“What have you done with your house – where your parents lived?” I ask when he doesn’t answer my previous question.
It takes him a minute to respond. “Rented it out. Mother uses that as her income.”
I nod. “I want to sell my father’s house. I haven’t looked at the documents you gave me. Wait, I will bring those…”
I go in and bring the bag out. I sit with the house papers in front of me, but my mind is blank as I keep thinking of my father there. I can never go back to that house, all pleasant memories have been cancelled out… On my last visit, I had remembered something of his death…
“Should I go through a broker?” I wonder aloud. Karthik doesn’t respond.
Suddenly, the wording in the document catches my attention. “What is this!” I exclaim.
Karthik looks at me. He is looking so tired, that I feel guilty. But like a dam that is open, slowly but sure the questions have to be asked. “Why would my father do something like this!”
He looks at where I am pointing. My father made Karthik and me co-trustees of the house, till his grandchild became a major! My mind goes blank at trying to think of the possibilities. I look at the date of the will – a month before he died. I frown, unable to understand.
I look at Karthik for explanation. He slaps his forehead.
“You knew about this?” I ask. As he nods, I realise, of course he knows.
“I was there when the will was read out,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.
My shoulders sag, unable to take the suspense any longer. “Why, Karthik? Why would he do something like that unless…”
He closes his eyes and completes the sentence for me, or is he telling me that: “You were pregnant at the time.” He moves away, to the window again.
I stop breathing. My arms feel empty, as I cannot even conceive of having held a life there.
So many questions come up. “What happened? Why did he make a will in a hurry? Grandchild…not grandson or granddaughter…before he knew the gender…why? Was he unwell?”
Karthik shrugs. “Not to my knowledge. But I wouldn’t know unless one of you told me… And…”
He doesn’t finish the sentence. I wait and watch his face age in front of me. My mind wanders.
“And…? Karthik, what happened to the baby?” a strange voice asks. That is not my voice! So brittle!
“Premature, didn’t survive.”
Everything is blurred. I try to get up but feel giddy. The folder on my lap crashes and the papers scatter as I stand up. My head reels and I sit again. I cry, I think, unless there is someone else in the room.
In an instant, Karthik is next to me. I tremble, he hesitates. I lean against him. He puts his arms around me. I bury my face on his chest and cry.
He smooths my hair to soothe me. “It is okay, Kalpa…it is not the end of the world. We still have each other…don’t we? Tell me you will come back,” he whispers into my hair.
I cry more, as images from the past and the present clash around me, confusing me more. I try to understand what he means, but am unable to. I try to think of my child, the child that didn’t survive.
I black out, my giddiness overtaking me.
I open my eyes but it is all black. “Appa…are you there?” I call out. “I am sorry, I won’t do it again.”
No response. I cry softly. “Please, appa…talk to me… Don’t leave me and go…please? You remember? Show of strength? I am all alone now, appa… Why did you desert me?”
“Kalpana, sshhh… Sleep, no one deserted you…” just a voice… I can’t make out anyone in the dark. I panic.
“Appa, is that you? Where are you? Why don’t you come closer?” I cry out urgently.
Someone takes my hand. It doesn’t feel like my father’s, but it feels familiar. I can’t remember whose, though. “Who is it? That is not appa…?” I try to snatch my hand back, fearing he will harm me.
“Kalpana, it is okay…sleep…” I feel the hand soothing my back.
“I shouldn’t have gone, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to leave you alone, appa,” I whisper. “Now you are angry with me.” I cry
“Hush…he is not angry.” He lies down next to me and holds me against him. I lean against him, to draw comfort but am unable to. Anger and fear wrack my body and I push him away.
“Yes, he is…see, he is taking my child away… Appa don’t, please don’t…” I cry. “No, not my child, please, no.”
“Hush, no. Your father didn’t kill the child…he would never do such a thing.” How gentle this man seems. How foolish.
“Yes, you are right,” I sigh. I remain silent, leaning against a thorny bush. It reminds me of something else. “I couldn’t save my child, our child. Karthik’s and my child. He is angry. He doesn’t come to me, stays away all the time.” Tears flow down.
I turn away. The arm tightens around me, and I think the python coiled around me is going to crush me. “Please don’t! I am dying,” I sob, scared, struggling.
The python loosens up. “Sorry… I didn’t mean to… I am not upset with you, Kalpana. I want you safe.” He rocks me, his grip lose. I mustn’t let it lull me into sleep. It will swallow me. I look around for escape route.
I keep talking. “Only Sukumar understands how I feel…” I whisper. I cry out. “I hate him.” Suddenly, there are too many snakes near my feet. I cry in fear. “Appa! Take me home. I am scared…I hate it here.”
My father strokes my head. “Don’t be. I am here. Sleep now… We will go home, first thing in the morning.”
My father rocks me to sleep, but I am falling into a pit, an abyss, screaming. No one hears me. My father is gone. I am alone in the darkness. I grasp looking for his arms, but there is nothing there, just emptiness.