“Mom, mom – Saaransh got hurt. Please rush. Mom come quickly” Palak was screaming, she was out of breath. Her clothes had spots of blood and so did her hands.
“Oh my goodness, what happened?” asked Sudha
“Mom, just don’t ask anything. Come.” As soon as Palak saw her mother she burst into tears.
Sudha ran into the backyard as fast as her legs could carry her. A million different thoughts coming into her mind in those 3 mins she took to reach the backyard. Each thought making her heart race all the more and her anxiety was touching the ceiling now.
She saw Saaransh sitting down and covering his eyes; his face was covered in blood. Sudha couldn’t make out where he had hurt himself. “Oh my goodness, eyes! Has he lost his eyes?” She quickly kneeled down in front of him and tried to take off his hands so that she could see what really happened.
Saaransh was screaming and crying in pain. Tears, blood and mud all mixed up. Sudha’s heart was racing like anything. “Oh gosh, let this be a small injury!” She kept praying in her heart through her brain told her that it wasn’t.
Dr. Lal came rushing to the spot in no time. Saaransh had got a deep cut just above his right eyebrow. He was taken to the hospital where Dr. Lal worked. In no time the ambulance was arranged and little Saaransh was rushed on a stretcher.
After an hour or so, it was declared that there was no harm to his eyes. But the cut was deep and it would need stitches which would leave a scar for a long time. Sudha sighed in relief. There was no permanent damage. Last 2 hours have been excruciatingly painful for Saaransh and for Sudha as well. How can a mother breath comfortably when she knows that her child is in deep pain?
“But what really happened? How did he get so hurt?” She had to go back home and talk to Palak to find out. “I hope it was not Prateek.” And she skipped a beat at that thought. Lately, Prateek and Saaransh were getting too violent towards each other. Every time she brought up this concern with her husband, he dismissed her saying that boys are rough and they will be fine, he always said. But it still worried Sudha. Why can’t these two boys get along with each other?
Saaransh got better the next day. His right eye was patched up and his pain was much lesser. He had to stay in the hospital for a day more because he had lost a lot of blood for a 10-year child that he was then.
“What happened, Saaransh? Who did this to you?” It was almost 20th time that Sudha was asking him, but she always got the same reply from him that she wasn’t convinced with.
“Mom, I told you naa. We were just playing and the ball hit on the head. That’s all. It happens, mom. Take a chill pill.” He said with the same smile.
Sudha had to find out more. She went home while Saaransh was sleeping. Only Palak would tell her, Prateek and Dhara would repeat the same story as Saaransh or some other silly story to hide their mischiefs.
“Palak, tell me clearly all that you know about this accident”. Palak was the wisest of all, she was mature than her age of 14 years. She had always been a peacemaker between her brothers.
When confronted with this question, Palak started looking the other way. “Nothing mom, they were just playing. You know these boys played really hard naa.”
“Tell me the truth, Palak!” said Sudha with an assertiveness that shook Palak.
“Mom, please promise me that you will not say anything to Prateek. He is already dying of guilt.” Said Palak
“So, it was Prateek!” sighed Sudha with a helpless look on her face.
“But it wasn’t his fault alone, mom!” shouted Palak as she saw Sudha’s face red in fury. “Mom, Saaransh provoked him!”
“Stop it, Palak! Nothing can justify hitting his own brother so badly. What does this idiot think of himself? He is going to have a good one from me now.” Sudha felt her rage in her eyes. She felt like she just had to take out all of it on Prateek.
“Stop mom. You always do this. You always favour Saaransh. I know he is better than all of us in studies, sports and everything. But does that mean that rest of us are not good enough to be your children? You never listen to our side of the story. You have to believe that Saaransh is the naïve one. What the hell, mom? You don’t want to know the truth about Saaransh. He is always doing things to make us look bad in front of you.” Palak was crying miserably now. It was the first time she pours her heart out regarding Saaransh.
“No Palak, no. What are you saying?” Sudha was totally taken aback by what she heard.
“Sudha, Sudha, Sudha… Wake up.. Sudha, Sudha” and Sudha opened her eyes in her bedroom looking at her husband’s face that really looked worried. She realized that she was covered in sweat and probably was muttering something in her sleep.
“Was it the same dream again?” asked Dr. Lal handing her a glass of water.
She sipped water that made her heartbeat slow down a bit. “Yes, again the same old dream. A complete recollection of that day when …” Sudha’s voice faded off.
“Relax and try to sleep. You need to take an extra dose of anti-anxiety now. This is not helping.” Said Dr. Lal getting back in bed again after giving a small yellow coloured pill that was supposed to make her less anxious.
But sleep was far away from Sudha. She kept staring at the ceiling whole night wondering why she didn’t realize that there was a growing conflict between her kids. Had she realized it earlier, her family still might have been a family.
Guilt never left her and she closed her eyes thinking about Raman and his guilt about not being there with his Grand-mom. “How does he cope with it?”