Chapter 6: How Long

Knowingly or unknowingly, one can be mistaken. You never know, there are times, when one can be aware, while at other times, can be unaware! In some sort of dilemma, Bindu had taken a wrong step. It’s a matter of sadness for all of us, as she is the only daughter of one of our cousins.

Bha ji, once told me that Bindu’s mother, had taken a heavy dose of sleeping pills, distressingly to end her life.
Toeing the advice of Seema, a social worker, Bindu had made a mistake and now, seemed repenting. Now it cannot be undone! She felt that in haste, immaturely, she had acted wrongly.

After being separated, Bindu’s attention was focused on Alka, her only daughter. Many a time, soon after her mother’s divorce, Alka felt that the divorce of her parents had proved a sort of blessing for her. As long as the bad blood, between her father Joginder and mother Bindu had raged, nobody had paid much heed towards her. Quietly, she had suffered the pain of being neglected.

She would lay in her bed sobbing and sulking. It seemed that her parents were ignorant of her plight. Busy in their daily complications, they lost interest even in purchasing toys for her. The old toys which once, were the companions of Alka, were lying in a corner of the room sadly staring at her. Or perhaps, Alka deliberately, didn’t care to cast a glance on those toys.

Now the mother and daughter slept in the same bed. Alka enjoyed a sense of warmth and affection from this physical closeness.
In the eyes of others, she was just a child, innocent and ignorant, unaware of worldly matters yet, she could understand and realise everything happening around her, she was able enough to understand things hidden under the cover of her pretence.

Before the divorce, Whenever Bindu and Joginder quarrelled, Alka quietly retired to her bedroom. Quite deeply, she felt depressed. She had a longing that someone should come and ask her about her quietness, but her parents simply thought that she was enjoying sleep. Who knows that sighs and sobs were telling sad tales of her dreams, buried beneath her pillow!

Being under-slept, she kept dozing during the day, and depressed and inattentive. She started disliking her school, and her class mates who made fun of her due to that, she felt all the more embarrassed. She kept quiet and would not tell anybody what she felt. It was her parents, who were responsible for her distress, not their innocent daughter to whose lot all the sufferings fell.

Sometimes, Alka within herself, felt as if she also were to blame. On that day, if she had not rung the police, the news of their trouble would never have reached Seema. She was all the more offended with Seema, who had advised instigating her mother to apply for divorce.

Seema Lodhi was working in East London as a social worker. She was more interested in engaging marriages of illegal immigrants rather than her professional duty.
Under the cover of social work, she was encouraging youngsters to involve in drugs and sexual activities. If she is likely to get into trouble, two police officers were there to help get her out. She arranged parties and dances under the banner ‘social get together’ for school and college students. Her group was well organised to sell drugs and sex. Time to time, she invited youngsters to the dance houses of West end. She seemed a sort of voluntary social worker, never seemed rightfully qualified professional. She never paid much attention towards her duties and responsibilities as a social worker.

When Alka’s seventh birthday arrived, Bindu celebrated it with a great pump and show. On this very occasion, Alka was reminded of her father, and this was the day when for the first time, Deb had entered Bindu’ life. This particular meeting also had been brought about by Seema. In the beginning, for a couple of times, Deb had come to their house accompanied by Seema. Gradually, he had started coming alone and frequently.
Alka didn’t like either Deb or Seema. She felt as if it was Seema, who had separated her mother and father for good. She didn’t want anyone to come between her and her mother. That’s why she hated Deb.

Probably Bindu too, had realized the fear occupying the mind of her daughter, Alka. But the temptation of starting a new life did not allow her to be cautious enough. Whenever, she tried to think seriously, the thought of Deb’s company carried her unconsciously towards a dreamland, where the realities of life forbade her to enter.

Time kept marching on its own pace. Deb’s visits to their house became more frequent. The days passed, weeks expired and in the same routine, many months slipped away! Deb and Bindu, during this while, had developed their intimacy to the extreme end. Now for Bindu, Deb was the only source of emotional satisfaction, on the other hand, for Alka, he was perhaps a cause of mere depression and distress.

Like the angles of a triangle, these, three persons were. Whenever Deb and Bindu tried to meet at some point, they were moving away from Alka and to her that was totally unacceptable. Alka still, considered her mother to be a part of her dad. Though, Deb brought new garments and costly toys for Alka, God knows, why all these articles failed to fascinate her.

Many a times, Bindu also felt as if she was depriving her daughter of her natural maternal rights. As she thought of this, her mind went to her paternal uncle. He was only thirty five when her wife died, leaving behind three children whom he had brought up as a mother, sacrificing his youth for the sake of his children. And she, being a women,……..? For a moment, she felt ashamed and thought of extricating Deb from her life, just for the sake of her only daughter. But this momentary thought, was too fragile to stand firm and last longer.

Deb spent a lot on the eighth birthday of Alka. He brought a variety of garments, chocolates and an electronic car for her, and many things for Bindu as well. Very fondly, unwrapping, he showed the car running on a remote control and then, handed over to Alka. Alka and her next door mate started playing with the car. Leaving them at play, Bindu and Deb had stepped inside.
While taking tea in the dinning room, they peeped out through patio door. Ruby, next door girl was playing with the car and Alka was standing indifferently. After sometime, leaving the car there, she proceeded inside. She stopped in front of the kitchen door.

“Look! What use of spending that much money? Just see, Ruby is playing and in no time, Alka lost interest.” Bindu had pointed outside with her right hand while addressing to Deb.
“You never know the mood of the children,” Deb replied looking outside.

One day, while returning from her school, Alka met her father Joginder. As soon as she saw him, she took him in a tight embrace. Then sitting inside his car, they both kept conversing for quite a while. Joginder picked up a bag from the back seat and advanced towards Alka containing a calculator and some sweets. After sometime, he dropped Alka near her house and drove away.

That day, she was overjoyed. At home very fondly, when she recounted the whole incident to her mother, she flared up in anger and spoke so much of nonsense. Alka felt as if she had committed a big mistake and quietly went to her room.
Finally, when Bindu’s temper cooled down, she knocked at the door of Alka’s room. Opening the door, she saw Alka holding the calculator in her hand and Bindu said to her, ”Come downstairs please and I prepare a meal for you,” saying this she got occupied in the kitchen chores.

The next day, when Bindu went out of the kitchen to empty garbage bucket, she was surprised to see that the same car was lying in the dustbin outside, which Deb had given to Alka.
“This girl has lost her senses,” muttering this she took it out, cleaned and put it inside. Then she thought that perhaps, Ruby might have thrown it there.

It was Friday, a nice sunny day. Alka had just come out of the gate of her school when she caught the sight of Joginder’s car parked near by. She went running and he opened the door; she occupied the seat next to him. She felt like crying and then looked at her father’s face. She observed he also had just stopped crying. They talked for about half an hour.
“Just see I have bought a tele-tubby for you,” saying this he gave her a bag. Seeing the tele-tubby, she was beside herself with joy.
“How nice it’s papa! It’s lovely, I like it. Papa, you are so nice, so sweet. Thanks a lot,” she couldn’t control her tears.

Soon a young lady approached and took the back seat saying ‘Hi Alka ! How are you?”
Surprisingly she looked at Joginder and asked, ‘Papa, who is she?”
“My friend Susan, someday, may be your mum!”
These words hurt Alka’s mind but she kept mum.

Soon their car was stopped outside a café. Sitting at a table Alka was carefully observing the movements of Susan.
“She can’t be a mum. She will sell sex and the day will come when dad will not be able to afford.” she thought to herself. She wanted to realise her dad but could never dare. Before departing, she looked at Susan’s face and from some distance murmured, ‘fuck in bitch.’

Coming home, she thought not to tell anything to her mum and hence hid the tele-tubby. That night, closing the door of her bedroom, she kept playing with it for a long time.

That week end, it was about afternoon when Deb rang the bell.
“Have a look, who is it?” Bindu shouted from the kitchen.
“Same fuck in bastard comes to buy sex,” she uttered quietly before opening the door. 
 On entering, he fondly approached and gave her a coloured box containing a remote control helicopter.

They flew the helicopter in the back garden and neighbours also joined them in fun. Neighbouring children were feeling pleased to see it and at the same time, in their heart of hearts they were also feeling envious of Alka.

Next morning, Bindu was beside herself, not only with amazement but also with anger, to find the helicopter lying in the dustbin.

“After all, how long shall I tolerate this girl’s foolishness?” Bindu said to herself, “What offence have I made? Why is she behaving like this? These questions outraged her.

“She will not behave unless she gets a thrashing,” infuriated she started climbing up stairs and pushed violently, the door of Alka’s room. Raising her arm ready to deal a blow, she shouted, “How long shall I tolerate these silly acts of yours?”

 Holding the tele-tubby in her arms, Alka raised her head and looked into her mother’s eyes. Her innocent looks were asking the same question silently, “Mum, how long can I bear this injustice of yours. Do tell me, how long?” And without saying a word, Bindu stepped downstairs.