March 24, 2006

End of the Tunnel

The dog wags his tail at me and bounds towards the car as I drive into the garage. 'Hi Charlie', I say wearily, as I get out of the car. He whines, recognising that I am not in the mood to cuddle him. I bend down and give him a quick pat and I walk inside. Although I would rather not step in.

Charlie sniffs around the packages in my hand and then gazes at me imploringly when there isn't even a faint whiff of his favourite biscuit. A pang of guilt. 'Oh Shit, I am sorry Charlie, I will get them tomorrow. I promise. Good dog' I add, as he seems to understand. I seem to be forgetting a lot these days. The strain is taking its toll on me. I can barely get through anything that is 'normal'.

There is nothing normal around here. How can it be? My eldest son is in Intensive Care, in a coma. And we have to make a pretense of normalcy for the sake of our sanity, and for the other children. God knows, we have been through enough without each of us now quietly falling apart by ourselves.

Nikhil and Nisha wouldn’t have come home yet. My mother takes picks them up from our gate after the school bus leaves and takes them to her house. An advantage of having family stay in the same town is that they can always hop over. I don’t dare remember the many times I had cursed the very same fact. The memories come unbidden.

Sanjay, Nikhil and Nisha as very young children, playing around in our garden with their cousins. Both the brothers always doted on Nisha as she was the youngest. She was in the first grade now. Understanding very little of what was happening to Sanjay, she was withdrawing into her own private hell. All of us are in our own private hell.

Rahul looks up at me when I enter. I didn't know he had left work this early. He had started taking refuge in it, unable to come home and face...everything else.

'Hi' I venture.

'I spoke to the doctor'My heart skips a beat. No matter how you much you steeled yourself in preparation of bad news, the raw fear always grips your heart. I gulp.'What did he say?' My voice comes out as a rasp.

He looks down. 'They want us to consider...'

'Pulling the plug' I complete, harshly. He meets my eyes 'if nothing works out...' He looks away. 'God, I hope he pulls through.'

I feel a tear forming. 'So do I.. ' I whisper. 'I wish all of this would somehow go away. That I wake up from this nightmare. But I never do.'

Rahul looks hurt. 'I wish I had found him a little earlier'

'It was not your fault.' I answer, after a brief pause.

The silence is filled with questions. It rises up in the air pointing an accusing finger at both of us. Each feels the accusation of the other, probably not just imaginary.

I am his mother. I should have stayed at home instead of working and letting Rahul take care of the kids. There is no saying that would have helped, but maybe Rahul felt I should have been the 'conventional' parent.

I sighed. This was definitely not a moment where I cherish the fact that I am anything but conventional. A life of your kid is not the price you pay for leading a busy working life. And you definitely can't blame your husband for something he didn't have any control on.

Like not noticing that Sanjay seemed a little more subdued than usual. Well, he did notice that, I amend. Sanjay brushed it off to the accident he had been in that day. We wouldn't normally call it an accident. It was just two cycles ramming into each other. Who would have guessed his liver would bleed internally and he would slip into a coma. I wouldn't have done any better. I guess. I wouldn't know for sure. If I had not been out of town, maybe I would have looked in on him. Perhaps I would have noticed his pale face.

'Stop blaming yourself!' I scream. Silently.

But Rahul seems lost in his own thoughts. Why doesnt he notice my turmoil? Can't he see that I need his support?

Crisis brings a family together. Well, it certainly didn't seem to be happening here. We were drawing further apart everyday. It is exactly 29 days from the day of the accident.

I turn my back to him and go and stand next to the window. I can see Meena's kids playing in their yard. I close my eyes. I cannot bear to see kids running around right now.

Strong arms envelop me. 'Don't look, it doesn't help us to look at them now.'

I lean back against his chest. He feels solid. My grip on sanity when everything else is falling apart.

'We will pull through this Rakhi, but we have to do that together.'

'I have missed you.'

'So have I. We will do our best with Sanjay.. The rest is upto the force above us.'

I feel the comfort of his strength and a rising conviction that we would be alright. There was light at the end of the tunnel, after all.

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