All my Yesterdays
I felt naked… A hundred eyes were raiding my soul, beneath my clothes, beneath all the skin and the bones. The feeling didn’t go away even after I had closed my eyes, pushed all those people along with my imaginations away. They continued to push me from the right and the left, teasing my senses, touching my emotions and taunting me – haunting me like a ghost. A ghost of the past remains and regrets.
The gentle smell of incense sticks and flowers did nothing to soothe my senses. I was vigilant – more alert than a lone soldier on the battleground. My nerves were a bunch of live wires. Alive, crackling with emotions I couldn’t express.
I wanted to run away – to escape the ties of those eyes. Those eyes stared at me, some unaffected, some sneering, some relieved and some, some disgusted. There were no words, only a thick cloak of silence that surrounded the place. Like they had just murdered the words and ate it.
There was my son, who was walking in a hurry and ordering people around. Even then, he didn’t miss to take a look at me, like he was confirming that it was all real – that he wasn’t in a good dream. His eyes were filled with conflicting emotions – relief the most potent of all. I didn’t need to hear his mind to understand what he was thinking. His eyes said everything, everything he had hidden for years, from me.
Tears poured down – like a waterfall in the forest; tears that actually had no shape or size. Tears that didn’t wet my cheeks, but I knew I was crying. Crying for all those yesterdays.
As time passed, people walked away without taking another look at me. Some sat with my wife and grasped her hands to comfort her. Some patted her back. Some said ‘Everything is for the best.’
She never answered, though. Her eyes were clasped firmly on me – empty and with unsaid feelings. She didn’t cry. She didn’t scream at the top of her lungs. She sat there like an inflexible statue. Shoulders pushed up, back straight and chin up. I had never seen the power in her face, the brilliant knowledge shone within the depth of her eyes. I had never seen the allure she possessed and the grace with which she smiled. I had never seen her, period.
Slowly, the swarms of people moved away. The room looked empty – void like my heart and soul. I searched for a route to escape, because I knew what was coming next after this. I would be destroyed beyond repair and I’d deserve it all. But like the selfish I was, I wanted to sneak past it all. To stay safe away from the pain of their words.
“Kalyani, think of this as a blessing.” My mother-in-law was the first to cut the silence. I had never liked that woman, but she had never liked me too. It was a balanced relationship – we gave nothing and got nothing.
Kalyani didn’t even shake a muscle. She was fixated, her eyes lingering on everything and nothing.
“Mom, Granny is right.” That old hag always was. I grumbled to myself. My son continued, “Life will never be the same again.” We will be happy, he didn’t need to say that, because I – they – heard it loud and clear. A wry, self-depreciating smile formed on my lips.
Kalyani nodded, first slowly and then vigorously. She stared at me and stared down at her fingers. Her eyes said it all; said that she would forever be thankful for this blessing from the God.
Her lips trembled as she stood up. Moved towards me. I was scared – my gut told me to run away, but I waited. Waited with bated breath for what was coming next – onslaught of angry words or sobs. Kalyani was never the one to be angry, but I knew even she couldn’t withhold the emotions any longer – no one was a saint.
“Mom, come and eat.” She moved away.
For a moment, I was thankful for my son’s interruption. He would never know how much… I watched the living room, where they had the lunch – like they were celebrating. Maybe they were. They were celebrating the closure of an unwanted part of their life – me. When the slam of the truck collapsed with me, this was what I had been thinking: They will celebrate. And I didn’t resent them, not even for a moment.
They sat quiet for a moment. Fingers stilled. Lips firmly pressed. I wanted to disrupt the stillness. It was smothering me. It swallowed me inside the empty dark abyss, endless and dark. Dusky and scary.
Talk. I whispered to myself. They did. My son was the first to start the conversation.
“When will Nithya be here?” He asked.
Nithya, my daughter. She was the only girl who had the nerve to talk against me. They were all waiting for her, and I waited along with them for the final verdict. She was the judge in this household.
“She will be here by evening.” My mother-in-law said as she rubbed her face. “This house is suffocating. I can still feel the repugnant smell of misery and grief. The long abandoned odor of destroyed life.” Kalyani looked up at her mother, which said shut up.
I stared at the exaggerated tick-tick of the clock. Time moved like a snail and I wanted to move the needles in the clock. I wanted this all to end. Exactly at five-o-clock, Nithya arrived. She stopped by me and wiped her cheeks and then smiled sadly. The tears glittered in her eyes.
“Why don’t I feel an ounce of sympathy, daddy? Because you had never treated us right. You had always been that person we wanted to escape from. While I escaped with my husband, and Naresh escaped with his work, mom never did. Mom never could.” Nithya stopped. The only girl who could talk against me – I was certainly proud of her now, but it was too late.
“Sorry dad, but I had nothing to say.” Naresh said and looked at Nithya.
Kalyani came next, my son and daughter walked away, leaving us alone. She wiped her tears – the tears which was long due and sat next to me.
“I wish… I wish…” She hiccupped. Her throat bobbed and her lips quivered. She never completed the sentence when Naresh came back. I watched her with wonder – she was beautiful. She was the woman every man wished for. She was the woman I had misused.
“Mom, everything is ready.”
“Give me another minute. Alone.” Kalyani said and Naresh nodded his head.
I didn’t deserve her tears or her time. I didn’t deserve her soft touch over my palms. Naresh left and she looked back at me.
“I loved you.” She had never told me that. I had never given a chance for her to say that. It surprised me that she could love a monster like me.
All my life, I had detested her, because she was the woman who had ended my love story with Neelima. Neelima was the love of my life, but because of my marriage with Kalyani, I lost Neelima.
That made me an angry person, a person who detested everything and everyone. I had become someone my father had been to me. I made a new history, just like my dad. A deceptive history of power, though, to think about it, I never had power. Power didn’t come from fear. It came out of respect. But my son, my daughter and my wife – they feared me. They never, not for a moment, respected me.
Kalyani and I did have a son and a daughter together, but it was the insatiable hunger of a man. I did my duty as a husband, at least, on that one part. I had given her the children she needed and I had punished her for my father. I had never felt love for her. Not until now! Again, too late.
“I loved you, though you hated me. I was invisible to you, and when I was visible, you showed it by your cruel words, but I loved you. I loved you with all your flaws, but I could never be your Neelima.” She left abruptly, wiping the overflowing tears.
All my yesterdays flashed in front of my eyes.
The man yelling at his wife, “What the hell is this? You call this as curry? Go and dump it in the trash. Even a vermin won’t eat it.”
The man scowling at his son, “You’ll end up in the dump. You’re a waste of time and waste of my money.”
The man degrading his daughter, “Girls need to learn respect. You’re a curse to this family and you’ll destroy us, with your overconfidence, girl.”
That man had been me – a demon with a heart the color of coal. I wanted to stop Kalyani and say ‘I am sorry for everything.’ I moved forward, ran to catch up with her, but was interrupted by hoards of people hastening towards me. To end me. To end this long played game.
My inning was finally over.
They decorated me with new garlands and pulled the white cloak over my face. They tied my toes together as they whispered to themselves about me. The music of death sneaked through creaks in my house, its sound peppy and festive.
I walked behind the people – like a silent ghost, as my death procession progressed forward – filled with remorse and regret.
I could never say sorry for all my Yesterdays!