As The Bells Chimed

I pulled up my sheet as the mild, warm rays flooded the room. The sun rose early in the North-East, as the snow-capped mountains turned to gold. I tossed and turned before I finally arose with a heavy heart, like every day.

“Up already?” Alice aunty called out from downstairs. My PG accommodation was on the higher floor of her house. The rent was nominal, and the old lady was sweet and non-interfering. More than anything, we were each other’s answer to our loneliness.

She served me tea, and on her way back to the kitchen, she gently picked up a photo frame- her young son Gegong smiling mischievously therein.

“Five years today,” Alice wiped her tears.

The monastery bells chimed at a distance. I closed my eyes and prayed.

I rode my scooter down the narrow lanes, wondering how many appointments awaited me at the OPD.

At lunch, my fellow doctor lamented, “My sister seems a bit disturbed back in Delhi. There’s that new virus in China, Corona? Some street loafers hooted at her, calling her Chinese, Corona, go back. When will these Indians accept us?”

“We’re Indians too, Binny. Moreover, let’s not generalize. A handful of ignorant fools don’t echo the voice of millions,” I comforted her.

“Says the person who was brutally ragged in college and ran off in fear. All thanks to your ethnicity. They hate us, period,” Binny fumed.

A tear pricked my eye. Binny apologized, “Relax. Have you told Alice yet?”

I shook my head.

The sun had set when Alice aunty brought me some Thukpa soup. She wasn’t very talkative, but today she sat beside me and fidgeted.

“You know, Gegong loved my Thukpa. You remind me so much of him. If he hadn’t killed himself that night, he would have been a doctor like you. All I had was him. Didn’t he realize how alone I would be?” She tearfully broke off.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I grasped her hands.

“Gegong wasn’t a coward, aunty. He didn’t commit suicide. That night the seniors bullied me; they were chasing me around the hostel with rods. It was only Gegong who came to help, and fought for me, as he did for all the students from North-East. He took a blow on his head for me. I left the next day as I was too scared to stay and be a witness.”

I could feel her hands trembling in mine. I wept, begging for forgiveness.

“It’s a huge load off my chest, aunty. Please let me take care of you. Consider that as my penance.”

She freed herself from my clasp. Not a tear down her eyes. She stated in a matter-of-fact manner, “My son died a hero; it’s a huge load off my chest too. But if it’s penance you desire, get justice for Gegong. I can take care of myself.”

I broke down as she moved downstairs without casting me a second glance.

Preethi Warrier

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