The old wooden door creaked open to a chasm of darkness, with lifeless souls. It was her house, but it was supposed to be her home.
The still, warm air escaped from the house and battered her sweaty face. Carrying her hefty bag, she took her first step inside the house, to hear a loud crunching sound, under her foot, that broke the monotonous cacophony of silence. She turned the light of the passage on, to notice an empty medicines’ strip under her foot.
Immediately, a voice from inside echoed towards her, ”Vidu, is it you?” in an unclear, drunk voice. Without answering, she dropped her bag near the door, that caused piles of books, two ghungroos, a couple of ten rupee notes and scattered sleeping pills to spill.
She scuttled to the hall, which was the only room in their house, apart from a kitchen and a tiny, congested bathroom. She sat down on the sofa, weather-beaten, next to her mother. But before she could sit down, the same groggy, drunk voice of her father erupted, “Did you earn anything today? Where is all the money? Give it to me now! Where were you all day? You wasted all the money on your useless education, didn’t you! How many times have I told you to stop wasting all my money, on those worthless dance lessons!”
“You mean MY money…” she hopelessly whispered.
“What! What did you say to your father?” he said agitatedly.
“Nothing… just go back to sleep Pa. You are not getting any of the money for your filthy drinks,” she said in exhaustion and despair.
“You little brat! Are you telling your father ‘no’? The person who brought you up! Are you going against my orders? Become a dancer for other men, and waste my money on your dance classes and your education. What do you need all this education for? I am going to get you married, as soon as you pay for the house loan.”
“Kathak is my passion. I don’t dance for men. I dance for God…”
but before she could finish, he passed away in his drunken glory.
She rolled her eyes and heaved another sigh to look around the messy room. Next to her passed out father, was her brother who was also too drunk to get up, or work, or to get out of the house. He was always ‘too’ drunk.
And then, her eyes fell on her Mother’s peaceful face. She was lying down on red, canvas sofa. She was Vidya’s only friend, and the only person in Vidya’s life, who didn’t think she was a disappointment.
Vidya gradually picked up her mother’s foot and cautiously peeled off the dressing wrapped around it. It was time to redress her mother’s foot that was stung by gangrene.
She looked up at the wall clock, that was urging her to eat and sleep, but she couldn’t do that. Her mother was her responsibility, her love, and her only glimmer of freedom from the rotting world of a drunk father.
She was her mother’s only pillar of support in every way.
Physically, emotionally, financially.
Her hunger and droopy eyes, bedded with dark circles, wore away as she thought of her mother’s agony. So she went on to do her work of helping her mother, who was her only light at the end of the day’s dark tunnel.
The white, sterile crape wrapping came off gently, but covered with the damp, rotten skin of the toe. She shut her eyes tightly, and took a deep breath in. She touched the toe, that had become a messy, bluish-green mush and uncontrollably seeped out pus. But, as she gently tapped it, a soft crack was heard, and the toe fell off…
She was sitting, staring at her mother’s toe that was gorged by gangrene. Her palm was shivering, as she closed her eyes and panted heavily. She didn’t have the courage to wake her mother up and tell her that her toe fell off from the foot. She couldn’t imagine her mother’s reaction to losing all her toes. She would be devastated, just like Vidya herself.
However, she picked up all her scattered audacity and tried to talk, in a quivering voice,”Hi Amma.” tears were trickling down her cheek as she spoke.
“The day was not great. We didn’t earn much today,” she said disappointedly.
“But you know what happened today? In college, the principal told me that I can give the exams again. The exam that I missed, on the day of your emergency surgery…”
She didn’t get any reply. All she heard were the loud snores of her father, which would normally irritate her mother, and cause her to shout at him. But today, she didn’t even do that.
It immediately left Vidya thinking that her mother was in excruciating pain.
So to make her feel better, she told her a long-awaited good news. She was certain that her mom would react, and congratulate her with a big smile when she heard it.
“Megha Ma’am, the head of my Kathak institute, has called me tomorrow to teach. I’m going to become a teacher! And you know what the best part is? She is willing to pay me up to Rs 50, every day! I can earn out of dancing Amma! It fulfills my needs, as well as that of the house. I can pay for the loan. We can survive this.”
She was not reciprocated to, again.
She finished peeling the crape wrapping. The whole foot was blue. From what she had studied in college, she knew that there was no blood running in the veins of the foot. She sucked in a deep wave of moist air and picked her mother’s maxi-dress to pull it behind.
The whole leg was licked by the brutal tongue of gangrene. Her bone was exposed and covered with the yellow opaque pus. Her flesh was swollen into a mess of green, blue and purple, disintegrating flesh. Her hand trembled uncontrollably.
“Amma is not in pain. She was…”
She slid down on the floor and looked into her mother’s soulless eyes. They were open but fixed and dilated.
“She didn’t survive…”
She shook her mother uncontrollably, but received nothing.
Vidya turned and sat down on the floor, dejected. She was shackled to her family of rotting drunkards, to work, to incessant pain, to regret. She was shackled. Away from freedom, her love, god, education, her mother, and her mother’s laughter.