The house wore a depressed look. Mishti was sick the whole evening. She threw up a few times and by evening she was even running quite a temperature. Ria wanted to take her to the doctor, but she decided she’ll put her on her medicines for the time being and if her condition didn’t improve by the next morning she’d take her to the hospital and get a complete checkup done. She in fact was in no mood to do anything. She was traumatized and scared. Her stomach was in knots and she could barely eat anything. She felt very restless the whole day. She kept walking around the house aimlessly. All she could think of was getting back to Mysore where life would be limp back to normality again.
Mayur set about clearing the house of unwanted things and chanced upon an old Whisky bottle in his father in law’s cabinet. Tired and sullen as he too was, he washed it down his stomach with dinner. He was pretty tipsy by the time he got to bed.
Ria was woken up by Mishti that night. She sat up and looked at the clock. It was half past two. “What is it baby?”, she asked. She felt her forehead and it was very warm.
“Ma, Nana and Nani are sad without me. They want me to come”, she said.
Ria looked at her petrified. “Who told you that?”, she asked.
“Nana was here, he was crying and he said ‘come Mittu I miss you so much. We are alone here’.”
Ria hugged her daughter. “No, they are not alone, they are with God and they don’t miss you”, she said.
“Ma, I want some water”, she said bursting into a fit of cough. She woke Mayur up. “Keep an eye on her, I’ll get some water”, she said. But he rolled back into his slumber.
She went into the kitchen and jumped. Sanjay was standing there his face lit by the moonlight. “Why are you doing this to me?”, she asked.
“Come”, he teased.
“No”, she snapped. “Leave me and my family alone”, she said.
“Mishti’s Nana and Nani miss her”, he said with a sarcastic smile. “Sanjay don’t touch my family”, she said sternly. She heard Mishti cough again. She ran to the room. Mayur was fast asleep. She gave Mishti some water.
“Mama”, she said in a whisper.
“Yes baby?”, she said stroking her head.
“I… can’t b..reathe”,she said her eyes rolling up.
She held her close and shouted out to Mayur. But he didn’t seem to hear a word. Mishti’s body was burning with fever. “MAYUR”, she screamed shaking him. But Mayur slept so soundly. She wondered if someone could actually sleep like that
She could hear a hysteric laughter. She looked around but could see no one. She shook Mayur again but he was out cold. She remembered that Mayur was quite drunk when he went to bed that night. She cried helplessly.
She called the ambulance but there was no response.
She saw two eyes peering at her. “Come”, he said holding out his hand to Mishti this time.
She looked at her daughter helplessly. Her face had gone pale and her eyes were rolled up. Mayur seemed oblivious to his wife and daughter’s condition. She hugged Mishti and cried and begged for mercy.
Sanjay kept holding out his hand. Ria close her eyes, took a deep breath and fell on the bed, her hand wrapped around Mishti’s palm.
Dawn was breaking. Ria walked to the eucalyptus grove. She reached the fence. Sanjay was standing there facing the other way. Her heart felt light. She felt a sense of calm and peace within her that she had not felt in a very long while. She was happy to see him. She walked up to him. He turned when he heard her come and held his hand out and smiled at her. “Ria, Come”, he said. She went over and held his outstretched hand. She looked behind for one last time, she felt guilty but she knew she had done the right thing.
He gently tugged her hand. They walked hand in hand along the old familiar path strewn with the dried eucalyptus leaves. They walked towards the pond and slowly disappeared into thin air.
Mayur was woken up the next morning by Mishti. “Papa, Mittu hungie”, said Mishti. Mayur kissed his daughter’s tummy fondly. He looked at Ria who was still asleep. “Mamma is sleeping, so come we’ll make breakfast for her and surprise her”, he whispered to Mishti.
He tip toed out of the room and made breakfast for the three of them. Mishti’s appetite seemed to have improved enormously. She ate well. Her fever had abated and she showed no signs of having been sick. Mayur then took a tray of breakfast and coffee to the room and called to Ria. She didn’t open her eyes. He shook her and still she didn’t wake up. He was a little surprised since Ria was a light sleeper. He shook her again and bent down to kiss her when he realized he couldn’t feel her breath.