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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1225146-Delusion
by Vibha
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Family · #1225146
A family taken apart by indifference
    She appeared agitated as she talked loudly.

    “No, Raman. I can not come with you. Akash will never let me leave.”

    The white strands of her hair shone bright in the afternoon sun. She was on the verge of tears. Mumbling to herself and her invisible companion, she hobbled away. Her frame, bent into a question mark, supported by the wooden stick, gradually disappeared inside the sanitarium.

    I missed her. My Ma, my strength. I guess this is the way things work here. When someone is with you, you never realize their worth. Once they go away, you miss them.

    Quietly, I got into the car, rolled down the window, and sat back. I closed my eyes and tried to push away the memories that had been haunting me since long. But when they did not give up, I gave in to them and drifted into the past.


*



    I was about six then and Ma was young. Slightly plump, with a childish face, she smiled easily and played with me a lot. At times, I remember, she would just stare outside the window continuously, her eyes moist. But would wipe her tears and break into a smile as soon as I made my presence felt. Pa was around, too, at times. But mostly it was Ma who was my pal, my playmate.

    I don’t know what Ma did when I left for school everyday. But when I returned, a sumptuous meal was always waiting for me on the table. I loved her cooking and would stuff myself with it. The house was always spotlessly clean and well-organized.

    She would look at me lovingly from the terrace whenever I went down to the playground to play with my friends. She had the dinner ready when I returned. She sat with me on the table while I ate but would never eat with me. She helped me with my homework and tucked me in for the night.

    Sometime late at night, I would hear the front door open and my father walk in. They would not speak much with each other. Tinkling of spoons and dishes would let me know that the dinner was served. After some time, the lights would go off outside and I heard their bedroom door close.

    Overall, it was a peaceful life. I only saw my father in the morning while getting ready for school and on weekends when he was busy watching T.V. or working in his room. I don’t remember ever seeing my parents talk a lot or laugh together. But they never fought.


*



    As I grew up, however, I found Ma near the window more often. Now I would observe her for some time before letting her know that I was there. She would not cry, she would not weep. Tears were there but would never fall.

    It scared me a bit. My lovely Ma was withdrawing into her own world slowly.
Pa did not seem to notice. His dinner was ready when he reached home, his house was clean, and his clothes ready for office. So he assumed that everything was fine. But he was in for a shock.

    “Yes, you heard me correctly. I want a divorce.” I heard Ma say one night as I lay awake listening to the noises outside.

    “Don’t be crazy, Neetu. Why do you say that?” Papa asked as if he was dealing with an unreasonable child.

    “You have not noticed, but things have not been the same for some time. I have changed and I think it is not possible for me to live with you any more.” Mama said plainly.

    “Oh, come on. Is this about the vacation? I have already promised that I will take you and Nisha to any place of your choice once I finish my project.”

    “You have been saying this for years. But when one project completes, another starts. Anyways, this is not about the vacation.”

    “It’s enough, Neetu. Go to your room now. I guess you need some sleep. You watch too many soaps. Do something constructive with your time.”

    “Raman, I love someone else. It is Akash. I cannot live without him. Please understand.”

    Pa must have been shocked as he did not speak for some time.

    After a while, I heard their bedroom door slam shut. And everything was quiet for a while.

    Then I heard her. She was moving around in the dining hall, cleaning the table as if nothing had happened.

    “Don’t worry, darling. I have talked to Raman. He is angry but I think he will be fine. Let us give him some time to come to terms with this.” I heard her say after a brief silence.

    I could not contain my anger anymore. I wanted to face this intruder who had caused this. How dare he enter our home? How dare he venture into our peaceful lives and create a mess?

    I threw off the sheets, got out of the bed and walked into the dining room. But my legs refused to carry me further.

    Ma was standing near the sink with her back towards me.

    “I am sure he will understand. Don’t worry.” She said.

    I looked around the room but could not see anyone but Ma.

    The door to Ma and Pa’s bedroom opened quietly and Pa stood in the doorway looking sadly at Ma. He did not say a word.

    Ma continued talking to the invisible intruder.

    “Akash, why do you look so sad? It is just a matter of days. Then we will be together. No one can stop us.”

    I was scared now. I looked at Pa. Tears clouded his eyes. He looked at me and motioned for me to follow him into their room. I did so. Pa silently closed the door behind him.

    I looked at him questioningly. I was scared. Who was Ma talking to? There was no one in the room but her.

    Pa could see fear in my eyes.

    “Don’t be scared, beta*. Everything will be fine.” he assured me though he did not sound convincing.

    He pulled me close and hugged me. I started crying. 

    “What is going on, Pa? Who is Akash? Who is Ma talking to?”

    After a brief pause, Pa spoke solemnly.

    “I think you are old enough to understand this. Your Ma is schizophrenic. Things were good for the past few years so I assumed that she would be alright now. But it seems I was wrong. I believe that Akash only exists in her imagination and she thinks that she loves him.”

    “But Ma loves you. Doesn’t she?”

    “Nisha, don’t worry. I am sure she loves me.” He tried to sound convincing.

    Back into my room, I could not sleep. I searched through the dictionary for schizophrenia. It said that it was “a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations.”

    “Ma is a mental patient?” I wondered and could not believe it. I had never seen her behave this way. This could not be true. Sleep was fitful that night.

    Next morning, everything was back to normal. Ma and Pa went about their schedule as if nothing had happened. But something had changed in me. I could not look up to Ma with the same affection and devotion.


*



    As time passed, Ma’s condition became worse and hallucinations more frequent. The time she spent staring outside the window increased and, often, I heard her muttering sweet nothings to “Akash”.

    I am sure Pa also felt that things were getting worse, but he was always too busy to do anything about it.

    I asked him once “Don’t you think she needs you and you should spend more time with her?”

    “Nisha, I need to work to keep things going. Moreover, she has Akash to keep her company.” He tried hard but could not keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

    “Pa, I think Akash exists because you don’t give her enough time. I think he is what she wants you to be. Please try to understand and give it a try.”

    “Beta*, I think she is too far-gone. It is becoming difficult for me to live with her.”

    “You have to give it a chance, Pa. You can’t give up on her so easily. She is your wife.”

    “Enough! I know how to deal with my life. You do not know how difficult it is for me.” He replied angrily.

    I gave up. Slowly, my love for Ma turned into pity and pity into irritation. Though, even now, she worked as hard as she used to. She kept the house spotlessly clean and my lunch was always on the table when I returned from school.


*



    After completing school, I went to a far-away college for my graduation. It was a four-years long course. During these four years, I came home twice.

    “Akash” had, by this time, moved into our home. He was “living in” with Ma. Pa slept in a separate room. Ma no longer spent any time staring outside the window. She was happy with “Akash” who kept her company twenty-four hours a day.

    At times, I felt guilty. My heart told me that if she gets enough love, she will get better. But I did not have any patience to talk to Pa about it. By now, my career had become too important for me to spend time with her myself.

    After completing my college, I applied for a job in Australia and moved there. The family had disintegrated. Pa had already given up on Ma and now he avoided me as well. I guess he was scared that I would ask him those questions again. I felt guilty and I am sure he did too. I felt convinced that Pa had created “Akash” and I had done nothing to make things better.

    Pa and I would write mails to each other at times. Through these I got to know that Pa had sent Ma to the sanitarium and both of them were living in their own worlds now. Pa was still too busy in his profession and Ma was always in her imaginary heaven.

    After this, the frequency of the mails consistently dropped until they stopped altogether.


*



    Time passed and I became more and more indifferent to the voice of my conscience. Until the day before yesterday when I got a call from Ma’s sanitarium.

    “Am I speaking with Nisha?” the polite female voice asked.

    “Yes, Nisha here.”

    “Ma’m, I am calling from Shanti Sanitarium. I am sorry to inform you that your father has passed away. Your neighbours called and informed us.”

    “What? When did this happen? Where is my mother?”

    “He died yesterday. We tried telling this to your mother, but you know how it is with her. She did not seem to hear us.”

    “Oh!” I did not know what to say. All suppressed emotions filled my heart and struggled their way out of my eyes.

    “Ma’m, I am sorry that I had to give you this news, but we need you to come to India as soon as possible. You need to sign a few papers so that your Ma can still stay with us.”

    “Yes, I will be there. I will try to catch the next flight to India.” I said with some difficulty.

    Today when I arrived in India, I first visited the house I had spent my childhood in. The house was a part of the most beautiful memories I had. It had witnessed our happy times together.

    My room was almost as I had left it. Though there was dust on the books and the paint was chipping off the walls at places, it looked as if no one had disturbed it at all. Or as if someone had worked extra hard to keep it as it is.

    As I stood near the window where Ma used to stand so frequently during my last days in the house, tears threatened to flow out. What had haunted her? What had she hidden for so long that it had at last taken our family apart?

    I drove to the sanitarium. As I got out of the car and walked towards the main entrance, a familiar voice fell into my ears. I looked up.

    She appeared agitated as she talked loudly.

    “No, Raman. I can not come with you. Akash will never let me leave.”

    The white strands of her hair shone bright in the afternoon sun. She was on the verge of tears. Mumbling to herself and her invisible companion, she hobbled away. Her frame, bent into a question mark, supported by the wooden stick, gradually disappeared inside the sanitarium.


*



    A distant car horn pulled me out of my trance. I got out of the car and went into the sanitarium. The receptionist greeted me politely and guided me towards the administration wing. I signed the papers that would ensure that Ma would spend her life sheltered and well taken care of.

    Then I headed towards her room.

    Quietly, I pushed open the door. Ma was standing near the window staring out. I walked towards her and put a hand on her shoulder.

    She turned around and stared at me blankly. For a few moments, her eyes questioned my identity as they tried to recognize me.  Slowly, comprehension dawned and my beautiful Ma looked at me incredulously.

    My heart broke as she fell into my arms and started sobbing out the pain locked inside her heart for years.


    * beta: literally means son in Hindi but parents often use it to address daughters too

References:
Dictionary.com for definition of schizophrenia

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