Suicide is a good thing. That’s what I had thought. But for some others, it may be only a thing. These others don’t feel. They are never sad. They are never happy. And so, they would say suicide is a thing. For little Pia, it was nothing. Nothing but a sound, which sounded strange when pronounced, and did not relate to any definition by which someone left her. When her friends went to their maternal grandparent’s house it was summer holidays. When she went out with her grandpa, it was rickshaw-day. When her father went to his office it was work. When her father went to see his colleagues in the evening it was “Papa is drunk”. When her father went to see his colleagues after a hot argument with momma (a thing in which papa’s distorted face would create words Pia would not understand, perpetually, and momma would be doing routine work silently) it was “momma is crying”. Believe me! She used to tell me about these definitions. And then she would continue talking about how she did not like papa because of his distorted face when “momma is crying”. How she quietly cried when “momma is crying”. How she wished if papa was not there around her and her Momma. Forever. She wished.
Papa loved Pia traditionally. He used to call her Maa. Mother. Like his mother would affectionately call him Baba, father, and his sister Maa. At one-time Pia asked him why he called her maa. He said it is a tradition. Traditionally, he also kept a distance from Pia. He felt responsible for Pia only outside the block his house was in. All responsibilities within the block and for all emotions within Pia, I was responsible. He would choose Pia’s school and he would let me choose the friends Pia would play with after classes. While he would decide which doctor to visit, I would clean her wound which she got while playing. He would quietly stand in the doorway and watch the wound getting cleaned.
Pia would never come close to her papa. For her papa was a stranger. Since her birth, all she knew was Momma, Maa. Momma’s hand, momma’s finger, momma’s voice, momma’s scolding, momma’s love, momma’s anger, momma’s birthday, momma’s anniversary. She knew papa when she came to live in papa’s town at the age of three. Because papa had decided a school for her. Till the age of three, Papa was a stranger who came home every festival from the town he worked in. Who came home and touched momma. Who came home and did not play with her. She did not like papa. Papa’s face was distorted when papa was angry. Momma’s face was sweet even when she got angry. Papa never scolded pia. Papa loved Pia. But Pia never retorted his love. Because Pia did not love papa.
Sometimes I wish I had not thought suicide to be a good thing. Sometimes I wish I had not thought anything at all. This present lives in the past. That present lived with no future. Sometimes I wish I was by her side. I wish I could braid her hair into two plaits. Sometimes I wish I could wipe off the milk lining from her lips after she has finished a glass of milk. Sometimes I wish I could be there to watch her reflection in the mirror when she would try to put lipstick on her lips. Many times I wish we would lay on the bed, on our stomach, facing each other. And she would touch my eyebrows and would make a curl out of my hair dangles. And she would ask me questions. Ask questions. She would.
“Momma, why is your smile so sweet?” And I would smile.
“Momma, why did you marry papa?”
“So that I could find you”, I would say.
“Momma, can I find you when I marry?”
And I would just smile and look at those big beautiful eyes. She had eyes like her papa.
She was ten then.
Sometimes when I used to wake her up in the morning for school and she would try to fall asleep again and she would curl up and swallow spittle and lick her lips, I knew what love looked like. When she used to stretch herself in sleep to get rid of sleep I knew that the moments I longed for only included moments of hugging her. Tightly. Closely. Sometimes when I used to wake her up saying, “Maa! Utho. Utho Shona”. Hey baby. Wake up, dear. And when she would open her smiling eyes and look at me I knew that I had seen my god. I had my God. I had my Pia.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law thought that suicide is a thing.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were good people. I have forgiven them. I cannot blame them. Can I? Should I? Pia’s pa is a good person. He is emotional. He didn’t like me. He loves my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law. I tried to love him. I have forgiven him. I cannot blame him. He didn’t have a mother like Pia had. I cannot blame him or them. Can I? Should I?
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law told Pia’s papa that there is something going on between me and our land lord’s son. This was not the first time. That I was untrusted. That stories were made up of my affairs. That I was remained quiet and hoped that he would understand. Their ‘something’ was an uncountable opinion. His perceptions gave it a countable judgment. That ‘something’ transformed from a seed to a wasteland of wild grass. And since that uncountable opinion, Pia’s papa went to see his colleagues every evening. His distorted face would throw loathe words at me every night. At dinner. At bed. He would never ask whether I had something to eat. He would never ask whether Pia had something to eat. Five days I spent without food. He didn’t any of me behind his countable judgment. He didn’t see that at dinner. At bed. This was not the first time.
On the sixth day, I thought suicide is a good thing. For the first time.
It was Saturday.
Pia loved to ride a rickshaw. She said that every rickshaw puller had arms and hands similar to her comic superhero. She said that the shadow of rickshaw puller’s leg used to go up and down instead of going in circles. “Dekho Maa! Ekdom shoja-shoja.” Momma look! It’s completely straight.
On the sixth day, I told my father-in-law to take Pia to my brother-in-law’s house. They had been recently asking a lot about Pia and him, I told him. I lied to him. He agreed. He was seldom asked for. I urged him to take the rickshaw. For Pia. Anything for Pia. Anything to see her smile. He agreed. Because he was seldom asked for anything. I told Pia about the rickshaw ride. She laughed and smiled with her eyes.
Pia’s papa left for work. Pia left with her grandpa. It was rickshaw-day for her. It was work for her papa. It was suicide for her momma. After they left I sat quietly for a long time thinking about Pia and my suicide. How her legs would be dangling from the rickshaw seat. How she would be watching the shadow of rickshaw puller’s leg. How she would be clenching her grand pa’s dhoti in one hand. How her eyes would flutter in a gust of wind.
I went about as normally possible. I washed Pia’s clothes, Pia’s papa’s clothes, Pia’s grand pa’s clothes. I cleaned the rooms. Made lunch for Pia and her grandpa. Made lunch for my Pia. Maybe I was trying to delay my good thing. But then I didn’t want to. It was better to get over with myself before Pia. Arrived.
I sat quietly for a long time with a full bottle of phenyl in my hand. I thought of Pia. I thought of my husband. I looked at the bottle and drank it. Halfway through the bottle, the smell of phenyl choked my breath. I snatched the bottle from my mouth and began panting. I had the urge then, the urge to run out on the road and embrace Pia. My Pia. I had the urge to stand and tell my sister-in-law and brother-in-law that they were wrong. Wrong in thoughts, wrong in actions, wrong in themselves. I had the urge to run to my husband’s office and slap him. I had the urge then. I started vomiting. All over. I felt guilty and dizzy. I died.
Death was guilty and dizzy.
And then, Pia’s hand touched my forehead. My eyebrows.
“Momma, I am with you. Don’t worry. We will be happy”, she whispered to me. Pia’s hand held my hand tightly and then she was gone.
I woke up to the whiteness surrounding me. Maybe it was my hell for leaving Pia alone. I was prepared to be confronted by god. I was ready to explain to god why I left Pia. I was ready. I heard a sound. I prepared myself to speak out. And I turned to face my husband.
He was crying. He was crying like the day he was born.
He told me how I survived. Vomiting takes out the bad out of you. It took out the phenyl from me. It took out the misery, it took out the helplessness from me. He told me how the landlord’s wife had found me. Unconscious in a pool of vomit, I was. Dead in a pool of vomit, she thought. He told me how he was informed by the landlord’s son. He told me how Pia and her grandpa came home and learnt that I was dead. He told me how he came home and found me alive. He told me how Pia was dead.
My Pia. Dead. She was ten then. It was Saturday.
“Suicide”, said my landlord’s wife to Pia when she arrived home on her rickshaw-day. Suicide.
“Your mother has left you. She is dead. She drank that. I am sorry”, said my landlord’s wife with tears in her eyes. And so, she heard, my Pia, with tears in her eyes. Her momma can’t leave her. No, she would not. She had yet to find her momma when she married. Her momma can’t be gone. What is suicide? She thought.
She jolted me. Pushed me. And when she did not find any response, she drank the rest of the full bottle of phenyl. She touched my forehead. My eyebrows. She held my hand tightly and she whispered, “Momma, I am with you. Don’t worry. We will be happy.”
And then she was gone. Forever.
My husband told me how Pia was dead. I went up to her. Went up to where she was sleeping. I took her in my arms. I tried to wake her up saying, “Baba! Utho. Utho sona.”
She did not open her smiling eyes and she did not look at me. I did not see my god. I had lost my god.
I had lost my Pia.
She was ten then. It was Saturday.