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The inebriated juveniles driving that car are majors now, migrated to different parts of the world to make their lives. This accident, which ruined my life was merely a blip for them.
I watch her as she replaces the washed cutlery. This is my third day in her restaurant in Goa. There is an air of feigned quietude about her that catches my writer’s eye. Clad in nondescript clothes, her persona hides a bygone beauty with an aching past, I’m sure. Do I encroach on her space to know her story, is a question that bothers me incessantly.
Sighing, I bury myself into sheaves of paper in front of me, only to be startled by her voice.
“Real life is far more terrible than the stories that get written!” Her voice quakes with deep, long-held pain. “When there is no due justice, life becomes a lie to be lived. With time, even the tears dry up. Only the rage against the assailant remains. Often, even that dies down leaving the directionless victim with utter disenchantment and emptiness.”
I squirm unable to word an apt response. She stares at her uneven nails and continues.
“Could you believe I was Ms. Goa once? I was picture perfect, always well turned out. No one could believe that I was the mother of a teenager!”
I nod, cupping the tepid tea in front. She then pats her unruly hair into shape.
“My husband loved my cascading curls. I was the apple of his eye. He loved to flaunt me at his parties. My tiniest wish was his command. I cherished the fact I meant so much to another being. He, me and ours, a small heaven on earth we had created. But as they say, paradise is ephemeral; only hell is eternal.”
She pauses her deadpan narrative to see if I’m listening.
I smile gently. She observes a customer who has just walked in. I hold her hand imploring her to continue. She signals to her Man-Friday to do the needful, pats my hand, and continues talking.
“One early morning as my husband jogged to the beach, a car rammed into him. Inebriated juveniles driving, who were returning from a rave party. Husband succumbed to his injuries at the accident spot itself. My beautiful world collapsed just like that. In a matter of minutes. There were no goodbyes, no last hugs just a sudden severance.” She signals for water.
“Wasn’t there any police investigation done? Surely, the guilty had to be punished.”
“It is going on. Still! The juveniles who were in that car are majors now, who have migrated to different parts of the world to make their lives. I’m sure they have their own families now. This accident, which ruined my life was merely a blip for them.”
“Your child?” My voice is hoarse.
“After his accident, the initial year was a traumatic blur. I fought with all the resources at hand. But I was up against a tough battle. Clout, money, you get the drift. I had many subtle suggestions coming my way, to drop the fight. My child and I could then be looked after. If I did so, could I face myself in the mirror, twenty years down the lane? So I battled on.”
I can barely see her through the film of water that covers my eyes.
“Respect your tenacity, ma’am,” I whisper, unable to speak.
“All this struggle to what end but? Slowly the support around dwindled. People had their own lives to lead and messes to sort. Since we lost the breadwinner, we had to recalibrate our dreams. My child took it hard and conversations between us dried up. I couldn’t console her. Locking ourselves up in our separate spaces became the norm. The silence between us silenced everything. Honestly speaking, I don’t blame her. She needed me the most when she lost her father but I was busy running around police stations and lawyers’ offices.”
I hold her hand tightly. She smiles wryly. Nodding she continues.
“She is older and living her life now. The distance hasn’t really made our hearts fonder nor has she completely severed the bond. We are learning to cope, searching for meaning in our scarred lives. I set up this small place to keep myself busy and make a living. I go home only when I’m bone tired and ready to sleep. Because every nook and corner of my home still reminds me of him. I sometimes mull over disposing of my house, move on, and make a fresh beginning. That feels utterly criminal though. So I hang on, punishing myself with dried up grief leaving welts on my soul! It feels as though only my life has got shattered. Eyes are dry, the soul still aches and there is no let-up in that dull piercing pain that sits deep in my being. I can never be free from this trauma.
My life revolves around court dates, hearings, adjournments, lawyer-sittings. What was my mistake that I have been served up this slice of destiny, while the perpetrators have led a happy life? Why would any parent think it to be cool to serve liquor to an underage child, and worse, let the child handle a vehicle? Any ideas?”
I stare at her. I have no answers.
“It takes a mindset change to stem the rot. The pen is mightier than the sword right? Do write about the ill effects of juvenile-drunk-driving. Lives could be saved!”
She gets up sighing and potters back to the counter, leaving me with a heavy heart!
If you have read so far, dear reader, you must be with this narrator.
Not a happy story is it?
But isn’t reality much harsher than this?
That my friend is the cruelest twist.
Image source: shutterstock
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Anupama Jain is the author of
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