He had again tried it in first year of college. This time it was for the reason of Sheena. Sanity recovered in two days. Retired hurt. Sheena still lives in the street, in the same house in whose back yard they had passed hot afternoons. Her windows are still transparent, but her big brother keeps hard cloth curtains.
But today is a different day. He determines to be homeless, finally. He has no plans in mind, no weight in the pockets. In his bag he takes a few things. One pair of clothes, one pair of football shoes, and an old photograph of his mother, his dead mother.
Past. The word makes him uncomfortable. Why people can’t live with the past? Though his stepmother, Bijaya, has never hurt him. Nor she has considered his presence as upsetting, despite his poor record in schools and never attending college properly. But that is not enough. She never helped putting off his shirt after he played in rain. She neither scolded him on coming late at night, nor she shed tears when he was ill. His mother, before she died, did all these things.
But today is a different day. Bijaya removed the pencil drawing of his mother. She wanted the space for an embroidered wall-piece. His mother was a drawing teacher and the pencil drawing, a self-portrait, was her work displayed on the wall. For Amit it was like a relief. When surrounded by loneliness, he would go near to the pencil drawing, put his nose on the frame of the portrait, and smell his mother’s presence.
Today the smell is shifted, from drawing room to storeroom.
When caught in a web of worries, people remember their relationships, old relationships. Amit goes to Sheena. Now he can meet her freely. She lives in PG Hostel, as she has got admission in a post graduation course. Amit could not. While giving admission, they consider only the marks, and not the height of the students.
“It’s not a good ground for leaving home.”
“Sheena, I know. But I… I want my own life now.”
“Okay, I will tell my brother to find out some job for you.”
Amit still dislikes her brother’s face, especially his fan-like moustache. But he prefers silence.
MR. GOPALKRISHNA IS a well-known lawyer. The city knows him by his talent and the high fees he charges. He loved his first wife, Amit’s mother. He gave her money to spend, but failed to give her time and care when she needed. She died. Amit was in standard five then. There was time when people believed that Gopalkrishna had a soft corner for his secretary, Elena. But they had no evidence for proving the softness. They suspected the joint tours ventured by him and Elena. But they were unable to put hands on the particulars of any hotel bookings they did while on tours. Mr. Gopalkrishna is an advocate. The lawyers are good at destroying the evidences.
But now the Lawyer Gopalkrishna respects his second wife. He gives her money to spend, but do not give time. He loves his son, too. But he has no time for him.
Only before a week, Bijaya had succeeded in dragging him in a mall. And to celebrate this unique event, Mr. Gopalkrishna purchased a costly wall-piece for her, as she had showed willingness to own it.
The wall-piece built up a wall between her and Amit.
THE TIME DOES NOT stop for anyone. It did not stop for the wall-piece that separated Amit from his home. Nor it stopped for the hardships he faced in initial spell of his job, the job sponsored by Sheena’s brother. The clock ticked for a year.
The day starts from Amit’s feet. A sharp strip of sunrays, that an open window allows in, heats his feet. It makes him to presume that the day should be Sunday. He follows such a strange timetable only on holidays. The milkman is late as usual. As the bell of his one room apartment cries, he walks to the door. The door opens. Surprises visit: shocks happen. Amit finds himself sandwiched between a shock and a surprise. He fails to believe the scene.
“Mam… Mama, you please come in. Here, sit… sit here please.”
Bijaya looks around the life of her stepson. The bed, the sofa, the clothes, and the articles in kitchen: these are as disorganised as they would be in a home of a young man who works for twelve hours, eats at wayside restaurants, and commutes thirty miles daily in public transport buses.
It takes Bijaya’s full hour to turn Amit’s home into the home of a normal person. He passes this hour with a swirling turmoil in his mind.
“Mama, I am sorry… I should have kept talking with you… on phone at least.” The hot coffee that Bijaya made provides him a room to talk more. “You know Mama, I come late at night, and…”
“Your Papa is living with Elena. Since a week.”
The story is painful. It goes on with Bijaya’s incessant tears. Amit feels ashamed and angry, too. Elena lives separate from her husband and serves as secretary to Gopalkrishna. Since his remarriage with Bijaya, the talk of the romance had died its natural death. But it has surfaced again. Bijaya took their joint tours as part of her husband’s business. But after returning last time, he told her that he would pass nights at Elena’s home. No reasons given. For Bijaya it was a crack on the earth. After burning in the fire of suffering for a week, she is before Amit.
“He is powerful man. I… I’m alone in this world.” Bijaya sobs, heavily.
“Oh, how… can you say so, mama? I… you… you have a son, Mama. Look at me. I am your son. And no one can hurt my mother until I am alive. Okay? Please, now don’t, don’t cry.”
Amit sits besides, and the mother puts head on her son’s shoulder. She empties everything she has in store.
Mr. GOPALKRISHNA’S OFFICE remains cool at noon. But it has a visitor today, a young man. “Sir… sir is not here. He is in the court.” Elena finds no other words to welcome the unusual visitor. A file drops from her hand.
“Mine is a simple work, ma’am. A secretary like you can do it.”
The young man sits on an opposite chair. Looks straight into her eyes. Waits silently until she returns from cabin. Perhaps after phoning her boss.
“Amit, you know…”
“Look. I am not here for my Papa. I want to talk with you. Please, try to understand.” From his cool words Elena gets some peace of mind.
“Better we talk in sir’s presence.”
“Ma’am, I would have been the last person to raise objections against the relationship, if you were married to my Papa. Just after my mother’s death. But you didn’t. Why? I don’t know. Had my father still been a widower, I would have comfortably ignored your adventures.”
“Amit, I… I am…”
“Sit down, Elena. Just sit and listen. You have problem with your ears, perhaps. Otherwise you might have heard from someone that Mr. Gopalkrishna is a married man. He has a respectable wife. And he has a son of marriageable age, too. Do you know? No, you don’t.”
“Amit, you don’t know…”
“Yes, I know nothing. I am still in cradle, just a boy, okay? But I know that today you will visit my mother’s home. Today. And will ask for her forgiveness. Your boss may be coming late, and there is no use of consulting him. He is a big lawyer, and this is very small case. Isn’t it?”
He leaves the office. Quietly. He does not know how he has managed his head cool. The stake was high: prestige of his family. And he knows that on being challenged openly, how Mr. Gopalkrishna, the big lawyer of the city, would use his influence and power. He knows his father. To drive Bijaya out of home was not a big call for him. Had Bijaya agreed to live with him at his one room apartment, Amit would have got a bigger ring to fight. But she wants a peaceful solution. Peace at any cost. Bijaya does not know but Amit knows that before his remarriage, Gopalkrishna had bought a flat, in Elena’s name. She lives in that flat.
Arriving at the line of depression, at Bijaya’s home, Elena is sitting in front of her. Pleading. Bijaya gazes at her, specifically around her belly. It is flat. Bijaya takes a long breath of relief.
“You know, Mrs. Bijaya, I had worked as a teacher in a community school before I joined here. The community people still need me. I have decided to be a teacher again. And I… I thank you for not making anything public. Amit and you are good people.”
After tea and chewing of some silent biscuits, Elena empties her case. Bijaya goes up to gate to see off her. Elena’s car generates a cloud of dust. Bijaya waits until the dust is settled down. .
Amit, sitting in another room, is attentive to the scene. He does not surface until both the ladies have arranged happiness in their lives. While sitting inside he does something with paper and pencil. After all he is son of a mother who was a drawing teacher. He draws a woman’s face.
On completing the drawing he names it as ‘My Mother’.
It was Bijaya’s portrait.
And when he hangs it on the wall, tears gush out from four eyes.
On that moment a son is born: on that moment a mother is born.
(Image courtesy See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons).