It was a hot summer night, Purvi’s birthday. Ruchika looked divine in a shimmering chiffon sari. As she sat on sofa, her young daughter Simran pleaded her to not go as she had a bad dream last night. Simran said, “What if I have another bad dream tonight?” Ruchika felt guilty but Mohan wouldn’t listen.
On the way, she thought about the birthday party where after several rounds of drinks, dinner would be served and everyone’s stomach would rebel against a single morsel. She wanted to go back but took her pain in. Her maid of 10 years dutifully closed the door. A long deep cut on her right cheek, and with a broken hip she walked slowly. She had been brutally assaulted while fighting the thieves who attacked her master’s home. On that summer night, she had told her to keep an eye on Simran, in case she had a bad dream again.
Now sitting in the car, she looked forlorn and lost, absorbed in her thoughts. Mohan nudged her “Won’t you ever get over your pre-party jitters?” She endeavoured hard, controlling her desperation, putting a lid on it. She wanted to tell him, “You are a man and won’t understand the feelings of a mother but she remained silent.”
She was welcomed in the party with a tight hug and was coaxed to have a drink. Once she had a drink, she indulged in flamboyant conversation, felt better getting over her panic attacks. Everyone dressed in best of attires indulged in yard chat: politics, page 3 parties, friends teasing Ruchika that today’s party must have given her new plot for her story. After all she is a writer, and tells everyone how therapeutic writing has been for her.
Party over, they came back home. Ruchika found it hard to enter her home. Her maid Manju opened the door. She dragged her lifeless body to the bed and cried inconsolably. Mohan stood numb. It was the same summer night 8 years ago Ruchika didn’t want to attend Purvi’s birthday. Simran had cried and ran to her room embracing her barbie doll and Ruchika, with misty eyes, had recalled Jane’s childhood memories in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre “To this crib, I always took my doll. Human beings must love something.” Ruchika had thought Simran must be sleeping safely with doll folded in her night suit. But the worst had happened. They had come home to police sirens and neighbours swarming their place while their maid Manju lay in pool of blood and Simran’s lifeless body lay on bed. A robbery at their place had taken place. Manju couldn’t save Simran from assault of robbers. Words of Simran echoed in her ears “Please don’t leave me alone Mom! I had a nightmare yesterday.” Every summer night when she went to attend Purvi’s birthday, Simran revisited her, her pleading eyes haunted her and that summer night remains alive in her sobs and simmering sighs.
Ritu Kamra Kumar