All her life or whatever of it she could remember, Pranita had waited for her daughter’s distress to come to the brink. But today when her limp body lay so unresponsively in her arms, a peaceful pallor dispersing on the mute face, the hapless mother could sense the tears rolling down her own cheeks but a complete numbness within. She had thought she would be strong to face this whenever it would inevitably come-but what strength can tower a crumbling edifice? They say a peaceful death of a suffering soul is God’s way of justice-it conquers all. Why did it make Pranita feel shackled still and cheated yet again?
Her little baby was standing at the heaven’s edge that knew no bodies nor minds and the sufferings thereby created by the web of earthly life. She was now a soul that would no longer be stared at by the world that oscillated between crudely calling her ‘handicapped, retarded or paagal’ and more sophisticatedly ‘mentally challenged’. Her little Sonya, all of sixteen by years on the calendar and barely two by growth of mind, had passed to the oblivion, to the land of no return and today Pranita held her the tightest, like she had never before.
She remembered the days when she had to, to calm the almost violent little body, rudely stirred by helplessness or fear. Sonya was born a beautiful, pink child to Pranita and Subodh after three years of their love marriage. She was troublesome and less responsive than most children but nothing that the doctors did not term “normal”. It would be difficult to pin down the exact moment in time when she traversed the “abnormal” genre. Some say it was the overdose of antibiotics by a "qualified" doctor that sealed the fate of the vulnerable child, others blame it on wrong vaccination and some more ‘enlightened’ ones raise fingers at the fact that her mother did not stretch out flat on her bed during the dreaded solar eclipse.
By the time Sonya became three what was just a speculation-a nagging fear, became an incorrigible verity that she was a “special” child. An epilepsy attack at the age of five worsened whatever minuscule evidence of progress was triggered, leaving her left side in paralysis and pushing her into a semi-coma for almost a year, frustrating the child who just lay staring at the ceiling. Thereafter she was out of school and cramped within the four walls as her physical deformity became more evident and her actions unsuitable for public bearing.
Pranita recalled every excruciating torment that she had faced in the last sixteen years-it was as though life had been churned out from her in slow doses. She had been used to of a fast-paced corporate vivacity and waiting for her toddler to grow up quickly so she could return to the mainstream and gather the remnants of her sagging career as a journo. Little did she know that the light of her life would remain at two forever-never would she tell if she wanted to pee and sometimes roam in her panties soiled with shit, soon making Pranita’s life one. The rounds to parlours and late night parties had slowly distorted into a series of doctor visits, getting check-up reports and medication and worst of all-controlling a girl who had the strength of a teenager and whims of an infant. She could barely leave the home or allow the doors to be left open for fear of the outsides coming in.
Pranita unwittingly felt the scar on her forehead again-a brutal cut made by the sharp edges of a flower vase that Sonya had hurled at her because she she was being made to get up after bed wetting. It was not just a blemish on her physical being but a pain that perhaps reached up till her entrails and gnawed every impulse, every instinct. It would never fade and disappear.
With teenage on the threshold had come newer problems-the girl began her periods and howled at the sight of blood. The doctors brought in more injections, poked into her plump frame, so that the monthly cycles were curbed. Her now persistent screams would reverberate through the almost dead corners of their flat, making even the neighbours shudder. Friends had trickled their associations, acquaintances made sure they remained just that and the relatively strangers could not help but wag their tongues and warn others to stay away from the “evil” house.
But Pranita had held strong-looked into the eyes of every stare she received and played dumb to every taunt that filtered through to her ears. Gossip vines were even abuzz that Subodh had a mistress in another town for which he remained on tours for two thirds of a month. He had been empathetic at first-after all it was his sperm that upshot it all. But such is the terrible countenance of diseases that it makes chickens of even the strongest. Before long statements like, “I can’t bear to see this, it breaks my heart” floated in the air and he would walk out to get a breather-the breathers that soon seemed to be found only outdoors and which slowly choked Pranita for often she felt the walls closing in and no one even to hold her hand. The father-the protector, the guardian had shown how spineless he was, taking the easy route out to let the mother wear the pants, not bothering if they constrained her spirits.
Pranita wiped the tears from her eyes that had just flashbacked the whole of her torture. Was it an hour or more since she held the dead body of what was once her life? She lifted Sonya with all the strength she could muster in her own fragile frame and rested her on the bed. In the almost ominous silence of the room, Pranita viewed herself in the mirror opposite the master-bed. Could she recognize the object staring back at her for she did not feel like a person anymore? What happened to her beauty that was once her pride? When was the last time she gazed at the mirror for so long? And those trickling strands of white hair around her forehead, did they develop this morning, born when Sonya stabbed her nurse’s arm with the scissors while the poor woman only tried to inject her with the medications? Oh boy, how the nurse had ran out for her dear life, the third one, in this quarter!
Pranita removed the vial and the injections from the side table and threw them in the dustbin. Those things looked ugly whether they were wrapped in polythenes signifying their purity or discarded in the bin with tainted, twisted tips. The doctor had given those with extremely specific instructions- “Not more than 5 ml to calm her down and only in emergencies, Pranita. Anything more and it could be fatal.” Pranita had injected 5 ml down Sonya’s body-not once, but thrice, emptying all the three emergency packs and kissed Sonya as she became drowsy and then went to sleep. She had held her tightly to her breast feeling the heart beat fainting as the minutes passed and soon there was no sound-none what so ever, reverberating in her ears or mind. Silence so strong that if it were a sword it could pierce through the air slicing it irrevocably!
Now that the action was done the reaction took over like greedy hounds chomping the limelight-Have I done it for her or have I done it for me? Did I want her to be released from her mind numbing fears or was I placating my own soul jarred by the cacophony of her perpetual screams? While she lived like the dead each hour, her mother died like the living each day! Am I fit to be called a mother-was I ever? She picked up her mobile to call Subodh, in a meeting yet again at 11 pm, to tell him that Sonya's ailment finally got the better of her. She was removing the garbs of responsibility but little did she know that garbs of guilt were waiting on the aisle to wrap her tight-had perhaps already become her second skin! Were the noises finally over or have they only just begun?
P.S. This is a work of fiction based on the case facts of a brave young woman whose daughter is undergoing such a sad condition by a cruel twist of fate. It is absolutely shuddering for me to think what she goes through each hour and every day. Let’s pray that no mother should face such such an endless pain ever.