amilies just happen. Nobody gets to choose them. Of all the people, I know this pretty well. However, I have to admit that sometimes I don’t understand the concept of family. Does that only mean blood relations? If that’s the case, I have no recollection of my biological family. Aditya and Shraddha say that I was just two days old when they held me in their hands and brought me to our home. They say that I am that bundle of joy which not only brought them together but gave them a reason to move on in life. As far as I am concerned, they are my family; my life. The humble yet elegantly furnished 2BHK apartments in East Bangalore is my home. The balcony with grass carpet, several pots of plants and a swing is my favorite spot in the house.
Often I sit next to Shraddha on the beige couch in the living room or snuggle under Adi’s feet rested against a warm rug. Sometimes we watch movies together and I would be sitting between them; their hands around me. They never say no if I nuzzle their nose or ears. That’s what I love about them. They never get bored of me.
Sometimes when Aditya’s mother visits, she gets hysterical seeing me jump on the king sized mattress in the bedroom. She would shout at me and shoo me away. When I think about it, I realize that she has never beaten me up. Probably because she knows that her son and daughter in law would not like it. I am their baby and that’s what they call me. My name sounds so beautiful when they say it. It makes me feel like I could do anything for them; that I should listen to them.
When I am bored, I play with my toys or simply run around the house. When I am tired, I would sit in the balcony and observe Adi and Shraddha. I have to tell you that they look very good together. Adi is tall with a wheatish complexion and athletic body. He is a fitness freak. He never misses his morning jog with me. It is a delight to see him patiently tolerating my tantrums at times. His hair is always well-kept and I have to tell you that he is pretty obsessed with it. If Adi ever gets irritated by me, it should be because I messed his hair. And we all have a problem, don’t we? We often do what we are repeatedly asked not to do. More so when we also know that it is harmless! Another reason why I love to do that is because if Shraddha is around, Adi would give a desperate glance at her and she would start giggling.
I love that smile. In fact, I know each and every movement as if captured in slow motion. First, she would lift her right eyebrows and slightly nod her head. Then, closes her eyes until her smile becomes wide enough to showcase her perfectly aligned teeth. She would look down and move her head from left to right. Finally, she would look up and lock eyes with Adi for a micro second. And then, in a fake irritated voice she would say, “Baby! How many times have I asked you not to do it?” As soon as I hear that I would withdraw myself from Adi and snuggle under his feet until he gently touches me. Sometimes, if Shraddha is in a playful mood, she would also join in ruffling Adi’s hair. Adi’s helplessness would make Shraddha giggle. Then, she would kiss him on his ears and on my forehead. Shraddha is moderately tall and very petite. Her hair is short, accentuating her high cheekbones and sharp nose. Her beauty lies in her fragility.
Of late, I just sit on the balcony and stare at our family photograph hung in the living room. It was taken when we had gone on a road trip to Coorg. I hate long drives and road trips. But, Shraddha and Adi love it. And, I love to see their childlike enthusiasm while planning a trip and exploring new places. Sometimes, I sit in the front seat. But, mostly I stretch across the backseat with my favorite toy lying next to me. I also glance through the windows and see the trees vanishing rapidly. For a second they are just next to me. But in no time, they disappear. This nearness and distance would make me philosophical too. I mean, think about it. In life, some people come. They become integral part of our lives. They start influencing our behavior and emotions. And boom! They just disappear like a firefly. But, in that limited time, they spread light and happiness; touch your soul. However, those smiles and the related ideas of how they spread happiness seems likes a distance dream now. With each passing day, my life is turning into a nightmare for which there are two reasons.
Firstly, Adi and Shraddha don’t talk to each other anymore. If they talk, it would end up in a long and unpleasant argument. They watch no movies together or sleep in that king sized mattress. I miss snuggling next to them. Adi often comes home late and dozes off on the couch in the living room. Shraddha would remain distracted most of the times. Either she would be crying or remain irritated with almost everything. But, she never shouts at me. These days, she hardly sits idle. She would be trying new recipe and give everything to the neighbor’s maid. Next day the maid would be happily explaining how delicious the food was and how her children enjoyed it. Shraddha, however, would only be half listening, focusing on the new cuisine in progress. But, I would be in tears as a mute observer because only I know that Shraddha didn’t taste a bit of it. Neither did Adi. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time we ate our food together.
Secondly, I am feeling unwell; as if death is approaching me. I know that sounds weird. After all, no one knows when they would die or when anyone would die for that matter. But, I know. I feel like I am connected to some strange network which sends me signals of death. Well, death has never scared me. I think that the only truth and certainty is death. In fact, I don’t understand why people fret so much about it. If you ask me what is the most awesome aspect of life, I would say death! But then, I secretly wish that the connection sending these signals dies instead of me. As I said, I am not scared of death. But, I just don’t want to die now. If I do, Shraddha would be alone. But, isn’t death inevitable? Icing on the cake is that I don’t feel like eating anything. I know it sounds ironical. Still. How can I eat when Shraddha is starving; when Adi and Shraddha are fighting? Apart from being a silent observer, I wish I was deaf also. Having said that, I don’t think it would help. Melancholy has strange vibes. It always connects to the bleeding heart and ensures that you bleed to death. The home which was once warm and cozy has transformed into a mansion surrounded by cold walls; enveloped by eerie silence. But, silence doesn’t bother me anymore though they are always deafening. In any case, it is far better than the arguments between Adi and Shraddha.
“Dhachu, will you please get ready?” Adi requested after the afternoon brunch. Unmindful of Adi’s watchful yet concerned eyes, Shraddha continued to clean the sparkling kitchen.
“Are you listening to me? What is wrong with you? We have to leave in an hour. Otherwise it will be too late”, Adi pleaded.
“Adi, I am not coming. Baby needs me. I can’t leave Baby alone and go with you”, Shraddha said while rearranging the vessels in the cabinet.
“You are not a good liar Dhachu and you know that. Why don’t you look at me and tell me what is stopping you?” Adi asked while cornering her.
“Adi, when we knew that I could never bear a child, I suggested separation. You asked me to shun those old fashioned thoughts and told me that we are progressive enough to make peace with it, didn’t you?” Shraddha broke down. “Now what is suddenly wrong with you? Why are you behind my life and forcing me to do everything differently?” Tears escaped from her eyes like a prisoner freed from jail. Maybe it was the tone, I moved away from Adi’s feet and sat on the couch.
“Dhachu, I am not forcing you. I am only pleading. Please listen to me. I still say that we are not old fashioned. It’s been almost ten years since we knew that we can never have a child. After convincing you for a year, you agreed to adopt Baby. And now Baby is nine years old and almost dying. What’s next Shraddha? Adopt another one? Or mourn for Baby all our life? What is your plan? I have tried my best to explain why you should come with me. And I am tierd now. I am so very tired. Baby will also be gone. Then what? Tell me Dhachu. Please tell me. What will we do when Baby dies?”
“Adi, did you just say Baby is dying?” Shraddha’s voice was quivering and was barely audible. For the first time I understood why they were fighting. They were fighting because of me. I was the anchor that was holding them together. Now they are afraid that my absence would kill the relationship which they have lovingly built over so many years. It was not the first time Adi and Shraddha were fighting. But, I knew that this is not going to be similar to the arguments they have been having so far where Adi would yell and storm out of the house. I would run towards Shraddha and cuddle close to her. She would hug me with those slender hands and bury her face against the warmth of my body. Slowly, I would be feeling the hotness of her tears drenching my soul; tearing it apart. I would helplessly wish to tell her that everything would be alright soon. Or something like I am there for you. But, I would be too scared to move. So I would just rest my head on her lap.
“Yes, that’s what I said. Baby is dying. Its better you accept that fact, Dhachu. Didn’t we know this all along? Since the day we held Baby in our hands? Baby’s sickness is killing you. I cannot see this anymore. Please listen to me. Get ready and come with me. Trust me please. Will I do anything that would harm you?” Adi pulled Dhachu closer to him and she started sobbing uncontrollably.
I was in tears too. I wanted to run towards them and nestle next to them. But I didn’t want to do that. In fact, I wanted to disappear; like a vapour. I wish I had an Invisibility Cloak like Shraddha’s favorite Harry Potter. I silently walked across the living room and sat on the balcony. I noticed a young couple walking across the street. The man was holding a small baby whose excited eyes were wandering everywhere and the woman was carrying a couple of grocery bags. They were walking in silence, but there was peace. Unlike Adi and Shraddha, I thought.
I do not recall when I fell asleep. But the sound of thunder made me jump and I rushed into the bedroom. I was so terrified that I crawled under the cot and fell asleep again. When I opened my eyes, there was only darkness around me. I did not know what time of the night it was. I searched for Adi and Shraddha. But, they were nowhere to be seen. However, I noticed that they had left food for me and I half-heartedly had that. A strange discomfort started hovering around me. It was past midnight and the signals of death reached out to me again; this time stronger than usual.
I restlessly started walking around our house. I was panicking and hoped Adi and Shraddha came back home soon. I knew that it was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back with relief. I rushed to the door and impatiently waited.
Adi walked in and I started jumping in joy. He then pointed his fingers towards the door and I saw Shraddha holding a baby in arms. Her eyes were swollen and I knew she had cried a lot. She looked at me with a smile and walked inside. I didn’t jump on her. I didn’t want to scare the sleeping baby. I followed her. She walked into the bedroom and carefully placed the baby on the bed. Both Adi and Shraddha sat on either side of the baby and I was uncertain about what I should be doing. Suddenly, I felt like an alien. I felt like I am not their baby anymore. Tears started to roll down my eyes.
Adi noticed it and he walked towards me. He drew me close to him and urged, “Baby, that’s Nainika. Promise me that you will be her big brother and take care of her. Come on. Come on. Give me your promise”. I promised him and he ushered me towards the baby. I have never seen a baby in such close proximity before. She was so tiny. So were her feet, fingers, nails, lips and ears. And eyes? They were like a thin line drawn across face. Her face was perfect round and hair straight. I knew that she would grow up to be more beautiful than Shraddha. Strangely, she looked like a miniature version of Shraddha – fragile. I rested my head on her little stomach which was going up and down to the rhythmic tune of her breathing. Of course, I didn’t let my weight bother her. I just wanted to feel her warmth. Shraddha pulled me closer to her and started sobbing again. There was a mix of happiness and sadness in her face. We sat there like that for some time. Later, when they went to sleep, Nainika was placed in between them. I looked at them with a sad face. I was about to turn and go to the balcony when they made some space for me. I carefully jumped onto our bed and happily laid next to Nainika.
I don’t know for how long I had been asleep. I opened my eyes and looked towards Nainika. Her tiny hands were holding my ears. I was afraid to move. I didn’t want to disturb her sleep. In fact, I didn’t want to disturb anyone in my family. I looked at Shraddha. And then, at Adi. Tears rolled down my eyes. I felt thankful and happy for having a wonderful family like this. I closed my eyes.
In no time, darkness shrouded and silence followed. Signals of death got disconnected. I was at peace.