Crucial Craziness

The god of cruel things

on July 20, 2010

I stood at the Coimbatore Airport, alone and helpless. I saw an elderly man staring at me. Immediately, I wiped the tears that had unknowingly fallen from my swollen eyes. Whom shall I ask for help? Everyone was a stranger. The man approached me. Must be in his early seventies.

“I have kept your tooth brush in a kit-in the side zip. Don’t forget”

“And there are pins in that blue bag.”

“Listen,don’t forget. There are  four thousand rupees in the inner zip of your black suitcase. Don’t  forget ,I’m repeating. And don’t open it in the train for any sake. All what you may need is in your handbag”

“Are you listening? It’s already late.I’m talking to you, Renu!”

“Mom…cool down .It’s only 6:30 now. The train is 9:10”

“Time will fly away, just like that. Switch the TV off and check if you’ve packed all your things”

“But,I’ve already checked it seven times”

The phone bell rang. My mother ran and picked it up.

“Yeah..she’s starting tonight. PSG, Coimbatore Merit.”

“Yeah, I’m fine now.Alright. No problem”

“Yes. Thank you. Bye”

That was the hundredth time my mother had repeated the same dialogue, with overwhelming joy and pride. She spoke with the same enthusiasm each time. I had got my admission to one of the top colleges, in Coimbatore.

My mother was always worried about me.I was like how the boys in Indian families were meant to be-happy-go-lucky, carefree and  playful and my brother was how girls were meant to be-sincere, dedicated and hardworking.

My brother had studied extremely well and is now doing his third year Mechanical Engineering in IIT,Kanpur. But I wasn’t like him. I’m very playful, hasty and a harum-scarum person who never took anything serious in life. I was contented with basket ball, my novels, Bharatanatyam, Music and Movies.

Never had I worked hard for studies. No aims, no goals.

At class one, I had said that I wanted to become a doctor . 9 out of 10 children say they want to become.Later, I wanted to become a van driver; because I loved my school van driver’s style of driving. When I was in class 8, I wanted to become a scientist like Abdul Kalam. This and that; that and this.

My brother topped his school in the board exams and I saw all praising him. I loved it and I finally decided that I would also become an engineer like him; so that people would celebrate me.

“You lazy bum !Don’t you want the calculator? How many times should I tell you take it?”

“Anna…If you’re so much concerned, why don’t you keep  it in your sweet sister’s bag yourself?”

“Renu, look…if you’re so carefree, you’ll lose all your things at the hostel. I’m saying out of my experience. You’ll come back home with nothing. In my hostel, a boy lost all his…..”

“You get lost brother! You and your stale lectures! I didn’t even want to go today. It was you who made me start so early. My friend is starting only tomorrow and there are 3 more days for the college to start”

“Don’t you want to  settle into your room, Renu?”, my mother interrupted.”

“He is right. Why do you bother about your friend? You need to start early. Now go, take bath and get ready”

“Amma…will you wear that red saree with green border to the station? I love to see you in it”

The elderly man in the airport walked towards me and asked, ”What’s bothering you dear? You look really pathetic. Want some help?”

I had got a phone call from my father, asking me to come home immediately. He never told me the reason. He asked me to reach the Coimbatore Airport in Peelamedu by an auto and take a flight back home,to Chennai. Thankfully ,I had the money for the tickets-the money my mother had kept in the inner zip of the black suitcase. I didn’t forget.

I knew something was wrong. I kept asking him about it. But, he said not a word.

I could feel my heart throbbing with anxiety that I didn’t want to express.

“Sir,I need to go to Chennai urgently. I don’t have the  tickets.”

“Do you have money?”

“Yes Sir”

“Why do you worry child? It’s not a problem at all.I’ll help you.”

He took me to the booking desk at the airport. He filled in few forms, asking my details, bought the tickets and handed them over to me.

“Your flight number is IT2902  Kingfisher Airlines-7:45 AM. The departure will be announced shortly. You be seated here until that. Is that ok dear?”

“Ok sir. Thanks”

“And, whatever is your problem ,try not to have a worried face like this. It is not safe to travel with a face like that, child”

“Ok sir”

“That’s good. Bye”

He pulled his suitcase and walked swiftly towards the exit. I kept staring at him until he disappeared into the crowd.

I sat there and listened to every announcement that was made. After ten minutes, it was about my flight.

That was the first time I had to travel by an airplane. I had come to airport only to wave goodbye to my US uncles and aunts who always bought us chocolates and perfume bottles.

I was nervous,but more worried.What was wrong? Why did my father want to hide something from me?

My father was fine,he spoke to me.My mother?She had fever last week,but completely in high spirits and in the pink of her health now. Had my brother met with an accident? But he’s a very sensible driver who doesn’t drive at speeds more than 40 Km/hr, even if the road is deserted. But…..brother…..

It was time for me to board the flight. I went in a bus to board the flight. Everything was strange things I’d never seen. I had only dreamt of the a joyful air travel. But my first one-with a heavy and stressed heart, never made me realize the joy.

The smiling air-hostess helped me find my seat and put my belt.. Her smile was too artificial.I wondered if she’ll remain smiling even if someone stamps her foot. I was offered weird-looking things to eat. I refused them. I moved back, rested on the seat and closed my eyes tight.

“Take care of your baggage. Don’t reveal your identity to strangers. Don’t buy water from the train. I’ve kept the water bottle in your handbag”-my mother’s last minute lectures at the railway station.

“Ok maa…I can manage. I am a big girl. Don’t worry.”,I spoke proudly as a grown up seventeen year old.

My father placed all my bags near my seat and ensured that they were locked .Meanwhile, my mother was glancing at the passenger chart put up outside the train’s compartment.

Mine –S6 seat number 5. She wasn’t worried about that. Others…others…she wanted a good family.

I wanted to say, I’m not getting married. I’m only going to be with them for few hours.

The chart  read.. N.Ramanujam –40- #1, N.Jaishree-38-#2,  R.Sriram-15 -#3, R.Sridhar-12-#4

“Brahmins!Nambalavaa! [our people] ,she exclaimed with delight. Seems to be a good family!”

It was surprising to find how she could brand people to be good just with their names.

I had seriously wished that the chart would have been Rahul-20 or Shiva-23.My bad luck!

She went in, spoke with Jaishree, the Brahmin aunty ,I assumed and asked her to take care of me.

“Don’t worry,we’ll take of her, the lady assured. I felt shameful. My mom  never did  this whenever my brother left.

The signal changed green, the whistle was blown and the train was about to start.

I got a little emotional. I had not been without my family for more than a week. But now,I may see them only after two months. Tears filled my eyes, though I tried to control it.I didn’t want y mother to see me crying because she would also start. I tried to hide, but I wasn’t successful. My mother was smart.

“Renu…what’s this crying habit. You aren’t going to moon. Wipe your face. We want to see you cheerful”

I  smiled.

The train started moving. My parents got down. Brother was still inside.

“Hey ..Don’t keep studying always and spoil your college life. Make as much as friends you can.Ok…

Enjoy a lot! Do all crazy things;whatever you want….You won’t do rubbish, I know…I have faith in you…

Take this”,he handed a thousand rupee note to me.He hugged me and said,”Bye Renu!”.

I was surprised to see him speaking that way; I felt like the love I had towards my brother grew in an exponential rate like a chemical reaction, right that moment.( No,it’s not just because of the thousand rupee note).

He got down  and all waved good-bye to me.

Tears in my eyes again. My mother shouted from outside…

”Renu…You should never cry, whatever happens.Love you dear….”

My parents and my brother kept jogging with the train until it picked up speed.

I was looking out of the window waving my hand. The train left the station.The platform ended and the yellow board read- Chennai Central.

The flight had reached Chennai, the air hostess announced. I got up and fell down immediately. I hadn’t removed my seat belts .I removed it quickly and got up again.

People walked towards the door in such a hurry..

I moved in the direction the crowd moved. After few minutes, I found myself standing at the Chennai Airport. I saw them collecting their baggage.I waited there and collected mine too.

I came out and stood hopelessly. No one had come to pick me up.

I walked out planning to take an auto back home and fixed the rate to be Rs.150 ,not a rupee more,I reassured myself.

I opened my purse .I just had the thousand rupee note my brother had given me a day back.I was reminded of the words he spoke.

Anna…..what happened to you?

“Renuuuuu…..!”

I turned back hearing my name being shouted. My brother stood there .He was wearing  the same dress that he wore yesterday.

I ran towards him.I asked him what had happened. He didn’t speak.

“Come with me…walk fast”, he took my bags and walked out of the station.

To cope up with his speed, I had to run.

An auto was already waiting. He signaled me to get inside .He got into it after me.

“Anna…tell me.What is wrong?”

“Anna!Why did father ask me to return back?”

“Anna!Tell me!!”

“Will you shut your mouth and come? he shouted”

His eyes were dark red, swollen. I could find that he had cried. His cheeks were wet.

I shut my mouth and started crying. I knew it was something bad.

Mother…..

We reached home in half an hour. People had gathered around home. I’ve never seen them so many of them before.I couldn’t walk.My brother pulled me inside.

I saw my father squatting on floor with his hand on his head.

I moved in. There was an unusual silence that’s always dangerous.

I found my mother, lying on floor-her face pale,lifeless.She wore the beautiful red saree I had asked her to wear. A lamp was flickering near her head.

I was trembling  and my brother supported and helped me stand me. I turned to him and slapped him several times.

“It was you who asked me to leave”

Slap!

“It was you who made me leave Amma”

Slap!

“I could have started a day later”

Slap!Slap!

He stood calmly.He pulled me close and hugged me.

“I’m sorry Renu”,he burst out crying.

I cried madly,frantically. My dress was wet.

I looked at my mother.I felt like she moved. I started crying even loudly.

”Renu…You should never cry, whatever happens. Love you dear….”

I wiped my tears , sat next to my mother and looked at her beautiful face that I’d never seen crying.

She smiled. None could see it, but I could.

“Love you dear…”

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