It was a winter morning; that time, right before the sun rose, when the sky was a pale shade of grey, a tinge of blood-red adorning it along the horizon. The trees were half-dead, slightly bent and completely still. The grass was wet and sparkled like diamonds, with dewdrops clinging to it. A chilly breeze was blowing through the atmosphere, seldom trickling the waves on the otherwise-calm river and causing the lone traveller to pull the sweater just a bit tighter around him. Not many a soul could be seen braving this unforgiving weather, so early in the morning. In fact, the little, picturesque town was mostly still asleep. Only a few mothers were just starting to stir, get out of bed and trudge into the kitchen, preparing to make breakfasts for their families.
Not in my household though.
My mother sat silently at the head of the mahogany dining table in our living room. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot- she had not slept for the past three nights. Her tears had dried up, leaving behind a criss-cross of trails along her sallow cheeks. I watched, across from her, as she sniffed my favorite t-shirt and pulled it tight against her chest. Still as a statue, the only signs of life she showed were in the form of quiet, tearless tremors that shook her frame now and then. She sniffled and put her head on the table, all forms of energy seemingly draining from her body. She seemed to have aged by years within the space of three, simple days.
Gazing at her, I reminisced about the many times I had tried to talk to her over the past few months.
“Maa, I feel sad.”
“Go to your room and study, girl. Now’s not the time to feel sad,” she would say, irritated.
“Maa, the boy I like was very mean to me at school today.”
“You like a boy? You are only sixteen! Are you trying to bring shame upon all of us?! I regret the day you were born! Go to your room and study!” she yelled, infuriated.
I walked away, with my head cast down in shame, and my heart swollen in mute pain.
I shut the door behind me and sat on the bed, holding the pillow close and biting into it to prevent the frustrated screams from breaking through. Relentless tears slid down my face, even as I took up the blade and sliced through my arm. I cried my heart out for an absolute hour; all the time praying and hoping that maybe she would knock on the door, hold me tight and say it was okay to be hurting. Say it was okay to feel so low. Say that better days were coming and I just had to hold on; but alas!
The only knocks that came were late at night, Maa banging on the door and calling me to dinner in a stern, angry voice. The way she resolutely ignored me throughout the affair made it transparently clear just how she felt about me at that moment. That was when I realized I could never truly open up to her about how I felt. She was bound by the responsibilities of a conservative, narrow-minded society to lock away her child’s fears and secrets and look down upon any signs of weakness, be it emotional or mental. The realization hit me like a punch to the gut. I sucked in my breath, steeled my heart and moved on.
Flash-forward to the present and my father was sitting on the cold, unmade bed, looking at my picture. Once upon a time, we had been very close. He used to call me his princess and take me on road trips or to theme parks. We would go fishing every other weekend and in the evenings, he would teach me to add, divide and multiply numbers. He used to be my best friend then. As time passed, however, the understanding, loving, supportive ‘friend’ got replaced by the dominating, patronizing, criticizing ‘father’ that was the norm for our Indian society. Gradually, we began to drift apart, until we reached a point where we did not speak for days; not because we were angry with each other or anything. Simply because we had become strangers who had nothing left to say. Today, he was holding my ten-year old photograph in his hand, caressing the laugh lines frozen on my care-free face. A single teardrop dripped down and came to rest on my forehead.
With a heavy heart, I walked away and towards the town cemetery. I looked down at myself, lying in the cold hard ground, in a hole dug in the mud. No more soft pillows and bed sheets. No more warm clothes and air-conditioners. I lay there, wrapped in a plain, white cloth; the scars on my wrist shining brightly. I wanted to tell the still body about her family and friends. I wanted to tell her to wake up and comfort them. I wanted to tell her they missed her; they needed her. I wanted to say they regretted never having paid closer attention to just how hard she was struggling to make it through each day. However, my words fell on empty ears. I could no longer control my actions anymore. I had ended that the day I had slit through the veins on my wrists and bled to my demise, with a single goodbye note pinned to my bed stand. Now, no matter how much I wanted to go back, I no longer had that option.
I had finally given in to the depression that engulfed so many of the teens of our generation. The depression that had to be kept locked away, hidden from the criticizing eyes of society. The one that everyone was scared to express, in fear of being ridiculed and misunderstood. In fear of being bullied and looked down upon for being an ‘attention-seeker.” The depression that had finally won over, leaving me buried ten-feet beneath the ground.
Forever and ever.