Nina and Diana returned from the cafeteria. They were seated outside their mother’s room in the hospital. Suddenly Nina got up from her seat and opened the window to take a glimpse. She was greeted by the soft cool breeze. The busy streets, whimpering kids, the local market and funny haggling moments caught her attention.
Meanwhile, silence reigned between the two sisters. Nina was so lost watching her hometown from that window that she didn’t realize it was past 7 pm. “Di, I’ll stay back tonight with mother. You must be tired, you should take rest and freshen up”, said Diana breaking the silence. Nearly startled, Nina couldn’t make sense of what Diana had just said. “Sorry, I didn’t get you. I’ll what? Ca..Can you please repeat,” Nina fumbled. “Its ok… I was just saying I’ll stay back tonight, you should go and take rest,” said Diana, secretly smiling to herself. “No. Kids need you, take them and go home, I’ll be here,” Nina replied in one breath.
Diana and the kids left shortly. Nina felt deserted! She thought of sneaking into the room to take a glimpse of mother. But she hesitated. After a vigorous tussle inside her, she finally opened the door and went in. She saw her mother was taking deep breaths, she was clearly uncomfortable while breathing. But she felt blank inside. “Why can’t I feel anything? Have I turned into a stone?” Nina whispered to herself. Nina extended her hand and touched her mother’s forehead. “Excuse me Ma’am, visiting hours are over. Please wait outside; don’t disturb the patient.” Nina got startled when the nurse chipped in. “Yea..yeah sure. I’ll wait outside”, Nina replied to the nurse.
Nina got seated outside and she was observing other patients, nurses, doctors, ward boys, their way of talking, their psyche… all seemed busy and were walking hurriedly. As night progressed, Nina felt her consciousness ebbing away, and a warm blanket covering her. Her eyes felt heavier and she leaned against the wall and drifted off.
Diana, on the other hand was tensed. She couldn’t sleep… she kept tossing left and right on bed. She had called Nina twice, but it went unanswered. She thought of going out but then who would look after her kids. Unending thoughts stormed her head. “I think she must have dozed off,” Diana concluded finally. That was the longest and hardest night for Diana.
Next morning, light breeze and soft golden sun rays filled the corridor and along with it sneaked in a bumble bee. As Nina was sitting near the window, the bee happily buzzed near Nina’s ear then went to nose, and then from nose to ear and it continued. As a result of the continuous buzz, Nina woke up. She angrily waved her hand trying to shove the bee away. She checked her phone, “ten missed calls!”, Nina shrieked! She immediately called Diana. “I…I don’t know how I had dozed off, I couldn’t take your calls, everything okay at your end?” , said Nina. “Yes, things are fine here. I wanted to know how things were at your end?”, replied Diana. “I’ll reach in an hour”, said Diana and hung up.
Nina grabbed a cup of coffee as she waited for Diana. As she was strolling down the corridor she heard Kiara and Riya scream, “Good morning maasi”. “Good morning, my honey buns”, replied Nina hugging and cuddling them. “I think you should go and get refreshed”, Diana interrupted them. “No, not now, after doctor examines her”, said Nina firmly. “Doctor will be late, so you go and get refreshed”, chipped in Diana.
Nina left hesitatingly. She drove hurriedly in search of a small hotel that she thought to book for few days but came to a bumping stop at the signal as the signal changed from green to red. She took a deep sigh of relief. As she glanced to her right, she saw a scantily clad child whimpering and asking her mother to take her home. The word “HOME” rung deep into her ears. As the signal turned green she drove homewards. Part of her was hesitant but the other part was longing to have a glance at her home. With mixed feelings she rang the doorbell. Sathya gasped! “Didi,..yu..you have come home” Sathya couldn’t believe her eyes. Nina just smiled and went in. “Breakfast is ready, you freshen up, I’ll….” Sathya turned to Nina and saw that she went inside the house, room to room, hurriedly, touching the walls, windows, doors, taking a keen look at the interior décor. Nina was amazed to see the interior décor was exactly the way she liked. She was clean bowled by the symmetrical alignment of things as per her choice. At last she entered her parents’ room. She gave a quick glance and turned to leave, just when her eyes caught notice of a tin box which was covered with dust from all sides except the top part. It seemed strange to her. Still, she turned to leave but she changed her mind and turned towards the box. With much difficulty she grabbed the box and opened it. To her surprise, the box was full of Nina’s childhood dresses, toys, and… several gifts neatly wrapped along with a letter. When Nina saw all this she didn’t know how to react. From the handwriting she knew it was her mother. Those gifts and letters were for her birthday. She opened and read the letters. Nina noticed all the letters had a similar conclusion which read as, “I am very sorry dear Nina. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I never did. I love you a lot, but I have failed to express my love for you. If possible forgive me.” Nina was dumbfounded. She didn’t know how to react. She got alert by Sathya’s presence and immediately told her, “I’m coming, you go.” Sathya left.
Nina rushed to freshen up, gobbled up the breakfast and left for the hospital. Puffing and panting she reached the third floor and nearly dashed against Diana. “Ouch!” cried Diana. “Sorry, I didn’t see. What did the doctor say?”, inquired Nina. “Di, calm down, reports are good and mother is recovering, but she is still weak so we cant proceed with the chest scan now. Doctor has advised to follow a strict timing of her meals”, Diana said assuring Nina. After a while when the nurse came with breakfast, Nina volunteered, took the food and went inside. Nina saw mother’s eyes were still closed. She began caressing her head softly and after a while she opened her eyes. Mother saw Nina sitting in front of her. She didn’t believe it and closed her eyes. Again after sometime she opened her eyes and again she found herself looking at Nina! “I think I have started hallucinating!”, mother thought. Third time when she opened her eyes and found Nina still sitting beside her, she was about to close her eyes and turn away her face, just then, Nina said, “I am very much sitting here”. Her mother didn’t blink her eyes; she was just looking at Nina. She just gazed at Nina. Nina gazed back. Not a word was exchanged, but still everything was understood. After a while her mother pointed towards water. Nina gave her the glass but she was unable to drink from it. So Nina gave her water in spoon. It seemed each spoon of water that Nina offered, bridged each of those distances that had distanced them. Silent and heavy tears flowed down from their eyes. Neither of them turned their face away, neither of them blinked. But silence spoke louder than words that day. Nina could feel, her mother wanted to sleep. So she patted her mother and she fell asleep in no time.
Nina went out of the room. She felt nauseated as a dense cloud of mixed feelings engulfed her. With several thoughts, Nina absent mindedly sat on the edge of the seat, as a result of which Nina had a great fall and found herself kissing the floor. Squeals of laughter greeted her. “Maasi fell down, maasi fell down”, yelled Riya. Kiara joined her. Kiara and Riya threw themselves on Nina and all had a hearty laugh.
First time after years, Nina caught herself laughing from the bottom of her heart. Nina recalled the words of Victor Hugo, “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”