A MIDNIGHT PARTY
(Part 8 ongoing OF fiction series A FAIR AFFAIR)
By Neel Anil Panicker
“No, no…oh my! he is drenched, completely drenched.”
They had it__their revenge. And soon retribution would follow. And just as well, the boy—now all soaked to the skin and whose spindly ten year old frame seemed as if it was abstract art in motion—, ruffled through his over-sized pockets and out came a pea-sized packet which he pointed and threw straight at his ‘tormentor’.
The water balloon hit its intended target as a kaleidoscopic burst of myriad colours spashed across the hitherto snow white shirt of his ‘aggressor’.
As racous cries of Holi Hai rendered the air and the merry band of children—their entire bodies daubed in the united colours of happiness—ran around splurging, splashing and lashing out a mind boggling cocktail of multi-hued water concoctions on all and sundry, Shefali watched the visual fiesta from thirteen floors above, craning her neck out from the drawing room windows of her parents’ house.
Her eyes turned misty.
How fast time flies… how long… how long since the time when she too was a child, a mere ten year old… a slip of a girl who indulged in her own share of fun and frolic. Oh how happy she was then and how much she loved and looked forward to this day__the only day when her life would turn ‘colourful’.
Her eyes started to twitch. She felt the inklings of a slow burn forming around them. And then it hit her; a sharp shooting pain across her temple, towards the left. Her hands reached out and caught the window grille. In a moment she steadied herself as the near unbearable pain passed over as quickly as it had come.
She knew what that meant. The pain was a constant. It arrived unannounced time and again, a grim reminder of the harrowing times of her fractured childhood. A childhood spluttered and sprinkled with abominable abuse; abuse at the hands of her own father, the very man who was supposed to love and protect her. Instead of adding colour to her life, thanks to him, her life had turned colourless.
She once again watched as down below merry little kids sprayed themselves, shouting, screaming, giggling, and laughing to their hearts’ content.
She couldn’t take it any more.
How ironical, she said to herself, that her happiest memories of a childhood gone by were encased in this beautiful festival whose unfailing arrival every year also lashes her memory bank with horrific remembrances.
“Come sit on my lap and have this sweet”.
His hands were going down, under her skirt.
“Do you like it. I will get you more sweets tomorrow”.
A young girl in a semi darkened room looks up and peers into a
pock marked face that is perspiring at the seams with sweat. The face has a moustache… it is black and thick, and it is curved and ends at the tips of lips—thick lips not unlike that of an animal, a bloated bison, that she had once seen at the zoo during a rare day out with her cousins.
The bison is smiling… she peers closely and sees that it is not an animal but her father, her own father.
It is an image that haunts her now like it has haunted her all through her life.
Shefali extricates herself from the window and slumps into a corner of the three seater leatherette sofa.
The pain has eased out, albeit for now. She knows it is a constant and will return, much like a faithful lover, which itself she knows is a rarity in today’s world.
But then she remembers that she has Rishi.
Her parched lips mouth his name as she offers a silent prayer.
Thank god for small mercies.
And then she whispers his name again, this time very slowly, almost reverentially as her tongue does the entire 360 degree roll inside her palette, especially the soft inner zones.
Her mind falls into a reverie. She slinks her back deep into the inner recesses of the receptacle. Her eyes are shutting down… dreams are taking over… Rishi…her Rishi is entering …
A sound… the fall of a steel glass… from somewhere inside breaks her trance.
‘Oh no, what is it now…’
Broken out of her reverie, almost reluctantly she gets up and walks into the inner room__her mother’s room.
The sole light emanating from a bedside lamp illuminates broken glass shards splattered all around a small wooden bed. Slowly, Shefali, using her bare hands, bends down and carefully clears the mess.
She is pretty much used to this having lost count of the number of glasses that have ended up as damaged goods on the floor in the past three odd weeks.
After the initial couple of such mishaps she decided it was prudent to keep the broom in the room.
‘That way at least it saves me the trouble to rush into the kitchen every time I hear a crashing sound,’ she reasoned.
Job over, she examines the scene on the bed. She sees the old lady lying with her back to the wall. Her mother’s eyes, as far back in time as she could remember were forever lifeless, but now, with advancing age and, especially after the latest stroke, seemed to have further dulled.
The few remaining strands of stark silver hair had in a rather randomized manner, spread themselves out, falling all over a heavily lined face.
Shefali picks up a fresh towel from the table stand and steps forward to
wipe away huge droplets of milk laced with a few small granules of boiled oats that she finds are floating around in the umpteen bowels that are part of her mother’s facial topography.
‘It is a daily routine’, she reminds herself.
‘At least she drank the oats milk before landing the glass on the floor’, she consoles herself.
Task over, she pulls out a fresh sheet from the Godrej drawer that is embedded into the extreme right wall; flings it half over her mother’s torso; checks one final time on her mother who has now entered into dream land several times over; and quietly steps out of the room but not before gently closing the door behind her.
‘Now she will sleep all through the night while I have this long night to myself’, she reminds herself as she wearily crashes into the sofa.
Her eyes meander all around the room. There is nothing much that she can see around her save for a small apology of a television set that lies in the remote corner wall. Giving it lonesome company are a couple of photo frames of gods and goddesses whose lineage she is not very sure of.
‘Anyways, she never was the religious kind,’ she tells herself.
Of late she had seen her mother veer a wee bit towards matters temporal. ‘Maybe the pictures are indicative of this new found fad.’
Except for this and for the sofa that she is lying down on, there is nothing by way of a proof to indicate that this is a room that could house any sort of human habitation.
The room is as spartan and minimal as they come.
A slow churn in her stomach reminds her that she hasn’t eaten anything except for a bowl of oats and that too at lunch which again was some ten hours ago.
As she stretches and circles her hands around the edges of soft leather, she has one mind to move her ass and walk up to the kitchen and come back with a bowl of the sickening stuff.
‘Anything to keep my stomach from tanking out’, she tells herself but then a mixture of innate laziness and sheer absence of will power sees her give up on the idea.
Sleep is a long way from home, just another country whose visa she doesn’t possess, a reality she knows pretty well.
Her meandering eyes settle on the worn out monochromatic calendar that stares down from the opposite wall.
March 30, Wednesday.
Exactly three weeks to the day when she got the call; the fateful call telling her that her mother had suffered a heart attack, her second in the
last eighteen months.
She had rushed in to the hospital.
‘I will drop you,’ Rishi had volunteered.
The two had hastily stepped out of their room, she first, and thereafter Rishi.
‘No, I will go alone. It is best no one sees you,’ she had replied before stamping a good bye kiss on his lips while his hands cupped her hips.
The next one week the hospital turned into her world.
She was there, practically strapped to her mother’s bedside; tending to her; washing her; administering her the much needed voluminous array of medicines; rushing back home to prepare food and then rushing back in even time to feed her; and then, long after, when everything had quietened and the hospital lights were turned over, and the entire world and its uncle had gone to sleep, even sleeping or faking to sleep on the cold damp floor.
Finally, they discharged her and she was back at her place and then Shefali’s ordeal began all over again.
She knew she had to do it. It was her mother who was unwell, who had suffered an attack and no one, and especially not her father or her brother or the umpteen cousins that she had by way of an extended family would ever bother or had even cared to take a day off to sit back and nurse her mother back to health.
No, it was left to her and her alone to don the mantle of the caregiver and nurse her ailing mother back to health; a mother who incidentally also happened to be someone’s wife and still someone else’s mother.
A mother who was half mad and mentally unstable but who still was a woman, an old woman at that, a cranky old woman doddering and tottering around with one foot in her grave but still a woman who once was young and had married a man and beget him two children.
The night was long and sleep was a million miles away.
‘This too shall pass’, she philosophied.
She knew not before long the routine would begin, and she would start all over, like she has been doing for the past three weeks.
“Here, takes this, it is hot, You will feel better… All right, I will feed you, now can you get up… ok , don’t move, I will help you sit upright… yes, that is better. Now open your mouth and drink this soup, you will feel better…
Some people are born to serve and then there are some who are born to be served.
And Shefali had long back understood and very well accepted this truism.
She knew fate had dumped her in the former category and she had, right through all these years__ and right upto and even well into her marriage__ successfully and faithfully played out her role to perfection.
Well almost, but not anymore, she corrected herself.
Not until she had a certain Rishi in her life. Ever since Rishi happened, her entire life had underwent a paradigm shift.
The arrival of Rishi had altered nee effected an unheaval in her hitherto placid life; thanks to him, she, for the first time ever, could afford to swap places.
He had showed her what and how life was as a served not as a server.
The latter she knew very well; the former she missed terribly.
‘God, he was magical! sexy, a thunderbolt, an elixir, a fix, a temptation; a passion fruit …’
An entire night could be expended and she would still run short of adjectives to describe the man and what he meant for her.
A slow throbbing ache began to emanate from somewhere inside her inner thighs. She crossed her legs and clasped them tightly, tightening their grip on the inside muscles.
Almost simultaneously a sudden muscular spasm ran through the entire length of her upper shoulders forcing her to let out a stifling scream.
She knew what all this meant.
She was suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
‘How long had it been’? … one, two… nooo… more than three weeks…’
Her body shuddered at the realization and she instantly sprang up on the sofa.
‘God, three fucking weeks have passed and she had not had a fuck!’.
The thought made her desperate.
She felt a fresh dampness from inside the cotton white track pants that she was wearing.
Red hot blood raced through her veins as the inner palm of her hands moistened.
Her mouth was fast turning dry and beads of sweat started to trickle down her face which began to quickly lose its colour.
Her mind was now racing away at a breakneck speed as if it was some Lewis Hamilton hurtling down a Formula One track.
She had to do something, she had to fix this.
She considered her options.
Where was she…? at her mother’s place, tending to her sick mother… and, she is asleep… so what? … she may get up any time… no, no… would she get up… no, you are wrong… she has gone to sleep and that means gone for a good five hours at the minimum… so what? … so what, so I am going to take my chances… yes i am going to call him over, call my Rishi over… I need him, now, this very moment as he is my fix to fix my fix.
A fresh wave of pain emanated from her body and traversed through the length and breadth of her body.
But this time the pain was of a different kind.
It was a pain that was caused by an anticipation, the anticipation of very, very shortly falling into the arms of Rishi.
The thought hurried her to pick up her phone and dial his number.
She needn’t have waited long to hear his voice.
They both were on speed dial.
He came alive even before the first ring had ended.
‘Darling, I want you now, this very moment’.
The phone went dead.
Her face instantly turned crimson.
Her mouth began to salivate.
It was celebration time, all over again.
(TO BE CONTINUED)