Chapter Nine: Useless Efforts

Praveena’s school life progressed with her making little progress. Days were long and nights longer. She witnessed her mother slowly walking up the path towards Death, but she neither said nor did anything to comfort her mother. She was worried though — so worried. She tried, day after day, to prepare herself to face what she must, but it wasn’t easy.

She cried a lot. Her eyes became puffy and dark circles began to form around them. It became a part of her appearance. She began neglecting herself trying to focus instead, on the pressing school work that was gnawing on the thin line that connected her with her mother. They were talking less and less.

Geetha hardly spoke nowadays, speaking only when it was necessary or only when Praveena came up to her.

One Saturday afternoon, Praveena came up to her parents’ room to sit with Geetha. Geetha’s eyes lit up when she saw her daughter standing by the door, holding lunch in a tray. She gestured her to sit by her side. Praveena did.

“Hi, Ma” she smiled brightly, a false smile which Geetha was quick to notice. Geetha said nothing but smiled in response. Praveena saw that Geetha struggled to raise her hand. She had lost so much of weight; her eyes were sunken; her lips dry and parched, and her now bald head seemed fragile. Only her eyes stood bright against the yellowish skin that stretched across her face.

When she spoke, her voice was barely audible and her breath came out in wheezes. Praveena tried hard not to panic. She wanted to scream for help and kneel by her mother, pleading and weeping not to leave her behind. ‘What’s the use?’ Her inner voice asked. ‘That won’t make her stay,’ the second voice comforted her. And Praveena, for once, decided to listen to her inner voices and remain sane. She couldn’t shake off the feeling though. She thought she’d feel better if she spoke of her fears, even though she knew it wouldn’t help her get through this phase of sadness and loneliness.

Geetha watched her, helpless but understanding the trauma Praveena went through. They sat watching each other in silence. A silence that echoed so loud in Praveena’s ears that she could bear it no more. She broke the silence.

“Have your lunch, Ma. Come on,” she stood and made to help Geetha sit up, but she waved her hand.

“I don’t feel hungry,” she managed to say, her hand falling limply to her side.

“Shall I make some juice at least?” fear welled up inside Praveena. Geetha shook her head, and heaved a sigh.

Geetha turned away from her daughter and while she suffered from the pain untold, Praveena watched in silence, suffering in her own way.

It was the recess time on Monday. Praveena sat in the last bench eating alone. She was lost in her own thoughts and didn’t notice Priya come up to her. She was a pretty face with dark shoulder-length hair that she wore in a braid. Having lost interest in long-braided hairdos, Praveena had always wondered how Priya and the other long-haired girls ever managed to maintain their hair with so much care. Despite showing no interest in nurturing her hair, Praveena’s long pixie was messy and healthy.

Sitting next to her, Priya asked, “Hey you ok?”

Surprised, Praveena turned round and managed a courteous smile, “Yep, I’m fine.” she shrugged.

“Oh,” Priya faltered, not knowing what to say. She remained silent.

It didn’t bother Praveena and she continued her lunch.

Feeling awkward with the silence that stretched between them, Priya asked, “How come you don’t talk much?” It wasn’t just a question to keep the conversation ticking, it was an earnest and curious question.

“I talk.” Parvenu declared surprised. “you know,” she shrugged, “when I have something important to say.”

“Oh, ok.”

Silence.

“Oh well, I’ll leave you to your lunch then,” Priya rushed the words, as if she wanted to get away. “See you.”

“Ya, see you…” Praveena’s voice trailed away.

Priya left as fast as she could. She joined another group and was soon chattering away amidst loud laughter.

Praveena watched them, munching on.

‘They have problems too, you know’ it was her inner voice. It had come up again after a day-long absence.

‘Maybe… but — ‘

‘You’re so full of self-pity. It’s not good.’ her inner voice cut her short. ‘Listen to me, you should snap out of it.’

‘I know, I can see that,’ Praveena thought, ‘but it isn’t easy.’

‘Yes, I know. Make an effort at least,’ her inner voice didn’t sound as stern as it used to. It was sympathetic and firm.

‘Oh ok, I will.’


 

National Blog Posting Month – Day 10

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