The next day when I woke up it was already late and I could not cope with my work properly. I’d to scurry and hurry in everything. And even amidst such a deadline I didn’t miss peeping on my cellphone screen, not a single ping from Akash. I called twice, but it was just busy.
Maybe he is busy; my busy boy as usual.
“Mom I’m leaving. Shut the main gate. Take your food and medicine in time.”
“Ok, beta. Take care.”
Just as I cycled, my phone started to ring. But I was in a hurry. So I ignored it. When I reached the stop the bus was about to leave. Its engine was groaning in impatient screech sporting a lot of smoke and dust to the air. At first, I shouted and then started running.
“Abani uncle please keep my cycle up. My bus is departing.”
“Take care. Don’t tumble.”
The helper tried hard to stop the bus by pulling the bell, but the driver ignored his signal.
The bus went away throwing bubbles of black smoke on her face.
I felt sick. There was an important gathering for all the stuff that day. Though I did not think my presence had any importance there, I wanted to be there and in time, not in the middle of a programme poking my nose, “May I come in?”, I just hated it.
As I just hated to face Abani uncle full of concern over my failure to catch the bus and asking me a dozen of questions.
I took my cycle near the store room. To my great relief, I found Abani uncle busy with his customers. I sat on a nearby bench and found a miscall from Nikita, another volunteer worker like me. I called her back but she was not reachable. Then I tried to catch Akash on phone. But it only kept ringing.
“Akash today I missed my bus. Where are you? I call you, but you are busy. Akash, it will rain today. The black cloud is roaming over my head, and I’m missing you. You know Akash every time it rains it reminds me of you.”
I was so engrossed in typing messages I did not even notice Mohon.
“Hi, Aatri. Busy?”
“Nooo. I’ve missed my bus.”
“I’m going to market. You may come.”
“Oh yes. I’m already late. Thanks, Mohon.”
The programme had already started when I rushed to the hall. I found a seat near Nitika almost in the last row. I preferred it, as being a latecomer I didn’t want to be in eye contact distance with Mrs Sinha, the Head of the Institution. I did not understand why she always kept a personal grievance with the staff like us. We just work here for our pleasure not with the hope to be financially benefited. Even then I never found her smiling face, always fretted furrow on us.
“I miss your call, as well as the bus, anything new?” I whispered to Nikita.
“Yeah, Mr Pine is sponsoring a big project for this institution.”
“It will be beneficial for the special needed girl children.”
“It’s a praiseworthy step. But we need more manpower Nikita unless proper steps cannot be taken and money will be mishandled.”
“Do you think manpower will solve every solution if they don’t feel interested?”
“Yeah, that is also a point. But at present, we have a meagre staff at hand and the new responsibility…I am not so sure Nikita how everything would be possible.”
“You and I are just volunteer workers and we need not be too bothered in this respect.”
I knew I had a passion for such work and particularly if I could gather some experience it would help me in future.
“Look what a gorgeous saree she wore.”Nikita diverted my thought pointing to Mrs. Sinha’s saree.
“Do you think she is working here out of her love and affection for those destitute? Such a vile lady always poking her flat nose upon everyone and busy in leg pulling. I just hate her, a showpiece smeared with posh cosmetics.”
“Ok, now stop this Nikita. We are here to do our duties and try to learn something. We have no interest in her. And for God’s sake try to concentrate on long speeches avoiding dresses.”
I stared at some girls, maybe the newcomers as a part of Mr Pine’s project. They were seated on the ground with their hands wrapping their knees. They might be hungry. God knew when they got their last strap of food and they needed proper bathing and rest, surely not those tedious verbose.
After the programme, Monikadi and Satyenda distributed sweet packets.
I silently went to the girls. They were four girls around 9 to 12 years. I asked their names and tried to make friends with them. At first, they hesitated but finally, they started enjoying sweets from my box.
They were Rumi, Jui, Moni and Champa.
Moni was the youngest and her left foot was small than her right one.
Satyen da called us to take them to their room and make them acquainted with the rules and systems.
Subhradi was the senior among us. Though she looked stern-faced she did her duties very sincerely. She lost her only daughter due to a car accident and Samayita was her only consolation. She scolded us if we did any minute wrong but I felt that she loved her work even beyond anyone else and with utmost sincerity.
When I made the girls accommodated in their rooms, I met Subhradi in her room.
She just threw a stern indifferent glance at me.
“Subhradi I want to see the case history of these girls, particularly Moni.”
She looked at me with a suspicious expression.
“You want to see their case history. Are you sure?”
“Yeah, if you permit”, I garnished my politeness over her cold face.
“They are not ready yet, you can see them tomorrow.”
“Ok, thanks di.”
“Aatri I’ve told you to call me madam, not di.”
“Sorry, di, sorry madam.”
“Now you can go and meet Mrs Sinha. She was searching for you and Nikita.
It was so sickening for me to meet Mrs Sinha and digest every torment she imposed upon us. But I had no choice.
Perhaps Shuvradi understood my uneasiness. Noticing my colourless face, her tough look quivered with a feeble light of tenderness,
“Aatri, life is not smooth, and one has to do what one does not like. Now don’t make face and go away from me.”
When I rescued myself from Mrs Sinha’s room it was 5.50 already. I hurried to the bus stop. My head was aching murderously. I got a bus and managed a seat near the driver and snapped my cell phone. There were five miscalls and all from Mamoni, not a single from Akash. My heart dashed in frustration.
I called Mamoni and convinced her of the situation briefly and promised her to take Abani uncle with me to reach home. Then I called Akah thrice. But every time I found his phone busy.
Bitter agony and strangling pain stifled my senses. I felt my eyes burning in pain and anger.
All day I waited for him, for his call, voice message, anything through which I could touch him could feel that he was with me. But he never gave me that scope. He never cared for me. He always behaved rudely and indifferently.
I called him in the morning and texted him when I missed my bus, but it seemed that he did not care for me. Then what kind of attachment was this, what kind of relationship if he had no concern for me, no time for me? The relation could not be a Greek tragedy we could enjoy in our free time to attain purgation of emotion. It must be a full-fledged tie-up, filling up one’s mind always with the concern of the other. But Akash never participated in my life, my struggle, and my problem and also never allowed me to involve in his. He shared no everyday life story with me. He just joined me when he wished and spent the time in frivolity. It seemed to me that he never took our relationship seriously. It killed me.
I wished I could ask him, could shout at him. He did it not one day but every time. I never find him committed to any of my needs. The whole day I could not connect with him. But at night he came so pleasurably, amiably that I could not demand what I grieved for the day long. But that was also irregular. If one night he would be connected, you might not find him for the next days or weeks or even months. There was no certainty. If you tried to enter forcefully without waiting for his next arrival he would avoid you giving excuses, and mistreating you with cold harsh words. But he never turned up the relationship. He, again and again, churned the weakness within me. It was my trap and I fell repeatedly just to bleed and cry and to hope again. Whom do I blame I did not know.
I was entirely distraught when I reached home.
“Mamoni my head is banging to my ear.”
“Take a bath Aatri and you will feel better. I’m preparing your food.”
“Why? Sabana aunty?”
“Her baby has fallen from the bed and got an injury.”
“Now hurry, you look distressed.”
I felt so grateful that tears filled my eyes. She was my mamoni and she cared for me. After a long time, I felt it. Oh, how I thirsted for it, this love, care and sympathy.
After a shower, I took a biscuit and a painkiller. I wished to lie down but Mamoni was waiting. So I came down.
“Any problem Aatri?”
I wished to jump in her lap and cry. But how to say what made me upset was not my physical drudgery but the emotional turmoil. I said nothing except,
“Mamoni this migraine is a curse you know, until I take a deep sleep it will not go”
I could not remember how long I slept. My phone was vibrating continuously digging me from my hibernation. I opened up my heavy eyelids in the darkness and groped for the phone.
Hey, I am Munmun, the phoenix fabulist who wants to tell you stories. I love to read stories and I love to weave stories. I feel life is an amalgamation of multiple stories, colourful threads, and threads of pain, pleasure, hope, and hopelessness. We just need to pick those hues and arrange them, knitting them with our own emotions and perception. So let’s celebrate the stories of life.