Aman’s expression was hidden from Poo and whatever little she could see of his face was as if carved in stone; Poo had given up hopes of any answer and was wildly frantically searching for an alternative for this was clearly an unpleasant topic, Aman spoke stiffly, “My Father passed away couple of years ago,” he paused and said in an unemotional tone, “Mother stays in Noida.”
“How many brothers and sisters are you?”
“I am an only child.”
Poo was taken aback. An only child and his mother stayed in Noida while he stayed in Gurgaon? Both were at the opposite ends of the NCR – Why didn’t she stay with Aman? Were they estranged? She must be getting on in age – how did she manage alone?
“What?” Aman read her thoughts, “She doesn’t want for anything, I take care of all her requirements, money is deposited regularly into her account and she is free to live her life as she wishes,” he justified.
“But without her son,” the words slipped out before she could stop herself.
Aman’s lips twisted, “That’s the way she likes it.”
Poo very much doubted it but she held her peace, “I am sorry about your father,” she said softly.
Aman shrugged, “No need, actually it was a merciful release,” he paused, “he was suffering from severe liver disease on account of his drinking problem,” his lips turned a thin straight line and his knuckles turned white, “waise bhi my mother had left no stone unturned to make his life a living hell,” he said bitterly, “it is entirely her fault, jab se maine hosh sambhala hai all I remember are her constantly nagging or fighting with Father on anything and everything,” he shook his head and then shamefacedly, “I even saw her thrash him with the rolling pin and bechara Father just stood their quietly taking all the nonsense,” his nostrils flared, “enough to drive any man to drink,” he bit out as he squarely and firmly placed the blame on his mother.
“I am sorry,” she said once again; Poo regretted raising the topic, which seemed to have touched a raw nerve, “I hope she wasn’t mean to you as well?” she said hesitantly, her heart going out to the little boy.
He shook his head, “No she mostly ignored me, she just fed me and clothed me and in return demanded that I top in my class otherwise I too would have to bear the brunt of her anger if I ever slipped up on the academic front.”
“That’s natural, I think,” Poo justified, “When you are struggling to make ends meet where is the time or the scope to spend quality time with your children, and all you want is for your children not to undergo what you have and ensure they have the best of education, get a good job and have financial stability.”
“Oh please,” Aman shook his head disgustedly, “Now don’t you try to justify my Mother’s behavior, she was and is a horrible woman who…”
“You shouldn’t talk about your Mother like that!” interrupted Poo scandalized.
“Why not,” objected Aman, “Just because she gave birth to me, took care of my needs I am supposed to be grateful to her?” he sneered, “I didn’t ask to be born you know and she did nothing more than what was her duty and instead went all ahead to destroy my childhood, instead of adjusting to my Father’s poor financial status and making the best of the situation, she nagged and taunted my Father and ultimately drove him to drink,” he said bitterly.
“I think you have got it all backwards!” Poo objected, ““Perhaps it was his drinking that drove her to nag and fight with her husband?” she suggested.
Aman turned to look stiffly at Poo, “Excuse me?” he said coldly.
Poo quailed a bit but held her ground, she had seen too many instances, heard too many stories, “I mean how do you know, which came first, the nagging or the drinking?” she asked, “You were very young right? Do you even remember or did you even remotely understand or remember what they fought about?”
Aman blew the horn viciously and stepped on the accelerator; he wished he had not raised the topic but he had thought Poo would understand and sympathize with him, be on his side not – and not on the side of that, that woman, he grimaced angrily, pata nahi why I suddenly had the urge to share my life story with her? I have never ever shared this with anyone before (actually the censure in Poo’s eyes when she got to know his mother was living alone had strangely been too much to bear – he couldn’t digest the fact that Poo thought less of him – especially not where his Mother was concerned). Because you thought she was special, he sneered at himself, “Never mind how old or young I was!” he raised his hand, “I know, I was there remember,” he said firmly, “And let’s drop the topic shall we?” he said coldly.
Poo shook her head stubbornly, “Nahi, I want to know how you knew, I mean there has to be some solid reason for a woman to nag and fight with her husband, even going to the extent of thrashing him and on top of it he continues to share house with her! Why didn’t he thrash her in return, throw her out of the house?” Poo asked tough valid questions, “It doesn’t make sense!” she said heatedly.
“Because he was a soft kind man, he loved her despite the fact that she was a scheming greedy grasping woman and his only fault was that he was not educated enough and couldn’t earn enough money to satisfy her excessive demands,” he bit back coldly, “And I know because my Father told me so.”
Poo swung around and stared at him, he looked back at her, “What?” he said rather defensively.
“What!?” Poo was incredulous, “He said so and you believed him? What if he was lying, delusional, you yourself said he had a drinking problem and yet you didn’t ask your mother for her version?”
“Be careful,” he warned furiously, “That’s my Father you are talking about and what was there to ask?” he snapped, “I could see everything and what he said made sense,” he had a closed expression.
Not one to be cowed down so easily, especially when injustice seemed to have been done, Poo ploughed on, “And how old were you when your Father explained the situation? Five, seven?” Poo asked with just a hint of sarcasm.
“It doesn’t matter!” Aman’s voice rose, “Nagging and pushing was in my mother’s DNA! She nagged and hounded me to perform well in academics and otherwise she would have my hide as well, so I know Father was right,” anger dripped from his voice.
“Big deal!” Poo threw up her hands in frustration, “All mothers nag and hound their children to study and thrash them if they don’t do well! What harm could it possibly do if you did talk it out with your mother now? It’s never too late to mend bridges is it?” Poo said earnestly, “Trust me, I have seen too many families destroyed because the man is an alcoholic,” Poo pushed him.
“Yeah and have you considered the possibility that the women drive them to it?” unable to bear any sort of comment about his beloved father Aman lashed out, “Everywhere, everyone is invariably blames the guy and nobody ever even considers the possibility that he was probably driven to it by the girl,” a hurt Aman didn’t care about the implications of his words, “talk about gender bias”, he hissed disgustedly.
Tears choked Poo; she swung around and stared blindly out of her window willing the tears not to fall as the full import of his words sunk in – he didn’t mean that did he? He couldn’t possibly have meant that! A tear slid down her scarred cheek – she stiffened and brushed it away, who cared what he thought about her, she was not the one under the scanner right now, she swallowed valiantly and lashed back, “Fine but why are you so afraid of clearing it up with your mother?” her pitch rose as her heart went out to his mother, deprived of not only her husband’s support but also her son – how much worse could it get for the poor lady. Men and their insensitivity – for them it was always the woman’s fault but Poo was in no doubt who or what the real culprit was.
“I feel no need to mend bridges or reason or ‘clear it up with her’, for me everything is crystal clear,” he too snapped even as the image of a bagful of unopened letters flashed across his eyes. Sudden sweat beaded his forehead, his hands felt cold and clammy, a cold hand clutched his heart. What if he had been wrong? What if…
“I think this discussion has gone on long enough and its time we dropped it,” Aman said in cold unemotional tones that left no scope for further discussion, “besides it is none of your business,” he added just in case she had any other ideas.
“Fine be that way,” a furious Poo retorted as she sat back and crossed her arms.
The rest of the journey (more than half) was covered in complete silence – sort of a fuming simmering almost volcanic silence waiting to explode.
Happy Vijay Dashami to all of you
Click here for Chapter 365