by Vidhya J
The rehab was stinking. And all the people I could see there were acting crazy. Or were they crazy? There was one fellow trying to stand on his head. Another, hanging from a bar on the roof. And there I was, looking for my sister amongst all this.
I found her, chasing ants into a hole. I tapped her on the shoulder her. She greeted me with a smile and showed me the ants .
“Today can I go with you? she asked.
As we waited for the discharge papers I wondered how my parents were going to handle her. Her drug addiction had come as a big shock. We were glad that she had come out of it but who could say what lay ahead!
We reached home. My parents hugged her. Amma had prepared her favourite bisi bele baath. And her sleeping place was shifted to somewhere in between the hall and the kitchen – an open room, so that she could be continuously monitored.
Though I wasn’t going to be doing any of it.
My life was already hectic, juggling two jobs and a distance MBA. I could barely manage my assignments in the time I spent at home. Amma would wake up at 2 am to give me hot tea. Bleary-eyed, I would complete my homework, before getting dressed and leaving for office at 7.
My rehab returned sister needed a tuition teacher before she resumed college. She needed to walk confidently back on the street. Amma and appa would take her out in the evenings . Appa started training her to get into the bus so that she could go to college on her own.
One day my dad fell asleep in the bus. When he woke up, he realized that the bus had done a to and fro journey.
“Why didn’t you get down ..or you could have just woken me up,” he said to my sister,
”You were so tired…I didn’t want to disturb you,” she replied.
We gave her a basic phone, afraid she might drop – or lose – a more expensive handset. Money was tight. Her medicines were expensive.
Sometimes I would get irritated at someone else and scream at my sister.
“ Can’t you even do this properly!”
“ Why don’t you quit watching TV and fold the clothes!”
When I scolded her, she’d look at me with sad eyes. But never utter a word.
It was the month of October. Just as my exams started, we were gearing up for a major presentation. My boss informed me that If I did it well and got the client on board, I would definitely get a promotion. And he would also arrange for a bike, as a bonus.
So, I started working day and night. I explained the situation to my parents and they were very encouraging .
”You just concentrate on work and studies and we will take care of the rest,” they said.
Another week left for the presentation. And I was working like a maniac. I would come home and be at my desk from 10 pm till 2 am.
My tea would come to my table, my dinner would come to my room. My clothes were ready in the morning, ironed and fresh, including my under garments. I had no clue what was happening at home. My mother and father were constantly hovering around me, waiting to fulfil my every need.
A few days before the presentation, I noticed my mother was resting in a chair and I was surprised. I had never seen sitting. she was always running around. Packing my three lunch boxes, getting my juice ready, giving me an extra helping of rice.
“What’s the matter, amma?” I had to ask.
She smiled and softly replied, “I hurt my leg so I am taking rest, now and then.“ And as usual I just ran to catch my bus.
The night before my presentation, I did not slept a wink. I was up doing a lot of research and a lot of reading. The next day I had my semester exam for the main subject too. My head was literally exploding, as I put on my freshly ironed shirt, swallowed my breakfast and rushes out of the house.
“Pray for me,” I said to my parents.
I saw my sister leaning against the kitchen doorr but ignored her.
”Bye Amma! Bye Appa!” grabbing my lunch bag I ran out.
My heart was thumping, as I entered the office. I had imagined all kinds of scenarios. As I presented the slides, at the back of my mind I was thinking
The client hates my presentation. My teammates will laugh at me. This is the end of my career. Everything I have worked for is in vain…
I was jolted out of my reverie by a booming voice.
“Excellent, Miss Thyagarajan!” said the client, Mr Biswas. “Can you give me more details about…..”
The room was filled with smiles and thumbs ups from my co-workers.
From the office, I dashed across to the exam centre. The paper was easy, I was sure I had done well.
The next day I was very tired. I got up late and walked slowly into the hall. And there I see doctor uncle seated, along with a nurse.
ImmediateIy, I got angry with my sister.
“Oh God! She has done it again. Why is she like this…!”
I was getting ready to scream when my sister walked in, her eyes were red.
The doctor looked at me and said, “Come, sit.”
My stomach had clenched into a tight knot. Another round of rehab…how much would it cost this time? Why do I have to bear this endless burden!
I made an effort to register what the doctor was saying.
“… actually I recommended your dad should be shifted to the hospital.”
“What! Come again,” I spluttered. The doctor looked at me, with a strange expression.
“I was saying that your parents have been unwell for the last 4 days. But your father refused to go to hospital.”
“No ma… we didn’t want to disturb you.” my father piped in. “Your presentation went well, no. We are so happy!”
He added, “Your sister stepped in and took care of everything. She has hardly slept for the last 4 days. “
Absolutely stunned, I sat down. Three lunch boxes and two juices to pack, my clothes, my bag, my shoes – everything had been ready, as always. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, doctors, medicines. Raji had taken care of our parents without even breathing a word to me…so that I could succeed.
And here I thought I was making all the sacrifices!
This piece was written during the Short Story Writing Workshop. It has been edited by Rashmi Bansal.