I continue to puff the cigarette, as I stand at the verandah, resting my elbows on the timber railings. I don’t know how long I am here and smoking profusely.
Whenever, I felt alone, I used to stand on this verandah. This part the house is not just anopen pillaredroofed porch for me. This is a world of my existence. It is my companion of time I spend in this house.
After the death of my father, who was a Group-D employee at Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi; we were shifted here along my mother and sister Maya.
Subir uncle, a common friend of my parent helped my mother to get it on rent. He was not a blood relative of ours, but he was always there to help us, till he died in a road accident.
On the very first day, when we entered this house at Bangalitola, I fall in love with this road facing verandah, as this is the only place in this house, where sunlight can be seen during the daytime. I was not aware then, that with each passing day, it going to be integrated with my life.
Subir uncle helped my mother to get a job of a peon at local school and with her miniscule salary; we cannot afford the luxury of bigger home.
Although the expenditures of educating me and Maya were taken cared by Subir uncle, as he always taken care our family needs, after my father’s death. I never tried to find out the reasons why he was so kind to us and almost played the role to our father. May be because, he was introduced to our family by my father. Earlier, he used to come to our railway quarter often, when my father went out for his duty and later after my father’s death, he almost becomes an unwritten guardian of us.
My mother was very dependent on Subir uncle, and every decision she took after my father’s death, were thoroughly consulted with him.
Subir uncle used to come to our house at afternoon and stayed till dinner. I remember in those days, my mother asked me to play with Maya as she had some urgent discussions to be made with Subir uncle, and went inside her room. As she closed the door behind us, I used to answer Maya’s foolish question, why white flowers could not be colored with a black sketch pen, sitting on a mat in this verandah.
When the boys played on the street, I used to watch them from this verandah, since Maya was sleeping on the mat and discussion with Subir uncle was not yet over. It never got over before the evening crawled into the street, the boys went back to their homes and the lights on the shop started glowing. I never had opportunity to play with those boys a child.
My wish to play was fulfilled only by looking them at their play, from this verandah, till one day Maya returned home with one of those boys, named Shankar, now a man who ply auto-rickshaw on Bhelupura- Durgakund route. I was watching them with surprise, standing on this verandah, and try to recollect the exact day when Maya had meet this man, Shankar!!
As my mother yelled at Maya with curses and pushed her out of the house, because she got married with Shankar at the temple of Durgakund, I was standing motionless on this verandah. I want to ask Maya to come back, but my voice was mute.
I saw my little sister Maya, suddenly grown up, walking past the street beneath the verandah along Shankar in a red saari and vermilion on her forehead. She was the most beautiful sister on this earth; who left me on that day to never return.
My mother was disturbed with the marriage of Maya and planned a lot to move legally but nothing happened; may be Subir uncle discussed something which my mother agreed to obey.
After Maya left this house, I have started spending my time in this part of the house and this verandah becomes my one and only friend to share my loneliness.
My university result published and I had passed the examination. Now, I was looking for a job. My preparations for the competitive exams were being done as well as the news of my unsuccessful attempts were read simultaneously on this verandah. It was playing the role of a compassionate companion to my failure and my drowning in to the habit of puffing the cigarette.
On the day, when the news of a jeep accident on Chunar- Mirzapur road came, my mother cannot tolerate the shock of death of Subir uncle. She went inside the room which was, till a day ago, known to me as the conference room for my mother and to enter this room I always need to take her permission. I want to enter her room but dared to ask for the permission. I kept staring, from outside the door, as she lay down on the bed. I walk away from the door to this verandah and she did not come out till next morning. I spend the night on this verandah, extinguishing my packet of cigarette and thinking how my mother will cope up the shock.
The next morning she woke up and resumed her coir of regular household works, but a change occurred in her life. She has started keeping silence. As the days passing by, the amount of communication between us was moving down. There were many days when there were not a single word exchanged between us.
It seems the night has passed. The regular devotees to river Ganga started appearing on the street beneath this verandah. They are going to take a dip into the river, to wash way the sins and attain liberation.
My mother’s soul has meets its liberation last night.
Entire night I have spent standing at this verandah smoking cigarette.
I went to her bedroom, for the first time, without taking her permission for entry. I touched her feet with my right hand and put it back on my forehead.
I walk past the verandah and came down to the street. I am walking towards the Kedar Ghat, where I will also dip into river Ganga to wash away my sin and pray for the peace for the departed soul of my mother.
I am not going return to that house again. I have given liberation to my companion forever.