The Silvery Moon

By Shobha Diwakar

The old man, though not yet really… old, maybe he would turn so in another couple of years, sat beside the window staring into the vacant grey sky high above. The silence drew him into a wishful mood as he clung to the past… the memories floated incessantly as he stretched and yawned. Shyam, for that was the man’s name, was aware the time had fled faster than he had assumed and now here he was bereft of a family, living all alone in this so called home … no longer a home… it was now a house… bricks and walls and doors and windows in wrought iron.

Shyama, for that was his wife’s name, had died some years before and his only son had married and left soon after in search of new pastures… shutting behind the memories of his ageing father into the dark recesses of his selfish aspirations. He could, if he wished coaxed his father to accompany him but the cost of living in a city raged in his mind and without a second thought brushed him aside. Shyam sat there solitarily slipping in and out of the fading memories. It seemed as though he had even forgotten what the boy looked like… maybe if he came and stood beside him now he would find a total stranger … unrecognizable.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Shyam returned to the conscious world and sat still. Lost in his own musings he did not realize that the dreary night had deepened and a few stray stars appeared playing hide and seek even as the groaning clouds spread their tentacles around them. He got up with a sigh holding the window bar for support. Time was speeding away and along with that was stealing upon his years. The knock resounded cracking the peacefulness of the night. It scratched his peaceful musings. He moved forward towards the door and pulled the latch. Peering into the darkness, he perceived a figure disappearing into the enveloping wings of the dark, dark night. The stray stars had vanished, the moon sat behind the spreading ‘glory’ of the unrestrained clouds ready to devour the entire sky.

He shut the door and retraced his steps… back towards the window where he sat once again peering into the gloom of the night, lost in his weary, desolate world. He remembered those days when he had first  met  Shyama, a young frisky girl, tall elegant and self-willed. It had taken him quite a time before he confessed his love for her. Shyama scoffed at first, but soon relented and coaxed him to talk to her parents and one day the two tied the knot and lost themselves in their fairy world of love and beauty. The two were so tied to each other that they never let the other out of sight… indeed they were real soul mates made for each other. Time swept them fast as it always did and soon they were blessed with a bonny child. Lovingly they named him Krishna who grew up to be the apple of their eyes.

It was one fine morning when Shyama complained of severe stomachache.  Shyam ushered her to a nearby hospital where the doctor on duty immediately attended her and ordered the nurse to wheel her into the ICU and start her on a saline drip. The pain seemed to disappear and Shyama soon fell asleep as Shyam sat by her side fondly singing her a lullaby she loved to hear. A silent groan escaped Shyama’s lips even as she appeared to be asleep. Shyam turned with a sharp pang, he yelled to the doctor on duty… by the time he rushed to her bedside Shyama had breathed her last. Shyam’s world collapsed even as he sat by her side holding her hand with the half-sung lullaby stuck in his mouth.

Days passed as Shyam vainly tried to take care of Krishna who needed constant attention. His incessant queries disturbed him immensely. ‘Ma kahaa hai?’ (Where is Ma?) Shyam had no answer. In fact, he found it hard to tell his young child that he would no longer see his ma again, and so the days passed in solitary yearnings, with no appeasement. Near and dear ones advised him to remarry… to no avail. The days lingered on Shyam did his best to bring up his now growing child with raising demands until one day he too set his eyes on a city beau he wished to marry. ‘Papa, kya mei aapse kuch kahu?’ (Papa shall I say something to you?’) Shyam nodded his head and Krishna spilled the beans about his wish to marry a city beau. Of course, Shyam had no objection  little realizing that he would now be compelled to live a lonely life for the city beau he learned had no wish to live in a small town.

Lost in his receding memories a silent tear flowed down his cheek but he did not attempt to wipe it and after a while, it dried leaving a dot. He lay down in bed and lost in his agonizing memories, soon fell asleep. He dreamt he was back in his youthful years surrounded with love and beauty in the loving arms of his now long, lost Shyama. Swinging her ‘pallu,’ she playfully teased him even as Shyam tried to capture and hug her tight not wishing to let her out of his sight for the second time. After all, she had come to him after a long, long time and so he relaxed and spoke to her, teasing her about the way she had rejected him and then agreed to marry… ‘Do you remember the day we first met?’ Shyama coyly hid her face in her ‘pallu’ and smiling said, ‘Oh, yes I do… and … the way you trailed me everywhere; do you think I have forgotten?’  Before Shyam could utter a word, the sound of a thud broke his reverie and he got up with a start. Shyama was nowhere; the figure had receded and he found himself drenched in perspiration. Had Shyama really come to tease him?

The question remained unanswered even as the sound of the thud once again caught his attention. He hurried towards the door and yet as he opened and peered into the fading night, the shadow had disappeared. ‘Now who could that be?’ ‘Was there something mysterious behind this?’ ‘Who was this person that was coming and running away?’  ‘Or was it all his imagination?’ He was a bit shaken up but reassuring himself that he must have imagined everything he once again turned away but this time, he did not lie down but sat in his old, old rocking chair, which Shyama had given him on his last birthday so he could rock and watch his favorite serials while she cooked his dinner. As soon as his thoughts turned back to Shyama he felt her presence in the room… or was he still dreaming?

Shyam felt miserable. He was all alone with no one to take care of him. Although age was telling upon him and try as much, he could not deny that his longing for Shyama had not ceased. Indeed, absence had made the heart grow fonder and he missed her terribly. Krishna was lost in his own world in which his father played no role… mother was in the vacuumed past… and here he was, living his own dull, solitary life with nothing to look forward. Trailing in and out of his lost happiness, he was startled to hear a knock at the door. The sun had now arisen and was merrily striding in his chariot across the sky in full speed. He realized he had fallen asleep and stretching out his arms he lazily got up.

He opened the latch and stood paralyzed. There before him stood none other than a skinny figure… beyond recognition, dull and stunted. For a second he was bereft of words wondering and staring at the strange face he had almost forgotten. Then regaining himself he softly uttered, ‘Krishna?’ the latter fell upon his knees begging forgiveness for his boorish behavior and sobbed and sobbed uncontrollably until

Shyam held him in his arms and drew him inside, much shaken and distraught. He was bewildered, surprised and strained. He could not understand what must have happened to reduce his son to this horrible state, yet without a second thought he drew him lovingly inside… there was no repulsion, no sense of disregard or disapproval for the shabby way in which his son had treated him… after all, was not he a bond with Shyama?

Shyam sat him down upon his rocking chair and consoled him. Krishna was torn, he still wept as he sobbed and narrated how his wife had cheated him, stolen all his money, their child and had run away with her new found happiness leaving him penniless. He had tried to find her whereabouts, lodged a police complaint to no avail. He had no money to buy food and the little he had in his pocket was all over. He was lost and all alone. He had been coming and going quietly and slyly to ‘his home’ some nights before, but had no courage to face his neglected father until he could bear it no longer. His own loneliness had worn him out and it was then that he realized how his father must have been feeling. He had jumped over the fence twice at night but his conscience prevented him from intruding … ‘oh, so it was you who caused that thud and vanished out of sight?’ sighed Shyam… ‘I wondered if it was a ghost.’

Now father and son were together, there was nothing to worry. Krishna would take care of his aged father and work at the neglected farm with some local help and the two would live happily ever after  just as they did in the old fairy tales… with Shyama to guide and protect them … from Heaven above. The silvery moon had indeed showered its gentle, cool warmth upon this house after a very, very long time.

About the Author:  Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. A fact presented in a beautiful story. This is what’s happening nowadays…neglecting parents with no care whatsoever. It’s only when the hammer of sufferings & pain falls on our head that we realise the wrong we do to others but that too isn’t always so.

  2. Yes, ASB , it’s sad to read in every newspaper how children feel about their aged parents… that they are burden to them so dump them like worn out clothes and utensils in old age homes or let them rot just when they need them the most; it is a sad state of affairs these days as children abuse their parents and wash their hands off them in a disgusting manner, until they themselves fall into this trap in their own old or young age or when left all alone.

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