I hummed a tune as I tidied my room. The phone rang. I felt it was not good news and my feet refused to move. Naina came in from the other room and looked at me quizzically and then proceeded to pick the call.
I listened. She kept on looking at me every now and then and I knew it was not good news.
Every now and then I get these premonitions and usually when something is wrong. I remember when my mother took her last breath, I had come to know about it even though she was 1000s of kms away. Today too the same had happened, although in the same city. My sister’s husband had an accident. He died then and there.
As I became busy with the formalities my sister remained in silence. Her son came from the US but he left soon. She remained solemn, silent. I shuttled between her house and mine. Trying to gather bits and pieces.
I looked at the insurance, paid the electricity bill, took her out for walks. But she remained solemn.
Sakhi had been a bubbly girl. Very creative and outgoing. She was the darling of everyone and so she got her own way in everything she wanted. Was that a mistake I do not know.
I looked at her, how had she become like this. A caricature of her past. A slave of routine. A small change and she was helpless. Do we get all we want, do we always have her way, and does death wait for anyone.
She did not know about their investments, she didn’t know where all they had bank accounts; she did not know where the electricity bill had to be paid. How did this happen, how did she become so dependent.
Naina admonished me. Why are you taking so much interest, she says. How can I not; Sakhi is my sister. Does she care for you, she asked. She is selfish, she said, you will only get hurt. Maybe, I said, but I cannot shirk my responsibility. I will help her as long as she allows me.
It is almost 10 months that her husband departed. There is still no change. I watch her speak to her son on the phone, ‘Com home soon, I do not know what to do or else take me with you’, she pleads.
At home I see Naina in a solemn mood, what happened, I ask. My mother had come today, she says. She wants me to send some more money every month as that no good brother of mine needs it. I know for what. He must be needing it for his clothes and parties. I refused.
What was her reaction, I asked.
Oh, she blamed for everything. How my father had wasted money on educating me, how I was not taking responsibility and so on.
We both sat in silence for some time. I remembered Naina coming in first day to my place looking for a paying guest accommodation. and what a transition she had made. From a gawky teenager to this self confident woman. Our relationship today was more of a mother daugher one rather than a owner-tenant.
So what do you plan now’, I asked. I will continue with what I am doing now and plus I will register myself in one of the matrimonial site and if I get the right guy, get married and have my own family. It is time I thought of myself now, isn’t it, she asked. I smiled at her. I loved her confidence and positivity.
But tell me why are you so silent today, she asked. Because of Sakhi, I said. She refuses to come out of her grief.
She is plain selfish, Naina said.
What, I said.
Yes, don’t you see, she is used to making people work for her. Her husband did so all these years and it is you now. Her son is smart, he ran away. Mark my words, he will never return here nor will he take her there.
I knew in my heart that what Naina said was true.
Sakhi, come we will go for a walk, I said.
I don’t want to, she whined.
Sakhi, I said, enough of this mourning. Take charge of your life. Go out meet people, discover new interests.
‘What do you know of my pain’, she screamed, ‘Do you know how it feels to be left alone, you have a career, you are independent, how will you know?’
My mind flashed back 20 years back. My husband had left me because I could not bear any child. I had just done matriculation, what could I do. But didn’t I survive. From educating myself, working odd jobs, finally getting a government job. I bought my own house and started keeping paying guests so that I could have some additional money. I worked as a volunteer too in so many social organizations.
I got up and took my bag and left her home. We all have to take charge of our lives. Some people refuse to do that and need some shock. Sakhi would have to battle her own battles from now on. And I hoped she would be victorious.
Sometimes in life you had to be very selfish for your own good. I was being one now, I just wished she would be too and stand up on her own feet.