Praveena stayed home for a week. Not to recover from the shock, as others would have described it, but to help her father piece himself together. Praveena knew Geetha’s death had affected him more than it had her. She knew he couldn’t let her go; he loved her too much. When Praveena asked Kamal, two days after the funeral, why their relatives had never shown up before, he only said, “They weren’t too happy with us getting married.” From the way he said it, Praveena could discern how much they had loved each other to dare to oppose their families and succeed together for such a long time.
The days that followed Geetha’s death were the worst days of Praveena’s life. She was filled with emotions and thoughts she couldn’t share with anyone. Kamal was heartbroken. He needed Praveena to sit by him, more for moral support than anything. For hours, they would sit together, nonspeaking, reflecting their days with Geetha; happy days of laughter, quarrels and serious conversations on the same couch they now sat. It was as if an undeniable part of them had suddenly left, leaving an unfilled dent in their hearts.
When Praveena went back to school, all eyes followed her. She could see the pity in everyone’s eyes, even the teachers looked extra kind. And it bothered her.
Andrew spoke to her after class that day. Gathering his things, he called to her, “Praveena, follow me please.” His voice was a bit gentler than it had been the day he had reported about her to Kamal.
She followed him to an empty class room nearby. He turned to face her, “I am really very sorry for your loss.” Flat and emotion-less words spoken as such.
Praveena, not knowing what to say, remained quiet. She didn’t meet his look, and cast her eyes at his polished shoes instead.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded at his shoes. Was that fear she detected in his voice? Her eyebrows arched in curiosity – still at the shoes. Perhaps not, she decided as he said, “OK, then. I’ll see you later.” he turned and strode away from her.
She stood immobile for a moment, staring at his back. And then she turned to her class.
As she sat waiting for the next teacher to arrive, Priya showed up from nowhere.
“Hey!” she said breathlessly, trying hard, and failing, to sound normal. She was brimming with curiosity, Praveena knew, but decided not to get to the details.
“Hi,” Praveena responded in the most unwelcoming tone she could muster. Priya didn’t meet Praveena’s gaze. Looking low, she said in a small voice, “Sorry about your mother.”
“Ya. So am I.” Praveena tried to keep her voice level and void of emotion. She looked at Priya’s face expressionless. She hated getting emotional in front of other people.
Priya looked up brightly, hoping Praveena would talk.
“So,” Priya swallowed and began tentatively, “What actually happened to your mom?” The words came out a little faster than normal.
Praveena felt rage welling within her but she knew Priya’s curiosity was harmless. ‘Besides,’ her inner voice vouched, ‘it is often tough to disguise curiosity. Not to mention wrong’ Nevertheless, she didn’t think she could speak about her mother’s sickness.
“She died,’ Praveena shrugged and opened her book. She wasn’t going to study, but she hoped it would ward Priya off. It didn’t. Priya stood her ground, persistent, “Yeah…” she took it slow, “but how? What happened?” Praveena could tell she tried not to sound too inquisitive, but couldn’t help it.
“What’s your problem?” Praveena lost control. She shut her book with a loud thud, and glared at Priya “don’t you understand what I’ve been trying to tell you?” She stood up so fast that Priya stumbled away from her, scared she might attack her. “I-don’t-what-to-talk-about-it” Praveena retorted through gritted teeth.
Priya looked shocked. “I was just being friendly” she said in a low voice as if she were about to cry, and backed away rapidly.
“Well, you’re doing a bad job of it!” Praveena almost screamed, looking furious. The whole class was looking at the pair of them, and from the corner of her eye, Praveena could see a few girls whispering hurriedly together. She didn’t care. Her anger had taken over. She stood staring as Priya left the class, almost running.
Praveena sat down rubbing her right temple. She did it until the anger subsided. She couldn’t understand what came over her. She felt angry all the time; Priya had only kindled her fury. Why was she so angry at Priya? She hadn’t asked anything wrong, she had only voiced what others couldn’t pick up the courage to do. Praveena knew there was no reason for her outburst and it worried her. ‘Am I going crazy?’ ‘Hello, inner voices? I could use a little help!’ she thought desperately.
She didn’t notice the rest of the class staring open-mouthed at her. Praveena was the quiet girl and it perplexed them to see her losing her temper at the most annoying girl in class.
They gaped, trying to make sense of it all. Just then, Ms Marrie entered the class and everyone hushed up and returned to their places, ready for class.
National Blog Posting Month – Day 13