by Jagdeep Sharma
I was beginning to get angry, I could tell. I felt the heat in my ears. My mom and her ways of defending everyone and everything she did.
“Mom,” I said. “Why do you sit around crying and moping. Why, why!”
She turned her face away.
“I know Manish is dead but it’s been 2 years. look at the bright side. Coronavirus days are over. I loved him too but you can’t go on like this… Crying, every time I mention his name… ”
She sat still, like a stone, hard and unyielding.
“Mom, will you say something!!”
But my mother, as usual, refused to speak. She had lost at least 15 kgs, since the day my brother had passed away. Now she was all skin and bones.
“Mom,” I started again. “Look, it’s time you get over that Manish. You weren’t this sad when Dad died in a road accident 14 years ago.”
She looked up suddenly. I could see rage slowly enveloping her old wrinkled face like an eclipse.
“Mom, I didn’t mean it that way. I meant you were sad. You cried but not like this. Within 2 months you picked yourself, looked for a job and started supporting us, paying our college fees, cooking food at night.”
No response. My mom was wrong, so wrong.
I finally gathered all my courage and said what I always wanted to tell her.
“Mom, I know why. Because you always loved that Manish more than me. He had that asthma problem and you never gave him any house work. It was always I who did it. It was I who used to go a hundred times to buy vegetables. Just because that Manish is not well. Blah bah blah.”
Finally, I had said it. And it felt so good.
“It’s not fair ma. I should have been your favourite son. Why mom, why are you so bloody partial!”
Something snapped in her. She rose to her feet, her saree looking more crumpled and wrinkled than her face.She spoke slowly but firmly looking at me with her deep grey old eyes.
“Do you know why I didn’t cry and grieve so much when your father died ? Because I had to take care of both of you.”
She had that steely look, as she continued speaking.
“But I will tell you something today. Manya made me promise not to but I can’t bear it… this, this horrible way you talk about him!”
Of course, it’s your favourite Manish after all.
“You remember the time you had Covid and were in the hospital? You urgently needed remdesivir.”
I hardly had any recollection of those days. They were a faint memory now.
“It was Manya who decided to move heaven and earth to get it for you.”
She had a faraway look, as the scene played out in her mind.
“I warned him that he has asthma and that he might catch the infection. But he refused to listen. He said he would be careful.”
My head was spinning as the words kept tumbling out of her mouth.
“And that’s when my worst fears came true. 4 days later, he woke up in the middle of the night, feeling breathless. I rushed him to the hospital but his lungs had collapsed. He died within hours.”
And you think I am partial to him!
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
My mom was wrong again. She could have stopped him if she wanted to. She loved me more. She was partial. She was more partial to me than him.
I am so so sorry Manya.
This story was written in response to a prompt in the Short Story Writing Workshop. It has been edited by Rashmi Bansal.