by Neha Nambiar
The man sat at the table, his steady gaze never leaving the door… did it really happen? Was it all over? Hadn’t his life just begun? What was it? He couldn’t tell anymore, he didn’t know. "Am I even alive!” he shouted out. He always knew things would go wrong… they were bound to, but this?
As a child he always 'knew' he would be famous. Or rather was supposed to, he saw himself giving interviews and answering questions. He saw himself inspiring the youth. "19 and already there! Susheel Sain does it all…" Susheel Sain does it… yes, that’s what he did. Everything. Everything wrong? But was doing nothing at all, doing everything wrong? What was he thinking, what was he saying? Every sound, movement was just a blur, the world seemed surreal now…he didn’t even know he was breathing… didn’t remember he was supposed to. All he could think of now was the fact that he was supposed to be famous. Ha! WAS GOD MOCKING HIM RIGHT NOW? “GOD! WHERE ARE MY PRAYERS NOW, WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FAITH LORD... WHAT?” HE’S 30 NOW….Susheel Sain -- his name, Susheel... The sound of his name kept repeating inside… That voice! Who was it! His mother flashed in front of him. His heart took a giant leap…ma….a huge thump caught hold of all his emotions he wanted his ma…"Ma”... “Ma” is all he said….ma. "You didn’t do anything wrong ma… don’t worry"
Over protective perhaps, but just another mother? Nah! His mom was the best ever! A woman so self sacrificing, he had never seen… pa was a good man too, a little disconnected but pa was good… “My idol” as he wrote in his journals. He always felt a little guilty, writing in a journal, he didn’t need one -- Ma and pa were the best. He had no issues… women. Yeah well growing up, those alien creatures always gave him the jitters. “How can men be expected to talk to women? They were scary!” But he found his woman, it was the first time he wasn’t afraid… the first time he lost his virginity. The first time he felt like there was someone, a woman. If not better, as divine as his ma. For the first time. “Paro! What’ll they do! What’ll I do!? Ma help! Paro help!” he spoke. The sound of sirens magnified to a thousand times more, made the hair on his skin stand. He was freezing, his fingers numb. He was now aware of the world around him. Where was he? He began to rub his hands together for some warmth...his hand! He shrieked. He jumped and hid under a broken table in the dusty room… shivers went down his spine. He started to look around now…broken windows, a leaking ceiling; a drop of water, or whatever it was fell on the table, must have been a heavy drop, he thought he heard it fall. That minuscule drop found its way down a crack on the top of the table and trickled down the diminutive crack, he could hear it travel…dab! It fell on the floor; he looked down at the drop of liquid, squashed. Blood, guns, a face crying with an expression of shock beyond understanding, then a look of disgust flashed in front of his mind's eye, as he stared at the insignificant drop. At first, the images zoomed -- fast like the cameras of a photographer… Click, click, click, click… And then a silent slow movement of the images. A slow click. The slowest ever. C…l…i…c…k, and he was back... “Ma”! He cried softly… and then chuckled… chuckled like a baby… "she’d never let the floor be so dirty”. He cried again.
Ma was always clean, he guessed that was how she kept herself from crying and being sad… ma was sad wasn’t she? Paro and she always got along... Life was so perfect. Perfectly sad.
Growing up ‘his world’ was always sad. “Why am I so unhappy? Why can’t I laugh or smile freely without feeling this lump of sadness in me?” Words form his journal. "Ma and pa are the best, I love them, then why do 'they' tell me to hate them? I don’t like being in their company you know, but they’re just always there. I think the only time I‘m free is when I’m asleep: and ma and pa and Paro are all with me, laughter everywhere, and Paro looks angelic... And ma… oh... so beautiful!” “Ma was so beautiful” he whispered.
Was -- ma was. The sirens kept getting louder and disappearing. “Where am I? SHUT UP!” he screamed. “I WANT TO GO HOME! I WANT TO GO TO MA!” screamed Susheel of thirty… whose life long dream was about to come true -- he was going to be famous now. Going to. "SHUT UP!” he screamed again. "Leave me alone. Leave me alone, PARO!” HE CRIED, CRIED LIKE PARO WAS DEAD IN FRONT OF HIM. “PARO!” HE BEGAN TO SWAY HIS BODY ROUGHLY… LEFT…. RIGHT… "PARO!” this man wept... Wept like a teenager… a rebelling teenager realising all the rebellion was just for no cause… "Paro, how could ma cheat me like this? Treat me like... how could she hurt me, the one woman I loved, perhaps more than Paro, how could ma hurt me?”
“Paro, beautiful, intelligent Paro. The woman who made him feel free. After 25 years of the 'crazy' life he led, Paro was his answer from god. His angel, his muse. Paro was his heart and soul. “She was! She was there with me, I held her, I made love to her for Christ’s sake! Paro was there, and Paro is there! My life! I felt her soul, and she felt mine, Paro!” He had stopped crying now but was still shaking. His knees pointed up, with his arms around them to ‘shelter’ him from 'them'. His bloodshot eyes, now widened, his face for the first time not afraid, but defiant. Not hidden behind the cover of his knees, he looked ahead, as if at someone and screamed, “HOW COULD SHE TELL ME SHE NEVER WAS THERE? NEVER EXISTED? MY IMAGINATION? MY PARO! A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION! MA TELLING ME THIS! MY MA! AFTER MISSING THE DAY MY WEDDING WAS TO BE..! TODAY...” He seemed to calm down now... "She was to be my wife today. MY WIFE! AND MA MISSED IT! And she tells me PARO WAS NEVER THERE!” Tears crawled down his burnt cheek. An hour had passed now since he was where he was, crying for almost the entire hour, his cheeks burnt, but he cried anyway. His jaws hurt, but he spoke to 'them' anyway, because in a way, they knew everything. He spoke with tears and a shaky voice to them, about his mother trying to convince him that Paro was his imagination, a girl he’d created because he could never 'really’ speak to someone of the opposite sex. He made her up to complete his “inadequacy” as she had put it. To make up for the void in his life through his imagination! His ma, his very own ma told him this. He’d never hurt her, always been her boy, then why would ma hurt him that way? He couldn’t understand. Nothing made sense anymore.
He looked down at the spot where the liquid had dropped, the dust around had soaked it all, and a small brown patch was all that was left in its place. Gone, just like that. Just like his Paro. His head hurt like a million volts of electricity had just been sent through it, only it wasn’t going anywhere. It just stayed there, inside his head and fed on it, chewed on his flesh from within. They want him gone. Flashes had begun again, only more clear this time: the face -- it was ma! That look! Why was she looking so horrified, who was she looking at? Those were the clothes she wore when he was talking to her, fighting with her, asking her why she had missed his wedding, why she hadn’t blessed them. Didn’t she love Paro as much as he did? She had loved her before, what happened? Yes! Ma was talking to him, crying to him, trying to hold him and all of a sudden she was. SHE WAS LOOKING AT HIM THAT WAY! THE GUN! WHERE’S THE GUN! BLOOD WAS ALL OVER THE FLOOR; THE WORLD WAS GETTING BRIGHTER, yet coming to an end. HE WAS GOING TO BE FAMOUS. “I did it! Ha, ha, I did it!” he laughed his eyes so red it seemed like blood would drip out of them if he kept them open any longer, or didn’t calm himself down. Anyway, blood would spill. Blood had already been spilled. "I DID IT," he screamed. "I KILLED MY MA! I KILLED HER!“ Crying, calming down, HE WAS CRAZY! “She looked at me that way," he said. "I had the gun, Paro, Paro never… their, ma don’t say that. ma, please don’t say that. Paro will be my wife whether… whether you like it or not.” He was running around, talking to himself, looking at his ma on the floor -- blood spewed everywhere, wounds in her head, her heart her stomach: a bullet for everything he despised in her. Her mind -- so sick that she would say something so unimaginable to him. Her heart -- she could never have loved him. Her stomach -- that she gave birth to him, made him want to tear his skin off and watch himself bleed to clean himself of the dirt. He spoke now: ”I had to kill you ma, you became sick in the head. The world would never accept you. I had to kill you ma. I had to.”
Early morning, the sun as bright and uninteresting as ever. The grass its usual green… and the birds? Well they just flew innocently like the world was a happy place. And Susheel Sain woke up to a beautiful day, not the weather, not the innocence, just Paro -- she was with him, sleeping while he looked out the barred windows of the National Institute for the Mentally Ill. All was fine. Paro was pregnant. Susheel smiled, life couldn’t get better.
A car rolled in the driveway -- ma, on her daily routine now, for the past ten years. She came to feed her son of 30. God really worked things out didn’t he?