Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Black memories

I suddenly thought of the man and his daughter. I was writing about the daily "Sofie's choice" that you make as father or mother, when you don't know if you are going to eat that day, when you decide which of your children is going to eat and how much, if you can take your child to the doctor... and I thought of them.

He was from Rajasthan, he had said. His thin sun-burnt face was creased with lines. He had come to Delhi to break stones on the roads because there was nothing to eat in their village. His wife and two children were dead. Only that girl was left. 8-9 years old, thin with wise eyes. She was sick, swaying slightly. She had diarrhea and vomiting. And she was dehydrated.

It was Sunday afternoon and I had promised Nadia that we would go out. I gave him some medicines for his daughter and told him to come back next morning. There was no other way.

I saw him after a few months. How is your daughter, I had asked. She died that night when we had come to see you, he had said simply. Without any hint of resentment or anger in his voice.

Every now and then I think of that woman, the mother of five daughters, whose husband wanted a son. In the servant quarters. Blood was soaking her sari. I was sitting there with blood on my hands, unable to do any thing.

She still comes in my nightmares, making me wake up with my heart pounding in my chest. Her daughters must be grown up and married. Wonder what kind of lives they had? And did her husband remarry?

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