Sunday 10 June 2012

Short Story 2012 Longlist, Manasa Mantha


She lay on the hospital bed next to him, countless beeps going off around them. He lay there perfectly motionless; she crying in despair. In his head though, he was in another world.

He held her in his arms for the first time. The doctors said they couldn’t save the mother, too much blood was lost. She was special; she survived the accident that led to the necessary delivery. The mother couldn’t see her even once before she shut her eyes forever, he cried always.

He brought her up singlehanded. Though not very well off, he always managed to fulfill all her wishes. She had to simply name it, and he’d have it by her bedside that night. He sent her to the big school at the end of the city, instead of the small home school style building in their neighbourhood; he wanted her to grow up normally, with children from all classes. He ran a roadside food stall in the evenings and washed dishes during the day in small restaurants to earn his living.

She was fifteen when she suddenly realised her father and her lifestyle didn’t match up to her friends and classmates’. She wished to live in big houses and drive around in cars like theirs. He couldn’t afford it, but he didn’t want to see her upset. She was an adolescent and every time she rebelled, like any other teenager, he simply listened to her, and wished in his heart that she grows up to have a rich husband and family so that she doesn’t feel trapped in this life.

She felt cheated though. She felt she was being cheated by God; she was living with her father, the poor dishes doing, street food vendor in a small house with no television and just a few lights. She felt she needed and deserved to live in a big house like all her friends, and have people wait on her all the time.

She hated him coming and dropping her at school every day, she was ridiculed by the kids there; she hated him setting deadlines for her when she wanted to spend an evening with the local boy whom she secretly liked. She hated being stopped by him when she insisted on going to the big city fair all by herself, he’d planned on taking her there himself, for her sixteenth birthday was soon approaching, and he wanted to surprise her.

The evening of her birthday, he baked a cake for her, her favourite, lit candles and waited for her to come in. He’d decided to tell her everything; he thought she was old enough to understand the problems and responsibilities. He waited and waited, and when it was getting very late, he stepped out to look for her. A few yards from their house, he saw her on the road, wrist slit, bleeding profusely, unconscious.

His whole world came crashing down around him. He didn’t know what hit him. Like a madman he ran with her in his arms looking for a hospital. He reached one, put her on the bed and rushed her in. stopped at the doors of the Operation Theatre; the doctors held him and said all will be fine. Words refused to escape his mouth as he kept crying in pain and ‘take my house. Take all my money. Take my blood, take everything. I don’t want any of that; I just want her to live. Today is her birthday. I don’t want her to die.’

A few hours later, he slipped into coma; he suffered a major attack because of the stress. She was alright, but the doctors and nurses couldn’t bear the sight. They wept. And then the old doctor told the daughter, ‘stop him. Don’t let him die. For if he dies, your life won't be same.’
He was deaf and mute. She wanted a talking listening father, someone with whom she could discuss everyday affairs. He sensed it, but never let it show. In the happier times, he used to see her off at school, and say ‘learn, grow and lead a happy life. That’s all I wish for you’.
That fateful evening he’d decided to tell her that he had bought her the dress she longingly stared at in the shop. And that he needed her to help him with the chores of the house, he was growing old. But he didn’t wish for her death.

He loved her to his death.
She drowned herself in the river out of shame. She couldn’t bear to go back to the empty house and his silence killed her. He died wishing for her life, she died wishing he’d lived enough to see her learn and grow.

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