The moment I opened my eyes in the morning, I saw the wall clock. “Oh God, it’s already seven! I’ll be late. Why didn’t the alarm ring?” I cannot recall when I fell asleep as I was lost in thoughts. I remember cherishing the memories related to Shekhar, the man I was married to, and the day we tied the knot. Perhaps, memories eased my agony and helped me sleep well after so many days.
Anyways, it’s Shekhar’s birthday. Every year, Shekhar and I spent his birthday visiting temples and orphanages. Shekhar loves spending time with children. I called my son Raghav and asked his whereabouts. “Have you forgotten it’s your father’s birthday?”
“How can I forget this day? I’ll come by afternoon. But please don’t inform him. I want to surprise him.”
“Please make sure you reach on time,” I hung up the call and went to begin the preparation. It was a special day.
By 8:30am, I had cooked Shekhar’s favourite paneer dish along with rice and lentils. “Now I have to cook kheer and puri,” I said while wiping the sweat from my forehead. “Shekhar loves kheer puri,” I reminded myself. I always loved cooking for Shekhar. In fact, he too loved eating whatever I made for him.
In another hour, I had cooked everything and cleaned the kitchen. I went to check if Shekhar was still sleeping. Yes, he was. I kissed him on his cheek and wished him a happy birthday. Then I asked him to wake up and get ready. He opened his eyes but there was no excitement in his eyes. However, Shekhar was never like this. A few years back, he used to get excited for his birthday and would demand various gifts from me. He was still a kid at heart.
Every year, he would choose my saree and ask me to get ready as per his wishes. This year, since he showed no interest in celebrating the day, I chose a saree myself. I got ready in the peacock blue saree that Shekhar had bought for me. It was the last saree he ever bought for me. I wore this saree in a hope that he would recall the bond we shared.
After draping the saree elegantly, I decked myself in the jewelry and tied my hair in a nice bun. I decorated the bun with his favourite flowers. Oh, I still remember how he loved seeing jasmine flowers pinned in my bun. I completed my look by applying kohl, lipstick, vermillion and yes of course, a red bindi. Shekhar always insisted that I wear a red bindi, no matter what.
I looked into the mirror and saw myself donned in the way Shekhar admired.
“Oh, Shekhar, what do you think? How do I look?” He didn’t say anything. Instead, he was staring out of the window. Perhaps, he was looking at the mango tree. It still had the swing which Shekhar had put when I was expecting Raghav, our only child. Shekhar and I used to sit on that swing so often. Time passed so fast. Raghav is 22 and now seems to be taking over his father’s responsibility, just the way Shekhar always wanted.
“It’s already 10:45 am and no sooner, children from the orphanages will be visiting,” I gasped after seeing the time. Yes, this year Raghav insisted on calling children to our home rather than visiting the orphanage.
I helped Shekhar get ready. He was now wearing a pale green kurta with white pyjamas. He was also wearing his favourite watch and the gold chain that I gave him. Soon, the children arrived. Raghav was still on his way home. He would have been at home if his semester exams weren’t going on.
We cut the cake and enjoyed eating it along with some snacks. The only difference was, Shekhar didn’t say a word in my praise. My heart ached once more. Quickly, I wiped a tiny tear that flowed through my left eye. For so many days, I wished for Shekhar to be the person I fell in love with. The one who always smiled and made others laugh. The man who wouldn’t stop himself from giving his honest feedback on everything that I cooked.
Raghav arrived on time. He touched my feet and hugged me.
“Happy Birthday, Papa. Are you enjoying it?” Raghav hugged his father and took his blessings. He sat with his father for some time and told him about his exams.
Soon he came to me in the kitchen.
“So, are you ready for this, Maa?”
“Do I have any other option?” I asked Raghav.
“I wish things were not like this. We were so happy. I wish that night would have never come in our lives.”
“I wish the same, son. You see, your father… has changed. And…,” a lump in my throat stopped me. “Will he never be the one he used to be?” Teary-eyed, I asked Raghav.
“Maa, you know everything. For all these 6 years, we have tried everything but nothing changed.”
Raghav was right. Six years back, Shekhar was returning from the market. He had gone to buy a gift for me. After all, it was our wedding anniversary in a few days. While he was returning home, he spoke to me and informed me that he would reach in 15-20 minutes. But after 10 minutes, I got a call from him, only to find someone else on the other side of the call. The person informed that Shekhar had met with an accident and was badly injured.
We rushed him to the hospital. But he had a permanent head injury which left him paralyzed forever. When he opened his eyes, he couldn’t recognize us. In fact, he couldn’t remember who he was. Doctors informed us that he had lost his memories too.
The worst was yet to come. Shekhar’s condition deteriorated and he slipped into a coma. A few days later Shekhar did come out of the coma but to live in a vegetative state. I lost the person, whom I had loved all my life. For all these 6 years, I have always prayed to the Almighty to return his senses, just for once.
I returned to the present after a child came asking for water. Soon, Raghav and I served lunch to the kids in the hall and asked them to enjoy themselves.
“These are my husband’s favourite food,” I couldn’t stop myself from telling them.
After the kids had finished eating and returned to their orphanage, Raghav went to sit with his father and talked his heart out. Meanwhile, I brought food for Shekhar. Raghav chose to leave us alone and so he went to his room.
“Shekhar, you often complained to me for not being expressive of my feelings towards you. But do you know, I always loved you? To me, nothing in this world seems as important as you.”
“Do you remember this saree? It is the one you bought before meeting that accident. Won’t you look at me today? Just for once, turn your eyes towards me,” I pleaded.
“Shekhar, I want you to know that I always wanted you to stay happy and healthy. I love you and I cannot see you suffering like this.”
Then, I kissed his forehead and hugged him. Shekhar seemed unaffected and oblivious to my words, kiss, and embrace. Soon I started feeding him spoonfuls of his favorite food. The food I had prepared with so much love and the one I poisoned to ease his death. Shekhar continued swallowing the mashed food like an obedient person and I kept saying, “Eat my dear and bid goodbye to your pains, miseries and our love.”
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Prerna loves to write and shower love on animals. She enjoys reading and exploring places. Though sweet in her pictures, at times, she is difficult to understand. Being a strong believer in hard work and karma, she loves solitude and peace. Apart from this, she loves petrichor and harmony and wishes to achieve her one and only ataraxia for a lifetime.