Shackles


Shubhashish Chakraborty Turjoy


The evening did not carry a sense of serenity with it. The sun glared too brightly. The birds chirped too loudly. And Rahela’s heart beat too harshly.

Rahela gazed through the window. All she could see were the barren meadows and the hollow trees surrounding the small, dingy cottage.

The evening felt dull. Mundane. Much like what Rahela’s life had become lately.

“How are you, Maa?”

“Better than ever, dea,” she replied with a faint smile.

“Come, it’s time for lunch.”

“Coming.”

She glanced at the mirror hanging on the wall. A tired soul stared back. Picking up the framed picture of her small family of four, she wiped it with the ends of her ragged sari.  She cleaned the picture every day diligently.

Rahela vividly remembered both her sons’ first days at school. That day was a very exciting one for the boys. She remembered even the tiniest details because that day she had to do the one thing she thought she would never do in her life. Lie.

“Maa, where is Baba? When will he be back? We have not hugged Baba in ages,” they said in unison.

“Soon, darlings. Very soon.”

She couldn’t tell them. How could she?

Days, months, years went by. Things changed, and so did she. Black hair turned grey, soft supple hands became hard and wrinkled. The once tall and confident Rahela had surrendered to all the responsibilities and duties life threw at her.

As the days passed, decrepitude kept up with her. She knew she was running out of time. She was quickly approaching the last lap in the race of life. Somedays, she couldn’t gather the energy to even climb out of the bed, let alone help others with their chores. Slowly, her life was confined to the shabby bedroom of her eldest son’s apartment. She knew she didn’t have much time left.

One morning, her eldest showed up to her dark, shabby room.

Was it time already? 

“Maa?” He began.

Rahela looked up and saw him through her old, wrinkled eyes.

“Enough of this small room of yours. Let’s take you someplace close to nature. What do you say?”

She liked the idea and nodded in agreement. Still, she couldn’t get over the fright.

The whole family got into the spacious SUV. This was the very first time Rahela got to ride the car. She stopped for a second before getting into it. She took a long look at their home. It was grey and dark blue when the small family first moved in. It was red now. So many changes.

After running for several hours, the car finally stopped.

Slowly clutching her walking stick, Rahela disembarked from the vehicle. She pressed her framed spectacles close and kept reading the giant signboard that stood before her over and over again.

After all, her greatest fear had finally come true.

“Maa, come on. The lunch bell has been rung. You have to go.” The room attendant told her gently as she always did.

“Coming, sweetheart,” she weakly responded.

She looked out of the only window of her tiny room again. She didn’t feel at home at all. Not even in the slightest. Instead, she felt like a prisoner in a dungeon, awaiting trial, tied in shackles.

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