It has been four minutes since I died.
My wife sleeps next to what had been me, unaware of the corpse, which was once her husband that lies next to her.
She will be up in the next couple of hours. By habit, she will do her daily prayers and ablutions and set some tea on fire before coming back to wake me up.
Then I am afraid, all hell will break loose.
I hope God takes me away before this transpires. Nothing such has happened yet. I haven’t seen any light or any such thing. I am still here.
Formless and shapeless. Hopeful. Peaceful. Waiting.
One hour since death
My wife shifts slightly in her sleep. I want to reach out to her, hold her and comfort her. I want to tell her not to worry and that I am there for her.
I fear that she will awaken and ask for the bottle of water that always lies on my side of the bed.
We argued before going to bed last night – on some trivial issue. On lending some money to her cousin brother whom I never really liked. For someone who had taken voluntary retirement a few months back, it is difficult to take the liberty with money the way young people do.
My children take liberty with money. I have two sons. Both married, great jobs, on a high, and spending more than they should. I have tried to talk sense into them. They hear my ranting and respectfully ignore me. No one listens to an old man.
They take after me. I did not listen to my old man.
I married my wife against my fathers wishes. It was meant to be an arranged match. We had visited her house to see her. I, a London educated graduate, working with a bank in Bombay (as it as called then), was a price catch.
My father, a traditionalist with right wing leanings, would only settle for the best.
‘Best’ for him was defined by the size of my potential father in laws bank balance and his willingness to part with a large chunk of it in dowry. ‘Best’ was also defined by the colour of my potential wife’s skin. My father’s son had lived and dined with fair men and of course he had to have a fair wife.
The girl we have travelled to see that day did not qualify. It was a mistake. My father said he realised this the minute the taxi drew into the lower middle class suburb. He would have turned around right then if not for my uncle, who had recommended the match, and who had helped my father financially for my expensive education.
A grim father and an obedient son walked through an open door into a little house that announced aloud that it belonged to a mid-level government servant.
Sparse, minimalistic, functional and definitely not to my fathers taste.
We were greeted by many joyous, rotund relatives and a bald, sombre, humble father. The usual tiffin was served with laddoos wrestling with chaklis and chivda for space in the little plates brought out for each of us by rotound relatives.
“Where is the girls mother. Does she not have the courtesy to come and greet guests” my father whispered loudly to my uncle.
“She died when the girl was little”
“How can my son marry a girl that has not learnt the ways of women from her mother. Will she know how a good daughter in law is expected to conduct herself” my father must have thought. Thankfully he did not say it out loud.
The usual small talk followed with my father answering in monosyllables and sarcasm and I, Mr. London educated eligible commodity, cowered with timidity.
It was then, thankfully, that respite walked in the form of the eyes.
All I could see in her when she walked in were the eyes. She was all eyes and I was all eyes. Eyes met. Eyes spoke. Eyes explored. Eyes questioned. Eyes answered. Eyes were loving and tender and laced with dew. Eyes walked gracefully and sat opposite me. Eyes were bashful. Eyes were shy. Eyes were confident. Eyes told stories that no one else but me could see. Eyes hypnotised. I levitated.
Eyes could melt ice.
The obedient son/slave of the father now enslaved by a vision seen through those eyes.
Vision of the eyes beholding me, tempting me and seducing me while I made tender love, each night, to the possessor of the eyes. A vision of them looking over me, lovingly, each morning while I slept. Eyes that would warn me of harm, comfort me in despair, guide me through life, and direct me when I wandered.
Eyes named Nethra.
While I was all eyes my father saw things differently. Nethra was dark and she was talkative and she was opinionated and her father did not own a bank.
My father walked out of the house in ten minutes. I followed meekly.
My soul stayed back and lingered.
For a month more I saw more girls than there were days. I saw all kinds. I found an excuse for them all.
My father was growing increasingly impatient and agitated.
I had to act.
When I wasn’t working or visiting sundry potential wives, I started frequenting the area where she lived.
Thank God I smoked.
Thank God I bought my cigarettes from a corner-store while I awaited the eyes to walk around the corner. On the eighth day they did. They walked into the store to buy bread and milk. Thank god for stores in India that stock and sell everything.
“Ha.. Hi” (I think I had farted out of shock.)
“What are you doing here”
“Nothing much. Had come to see a friend who stays close by. He is not at home so I thought I will wait here for him”
“Smoking is injurious to health”
“There are other things that are killing me right now”. (Shit. What did I say. I wanted to chew on the burning cigarette and make a hole in my tongue. Idiot. I was. I am.)
Giggle. (Oooh! She is soo cute.) “What???”
“No. Nothing. So you come to this store often” (Yeah. What a great conversationalist I am)
“Yes. We have an account here. So we pay at the end of the month. I come here every morning after I visit the market”
“What time??” (What an idiot. Go slow idiot.)
Giggle. (Please don’t do that… don’t giggle... It is doing things to me that you cant imagine) “Between 9:30 and 10:30”
Shit! Shit, Shit Shit…. I am at work at that time.
From the next day, I got to work two hours late each morning. Some in my office thought that my father was ailing. Others thought it was my mother.
And then it started. The wheel started turning and I could not bring myself to stop it.
I had to tell my father.
And all hell broke loose.
Then I broke loose.
We eloped. We got married at a temple with only a few friends of mine representing both the groom and the bride. Not, by far, the proper Indian wedding circus.
I also knew that I had to get out of the city. My father was friends with some right wing politicians (goons) and I knew his ego was bigger than his love for me. Another day and all the grime in the city would be hunting for us.
I took a friend’s old battered Fiat, most of his money and whatever little I had saved and drove out of the city. My heart beating a drum each time we passed a check-post.
We left the car with my friend’s uncle in Ahmedabad and took a train to Delhi. From Delhi we travelled aimlessly in cheap government busses.
I remember the first time we made love. In a bus stand lavatory at Gorakhpur. I know. It isn’t romantic. But we were on the move and too scared to stay for the night in any one place. We were young and our hormones got the better of us. And so in a foul smelling ladies lavatory at an isolated government bus stand, the newly wed couple consummated their marriage for the first time.
We travelled further up and I started breathing again only after we reached Sunauli, a border town in Nepal. We travelled further up to Kathmandu and stayed there, blissfully, in bed, for two months, till the money was nearly over. Then it was back to Bombay.
Back in Bombay, I realised that I had lost my job.
My father got me the job and my father took it away. He had not forgotten and he would never forgive. Thankfully he had accepted that what had occurred could not be undone.
The first few years still rankle. We stayed in a friend’s apartment until I found a low paying job in a textile mill. We then moved into a one-room ‘chawl’ in Byculla.
From Byculla, I rebuilt my life. I managed to find another job in a bank and in time, life blessed us with two sons, a larger house and reasonable prosperity.
My father never spoke to me till he died. My mother died a few months after I eloped. I would like to believe that she was probably tortured to death by my father for bringing a wretch like me into this world. Into his world.
I have never grieved for them.
I was too busy playing prisoner to the eyes.
I have been imprisoned for life.
Now even death has failed to secure a release.
And it is two hours since I died and its is time for her to wake up.
Two hours since death
I worry for her. Who would believe that the soul (or am I a ghost) worries after death. But I do. I wonder how she will live her life now that I am gone. I am not sure if she knows where I keep all my documents and information. She has never had to pay a bill by herself. She has never wanted to know how much money I have saved or about the insurance or the investments. I have never told her much.
My children lead their own lives. They live separately. They lead busy lives. They have no time for our middle aged bones. They do visit occasionally but I don’t think that they would be comfortable having their mother stay with them.
She doesn't even bloody take her medicines on time. She spent her entire life looking after me and the children and with time she has forgotten herself completely. Her health has been failing in recent years. She has diabetes and high blood pressure.
I took voluntary retirement only to take care of her. And since then she is completely reliant on me. She eats when I eat and I have to cajole her to take her medicines. She had become my baby for the second time in our lives. We were planning to go on a pilgrimage up north. I had booked our tickets last week. Our second road trip.
But now I am FUCKING dead.
And I have waited for two fucking hours for God to take me. To Release me.
And I have come to realise that there is no God.