She wakes up sweating. The heat inside the room had gone out of control. Before the walls close in on her, she hastily removes the comforter. Her eyes adjust to the bare whiteness all around – the walls, the closet, the comforter that covered her and the other one underneath her, on the carpeted floor. The carpet isn’t pure white. There is a hint of grey in it. The only furniture in the bedroom, a two shelved brown pantry cabinet stares back at her. There is a laptop lying on the top shelf, half agape. A modem sits on a couple of boxes on the shelf below. And a whole lot of ugly black wires protrude. All entangled. She gets up and touches the laptop. The machine springs to life. Her day begins, opening a window to the wider world.
There, outside her window panes, snow starts to gather. Soft balls of virgin flakes coat the grey buildings, empty parking lots and the withered branches of bare trees. Soon, everything is wrapped up in a snowy cocoon. The wind whispers down the alley once in a while.. Silence prevails the rest of the time. You may call it bliss. She calls it bereavement.
Far away, in another part of the world, she imagines that the sun sets slowly. Weary passersby wipe the sweat off their foreheads. An old man gets down from a rickshaw, holding multiple plastic bags filled with everyday items. As he stoops to pay the rickshaw puller, a few stray potatoes spill from his bag and scatter on the cracked pavement. He looks down with exasperation and moves on to climb the long staircase of his humble apartment complex.
On the third floor, sits his wife, waiting in anticipation of his return. The house seems empty and quiet, devoid of the vibrant cacophony that characterizes the city outside. The only mood-changer is the television that never ceases to amuse its fellow inhabitants. While the old man is climbing up the stairs, the television announces the birth of quadruplets in a suburban hospital, death of a Maoist rebel in the jungles of central India, rise of a new hegemony in Belarus, and merger of two Wall Street corporations. The last one evokes the most reaction from the woman while the old man enters the apartment. That’s the corner of the planet that means the whole world to the couple. That’s where their only daughter now resides. Clad in good fortune and glory, she accompanied her husband to America a year back. They believe it’s the place of boundless dreams. Glistening in pride they wait in the mellow lights of the sordid apartment, and wonder if she would be calling today.
While the clock keeps ticking, marking morning to noon, she walks from the bedroom to the kitchen, taking small, lazy steps, fatigued by the stark nothingness in the house that gapes at her in awe She wonders what she should do next. Maybe make a cup of coffee. Maybe try organizing and rearranging the household utensils that disturbs the spartan kitchen. There isn’t a picture anywhere. None on the walls, or on the small white tea-table or the antiquated wooden television set in the living room. She has been thinking about putting something up on the walls for some time now. She wants to bring in a plant too, to add a little life and color to her lackluster existence. At least she would have a living being to talk to. She doesn’t seem to meet anyone day after day other than her husband who remains so preoccupied with his job that she seems almost like an after-thought in his life. She wished she could be busier, even if it was routine work.
A week later, she sits on the sofa that they just fetched the weekend before from a bargain showroom. The cushions were from another shop and to her utmost glee the tag announced that it was ‘Made in India.’ The cushions are bright red in color with patterns in orange and yellow. They bright, colorful patterns transport her back to her old days. Days that were warm, filled up with lights and sounds. Laughter. And a meaning to life. The times spent with her numerous cousins and friends, of abundant energy, reckless candor, and hopes and aspirations for a better tomorrow. She recalls her university days, when they would work hard to find a place in the sun. She thinks of the moments with her parents who had lofty dreams about her. They opened doors for her to usher new opportunities her way. They wanted her to hold her head high and make her mark in the world. She thought of her days and nights now. It’s been a year in here; yet, she has no idea what lies ahead, in her new life with a new man in a foreign land with unknown prospects and possibilities.
She looks at the snow outside. Out there amid the white heap sits a tiny little black bird. It nods its head and flies off with utmost urgency. She gets up too, coming out of her daze, running down the winding corridor, out of the building. The cold winds hit her face, entering her nostrils, numbing her senses for a while. She blinks at the dazzling new sun. On that day, she makes the resolution to change her life.
Somanjana Chatterjee is the Diversity Ambassador at India Currents. She also serves as consulting editor at the New Global Indian. You can reach her at[email protected]