Monday, May 18, 2015

Aisha #11

“Arun, you rent a taxi and wait just outside the hospital. We’ll go in the taxi to Keylong. I’ll bring Aisha.”

“But Anu, exams —”

“Please Arun, everything else can wait. Now it’s important to go to Keylong. I’m going.”

“Ok, I’ll get my friend’s car. Would be easier to get at this time, and wait outside.”

She hugged him and kissed his cheek, “Thank you Arun. This means a lot to me.”

They went to the room and Anu said to Aisha, “Amma, we are going home. If you want to, go freshen up.”

Aisha saw Anu and realized that she wasn’t joking. And she happily went to the bathroom to freshen up, helped by Ganga.


“Pssst! Now,” hissed Ganga, beckoning with her hand, after surveying the corridor. She had earlier cut off some of the wires of the corridor lights and Anu came out, piggybacking Aisha on her back. Equipped with knowledge of hospital being the staff and some keys to back door which Ganga pilfered from the security they ventured to escape from the  hospital as the doctor refused yet again when Anu asked if she can take Aisha home.
“I’m sure you’ll take care good care of her, but you see she is under medication, she has violent fits and is in a definite need of a trained nurse. And your dad will scold me if I let her out in this condition. Please don’t ask me again. I’ll tell you when it’s time to discharge her. This is a super specificity hospital, the best in the country. She is in safe hands here,” replied the doctor, earlier.

In the dark seeing the silhouette of a large person running, a hospital inmate tried to shout, but Ganga was ready to close her mouth and muffle out the scream, saying, “It’s ok, she’s just a patient, the stretcher we got was not working and we had to shift the patient immediately. So, the piggyback-ride, nothing to worry. I’ll call someone to get these lights repaired. Please go into your room.”

It took hiding in a couple of rooms and avoiding life to come unseen and Arun was waiting, ready with the car, near the backdoor. Anu deposited Aisha in the backseat, and bent over to catch her breath, he was sweating, her shirt soaked in sweat, “You go wait on the road, and I’ll catch up with you.” Arun along with Aisha in the car drove away a little further on to the road. Anu hugged Ganga, “Thank you very much; by any means I’d never able to pull out this stunt without your help.” She kissed Ganga on her cheek. “You did a lot for my amma, and I owe you for it. Call me for any help. I’d like to do something in return, although I’m not sure if I can ever make it even. Sorry for all the trouble, I’m leaving you in a mess which I’ve created.”

“That’s ok, it’s my duty to keep Aisha better. And such a lovely person shouldn’t suffer all this just because of a crazy notion of hers. Take care of her. You’re a fine girl, in these days when old are looked upon as burden every fiber of yours is trying to keep her happy. Aisha couldn’t have asked for a finer granddaughter. My own grandmother was always cursing me, you know for being a girl. She wanted a grandson, but I came out, a waste of space. I ran out of my home at the prospect of marriage, and here I’m. I get pleasure from the love of recovering patients.”

“Why haven’t you told me this before, all this time?”

“You’re already burdened enough; I didn’t want my sad story to weigh you even more. Take care, and go now, Arun would be waiting.”

“We’ll meet again.”

It was refreshing, the drive along the mountain passes that are building up with snow and below the overcast sky. Outside the car windscreen, everything looked black, white and gray, like something out of an old world. ‘It seems amma is getting healthier as we near home,’ thought Anu. Aisha got into sitting position and rolled down the window and poked her head out from the side window enjoying the howling icy wind. While Anu zipped her shirt up to her neck and brought up her hoodie, to cover her ears Aisha seemed so oblivious of the chill. This was a journey she liked the most. She had gone with Anand many times, on bus and car, Delhi to Keylong, via Mandi and Manali, with small mountain hamlets popping up now and then.
On their way they had to cross many Railway crossings where they had to face the usual loud and high pitched cries of train horns, yet Aisha didn’t seem to mind. She was sane again. Anu silently thanked Ganga for her idea.

It was Aisha and Anand’s wedding anniversary in ten days. On the third day after her arrival, she already seemed very fit, and went into inspect how the inn is progressing, and after some customary checks she sat in the familiar money-counter, where she used to sit in and count the money. Now there was a computer there which was issuing the bills. The days of ledgers she used to input the day’s earnings seemed to belong to a past life. She asked the number combinations which issued the tokens for different food items. She tried that for a while, but she was slow, and was delaying the billing counter and so promptly gave the seat back to a younger person who was taking care of the counter these days. Anu waited patiently at a table, sipping her coffee. Coming out from the inn Aisha said to Anu, “You’ve Thapaji’s number?”

“Yeah, I’ve it.”

“Can you please call him, and ask him to return home. And tell him I said sorry.”

“Okay, I’ll,” this sudden change in Aisha’s behavior made Anu reaffirm her views that hospitals can’t treat all people. 

On the sixth day she actively took part in cooking, in the inn and even did a little gardening. She was almost back to her usual self except she wasn’t talkative now. In fact, she seemed to convey half the things using her hand gestures. On the ninth day after they went home Anu had a little discussion about the package, with Arun, asking him how to open the conversation with Aisha and how to hand her keys to it, but trusting her instincts, she placed the package near the bedroom door when Aisha was sitting in the garden, and put the keys in the tea box.

It was very late when Aisha finally headed to the house and it was very quiet inside. Anu and Arun slept in the guest rooms that were in the newer extensions and just as she entered the older part of the house, a rectangle of light from sitting room, piercing the surrounding darkness, and the buzzing old electric lighting seeping into the silence, and the old grandfather clock chimed signaling the day change. It was their anniversary. Aisha stood there remembering how it all happened. How Anand proposed, how he used the tea box, as he lacked the courage to propose directly.

Aisha went to the kitchen to get herself some tea, and just as she opened the tea box there was a key, attached to a glittering keychain — putting something in tea box, Anand’s habit — she was so excited and as went into her bedroom, excited, anticipating the unknown. And as soon as she opened the room door displaced something as it was opened. It was gift packed too. She tore the gift pack and there was a wooden case with a big slot for a key in the center, crudely resembling the weighing machine in the railway stations. She inserted the key and opened the box and inside was another courier like packaging. She opened it and inside was a collection like trump cards, and a letter on top of it, in Anand’s writing.

‘So, after all these years I still don’t seem to gather enough courage to talk to you directly.  :P (this is a tongue in cheek smiley, you non-tech old lady). You know these days, many stations are adopting new type of cards and in those instead of the quotes we get a monochrome picture of a celebrity on the back of weight. And I know you can’t live without those card-quotes, so this is my gift, my dear. Cheers to yet another year of my survival despite your continuous nags. May god bless you with a love towards cricket, so we can enjoy the evenings better. And may your love towards cooking shows fade away.  :P (this is the same smiley again).’

She removed the rubber band around the cards and those were those railway weighing machine cards, with quotes, but they seemed different. They were obviously custom made, since instead of weight, they're printed in Anand’s handwriting was the sentence —
‘You look fine.’

Anu woke up late, and Arun didn’t yet wake. She went into the kitchen to make herself a tea.  In the tea box, the key was missing. Anu let out a triumphant smile as her idea worked. She was able to pass on Anand’s gift just the way Anand would have done. She went outside to pick up the day’s paper and the newspaper showed that the weighing machines went out of contract and will be removed from all the railway stations, as people in these fast paced days didn't have much time for those. Anu was skeptic how Aisha would react to the news, and so she tore away that part of paper, and removed the section of paper completely and threw that out before folding back neatly rest of the newspaper.

She went into Aisha’s bedroom and there Aisha was sleeping peacefully. And on her bosom was her card collection book. Anu took that book and saw that all pages were pasted with new cards, to the last page. They were evidently fresh cards pasted anew, since the pages showed the after effects of gluing. Aisha lay there with a smiley expression on her face. Anu saw something was amiss, there was no rhythmic rise and fall in the chest and as she checked she realized Aisha was in fact not breathing. Anu saw that Aisha was clutching a card in her hand and she pulled it out, and it read —

‘Time and tide waits for none.’

The End.

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