“One signature here too.” Suraj handed another paper to his mother, Bhumi, who signed without hesitation. He knew better, she believed.
As the sun dipped beyond the horizon, smudging the sky with its vestigial tangerine aurora, melancholy shrouded her soul. The last few days had worn her out. The untimely and unexpected demise of her beloved husband had crumbled her entire universe.
Shashi was an affectionate husband and a doting father. Having slogged his entire youth fulfilling his family’s needs, he had yearned for a peaceful retired life. Together, they had promised to spend their autumnal years in each other’s company. However, the vicious fate had other plans. Bhumi was left all alone, clueless and apprehensive about spending the rest of her life without him.
“Amma, you haven’t paid the electricity bill,” Suraj reminded. “And the society maintenance bill too.”
“I have no idea about them, mone*,” Bhumi said. “Your achan* used to look after it. Can you please do the needful?”
“Amma, I’m busy too. I have a family to look after. I can’t believe you were so dependent on achan that you forgot that for a living, you need much more than food and air!”
Suraj’s derision stuck her core like a sword. Instead of blood, tears threatened to pour. Deep inside however, she knew he was right. Cocooned in her complacent family life, she had never bothered to peek at the real world outside. While she had looked after her family’s health and prayed for their prosperity, Shashi had uncomplainingly taken care of the financial aspects. She had always trusted his instincts, and he never failed her.
After his departure, she realized that she was just his shadow- following his decisions unquestioningly. Timid and apprehensive that she was, she now swaddled Suraj with blind trust.
The next day, Suraj brought home some visitors.
“Who are they?” Bhumi asked, but Suraj ignored her.
He showed them around the house.
“We like the house. But it’s tad old. You need to reduce the price,” a man spoke much to Bhumi’s astonishment.
They had a short discussion before they dispersed.
“They are buying this house, amma,” Suraj finally spoke.
Bhumi almost fell.
“What? But I’m not selling it.”
“You are unable to manage this big house, amma,” Suraj snapped. “Without achan, you can’t even walk a step! Moreover, you registered this house in my name last week. So, it’s my decision to sell.”
Startled, Bhumi slumped on the sofa. So much for blindly trusting her only son. Or was it yet another punishment inflicted by fate for her naivety? She smiled weakly at Shashi’s garlanded picture hanging on the wall.
“I got a job in Singapore. I have made arrangements for you to stay here in a retirement home. I’m sure you’ll like it with your age-mates, weekly check-ups and… amma?” Suraj shook Bhumi, as she collapsed lifeless.
How long could the shadow thrive without its object, after all?
Mone: Son (in Malayalam)
Achan: Father (in Malayalam)
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