A Tearful Farewell
The hour had arrived. All her luggage was packed and kept read near the door. She was really going to leave. Leave for good! I felt a lump in my throat.
I tried to remember how it had been before she had come to stay with us. I could only vaguely remember – those days when it was just me and my mother at home. Mother’s moods were like the winds at sea – you never knew which way they would blow. One a sunny day, she would talk to me, play with me or even tell a story. But all I needed to do was to catch a cold to get her into a dark mood. And I being easily susceptible to the virus, those days used to occur all the time. Father, when he was not on tour would come home quite late in the evening, tired and worn out. So a lonely existence it had been for all practical purposes. Till that day when my mother had made the announcement. That her younger sister had finished college and got a job in Bangalore. She was coming to stay with us. That was a year and a half back.
There had been lot of excitement in the house that week. The veranda of the house had to be prepared for her.We did not have a room to give her as such. The house had just a hall, a veranda and a kitchen. We had converted the hall into a bedroom for the three of us. A fold-able cot was all that was needed to convert the veranda into a bedroom for her. In addition to giving her a place to sleep, the space under the cot would double up as a wardrobe for her to store her clothes. Till then the Veranda had kind of belonged to me. So I had not been entirely happy at the prospect of having to cede territory to the aunt who was to come to stay with us.
“Let me go and get the auto,” said my father, smugly and stepped out. She forced a smile on to her forlorn face. “So Karthi, take care.” With father safely out of the way, all restraints of having to maintain a masculine stoicism were broken. “Don’t go, Chithi. Please don’t leave us and go,” I howled. Tears were streaming down her face as well.
“Now, now, Karthi. Don’t make it all the more difficult for your aunt. You know, you will still have us and Gautham as well. But your aunt will be all alone. She will miss us much more than we will miss her.”
I would have them all. But they wouldn’t invent new stories for me every Saturday night. They wouldn’t take me to play in the park every evening. They wouldn’t sit and play carom with me for hours on end. And who would serve as a buffer from my mom’s temper when the report from school was bad? Who would get me those little puzzle books every month?
The last year and a half had been a gala time for me – the only time I had not felt like a single child. She had managed to bridge the seventeen years gap in our ages and run around with me in the park as if she were not my mother’s younger sister but my elder sister. In the years she had been with us, she had brought lot of cheer to my mother as well - she hardly had her dark days when aunt was around. Except of course the days when both I and my aunt were down with cold. Cold was one thing my mother could never tolerate. My aunt had confided in me that she too had had to face my mother’s wrath in this regard right from the days of her early childhood. The shared victim-hood kind of brought us even closer.
“You know your father did his best to retain her. He even went and argued with Raman and asked him to consider her like our elder child. But you know how he is. He seemed to think her presence was the cause for all water problems. He just stayed put that none of the houses should have any members other than a couple and their children. “
“That evil monster! He always ruins everything. One day I and Gowtham are going to see to it that he gets his just deserts.”
“Karthik! You can’t talk like that!”
“Why can’t I? He is so evil. I want to teach him a lesson.”
“Kids should not talk like that about their elders. Now don’t throw your temper around and spoil your aunt’s last few moments with us.”
My aunt came closer and ruffled my hair. “Don’t worry. I will still be in the same city. Every weekend your mother will bring you to see me, won’t you?” she said looking at my mother.
My mother nodded. The door opened and my father entered. He picked up my aunt’s luggage and we followed him downstairs. She got into the auto and soon it was gone. When I returned back home I felt a hollowness.
“Well,” I told myself, “I would at least have the veranda back to myself. Plus the cot.”