Fiction: The Silence

November 6, 2015 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Kaushik Chakraborty

 

 

As the train slowed down, Rahul got up from his seat and moved towards the door. It was hard to pull the huge trolley bag through the narrow passage of the compartment. Yet, he made it. When he reached the door, the train had already entered the platform. He took the mobile phone out and called his Dad, who was waiting at the railway station to meet him. After getting down, he hugged his Dad. But soon he was upset… a few grey hairs on his Dad’s head struck him, “O God! He’s growing old!”

On reaching home, Rahul got down from the cab and rushed inside. The front door of the house was already open. Without even taking off his hoes, he went to the kitchen and hugged his Mom from behind, “Maa, I’m here!” His Mom turned and kissed him on his forehead. Her eyes were moist. It was almost six months since she had seen her son.

This time, quite a few surprises awaited Rahul at home. The walls were painted with a velvet finish; every door and window had a new set of curtains that matched the colour of that wall; a brand new LED television; a split AC in his room and Simran, a new maid servant.

Rahul thought she was just a normal maid servant who came in the morning and would go away by noon. But she wasn’t that. She took her bath here, had lunch with them and even had a nap in the afternoon. A corner in the living room was her place, where she rested and slept. On seeing all these, Rahul asked his Mom, “Who’s she?”

Mom said, “She’s Simran, our full time servant.”

Rahul asked, “What’s full time Maa? Does she stay here?”

Mom said, “Hmm…”

Rahul asked, “What do you mean? How can an outsider come like this and stay here?”

Seeing Rahul’s concern, his Dad said, “Actually it’s my decision. Maa is not that agile anymore. She’s growing old after all. I think she needs somebody to assist her with all the work.”

Rahul didn’t proceed any further. But wasn’t pleased either. It was three of them in this house; now it was four. And he couldn’t accept it.

Somehow, Rahul started feeling uneasy inside the house. He couldn’t tolerate Simran’s presence around him. It was like an intrusion into his privacy at home. She entered his room anytime, without even asking; touched the things on his study table; ironed his clothes and put them in the wardrobe. It was really hard for him to bear all these.

One day, he was furious. It was in the afternoon, when he switched on the television to watch a movie. His Mom sat on a sofa. Simran was in the kitchen. Suddenly she entered the living room and sat on the floor, right in front of the television. Rahul screamed, “It’s too much!”

His Mom looked at him in surprise and asked, “What happened?”

He said, “She’s following me! Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, she just tries to be around me every time. When I ask for a glass of water, she brings it in; when I call you, she comes in as your proxy. I can’t bear this anymore.”

Listening to Rahul’s complain, his Mom said, “She’s our servant; why do you take yourself equally with her? Do you know how helpless she is?; her parents live far away… they’ve kept her here only for some money and food. She’s almost your age. Don’t be rude to her dear. It’s her destiny that’s doing the wrong, not she.”

Simran got up and went to the kitchen again.

After that incident, Rahul was a little generous to Simran. In fact, he tried to get easy with her. Simran continued to clean his room; put the books and other things on his study table in order; ironed his clothes; brought water or milk for him. But he treated her gently.

Rahul could feel that an unusual psyche was working within him. He started taking interest in her. Her movements, talks, mannerisms… he started liking them. She lived very tidily and reserved all the time, not like any ordinary servant. She knew all she had to do in the house, which she did silently, without bothering others. In fact, during leisure hours, his Mom and Simran had long chats on various subjects. They became like friends.

Looking at all these, Rahul asked his Mom one day, “You like Simran a lot, don’t you?”

His Mom replied, “She’s worth liking you know. Humble, polite, obedient… she has all the qualities that I like.”

“Hmm…”, Rahul agreed. He further asked, “In that case, when I’m not there, you must be treating her like your daughter?”

His Mom said, “Come on beta, don’t talk stupid. I know her position in this house.”

One day, Rahul was alone at home. His Dad was at the office and Mom went shopping. Simran entered his room and started cleaning the bookshelf. Rahul was lying on the bed. He took out a cigarette and asked for a matchbox. Simran went to the kitchen and brought one. Rahul lit the cigarette and asked Simran, “Do you smoke?”

Simran looked at him and replied after a pause, “No.”

“Don’t you like smoking?” Rahul pinched.

Simran was mum. Rahul also remained quiet. Then she picked up the cigarette packet from the bed and showed him the statutory warning on it.

“Can you read?” Rahul asked in surprise.

Simran smiled and said, “I’ve studied till class eight in the village school.”

“Why did you leave?” he asked.

“My father couldn’t afford it” she said.

“Do you want to study now? I can help you with that.” he tried to lure.

“No time now; I’ve lots of other work” she answered.

She was leaving the room when Rahul caught her hand and said, “Just a request, please don’t tell Maa that you saw me smoking.”

Simran smiled and went away.

Now Simran had another friend in this house, Rahul. They started enjoying each other’s company. She attended him as before but with more warmth now. She had a sweet and sensuous smile on her face whenever she was around him. One day, he made her light a fag. And, to his surprise, she didn’t even cough once. Rather she advised him not to inhale the smoke deep inside but take a gentle puff and release it quickly. Just the way she did, and finished the cigarette.

Within some fifteen days, they became so candid. Whenever they were alone, they smoked, watched movies on the laptop, cuddled each other and even kissed. This vacation was bliss for Rahul, so much so that he felt like not going back anymore.

Things went on like this, cool and fine. Both found abundant comfort in each other. Simran slowly became a chain smoker. In the afternoons, she came to Rahul for fags. She usually smoked inside the washroom or in the terrace.

Just two days were left for Rahul to go back to his boarding college. One fine morning, his Mom caught Simran red-handed with a cigarette in the terrace. She beat her up like anything. Later, Simran dragged herself to a corner of the kitchen and sobbed. At first, Rahul couldn’t make out as to what went wrong. Later, when he heard about the incident, he felt so bad. After all, it was he who made her a smoker.

On the other side, he thought what would happen if Simran told his Mom about his smoking habit. Out of fear, he took the cigarette packet and threw it out. The whole day he remained panic-stricken, waiting for his Mom to barge into the room and ask if he smoked. But that didn’t happen. Thanks to Simran that she didn’t disclose the fact.

After two days, when Rahul left home for the railway station, he felt like talking to Simran. But fear and guilt grasped him inside. He thought it better not to meddle with the issue.

At college, Rahul was in a dilemma. He thought, he should have disclosed everything to Mom so that she didn’t blame Simran alone for smoking. But what would Mom think of him then! This kept him engrossed all the time. He couldn’t concentrate on studies; missed assignments; performed poorly in the term-end exams. Gradually, it turned into an obsession. Whenever Mom or Dad called him on the mobile, he felt like asking about Simran. But, could never do that.

After a few months, his Dad called him and said that his Mom was severely ill. She couldn’t manage the household alone. Rahul asked, “What’s Simran doing there? She’s supposed to help Maa in all that!”

His Dad said that Simran went to her native place a month ago. She was suffering from acute lung infection due to excessive smoking, and it was only a few days ago that she passed away.

“O God!” Rahul screamed in silence. Yes, in silence. It was Simran who proved the power of silence and saved Rahul from coming down in the eyes of his parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaushik Chakraborty

Kaushik Chakraborty was born in India in 1980 and grew up to be an advertising professional. From his school days, his short stories, poetry and articles appeared in leading English and vernacular dailies in India. He did his BA Honours in English Literature, MA in Advertising and Public Relations and MBA in Human Resource Management. As a working student, he pursued Post Graduate Diploma courses in Mass Communication and Digital Arts respectively. After completing his education, he plunged into the world of mainstream advertising with a zeal to move to the top. From a copywriter he rocketed to the position of the creative director of a reputed advertising company. Currently, he is working with Sauce Brand Solutions as director of strategy and planning.

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