They stared at me with an expression that I couldn’t interpret. Even the kids. For a second or two, I thought that I had lost the ability to hear. The place was so silent that I could hear my own heartbeat.
“You’re the quietest bunch of people I’ve ever seen” I yelled “hats off to you”
Still, they didn’t utter a word. But their eyes were directly fixated on me, Doubtful. I waited for a reply.
“Let’s have it your way then” I shrieked “If you don’t speak to me, I won’t either”
I hummed a tune to myself and acted as if I wasn’t interested in them anymore. Sitting down on the couch, I looked at Priya; she too wasn’t interested in talking to me. What was in their eyes? Contempt? Or was it pity? The kids were always happy to have me around; but they too weren’t interested in me anymore. What has happened? Have I done something wrong?
“I know that I’ve done things that I shouldn’t have.” I said at last. “I know that I’ve disgraced our family’s honour by joining the bunch of thugs.”
Varun had been watching me with suspicion. “Yes, it is true that I lied about it the other day” I admitted. I knew that they would forgive me. After all, joining the gang isn’t a crime. Or is it? I noticed that Priya’s lips were on the verge of cracking a smile. But somehow, she managed to keep it bounded. I looked at dad’s face. He, as always, wore a made-up seriousness on his face. But I knew that he’d not be able to shut me out. Mom was not happy; for some reason, her face remained gloomy and fearful.
“Okay then, I don’t want to talk about this anymore” I stood up “Got to take a shower”
I walked through the corridor, into my room. My feet were tottering. I am drunk- a sudden revelation. Those thugs has a magnificent collection of antique liquor. I had Cocaine too, I guess. My head wasn’t straight.
I fancied the idea of going with the gang again. But swiftly changed my mind as I thought about the family’s honour. I got into the tub of warm soapy water and sank into the world of bubbles and closed my eyes, leaving the torments of life outside. I thought about my childhood; the luckiest kid in the house. Got access to all the latest gadgets and even got my own separate room. Varun and Kiran was always jealous of me. However, Priya, the only girl-child got more attention than the boys. Dad had offered her a room, but she preferred to sleep next to grandma. But, things have changed now; as Kiran and Varun both got married and have two kids each, our house has become more like a joint family. Priya has an affair with Patel-ji’s son, which only I have the knowledge of. She doesn’t have the courage to discuss it with anyone else in our family. Mom and Dad both enjoy the retired life, sipping coffee in the morning and gossiping with the neighbours in the evening.
Someone’s scream woke me up. I was still in the tub, the water had turned cold. The wall-clock displayed the time as 7:34 am. I couldn’t believe that I had slept in the tub for nearly twelve hours. Wearing my towel, I walked out from the bathroom. A massive headache flew around within my head.
The scream was clearer now, it was Patel-ji. He stood near the hallway, holding a box of sweets. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what was happening. But, to my surprise, I wasn’t fearful, even after hearing him scream.
“Patel-ji… What’s wrong? What happened?” I approached him.
He looked at me with horrific astonishment. “Son…” he couldn’t manage to speak anymore.
He pointed to the dining room and held tight onto my arm. I freed myself from his clasp and walked towards the dining room.
My family, they were all there, just as I had left him before I went for the dip. There was nothing to be afraid of or scream about. As I was about to turn away, a sudden chill of revelation crawled onto my spine. They were still silent, like the other day. Varun had blood all over his bosom, and so did his kids. Kiran and his kids were laying back on the chair, their eyes wide open. Priya and the two in-laws had their jaws broken and their breasts cut off. Mom and Dad seemed normal, but they were motionless.
I was about to blackout. The other day’s incidents popped in and out of my head.
“Son… Did you?” Patel-ji came closer.
“What… No.” I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.
I felt a sudden urge to throw-up. I dashed out of the room; fell down and a strong piece of metal bashed onto my head. For the first time in my life, I sensed another person within my head. The voice said, “I have cleared the path for you”.
“Son… are you alright?” Patel-ji tried to wake me up. His voice faded into some corner of my brain.
‘I am not me anymore, I can’t even mourn for my loss. Maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe it was Patel-ji. Or maybe it’s all in my head; when I wake up in the morning, Mom would still be making coffee, while listening to the radio. I couldn’t think for one second that I was the one who had made them silent.”