1989

It was an evening in late summer. Mani was winding up at work after a long, productive and tiring day. He couldn’t wait to go home, see his family, enjoy a hot, fresh dinner, and catch up on their day. No one who knew Mani would be able to fathom just how much he valued and cherished time with family. He was brought up to be tough, to never show emotions and to never let anyone into his mind and innermost thoughts. The only person in the whole world who saw through his tough exterior and was let into his private world was his wife, Bhanu.

As was his routine, he boarded the train for the long journey home. Many a time he would nod off, catching some much-needed rest on the way home. Once he reached the market near his house, he bought some vegetables and fruits to take home to the family. Mani and Bhanu had five children, and both Mani and Bhanu’s mothers, now widowed, lived with them. Managing such a big household was in itself a full-time job and Mani was conscious of the fact that he had to step up and give Bhanu a hand. Picking up fresh produce daily was his contribution, as was cutting fruits for the family and helping Bhanu with odd jobs around the house whenever time permitted.

As he walked into the building complex, he stopped in his tracks as he noticed an ambulance standing at the entrance. Though his body language gave nothing away, inwardly his heart gave a lurch. Something told him the ambulance had been summoned for a member of his family. But he wouldn’t give in to panic or fear. Calmly he walked the three floors to the apartment they called home. He saw neighbours staring at him with a mixture of worry and empathy as he went up the stairs, confirming his instinct had been spot on. It wasn’t a comforting thought.

Eventually, he reached the third floor, to find Bhanu waiting for him at the door, stoic and calm, her very demeanour lending him strength. Their marriage had always been a team effort with both of them bringing the best they had to offer to the table and thus making the most of each others’ strengths. By now, she knew exactly how he expected bad news to be delivered. Straight up, and in one go. He had no tolerance for tears or emotional updates. And so she took his hand firmly in hers and broke the news all at once. Her mother’s blood sugar had hit the roof and the family doctor had recommended she be admitted for intensive care at the hospital. Both went into the house and busied themselves with the task of ensuring Bhanu’s mother received the care she needed.

Unfortunately, all their efforts were in vain. Bhanu’s mother passed away a few days later, surrounded by her loved ones. While the family missed her presence, all agreed that she was in a better place now and relieved of all suffering.

And life went on for Mani and Bhanu until…

Author’s Note: Catch Part 2 of The Ambulance here


 Illustrated By : Indira Anand