young lady walked in with­out a clue. The next thing I knew was that she was fired from her job. She had tried to ex­plain, she had tried very hard.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.