Excerpt from 2 Day Down
25 October 2018
The clock struck seven on a Thursday evening. Six other patients waited alongside us to see the doctor. “Do these many people need to see a psychiatrist?” asked Hope, my mother-in-law, surprised and shocked at the same time to see so many people. We sat in the lobby of Dr. Sabarwal's office. The latter was a psychiatrist we had come to know of through an online directory. I was twenty-two when I married Elton, Hope's son, after four years of knowing each other. My parents weren't entirely happy with the decision as we followed the Guru Granth Sahib and Elton's did the Bible. That, though, wasn't the biggest worry. “What will your uncle say about you getting married in a family that knows nothing about our culture?” exclaimed my mother. “What about your children? What would they become? A Christian?” She flinched as she asked the question.
“I will make sure they are as much Punjabi as I am,” I replied. “And I will make sure that they speak in Punjabi whenever they visit you.” She looked at me with a deep concern. “Don't worry. They will have your complexion and my hair. No one can take that away from us,” I added as an after-thought. Elton's parents had known me well enough to accept me into their family without any hesitation. Both of us had come to this decision not out of love, but for the friendship we had. We had found comfort in each other's company. It didn't make sense to look for the same outside. Six months later, we read our vows in the church and went around the Guru Granth Sahib the day after. Six months into the marriage and I still hadn't gotten used to living in a small family. I grew up in a house where we considered even the neighbours as family. The aunt, who stayed next door, gave me the first words of wisdom when she caught me with Elton outside a movie hall. Here, I found Mrs. Nair as a neighbour to discuss the titbits of the town tattles. “Naisha?” Mrs. Nair gushed in, looking for me. “Naisha? Hello, Hope. Where's Naisha?” “Is everything alright?” Hope asked, a perturbed look on her face. “She must be inside.”
“I have got news. I bet she will applaud me for telling her this,” Mrs. Nair said, venting her zest. She walked up to me with her face lit up, enthusiastic. “Did you hear?” she asked, unable to contain herself any longer. “The watchman caught that girl on the fifth floor canoodling with a boy in the lift.”
“What are you saying!” I remarked as I joined in. “Ritika?” “Yes, that lean girl, who wears really colourful jackets,” she confirmed. “I love her jackets though.” We giggled as Hope joined in. “You ladies can't get enough of these stories, do you?”
“Hope, you should have seen the look on their faces as they watched the video. Anyway, are you getting us some tea? There's more to the story,” she said, her tone as playful as ever.
Mr. and Mrs. Nair were our neighbours. They were the ones who had taught Elton in school and had now retired. Mr. Nair spent a lot of time these days working on wooden airplane models. A few were static, the others moved around. He enjoyed making wooden boats inside glass bottles. He passed most of his evenings in what once used to be his daughter's room. Now, it had been turned into a craft room. His daughter had married in Canada and never visited him in the last three years. Mrs. Nair would come and chat with me for hours in our hall while Uncle continued creating boats. A month after we got married, Elton moved to Pune for his new job. I would stay all week with Hope, understanding the Bible, and would visit him on the weekends. Six months later, just a week before Christmas, we got a call that shook our world. The person on the other end mentioned a road accident. By the time we made it to the hospital, it was too late. Elton couldn't make it. I don't remember what happened over the next few days. They seemed to me like any other day, only quieter. We spent the whole of Christmas in silence. Hope and I never discussed the accident after that year. For the last two years, we both held ourselves without letting each other know.