BY PURABI DAS
This is an excerpt from Purabi Das’ novel Moonlight. Copyright is held by the author.
THERE WAS A HOLE in her Sonny’s jacket sleeve and every time Chandni tried to put it on her squirming son the arm and sleeve got mixed up. As soon as the right arm was slipped on it got lost in the lining of the sleeve. Sonny would start to dance in impatience with the left arm held high and the right lost inside the jacket. It happened again that day, the first day of spring. She had learned to be patient — her failing eyesight had taught her that. So, with infinite patience she untangled Sonny’s small arm from the hole and holding him close to her body managed to slip it into the sleeve, this time, correctly. Heaving a sigh of relief she took hold of her son’s hand and made for the door, staying close to the wall all the time. Sonny pointed at the cane hanging on its hook by the door and looked at his mother enquiringly. She nodded and smiled as he ran to get it for her.
The four-year old Sonny was a great help to his mother. It was he who held her by the hand looking both ways as they crossed the street to get to the opposite side of their apartment building and then through the small gate that led into the park. She came here every day, rain or shine, to walk and enjoy the fresh air. However, it was becoming more and more difficult to walk unassisted, but for the gallant help from her son and at the thought Chandni’s lips curled into a fond smile.
They reached the park and Sonny ran to the swing. This was his favourite spot. Chandni helped him up and with a gentle push set the swing in motion. She was rewarded with her son’s delighted laughter. She had to stand close to her son for a couple of reasons. It was becoming impossible to do anything without help. The constant dizziness had become a major problem. Also, her eyesight was fading fast. This terrified her more than anything. It was exactly three and a half years ago that they had moved to the high-rise, thanks to Mrs. Jamshedji, who had kept her promise and made sure that they moved into an apartment that they could call home. It was unfortunate that she had to return to India and then Chandni had lost touch with her.
The park was starting to fill up and the air reverberated with the high-pitched voices of children, swinging from the monkey bars, sliding down the slides, and running around doing all the things they are best at doing. She peered at the watch on her wrist and was just able to make out the time. Four o’clock. It was time to go home. She braced herself for the usual pleadings and poutings from her son.
“Sonny, time to go home,” she said, stopping the swing with both her hands.
“Mummy, no….we just got here,” her son said, complaining.
She was ready for this.
Gathering him in her arms, she whispered in his ear, “Darling, Mummy will tell you two..no three stories, tonight. You will like that, won’t you?”
Sonny was torn between his desire to carry on swinging and to have his mother tell him three stories at bedtime instead of the one. He was used to his mother falling asleep on his bed in the middle of telling a story.
He didn’t know that his mother sometimes fainted from the pain in her head.