Reaching The Summit

Entry by: daddy

24th April 2015
I recollect having interacted with Sunita only a couple of times during the past 5 years or so she had been working as a part time cook in our house in Delhi. Sunita was a quiet by disposition and did her work efficiently. Her family used to stay in a nearby colony, where they had rented a tiny room with a common toilet. She had three children between the ages of 11years and 5 years. Two were boys and the middle one was a daughter. Her husband used to work as a handyman in the local municipality. Sunita used to cook in three houses because of which their family was able to sustain a marginally better living standard as compared to their peers. Sunita had shifted to Delhi a few years ago from the village because she wanted to give better education to her children. Coming to think of it we hardly knew anything about their life before coming to the city of Delhi.
As per Sunita, her husband was a decent soul, disciplined and punctual at work. His only bad habit was drinking a peg too many once in two or three months. Sunita told my wife that on those days he would come home trailing his cycle and singing merrily at the top of his voice and go off to sleep after having his dinner. He never created any disturbance or picked up fights, which is quite common with persons of his class. On his off days, he would come and ask if he could be of some help and I recollect on an odd day he has accompanied me to the vegetable market and helped me to bargain with the vendors.
I remember that day in September 2008 when I had come home to surprise my wife and children by taking them to dinner and catching a late night movie. I was surprised to see Sunita come running to our house at about 6 pm in the evening and straightaway requesting me to go with her to the hospital. Seeing her condition, my wife and I wasted no time and took her to the government hospital where her husband had been admitted late at night. It transpired that her husband had fallen on the handle of his bicycle while returning home from work. Sunita took pains to tell us that it was an accident and that he had not been drunk at the time of the accident. In the hospital, no doctor had visited him despite the fact that over 24 hours had passed. She sensed that some internal injury had taken place and her husband’s responses had become sluggish as the hours passed by. On reaching the hospital, we found that her husband was lying in the verandah, as there was a shortage of beds. Further, due to a physical altercation between some patients and nursing staff the complete hospital had stopped functioning. The lone doctor was a sight to see since he had been on duty for the past 48 hours with no relief in sight. He explained that he was in no physical condition to examine the large number of cases; he looked at only the emergent ones. On explaining that Sunita’s husband was sinking, he agreed to examine him. There appeared to be some injury to his liver and since he had not passed urine, a catheter was directed to be inserted which resulted in vehement protests by Sunita’s husband. Sunita’s quick thinking in getting us to the hospital probably saved her husband’s life that day. In a few days, he was fine and back to work.
There after I did not interact with Sunita for the next few years. My wife would tell me sometimes of how Sunita was becoming more and more confident after the hospital incident. It had somehow empowered her. Once she told me that Sunita had declined her offer to pay the tuition fees of her children. She said that it was the responsibility of her husband and he should bear it. She would mention how Sunita’s children had been doing at the school, or how well behaved they were. But we did not know how Sunita actually managed her life, her stresses, her problems and her relationships. Sunita did not confide or discuss her troubles or joys, she just did her work and kept to herself. It would appear that she wore a cloak to work and took it off only when she was alone. She dealt with her demons, serpents, wolves and vultures on her own. A lonely warrior fighting within herself for gains and losses of no value outside her being.
Sunita rang up on the first Sunday during this month of April to say that she would not be coming for the next two days. She and her family were at the high court in connection with some old case from her husband’s village. After two days, she rang up to say that, she had injured her hand and would come after ten days. When my wife asked her the details, she said she would come home and tell her. I was home when she came, she was a different individual altogether. It appeared as if someone else was residing in her person. Her hand was bandaged wrist downwards. She was weak and appeared aloof. She told about the case in her husband’s village, which had been going on since 1994. How her husband had fought and injured some village goons who wanted to corner a part of their meager ancestral property. The influential goons had lost the case at lower court but appealed in the high court. Her husband and his family had become frustrated with the interminable delays. The goons wanted an out of court settlement by forcing her husband to withdraw. Her husband had become enraged in a manner she had never seen before and had slashed her wrist at three places with a small blade before slitting his own wrists. Since all this had happened in the court premises, the police shifted them to the nearest hospital. Sunita had fainted due to loss of blood and she had gained consciousness later in the hospital. She had dark circles and her eyes were sunken, she looked a shadow of her former self. She wanted leave for a month since her wounds would take time to heal. I sensed a strange determination in her eyes something, which I have rarely seen in a person. During her narration of the events, she was detached as if she was at the culminating end of a fierce internal debate. As if she had reached the summit of every possible thing in her life and had decided to take a leap of faith with the conviction in her soul that she would fly. In my heart I do not want the month to be over, I do not want to know.