Silent Voices

May 24, 2010
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I closed my eyes as a light breeze blew through the branches overhead, and for a moment the chirping of the birds, the rustle of the leaves and the tinkling of the chimes in the verandah were surprisingly clear. As the branches resumed the stillness of statues, I opened my eyes to embrace the fading light of the drowning sun...

It was time for us to head inside and have our evening meal. I took one last look at the branches overhead, slid off the swing and shuffled past the plants, through the open door and joined the others at the dining table as the attendants ladled the thick, starchy soup into our bowls. Having had enough to eat, I retired to my room and lay down on the metal cot.

The next morning I was awoken by the sun as it pierced through the holes in the tattered curtains that covered the filthy windows. I eased myself out of bed, got dressed and ambled towards the living room to greet my companions. As I was about to lower myself into the ancient rocking chair, I was called upon by the nurse who handed me the pills the in- house doctor had prescribed. Just then the Old Age Home’s security guard rushed towards me saying, “Sahib! Sahib! A letter has arrived for you!”

All eyes in the room turned towards me as I was handed the envelope. It was a rarity for anyone in the Home to receive a letter, and more often than not it contained bad news. I flipped the envelope to see the sender’s address - the letter had been sent by my son! A smile spread across my face for the first time in months and I muttered a quiet prayer before before ripping open the envelope. Alas, all that fell out was a cheque covering the expenses incurred while living in the old age home for the past three years. I was disappointed, a tear trickled down my cheek and a sob escaped my lips. I had been writing to my son every single week enquiring about his well- being, his wife and children, always sending them my blessings and best wishes, and not once had he replied. Not once did he bother to acknowledge my letters, it was as if he thought I no longer existed.

This was the first time anyone in the Home had ever seen me break down. When all the others were filled with despair and had lost all hope of reuniting with their families and returning to their own homes, I was still optimistic. I had faith even when my son and his family came to leave me at the Old Age Home, because they didn’t want me to be alone while they were on a month long holiday in the United States. I didn’t anguish, even when the Manager of the Old Age Home informed me that my son had moved to the United States of America with his family for good.

But this time, realization struck. I no longer had anything to live for. My own child no longer cared about me. I just didn’t understand why...What could I have done wrong to deserve this? We made sure he got the best of everything, we sacrificed our own needs so that he could go to a private school in the city, I worked double shifts so that I could earn enough to fulfill his every whim and fancy.

I can’t believe that my own flesh and blood - my son, could treat me like this. Today, I am trapped in an Old Age Home, a place where people deemed no longer “useful” to society are sent when they cease to be loved by their kin. I am now surrounded by senility and decrepit bodies that harbor the wealth of knowledge yet behave like children, impatiently awaiting their end. They now stare at me with those eyes that have witnessed ages gone past, but are now blinded by their own failing bodies. Each soul is a chasm of despair, as almost everyone they have ever known is dead, dying, or has forgotten about them.

I finally understand what they have been going through as I stand in the middle of the room with tears incessantly rolling down my wrinkled cheeks. I have lost all control. I can no longer see clearly, everything around me is a blur...My legs lead me towards the garden, I walk past the drying bushes and sit on the swing staring up at the clear blue sky, waiting for the deliverance of death....





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ssur92 said...
Nov. 14, 2010 at 1:49 am
This was mind-blowing. Amazing. What swept me away was the fact that you were able to step into the shoes of an Old Age Home resident with such astonishing originality. Brilliant !
 
SanjanaMalhotra replied...
Nov. 14, 2010 at 4:43 am
Thank you!
 
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