I was there when it happened.
D was raised with a lot of love and care. And protection, pampering and indulgence. She had hardly entered the kitchen in her whole 18 years. Not even to make a cup of tea. Her father was rich and her mother was a lovely loving woman. They both had their ideas of how to raise the kids. There was a brother too. A happy young fellow.
There was comfort. And there was luxury. There was fun. And there was enjoyment.
There were parties and friends and foreign trips.
On her birthday she got whatever she asked for. She had so many toys that as a kid I envied her the dolls, the gadgets, the exciting games, the endless caricatures of superheroes and the cupboard showcasing the tiny play town and the doll house. Whenever we met I was overwhelmed by the fun they all seemed to be having. The best part was that they got to wake up late without any prodding and preaching. That was the ultimate luxury.
The mother was lovely. She was full of life. Where her house and kids were concerned she would never compromise. Their schools were chosen with care and consideration. Their hobbies and pastimes where thought about. They were given freedom of expression. And were not allowed hardships at home. The mother was devout in her own way. And had her own set of rituals. The kids didn’t share much of it. But every morning after her bath, the mother did her pooja. She would stand in front of the devghar (the place where idols of God are installed and God resides) and would light the lamp with ghee and offer an orange or an apple to God as prasad and stand silently for 5 minutes, saying her own prayer, lost in dialogue with her God. It was beautiful to watch her like that. Serene. At peace. Almost contented.
Then one day it happened.
Their car crashed as they were driving from one city to another. The son had warned that the car needed servicing. But an important visit was pending. On the highway a drunk was driving his tempo and they happened to be following. And the tempo swerved, throwing them along the edge of the road. Within seconds the story had taken a wild turn. The father was mildly hurt, D scraped her shoulder blades and the mother cracked her neck. The son was spared the trauma as he had stayed back.
It was madness after that. The gathered crowd. The phone numbers to be recalled. Being taken to the nearest hospital in an emergency. The doctors evaluating them. The blankness. The fear. The uncertainty. The X-rays. The MRI. The rush. The craziness of it all. By the time we reached the place the reports were in. The dreaded monster announced itself. It was a fractured spine for the mother. And the unspoken verdict that do what you will but she won’t be able to move her legs for the rest of hr life. I don’t want to live like a stone block, her eyes screamed at me. It was the story of Humpty Dumpty all over again. We didn’t talk about it. But it was on everyone’s mind. The ghosts of the future. Looming ahead. It was afternoon. An afternoon of October. But everything had gone dark and hazy.
I took D home. This pampered 18 year old girl who had never made a cup of tea in her life till then. We spoke about all meaningless things just to hear the sound of our voice. I was thinking about what D was thinking about. Nothing. Did she know? I wondered. Did she guess? Was there pain? I searched her face. I tried to listen to some hidden anguish in her meaningless small talk. I listened into her silences. But it all appeared blank. She was looking out of the window. Staring at something? I don’t know.
We reached home. Just the two of us. It was late evening. We freshened up our faces and blanked out our minds. I cooked some flavourless meal substitute. She went for a bath. She seemed to take a long time. I waited. Afraid. Alone. It seemed endless. The time. At some unknown point she came out. And then I saw her. I saw her go up to the devghar. I saw her light the lamp. I saw her keep an orange as prasad. And I saw her close her eyes and go into communion with her brand new God. The girl was nowhere. I saw the woman.
It was almost beautiful to watch her like that. Serene. Calm. Ready.