Gita: Where were you? I have been trying to call you for an hour now.
Shanaya: Sorry Ma! After my painting class, I went to Pa’s office.
Gita (anxious): Why?
Shanaya: I promised him I’ll visit sometime this week for coffee. He always talks about his office cafeteria and its coffee.
Gita: (impatient and curious) Okay!! How was the meeting then? He has got a lot of work these days due to the coming elections. I hope he didn’t hurry with you.
Shanaya: No, Ma! He was happy that I came and didn’t make it look that he’s got a lot of work.
Gita: Did he tell, what time will he be coming home?
Shanaya: Yes, he said he’ll be late. He needs to visit a colleague of his.
Gita: Ok. (her voice had a strange sense of relief)
(Shanaya starts emptying her bag)
Gita: What happened? What’s in your bag?
Shanaya: Ma, you forgot, you gave me the list of items to buy, last night.
Gita: Oh. Yes! Did you get all that?
Shanaya: Yes, after my school I went to that supermarket close by and got all the stuff. Here’s is the bill and the left-over cash.
Gita: Oh, that Asha supermarket. These people have done a really good job with it. You almost get everything there, from groceries to crockery to clothes. There is even a pharmacy just outside it.
(a slightly lower pitch as if she didn’t want her mother to hear that) Ma, I wanted to talk to you about something. About this morning!
Gita: By the way, what did you have for lunch today? Sorry, I wasn’t well in the morning thus couldn’t prepare anything for you.
Shanaya: No problem Ma, I had samosas at the canteen. What happened to you? These days, you have been falling sick quite often.
Gita: Nothing dear, may be because of that BP problem.
Anyways, come here, show me today’s painting. What was the theme today? What did you make?
Shanaya: Nothing great! They give such weird topics. Sometimes I don’t get it.
Gita: Don’t worry child. It’s just been a month for you. Give some time to yourself and you’ll make some of the best paintings.
Did you get that pain relief balm which I asked you to?
Shanaya: Yeah, I have got everything on that list. I kept all of it on the sofa there.
Gita: Okay, Okay. I’ll get that.
You go and change. Rest for a while if you want.
Shanaya: No Ma, I’m fine. I’m going for a bath. I’m feeling a bit tired and exhausted.
Gita went near the sofa, searched for her balm. Her neck was aching since last night.
It was kept beside her daughter’s bag. As she was about to apply the balm, that pharmacy bill got her attention.
She took it in her hand and couldn’t believe what she read.
Disturbed and troubled by the thought, she took a deep breath.
(speaking to herself) Why did she buy sleeping tablets? A whole pack of it! None of us has any sleeping issues, then why did she get those?
Gita started panicking, searching everywhere to find those tablets, throwing all the stuff on the floor.
She started getting out of her breadth now. Restless and sweating. She didn’t want to think anything. She was trying to convince her mind and heart that her daughter hasn’t done anything wrong. Maybe she is mistaken, maybe this is just an illusion.
Then her eyes went to Shanaya’s bag. She clutched that bag like a hungry dog. Distressed and disturbed she started emptying all its pockets. She couldn’t find anything except the books and some stationary.
She lunged at the floor like a log of wood, trying to hold her breath, her thoughts.
Repeatedly telling herself that everything is fine, she was feeling so uneasy that she could’ve collapsed then and there.
Then she saw her daughter’s painting book lying on the floor. Still, blank in her thoughts, she picked that book up and looked-for today’s painting.
It was, of a heavily bruised woman lying on a bed.
She froze! That moment everything got blurred in front of her eyes, that book fell from her lap. Struggling to stand and trying to defy all her thoughts, she remained still feeling dejected. Maybe now, she knew what had happened!
While she was trying to sink in what she just saw and get hold of herself, the telephone kept beside her started ringing and it kept ringing for a while.
(after a minute, she picked up the telephone)
Hello! (with a tight throat and heavy voice)
Is this Mrs Deewan? (A man’s voice)
I’m sorry to tell you Ma’am, but an unfortunate incident happened with your husband an hour back. Can you come to the Singra hospital?
Holding the receiver, she remained there devouring in despair.