She turned around and chills ran down her spine. It was as though a thunderbolt had struck her. With disbelief in her eyes and tears trickling down her face, she saw her house was on fire. By then people had gathered all around the bungalow. Amidst the chaos all one could hear was her shrill cry “my baby…!” Apparently her 2-year-old child was inside the bungalow. Everything she had loved, everything she had cared for and valued was snatched from her in a split second. All she could do was…cry… yes,what else can a mother do.
It was one of those days when an undergraduate easily compares his college days to hell or even worse. It was a lazy Sunday morning. Not the usual one- as my sweet slumber was interrupted by a call that grimly conveyed that I had to rush to the mortuary and complete one of the ten stipulated autopsies.. Yes, completion is the word for most of us when it comes to autopsies. We stood there outside the Mortuary waiting for the procedure to begin. It was raining then. With our umbrellas out-most of us stood there grumbling. Sunday morning autopsy…couldn’t have been worse. I too stood there, half asleep, not the least bothered about someone who might have died, who might have been bereaved in this crowd. There were a few who hoped more people die soon so that we get more bodies on the same day and finish it off. The greater the number the better. We human beings can be butchers-right!
I stood there in one corner listening to one of those peppy numbers to cheer me up when the site of a middle-aged woman caught my eyes. She was sitting there on one of the benches under the tree. It was raining heavily then and you would expect everybody to run and find some shade. She was drenched and still didn’t seem to care. I could see drops of water trailing down her forehead..Yes-it had started pouring down now. But hold on, I thought I saw tears in her eyes. Her gaze transfixed, her clothes all wet. She didn’t blink. I felt the strong urge to walk up to her and enquire if everything was fine. My stride forward was soon interrupted by someone who held my hand and pulled me inside the autopsy room
“Come on dude!the body is here.”
And I was inside the mortuary. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief that almost broke into uncontrolled cheers when our professor announced that it was the case of a 2-year-old child who had fatal burns and there weren’t many autopsy findings to worry about. It seemed as though burning was the best way to die according to the medicos. I was misplaced and I had the woman I had just seen in the back of my mind. Was she related to the baby? Was she really crying? I could see everyone I had loved in those tear filled eyes. My mind was giving away and I rushed out the moment the autopsy was over. Suddenly the attendance sheet didn’t matter to me. I rushed out only to find a vacant bench outside. There was nobody there. I ran around panting for breath and yet couldn’t find the site of her.
I returned to the hostel with a heavy head. I had the gut feeling that she might be related to the body I had just seen on the autopsy table. I couldn’t take it any more. I decided to end the day early. I slept off early- much to shake the events off.
I woke up next morning feeling all right. For once the thought came across but I genuinely wanted to shake it off my head. Human beings are strange creatures. How hard do we try to be human!!!! And still we stay what we are- animals. I sat in the mess with the daily newspaper and was turning pages. My eyes caught the headline -“A child burnt alive in a bungalow…Mother too dies Trying to Save the Child”. My heart throbbed and my eyes aghast. I saw the face of the lady inset- it resembled exactly with the lady I had seen outside the mortuary. What had I seen? Was it a spirit, a ghost or a mere work of my imagination! My subconscious mind. There was no doubt I had seen this lady. I checked it out with others if they too had seen this lady outside the mortuary. People thought I was crazy. Nothing seemed to matter then. I was simply out of sorts. I was trying to forget it and I knew it wasn’t in my best interest to find out any more.
I know most of you would brood upon what I just saw. But today while I write this piece I recollect why I saw what I saw? Here is a lady who committed nothing less than a suicide to save her child…her baby. Isn’t this love so intriguing…So far beyond human imagination and his ability to reason. Let us think about this bonding. This immaculate love of a mother for her child that doesn’t stop her from running into a burning house to save her child. Imagine she couldn’t stay away from her child at the mortuary. As I write this I feel the lady is narrating her part of the story through me. It wasn’t her fault. She is somewhere very close by, still lingering around in my memory. She didn’t commit suicide. She wasn’t an escapist. She was but a martyr.
I bow to this lady. I don’t know if it was my brain playing the worst of games with me. I simply don’t know if it was a hallucination. All I know is: I wouldn’t be able to forget her.
“I thought I saw tears in her eyes”