I woke up feeling refreshed and alive. Something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Especially after losing Sunaina. My very strict father only liked her, my best friend since I was 5 years old. It is so strange to think how a grown adult person can dislike a child of only 5 years. But he did. He had strong opinions of everyone but Sunaina. She was the only friend I was allowed to play with till late evening. Sometimes I even stayed at her house busy with pretend play and toys way past the porch lights had been turned on. The very obvious signal to end all fun and head back home.
This morning, I felt a sense of calm accompanied by happiness. Happy because Sunaina was married to her favorite person. And relieved because Sunaina was always going to be surrounded with love exactly what she deserved.
Sunaina was adopted. Her paternal aunt and uncle had adopted her after her parents died in a freak accident when she was only 3 years. She disclosed this horrific information to me on my 11th birthday. I remember walking out of the room under the pretense to get us a snack only to hug my own mom and dad. After the birthday celebrations, I had pleaded with my mother to convince her mother to let her stay overnight. We wanted to talk and open presents together. We both shared everything. So, it was obvious that I was going to share my presents with her. She even cried looking at a book, Malgudi Days by R K Narayan. It was her father’s favorite book. She even remembered bits of the stories from the time he used to read them to her. Like myself, Sunaina too found her real self in books. Summer vacations for us were for reading, swimming at the club pool, and of course, eating mangoes until our stomachs gave up. Both of us lived in our own heads, lost in the world of words.
Today, I walked out of my room clutching the coffee mug with both hands for support, under the pretense of not missing my best friend and her voice; hoping to see my father perched on his favorite chair in the verandah (courtyard) listening to music. But he wasn’t there, just his empty cup of tea. I walked towards the vegetable garden hoping to catch him eating our latest achievements without me. But to my dismay, the garden was untouched this morning. With no pile of weeds on the edges of the garden or the stool, he used when no one was looking to soothe his aching knees. I sighed trying to breathe out some anxiety. Since his heart attack last year, my anxiety and his health had become quite the issues at our dining table. He refused to give up fried food. And I refused to give up on him. There was not only a need for healthier food habits in our house but a desperate need for therapy.
I walked slowly sipping my morning black coffee, reminding myself to stay calm and not imagine the worst. That he was only just in the next room. I was going to catch him in the kitchen munching on some random junk food. But he was not there either.
The study was like always messy and lit up with unnecessary lamps when open windows did their job perfectly. I stepped in trying hard not to think of the morning I found him in here lying lifelessly on the floor clutching the newspaper. Yes, my father still insisted on reading an actual paper as his morning news. I had a creepy feeling of falling down. Falling and spinning into nothing. The room was spinning around me now. I felt like I was in a rollercoaster without any safety belts. My breath became uneasy, and I dropped the mug creating a small brown pool of spilled coffee.
“Priya, are you alright?” I heard him call me, but I just could not turn around to see his face.
“Putri (daughter) can you hear me? What happened? Why do you look pale?” This time I held out my hand to hold him. Trying to breathe in and out reminding myself, he was right here, in front of me.
The words finally came out, “I was looking for you. I dropped the coffee.”
We stood still holding hands, staring at each other for almost a minute without uttering a word.
“I am right here, putri. I am not going anywhere.”
“Also, you are cleaning that coffee stain this time. It is your turn.”
I smiled holding his hand waiting to gather my anxious self to be able to hug him. And believe his words, he is not going anywhere.