Last Sunday, I was taking a morning walk in the local park, near my house. Suddenly, a piece of newspaper came flying and stuck onto my face. I wanted to throw it away when I realized that it was a Hindi newspaper. The Sunday column had something to say. I took out my pocket notebook and began to translate. This is what came out:
My heart has been palpitating strangely since I woke up this morning. Yes, I remember, it is Sunday today. Every Sunday it happens to me that I wake up early in the morning at about 4 O’ clock and I begin to think unnecessarily. I think about the dark eclipse that has cursed my family's happiness, the agony of seeing my husband embraced tightly in my arms, my son's dark present and gloomy future. I think about those people who get to the high political positions, in spite of the criminal charges against them, because their court cases are dismissed before they step into politics, or the cases are hushed up. But what about those young boys or girls who, in their immaturity, commit a minor offense but they carry the tag along all their lives, and as a result they are deprived of the government jobs. However good charactered, or well behaved they prove to be in their life after a sentence, they are not expunged.
I remember my little Mohan, holding the finger of Amitabh, taking his little steps briskly. My son Mohan, the boy whom I saw take his first step towards his first school, coming back home after his first bicycle ride, standing first in the Higher Secondary Board Examination, embracing me with joy and vigor of a young man, was everything to me. How can I forget my that son Mohan who had topped the whole District in the Intermediate Examination, and who had wept for hours behind the closed doors of his room, after the marriage of his elder sister Sunayana. How innocently he had said, " Mother, how will I survive without quarreling with my elder sister?"
Every Sunday morning starts with the expectation of meeting my son. In the same way, every second Sunday of the month, I have to persuade my father, retired Major Mr. Jeevan Singh, for an act to which he immediately reacts with his reddened face, " Let him rot in the prison. He must repent for his misdeed!" shouts he, as if to justify himself. Then his face changes with agony of a grandfather. He continues, " I have not forgiven him yet, then why do you go to that depressing place to meet him every Sunday? Why do you drag me into it?"
I can't believe my ears that all this is being said for my handsome and brilliant son, Mohan, who had grown up under the disciplined guidance of my disciplined father. How proud I used to feel when I would see him with his grandfather. I don't know where we went wrong in our parenting of that son! How happy he was in his Engineering College in Pune?
Mohan was in the last year of the Engineering course when he befriended the son of a local politician. I had, once, met that boy, and he seemed to be a nice boy. Sometimes, he would take my son along to late night parties. Once I had objected to it but it was not nice to scold a young man of 21 years of age. I didn't like to stop him. One night, at one of such parties, his friend had a fight with somebody, and in his fury he fired from his pistol, and as a result, the digressed bullet hit a waiter. The day when Mohan and his friend were arrested, the police had come to our house as well. Mohan was handcuffed, and four policemen entered the house with him. I didn't believe my eyes that what was happening before my eyes was true. Mohan was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for the crime which he had not committed. His only crime was that he was the friend of the culprit. His friend was released because his powerful father manipulated the case with the help of the local police. My son's future was ruined at the onset.
Amitabh and I had felt quite relieved after the marriage of our daughter, for we had a hope that our son would be an engineer and he would take care of his retired parents. My husband felt so much insulted because of our son that he decided to take premature retirement from the Indian Army. We came down to Pune and settled there.
Amitabh remained so quiet in the house that, sometimes, I had to force myself to believe that he was there. He never talked about Mohan. I would mostly go alone to meet my son because my husband didn't even talk about him. Once or twice, Amitabh accompanied me but he remained outside the central jail. This time I didn't force him. I took the car and drove myself. There were hundreds of thoughts in my mind. To take our driver along meant to give vent to more rumors about our family. Already, we had been ridiculed and shunned by the society.
After about an hour, I was near the open jail. It was a nicely kept place. The inmates were taught many kinds of skills. Some of them were involved in farming while some others were making wooden furniture. I was happy to see my son sitting before a computer in the computer class. The prison officer was a nice fellow and he dealt very politely with the prisoners. I don't know whether they dealt in the same way even with the illiterate inmates.
My car was checked at the entrance of the yellow building of the jail. The sight there was quite depressing. I reached the reception and looked at the picture of Gandhi, hanging on the wall. Most of the visitors belonged to the underprivileged class of the society. I was looked upon with disdain. Most of them were male, except for a woman who was feeding her child on the bench near the counter. Everyone had the same request of extending their stay with the inmate they had come to meet.
"What is your relation with the prisoner?" said the in charge of the place, roughly but not insultingly.
"Mother, " I replied softly and stared at him.
He took out a file and looked at my picture in the file. Then he gave me the paper on which I had to write that I was the mother of the prisoner. I wanted to meet him. The time of my arrival and departure had to be filled later by the clerk. Even after one year, I feel the burden of shame whenever I complete these formalities.
Before I entered the room to meet Mohan, the guard reminded me, " You will have to leave your purse here".
"And this food. . . "
"Oh mother, how many times I have told you that this will not do here. It is not permitted here. You are an educated woman. Last time I had allowed you but it does not mean that you should take it for granted".
I could not control my tears. I didn't want to create a dramatic situation.
The guard said to a constable near him, " She is a mother. Motherhood compels her to do all this. But what do these young boys care?'
I crossed a dark corridor and reached in front of a barred room. The sound of these iron bars often echo in my dreams. There were a few benches but most of them had been occupied by the relatives and the inmates. A veiled woman is sobbing, sitting in front of her husband. The baby is in the father's lap. A young boy is whispering something to his father. The father is giving him instructions, as if in his delicate age the boy has prematurely become the guardian of the family. Stupid tears are again ready to come out. I waved my hand, trying to feign a smile on my face. My son, Mohan, looks much thinner this time. Undoubtedly, he seems to be more serious and intelligent. I remember my first visit. How much he had wept, " Mama, please take me away from here. Tell father to arrange a good lawyer for me. The real culprit is already out. I didn't do anything, mother. . . "
Now, perhaps, he has yielded before the circumstances.
"Mohan. . . "
"Mother, how are you?" Said he and embraced me tightly.
"It seems you have been working out?"
"Yes, mother, we play football in the evening. Have you come alone?"
"Yes, your father is down with fever. . . " I lied, avoiding his stare.
"You should not drive alone, mother. "
"Really? Do you worry so much about your mother?"
I can see water in his eyes.
"Yes, that is what I can do from here".
"Forget it, only one year is left. "
I don't want to say anything which might cause him anxiety.
"How is sister?"
"She is fine. You are going to be maternal uncle second time".
"Really. . . "
"Mummy, I want to come back home. "
"Only one year, my son. . . "
"Mother, what shall I do now? My studies have been interrupted, and I won't get any government job. "
"This world is very big, my son. There is no dearth of possibilities. "
"I miss you and papa very much. Father must be happy that the house is calm. "
"No, my son, he spends every second in an untold agony".
"Mother, I was trapped. "
"I know, my son".
"Now I want to forget the past, mother. "
Meanwhile, the guard announced that the time was over. I had to leave him. I could meet him after three weeks now. These moments are unbearable. I believe that there are always possibilities. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The newspaper was torn after this line. I wish I could continue to translate the story. Once I thought to produce my own lines to conclude the story but my heart said that it would be an injustice to the poor mother's tale. I put my notebook back into my pocket and began to move towards the main gate of the park. Everybody was looking for the new possibilities.