WARNING: This is a very big story. Hope you read it. And for those uninitiated with Tamil, here are couple of things that will help you while reading this.
Appa - Father
Amma - Mother
Paati - Grandmother
“What did you do?” asked the big man in not a so friendly tone. Not as friendly as Daddy’s at least. Amma just went out of the room for some water. He repeated the question to me in a higher pitch. I told him “Uncle, I can hear you. Please do not shout. Daddy might wake up.” I suddenly felt something sting my cheeks, like some iron box had been pressed on them to take the creases away. I realized I was crying. I did not know why. I dint know why this big fat idiot uncle slapped me.
“Wait I will go and complain to appa, then you will know” I said in between sobs.
Luckily for me Amma entered the room at the same time and I ran to hug her. Amma was also crying for some reason. Amma always cried when I cried. I shouldn’t have been surprised with her crying now, but Amma was not there when I started to cry.
“Amma, why are you crying?” I asked.
“What happened to your cheek” Amma asked suddenly. I sullenly pointed a finger at the big man.
“You bastard, how dare you hit my daughter!” she shrieked at the big man. I heard this word ‘Bastard’ somewhere. I could not recollect. And then I remembered. Rahul kept using this word in the class and Geetha Miss punished him for saying it. She said “I will throw acid in your mouth, if you ever utter that word again”.
“Amma don’t use that word ma, Geetha Miss will punish you” I said. I was scared Geetha Miss would throw acid into Amma’s mouth. But Amma throws acid into the toilet’s mouth and when I asked her why she did that – “To clean it ladu” was her reply.
“I will throw you out of your department, you bastard!!” Amma screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Amma use that word again ma, keep telling that only. The more no of times you tell that Geetha Miss will have more work to do and she might get tired and not come to school at all” I screamed in delight. I was so happy at Amma using that word again because I don’t think Amma has had the time to brush her teeth. So Geetha Miss pouring some acid will help it get cleaner.
“But Madame, she was not replying to anything we asked…” the big man mumbled. Amma clearly looked like the school teacher who is going to give a beating.
“She is a small kid you Bastard, get lost from here, all of you bastards” said Amma suddenly wailing all over again. I was so happy Amma was using it again and again. I was crying two minutes back and I was suddenly jumping again now after seeing Amma shout at them. But Amma was crying.
“I am extremely sorry Madame, but please ask your daughter to co-operate”, the big man’s tone was lot less harsh than earlier.
“Ladu, please answer their questions ma. Please…”, words trailed off as Amma started to sob again. My grandmother joined us and she also started to cry.
“No ma, I won’t”, I said firmly. For no reason Amma slapped me so hard that I started to cry again and as I expected Amma also started to cry all over again seeing me cry.
“Please da ladu, please tell them whatever you know”, said Amma, sorrow written all over face like alphabets on our blackboard.
“K ma, I will to talk that big fat uncle whom you called with that B word”, I agreed trying to wipe off that mischievous smile on my face as the Bourn vita kids do after they have a glass of it. I also told Amma that I would complain to daddy about the big man who slapped me. Amma started to cry again. I was wondering why there was so much of confusion all around, people were running everywhere. Amma was crying, grandma was crying, everyone was crying in rhythmic bursts. Rhythm is something which has a constant noise to it and expands slowly and explodes suddenly. This cycle if it keeps repeating, rhythm is found. That’s what daddy told me when I asked him, “Appa, what does it mean when they say Ishant Sharma is in good rhythm?” I dint understand it then, now I could clearly understand it, in fact even see it. The way they were crying, the way they would blow their noses against their pallu and look at me like they were seeing a ghost and start crying all over again. They did this six times in two minutes. I can say two minutes because Appa taught me that if I count 1 to 60 it would be a minute and how many times I counted 1 to 60, that many were the minutes. I counted twice and I knew I had to tell it to Appa. I don’t know why I started to count. I think it was because the big man told me, “I will give you two minutes to come and sit here so that we can ask you some questions.” So I started to count and I observed the rhythm. My mother’s eyes were pleading me to go and sit on that chair. It was always like that on the mornings before I went to school – her eyes. “Please da ladu, eat little more da.”, she would say and I always loved that look in Amma’s eyes. The moment she did that the food would disappear like magic. So like the Hutch Puppy I too followed Amma’s eyes instantly and went and sat on that chair.
I could see Appa behind in the background. I tried to catch his eye, but the big man shut the door to Appa’s room.
“Now tell me what happened. I want to know everything. You understand what I am saying. EVERYTHING” said the big man opening his mouth like a crocodile while telling EVERYTHING. I felt like grabbing Amma’s nose blown handkerchief and dumping it at exactly the moment he said EVERYTHING.
“From Madras I should tell EVERYTHING till Hyderabad?” I asked trying to make the same crocodile mouth expression and shuddered at the thought of having a nose blown handkerchief in my own mouth.
I always go to Madras during my summer holidays. I have lots of cousins with whom I can play. Amma also comes with me and we stay at Paati’s place for a month and then go back to Hyderabad because I have to attend school. Appa does not come with us and stays alone at Hyderabad, but regularly calls and talks to me. I miss Appa during summer holidays but don’t miss him so much because there is beach and there are cousins with whom I can play on the beach. I always ask Appa, “Why is there no beach in Hyderabad?” He told me if there was a beach in Hyderabad then I would never go to meet paati and never get to play with my cousins. I smiled back at him and after that I never wanted a beach in Hyderabad. Appa always had an answer for everything, not even Geetha Miss knew so much. Appa also knew the B word. I heard him use it once on the phone. I never told anyone about that because I was scared that Geetha Miss would pour acid into Appa’s mouth. But at that time Amma never told me why she poured acid into the toilet’s mouth.
Krishna and I were playing cricket on Sunday morning. Somehow Krishna always batted and I could never get him out. He used to even win the toss. I decided to complain to paati that day because it was the sixth time he was continuously batting.
“Paaaatiiiii..” I screamed and ran in. The shrill of the telephone ringing cut through my infuriated scream. I promptly forgot about the toss and ran to get the phone. Krishna could never beat me at this. I was always the first one to pick up the call, even before Amma could do.
“Hello, can I speak to Indra?” boomed an agitated voice at the other end of the line.
“I am Sneha her daughter speaking. Who is this?” I asked.
“Hi Sneha, this is Shyam, your father’s friend. Can you pass the phone immediately to your mother baby? It’s very urgent ma”. His voice was sounding exactly like Amma’s at the breakfast table goading me to eat. I immediately called Amma and passed the phone to her. I was curious to know how Amma would to talk him, because he spoke like Amma at the breakfast table. So it would be like Amma at the breakfast table talking to her own self. I made a mental note, the one’s you do by closing your eyes and thinking hard so as to put something important in your head which you could use it later to make another mental note.
“Hello, Indra here. Who is this?” Amma said as she picked up the phone casually. After 1 min, I used the same counting method to deduce it was one minute. Yes after one minute, I could see that Amma was almost about to faint.
“Hemorrhage… how.. when? How could it happen.. Where is he now? Tell me exactly what happened? Were you there beside him when it happened? Who took him to the hospital? How…” Amma was rattling too many questions at the same time and by the minute she looked sadder. And all of a sudden she put the phone down and started to cry. I dint know what to do. Amma started talking too many things at the same time and was wailing loudly too at the same time. Paati came running and after Amma told her about some haemmorage, blood and admitted to hospital she also started to react the same way as Amma. Now I understood why everyone in Madras kept telling “You are exactly like your mother”. I was confused whether I too should start crying now because Paati’s daughter is Amma and I am Amma’s daughter, so in the same line even I should cry. But I did not cry. I don’t know why.
I asked Amma what the problem was and why everyone was crying. She replied back saying Appa was unwell and we had to go back to Hyderabad. The Aero plane people too were making Amma cry by saying that they did not have any planes now to go back to Hyderabad. The next day early morning we caught a plane and went straight to the hospital at Hyderabad. I saw Appa lying on a bed with a mask on his face and lots of computers around him. It looked like a scene straight from Krishh. I was thrilled that Appa was playing krishh by being in between all those tubes and computers and masks. As I went near him they took off his mask and I kissed him on his cheeks. I could not see the usual Appa smile. It was little crooked. There was a half smile. He called me slowly and I ran towards him. He made a gesture slowly with his right so as to indicate to get my ears close to him.
“Appa, what happened? Amma was telling you are sick and you have haemorrage or something.. Is it true?” I asked hoping it would be not.
“No ladu. Don’t I look like Krishh?” he asked. My face beamed with delight wondering how he guessed what I was thinking. But that was my Appa. He was very intelligent and he knew everything and everyone.
“Ya pa it looks exactly like that scene in Krisshh. But why don’t get you get up? What are you doing here?” I asked, determined to know why we had to leave the beach and rush here so fast.
“Ladu I was missing you and fat Indra. I knew you people would not leave the beach or paati and come here. So I acted like I fell sick. Don’t tell anyone ok ladu. Appa is acting ok” he said, winking at me through his tubes. I could not hide my excitement. Appa was acting. He was fooling everyone including Amma, Paati and the doctors. I never knew Appa was such a good actor. I felt thrilled that Appa would make such a plan to bring us back.
“I won’t tell anyone pa. I promise. But tell me, when will this acting finish? I can’t wait for too long pa” I said giggling with excitement. The doctor entered at that moment and gestured me to keep quite.
“How bad is it doc?” asked Appa. The Doctor nodded his head gravely like those in the movies and even uttered the dialogue I knew that was coming.
“I am sorry, it’s very bad. The blood vessels have burst and there is a clot which we cannot operate because your BP is very high. But we will extend it. Do not worry. We will make sure nothing happens now. There will be lot of surgeries and procedures later to keep you.. Alive” said the doctor very gravely nodding his head.
“Only Alive or will I be ok?” asked Appa with a look that said he already knew the answer.
“I am sorry, the left side your body is already paralyzed and there are high chances that you could slip into a coma. But we will keep you alive” I could see tears forming on Appa’s eyes and he closed them for a while. He opened his eyes to look at me and there it went again, his wink. I was sure now Appa was the best actor in the world, better than Shahrukh also. He beckoned me to his side and asked me to come near him.
“In a day or two we will finish this acting and go home, but I need your help for that” said Appa.
“What was the help he asked from you?” asked the big fat man. Amma was on her feet and looking at me like she had seen a ghost.
“What did he tell you Sneha, please tell us. Why dint you tell all this before itself?” said Amma her voice breaking. Amma is staring at me now, so is the big man, so are the doctors. Why doesn’t Appa tell it himself? What’s he doing still? Ok Appa, am sorry I had to tell all this. But now these people are looking at me and I am getting scared of them. You know pa how scared I get when people keep looking at me. I will count three pa, if you don’t tell I am going to tell. One. Two. Three.
“What help do you need pa? I am going to tell everyone in school how my father and I acted and fooled everyone” I said glowing with admiration for my father.
“You be here only in the hospital. Even if Amma scolds or anyone scolds stay here only in the ICU room with whoever stays in the night and come to see me in the night. Ok” asked my father holding his hand out.
“Deal?” he asked and I replied back faster than that Anuj in my class who always has all the Math’s answers. Saying deal I kissed his cheeks and ran away.
I fought with all the vehemence in the world to stay back in the ICU and Amma relented at last. I knew Appa would be happy with what I had achieved. I don’t know the time but when I saw that no one was there in the corridor I silently went into Appa’s room. Appa had changed quite a bit since the morning. There was a tube which was running into his throat now. I wondered how Appa managed to hold on to that. It must have hurt Appa that tube thing and add to that the mask on his nose. I slowly shook him and whispered Appa around some 10 times. After what seemed an eternity he seemed to open his eyes. His eyes were alarmed when he saw me there.
“Appa enough of this acting, we will go home come” I said. He signaled that he couldn’t talk to me. I asked him what I should do. He gestured to me take the mask off his nose first. He then pointed at the paper and pen lying on the table near him.
With his right hand he wrote “Ladu, we are going to end this acting now. Appa is in terrible pain because of this tube in the mouth. So I want my ladu to slowly take the plaster of this tube and take the tube of my throat. After my ladu takes off the tube from my throat, she will go to the computer and switch it off and turn off another switch below the computer which is the switch for the gas cylinder. After that we can go home ladu. Appa can’t talk ok because of all the pain he has gone through because of his acting. So after she does the things written here, she should leave Appa for some time alone. They will tell you later that Appa is dead. Don’t believe them. Love you my ladu. Miss you.”
“Appa, love you too” I said and pecked him on his cheek.
I pulled the tube as he instructed me too. I heard him inhale deeply at that time. Inhale is when you take oxygen inside and give out carbon-di-oxide. I made a mental note again of telling this to Appa later. I always got confused between inhale and exhale. This time I had got it right. And once I switched off the computer and the gas below I saw Appa take off the needles and tubes attached to him. So, it was true the acting was over. We were going to go home. I ran towards Appa kissed him once more and felt something like a tear stick to my cheek. I ran away as Appa had asked me to and waited.
After a while someone noticed what Appa had done. I was waiting to see their expressions when they would know Appa was acting and we had fooled them all. But I only saw many doctors run frantically and calling Amma to the room. And again I heard Amma shriek hysterically. I was afraid her sobbing would bring rains and no I don’t want rains now. We had to go home. And someone said “We have to call the Police. This looks like sui side”. I dint know what that word meant sui side. I had never heard it before.
Then the Police arrived. The big fat man also came along with them. He went into the ICU and immediately I heard him ask – Whose shoes are these? Oh no I forgot to put on my shoes when I ran away after kissing Appa. Amma replied back saying it was Sneha’s. All of a sudden she came running towards me, her body swaying like a pendulum.
“I remember you had your shoes on when you were in the waiting room. How did it get in there?” asked Amma sharply. I was caught. The big fat man heard this and came towards me.
“I’ll handle this Madame” he said. It looked like he was the manager or something.
“How did your shoes reach that room? Did you go there?” asked the big fat man. I was sure I was caught. My Amma was looking at me with a look I had never seen before. I dint understand it. Appa please come here.
“What did you do?” asked the big man in not a so friendly tone. Not as friendly as Daddy’s at least.
I felt hard hands grabbing me and slapping me and wailing in between all this. I started to cry and was shouting for Appa to save me from the big fat man when I realized the hands were not of the big fat man’s but they were of someone else’s. They were Amma’s.
“You killed Appa, You killed Appa”, she shrieked. Appa had forewarned me not to believe them. I knew he was not dead.
“Amma, Appa is not dead. He is acting. You see the note too.” I said handing her the note Appa wrote me. She saw the note and collapsed. There were all sorts of people in the room trying to comfort her and trying to comfort me and take me away.
Amma regained consciousness after a while and immediately hugged me as tight my school bag.
“Appa is not dead ma. You saw the note no. Wait I will ask the doctor also. I know when a person is dead. Appa told me once.” I said kissing her and hugging her.
“What did Appa tell you? Tell me?” asked Amma.
“You wait and see ma” I said and called the doctor. The doctor walked up beside me and tenderly put his arms around me.
“Doctor Uncle, tell me what happens when a person is dead. It happens to anyone and everyone who are dead. Appa told me and Appa is very intelligent. Everyone is telling Appa is dead including Amma. So you tell me what happens when people are dead?” I asked arrogantly.
“Their heart stops beating beta, their brain stops functioning..” said the doctor in a tender voice. I said “No” in an indignant tone. There was something else and the doctor did not know it. Appa was alive. The doctor stared hard at me for a long time and said
“Every person loses 21 grams when they die. Whoever it is” said the doctor. My world was breaking. How did he know this? This was what Appa told me once. I once asked Appa what his favorite movie was and he replied “21 grams”. “What is yours” he asked me and I shot off in an instant “Krish”. After sometime I asked “What is it pa 21 grams?”
“It’s the weight every person loses at moment he dies. Don’t think about all this da ladu ok” he said and now I was thinking.
“Did APPA lose 21 grams?” I was shivering with fright. I was crying and my mother was hugging me.
Appa was dead. I had to believe it. The doctor told the same thing that Appa once told me and Appa is always right. No Appa was always right.
Appa was dead, no Appa was killed. That’s what they said. That’s what Amma said.