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‘Mom… I told you many times that I don’t want to eat this. How many times do I have to tell you? Are you deaf or too dumb to understand what I say?’ saying that I pushed the plate on the dining table and came back to my room. I took my dairy out and started writing, ‘Does my mom even love me? I clearly remember saying her no beetroot on my plate the other day for the 1000th time and yet that’s what’s on my plate today? If she loves me, she would expect me to have a happy dinner but she doesn’t. I guess she is just trying to make me unhappy purposefully. She never understands what her 13-year-old daughter feels. Why is my life so terrible? I wish I wasn’t born to her.’ I held my dairy close to my heart and with wet eyes I laid my head on the feather pillow.

I woke up with big noises. I was about to yell at my mom to stop whatever the goddamn thing she is doing but once I opened my eyes, I could see vehicles. I sat up and saw that I am viewing road and that I am now sitting on a footpath. I couldn’t understand what I am seeing.  I felt a throbbing pain on my shoulder before I could even have second thoughts. I looked back to see who has hit me and found a policeman shouting, ‘Get up get up’ and before I could respond I was hit again. As the pain sinks into my body, tears welled up in my eyes. But there is no time for me to react, I immediately got up from there and started walking. I looked around to see where I am. I want to go home quickly; my parents must be worried about me. How the hell I ended up on streets. I was walking fast trying to think where I am when someone came from behind calling, ‘Hey Lakshmi’ I turned around and found some beggar looking at me smiling. I felt disgusted looking at her. How dare she touches me? she noticed my confused look. ‘what Lakshmi? What happened? Didn’t you eat anything last night?’ and she started touching my cheeks. I stepped back confused with her unfamiliar closeness saying, ‘I don’t know who you are. I am going back to my home’ she looked shocked, ‘Lakshmi, it’s me Shanthi, what do you mean home? we don’t have any home. we just sleep anywhere’ and that made me so angry. I shouted back ‘I am not Lakshmi. I am Vrithika and I am going home.’

As I turned around suddenly, I didn’t see a bike coming towards me, I got no time to escape it and got hit by the bike. I fell aside with unbearable pain on my head and knees. I tried to get up but my head went blurry. The guy on the bike got up and walked towards me. I thought he would help me up and I told myself that I can ask him help to go back to my home. But as I got up, he came to me and slapped so hard that I fell back to the ground again. He yelled on my face, ‘you dumb bitch, don’t you have eyes? Can’t you see? Be glad I didn’t kill you’ and he raised his hand again when Shanthi came to my rescue. She begged him falling on his feet, ‘sir… sorry sir… please forgive her.’ He looked at her and went back with a spiteful look. Shanthi came to me, helped me to sit up asking, ‘are you ok?’ she got very concerned look on her face which triggered me a memory.

I came home after playing volleyball with my friends. I came home to get freshen up and go out again. My mom was waiting in the room by the time I am out of shower. She said: ‘you are not going anywhere.’ I was drying my hair when she said that. I turned around asking, ‘why?’. My mom said, ‘You look tired and looks like you might be having some temperature as you got hurt playing (pointing to my bruise on the legs). I don’t think going out now is a good idea.’ I didn’t listen to her and went out. She messaged me warning not to eat ice cream and I did eat ignoring her. That night I had high temperature. My mom rushed me to hospital and stayed besides me for the entire night.

I came back to the world with Shanthi’s concerned voice asking me, ‘Lakshmi… please talk… please..’ Me:’ yah.. yah.. I am ok.’ Shanthi: ‘Thank god. Come on.. get up. Can you walk?’ I got up holding her hands and my knees are covered with blood. Shanthi: ‘I guess you would get more money today. you look all bloody exact look needed for us beggars.’ I looked at her shocked, ‘what?’ Shanthi: ‘yup.. come lets go. We are already late for our peak hour.’ She took my hand and started walking towards the near by train station. Once we reached there, I took my hand from her and started looking around. I can’t recall my house address. While I was looking around, I saw a mirror. I saw Lakshmi and someone else besides her. I took a step towards the mirror and I could see the image in the mirror getting closer. I stood opposite to the mirror touching my face. I look all muddy with chapped lips, my hairs messy and tangled with all the possible dust embodied in it. My clothes look worse than shabby. My nails and hands look like they haven’t been cleaned for years. Is this me? what happened to me? I fell down to the floor with tears running down my cheeks.

Amidst all of this shock, I could feel bending pain in my stomach. The pain is sharper and feels like I have been stabbed by a knife. The tears pouring down is more for that pain than the fact that I am now a beggar. After sitting there for more than few minutes, people started throwing me some change near my legs. Shanthi came to me and picked up all the change near my feet. she turned towards me asking, ‘you should go and eat something. You look like you didn’t eat anything.’ I suddenly remember the food plate I threw last night at the dining table. I got up and took the change from her. she pointed me to a food truck outside the station. I slowly walked there with the killing pain in my stomach and on my knees. i spoke to the cashier asking for food. He looked at me and took the money according to the order. He asked me to stand far aside till the order is ready and to eat there. Everyone who is standing at the truck looked at me as if I am spreading some sort of virus. I listened to the cashier and stood at the place he told me waiting for the food. Food was passed down to me by cahier carefully not touching me. I started eating fast and I choked for water in between. A memory flashed

I was playing games at the dining table without eating. I remember my mom nagging me. ‘Please Vinnie.. at least eat what’s on your plate.’ I looked at her angrily and placed phone aside with a pop. I started stuffing my face fastly as if my mission is to complete whats on my plate in 10 seconds. I got choked as I stuffed everything too fast. My mom brought me water quickly and helped me drink it. ‘Vinnie.. slow down..’

Tears were all over my food when I snapped out of my memory. Is it my memory? Or is it a dream? Is that woman I see in my dream really my mother? what is my name? Vinnie or Lakshmi? I came out of my thoughts with a car horn beep. I looked around to find that car. It is our car. My dad’s car. I got up abruptly and ran towards the car. I knocked on the mirror furiously hoping to see either of my parents. But someone else around my age opened up the mirror. She gave me the kindest smile in this world. She looked into her purse but guess she couldn’t find what she want. She looked behind saying, ‘Mama, do you have any cash? I cant find any in my purse.’ That’s when I heard the voice which I can recognise even from a mile away. ‘Let me check sweety.’ I went to the back window crying hysterically, ‘Mom.. Mom.. its me…’ The window opened and I saw her there flashing her usual smile looking into her purse. ‘Mom.. its me.. your Vinnie.. Why cant you recognise me?’ I expected her to get down and hug me as she has now seen me. But she kept talking to the girl in the front seat. ‘Vinnie.. I don’t have any change. I got only 1000rs note.’ And the girl replied, ‘mom, just give it to her. cant you see that she isn’t in the proper mind condition. Whatever we give will not make her condition any better.’ My mom then looked at her as if the entire love in this world is in front of her, ‘wow Vinnie.. how lucky I am to get this kind daughter.’ She replied, ‘I am brought up like this because I got the kindest mom.’ They kept talking to each other in a voice like a melting sugar. They handed me the 1000rs note and drove off while I stood there with tears on my cheeks. And that triggered me a memory.

We are driving to a nearby shopping mall to spend a money gift I received from my dad on my birthday. I was stepping into the mall when someone caught me by hand, ‘I am hungry didi… please buy me a meal’ I stopped at the place and looked at her, ‘Take your hands off me’ she looked at me with fear in her eyes. ‘How dare you touch me? Don’t ever touch someone for bloody money’ I threw 100rs note at her face and walked into the near by restroom to sanitise my hand. My mom came behind me, ‘Vinnie.. it isn’t the right way how you treated her.’ Me: ‘what do you mean? She bloody touched me with her disgusting hands. Do you even know where her hands might have been before.’ My mom looked at me as if she is seeing an animal, ‘Vinnie, you should understand how hard her life is.’ I shouted, ‘Mom, please stop lecturing me. she is a beggar for god sake. And I can’t understand you taking her side instead of your daughter’s’

I came back from the memory when Shanthi held my hand asking, ‘wow, I told you its your lucky day. You got a generous note. By the way did you eat?’ I looked at her carefully recollecting my memory. Yes… the girl who held my hand is the same one sitting in the car, sweet talking to my mom. I want to go to my home and re-confirm it. I asked Shanthi, ‘I want to goto a certain place. Would you like to come with me without asking any questions?’ She thought for few seconds before saying, ‘if you give me 100rs then yes I’ll come.’ We then went to my place. My dad own architect firm so we are naturally loaded. And our house is built with all this glass so I could clearly see what’s happening in the dining room by standing outside of my house. Our watchman came told me to go away so me and Shanthi hid under a tree across the road to watch my house. I could clearly see my dad, mom and her sitting near by at the table. They were laughing and feeding each other. They were in their own happy little bubble with no sorts of electronics around them to disturb their privacy. I suddenly remembered how it used to be with me.

‘Vinnie… your dad’s waiting, please come quickly’ after hearing this for more than 10 times, I ll head down with my earphones and phone. I don’t sit near by to my parents and pick a seat a bit farther from them. When mom asked me to sit near to them, I told her off, ‘then why did you buy this 10-seat dinner table?’ Just like every other time she couldn’t convince me. I sat there chatting on my phone with my earphones.my mom waited for more than 15 minutes, ‘Vinnie… how was your day?’ I just nodded my head. ‘Vinnie… do you even know what you are eating?’ I snapped on her, ‘Mom.. what’s your problem? Can’t you let me live in peace?’ with me saying that, my dad took his phone to stay out of our argument just like how he usually does. And everything when quiet.

Shanthi called me out, ‘Lakshmi, I need to go back. can I get my money now? If I don’t go now I ll lose my sleeping spot.’ I nodded at her handing her the 100rs note as promised. She asked me before leaving, ‘where can I find you tomorrow morning?’ I didn’t know what to say. She herself said, ‘ok.. I ll look around. If I can’t find you be sure to come by to the station before at 11AM. I am leaving now bye.’ Me too got up and looked at my house for one last time. I don’t know if it’s a dream of me living in this house but now I realised I can’t call it my house or my parents anymore. Whatever it is… now I am freaking cold and need to find a place to sleep. I walked past my house and walked around to find a place to sleep. I picked a bus stop and placed all the available papers around as my bed. I slept on it closing my eyes. I told myself that the memories are merely my illusion. I saw a car passing by and thought how it would feel to be in that car? May be all of this my thoughts are creating an hallucination just like that girl from the car said. My mental state might not be good. With all those bruises and cold weather, I felt sleeping would be the best solution. I forced my eyes to shut down.

After sometime, I felt someone touching me. I opened my eyes and found that someone is trying to pull my pants down. I immediately woke up and tried to see who’s behind. There is some person who got his pants down. I shouted with all my might. He tried to close my mouth and drag me into him. But I fought with all my might and stop up to run. I ran and ran until a police jeep stopped besides me. I was out of breath when a police step down asking, ‘oyyy… where are you running? Did you steal something?’ As I was out of breath, it felt hard to gather my words. He held my hand saying, ‘should I take you to the station?’ I nodded off indicating no. somehow my instincts said going to station might not be a good idea. He said, ‘ok.. come here.’ I didn’t know what he means and I am still struggling for breath. He shouted, ‘hey.. can’t you hear me asking to step closer’ his voice echoed in my ears and I started to tremble. With shivering legs, I took a step closer to him. He pushed my head to kneel in front of him and started to unzip himself. My brain knew what’s going to happen next. I don’t know what courage triggered in me. I just pushed him down and started running again. This time I ran into suburbs and hid besides a rubbish bin. Tears doesn’t stop from my eyes and I just hugged myself around the garbage bin regardless of the state it’s in. With all that marathon I ran, my eyes started getting drowsy and sleep won me over.

I started hearing some sounds, ‘Vinnie… are you up?’ I woke up suddenly and looked around. I am in my room on my bed. I got up and went to the nearby mirror. I am me. oh god… its me… its my room and more importantly, I can hear my mom’s voice. Is this a dream? Or a hallucination? I slapped myself hard… ouch.. that hurts… no, its real. That life I had seen was a dream. Man.. what an awful dream.But I still got that bruise on my knees. whatever, I need to see my mom now. I ran downstairs and hugged my mom from behind, ‘Mama… I am so sorry for my behaviour. I promise I wont do that again.’ My mom turned towards me with a surprise written all over her face. She said, ‘Did you really call me Mama? You used to call that when you were younger and when you loved me.’ I got tears in my eyes hearing her voice and smelling her again, ‘Mama…’ and I just hugged her. She said, ‘its your birthday Vinnie.. you are turning 13. You said you wanted to goon a trip to Europe with your friends. Dad said if you pick the dates then he can do necessary arrangements.’ I looked at her and said, ‘Mama, thanks for everything. But can I ask you something else?’ She said, ‘yeah sure sweety’ I held her hand firmly and said, ‘I saw couple of girls sleeping on footpaths. Mama… is that okay if I spend the same amount to pay for their boarding schools until they are majors? You know I don’t want anymore costly birthday gifts. I just want to spend my birthday amount on them ’ This time she took my face with her hands and said, ‘is this really my Vinnie?’ I laughed saying, ‘yes mom, last night your beetroot dinner has changed me.’ she laughed saying ‘ok.. whatever you want Vinnie.’ I clapped with so much happiness and said, ‘Mama.. kets go now. They are Lakshmi and Shanthi. We need to goto this station for us to talk to them by 11 or else if I miss them, we need to look around to find them.’

How am I sure that I am going to find two girls from my dream in real life? One, I saw Lakshmi a year ago at a shopping mall and two, I still have a bruise on my knees. somehow my gut feeling says I can meet them at the station today. I came to my room to get freshen up as quickly as possible. While I was looking for my things my dairy fell down and I saw the last line I wrote, ‘I wish I wasn’t born to her’ I took the dairy into my hands and scratched that off. I learnt how to be content for what I have been given. I wrote, ‘Thanks for giving me this wonderful life Mamma.’

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