Amrita put Nik in the car and took the driver seat herself.
‘Don’t fidget with the seat belt Nik. If you don’t put it on, Police uncle will come and take us to the jail.’ Amrita screeched at her son and then sighed at the futility of her own words. At 4 years, Nik really did not understand the gravity of ‘Police uncle’ and ‘Jail’. She turned the car keys to ignite the engine and raced off across the street to drop Nik to his skating classes.
Amrita was 8 months pregnant now and was struggling while driving. Her bump did not allow her to sit upright to have a clear view of the front bonnet of the car. She had to recline in her seat a little more than she was comfortable with as a driver. It was just that years of driving on the road had refined her traffic judgment and she was able to ply safely on the road. Besides, she loved driving.
She was disturbed by Nik’s squeal and abruptly applied the break, cautious enough to not ram her bump into the steering.
‘What happened baby?’Amrita plied the car on the left before coming to halt.
‘Mamma! There was a cat infront of the car. I feared it might get hurt.’ Nik’s innocent concern left Amrita smiling.
‘Oh! I am sure it’s ok. These street cats and dogs have a way of remaining safe on the road. They are experts at that.’ Amrita turned on the car to resume her drive.
And then a fear engulfed her. Had the cat died, what would she tell Nik? Nik did not yet know what words like ‘dead’ and ‘death’ meant, or atlest she thought so.
As Amrita dropped Nik to his activity class, more lines of worry appeared on her forehead. How was she going to manage the situation in her house next week?
Raghav’s first cousin Mita had passed away of lung cancer at a rather young age of 40 years, leaving behind her husband and two sons aged 12 years and 3 years. The entire family had been devastated. They all found it difficult to cope with their favorite cousin. Though Amrita empathized with the loss that Mita’s husband Deven had suffered her heart went out more for the kids. Especially for young Vansh. He had hardly spent any time with his mom since his birth. Mita’s cancer had been detected right after his birth and had since been struggling with the harsh treatment that the disease called for. Little Vansh was only aware of a person called mom in the house who was mostly ill and hardly had any opportunity to experience the joys of childhood with his mother. And now Mita was gone, forever.
Amrita tried to keep stress at bay by avoiding thinking too much about Deven and the boys. But her worries ran deeper. An element of this tragedy was about to touch her own life. They had invited Deven and the boys to visit them so as to ebb out the awkwardness that Deven felt since Mita’s demise. Next week Deven would be here with the boys and stay with them for 2 days. Amrita’s fear was what or how would Nik react to Mita’s absence.
No! Nik obviously was too young to be attached to Mita, but he was very likely to be curious by absence of Vansh’s mom.
How was she ever going to explain to her 4 year old that Vansh’s mother wasn’t with us for good! Her fears got confirmed later that week when Nik came up hopping to her,
‘Mom! Grandmother says that my cousin Vansh is coming to our home next week. Is it true?’ Amrita nodded kindly.
‘Will Vansh come with his mom and dad? Because I hear that he is even younger than I am.’ Something tugged at Amrita’s heart as she pondered for an appropriate reply.
‘Tell me mom! Which room will Vansh stay in with his mom and dad?’ Nik nudged further.
Amrita held Nik by his shoulders and engulfed him into a bear hug. She then made him sit by her side, her arms still around him,
‘Baby! It’s true that Vansh is coming to stay with us next week. But he is coming with his father and elder brother. Remember Gora bhaiya? You met him on our last visit to Jaipur? Vansh’s mamaa was not well, she is in the hospital for treatment. So she is not coming with them.’ Nik heard Amrita’s words with a lot of concentration and nodded as if on cue.
With a heavy heart, Amrita continued, ‘Baby! Vansh might miss his mother. So you must not ask him anything about her.’ Her hold tightened a bit around Nik’s shoulder. She was very skeptical about the effect of her words on a tender 4 year old mind. By now Nik was really distracted by the noises of kids playing right outside their home and nodded absent mindedly before running out to see big boys play gully cricket.
Next week when Deven arrived with the boys, Amrita and family welcome them with warm hearts. They tried to make their stay as normal as it could be for everyone. It was quite evident that everyone was missing that one person who had bound them in the past and now the common grief of her absence put them together. Amrita kept her fingers crossed for Nik to not make true her worst fears. He was extremely friendly towards Vansh, but never once did he check with anyone on where Vansh’s Mamma was.
Two days later when the guests left, Amrita took a sigh of relief. She dreaded the moment when she would have to tell her little boy about what death or dying meant. For now she had managed to keep the question from surfacing, but she wondered for how long would it be before she would have to face the demons of parenting. And as she feared, the moment came very soon.
‘Mamma! Vedansh bhaiya was very upset in the car pool today’ around a fortnight later, Nik spoke out as he returned from school and out his shoes back in the rack.
‘Why so?’ Amrita knew Vedansh was a companion in the car pool that Nik used to ply to and fro from the school. He was around 3 years elder to Nik.
‘He said that his pet dog had died.’ Nik said concern lurking in his eyes.
Amrita stopped short in her tracks, as she heard Nik’s words. She turned to look at Nik who was busy pulling out his tiffin box to keep it in the kitchen for washing.
‘Mamma! Vedansh Bhaiya said that his dog was very ill and could not eat or drink anything. He became so week that he had no energy to walk around. Last evening he did not wake up. They had to put him to permanent sleep in some other place, where he would not be disturbed.’ A tear rolled down Amrita’s eye as she heard a child account of what death meant. She felt all blood drain out from her system as Nik came to her and hugged her legs. In an impulse her hands went around her son’s head.
Such was life. That day Amrita realized for the first time that this world was warm and harsh both. Parents fear for their kids’ getting exposure to the harsh realities of life. We protect them as much as we can, yet there is no running away. Life finds its way towards kids. They come to understand everything, as and when the right time comes.
I am participating in the challenge of April with #Blogchatter