A Cruel Grandfather
“Anshu, no! You have to do it on your own. You have to drink your own poisons and eat your own slices of cake. And you have to create them on your own.”
It was as if the cloud of hope had burst and all those little droplets of optimism had dispersed in the gloomy air of the chamber. Does that mean I’ll have to walk my life on my own? No one will stand by me? A tinge of revulsion found a place in my stomach. And I silently cursed myself for having someone who told me things so raw.
“But, dadaji, the submission is due tomorrow. I haven’t been able to complete it in a week,” I said, docile tears creeping down my eyes.
“Papa, I think she needs a little assistance. Someone could write it for her. It’s not her fault, they will understand,” said my father, but stopped abruptly at the realization that he could not manipulate the decisions of his father.
“It’s not about a petty on-time submission, son,”
Dad left, then, leaving me with him. I dreaded my intimidating grandfather, so I dared not look up to meet his eyes. “Ansh, you got a pencil with you, beta? And a fair copy?” I nodded, slightly, getting a hint of what he wanted from me, and headed towards my backpack, slowly. The distance seemed to only increase and the pencil, when caught, too heavy to be carried. The stone-hearted man in the room only watched me struggle, not caring to help me. To add to the discomposure, a tall, well-built man entered the room to have a word with dadaji.
“I think we need to take this more seriously. She is still not fit for it. Forcing movement to this extent might cause permanent damage.” I overheard the conversation, but pretended not to care.
“Anshi beta, idhar aaiye,” was his reply to the doctor and a command for me. I walked with slow, heavy steps, unwilling to reach him.
“Do you wish to write, bete?”
“Yes, dadaji, but …” I stopped as my eight-year-old mind was too flooded with questions about myself. I recalled the day they asked me to represent the school in the competition. And I recalled how that crazy biker had tried to run away from the police, not caring about the kid he accidently hurt. I had blurred memories of being carried to the hospital. And even fewer of the happiness that was overpowering me previously. Inability to move my finger brought me back to senses and my grand-father repeatedly asked me to be sure.
“But my fingers won’t move, dadaji. I tried so many times.” I felt dejected. It was the end of the world for me.
“But do you wish to write, Anshu?” the question was asked softly and with a smile. And my answer was a vigorous, affirmative nod. The smile widened, more from seeing his own reflection in my eyes, than from my will to bear the pain.
“You have one night to write.” And with that, I was carried to the cot allotted to me. The doctor tried to intrude again. “Sir, this could cause permanent damage, her fingers are not just fractured, the tissues are stretched, too…” But dadaji turned to him and whispered in clear, bold words, “Mera Anshu hai, sambhaal lega.”
After a moment, he sighed, asked me about the intensity of the pain, and gave me a couple of injections. He taught me a few wrist movements that would assist me in writing, before leaving.
“Do you know what you have to write?”
“Yes, but my hand-writing, dadaji. That won’t let me win. I have never tried writing with my left hand, and the right one is useless now.” I was so miserable.
“Words matter, Anshu. And effort does. Not the competition. I know you will somehow pull it off if you really want to,” These words engulfed me in warmth. But the eight-year-old me was infuriated. Why should I write when I know I stand no chance of winning the competition? Why should I give myself that pain when it won’t matter in the end? Dadaji sensed the dilemma, and decided to provide me seclusion to think over it. I watched him walk out of the room, and sat looking at the door as it closed behind him; then at the clock. Then, at the instruments that were monitoring me. And then… at the pencil and the paper kept in front of me. I tried to analyse things. My left fingers were of no use. The right leg, and the right hand were fractured, and my head and neck were bruised and swollen. I tried moving my wrist and that did not hurt me. I looked at the clock again. I had six hours. I could give it a shot. After all, it was my first essay on “My father” that would see a competition. I iterated the points in my mind and surprisingly, the more I involved myself in those thoughts, the less I felt the pain.
Maybe that was the effect of the painkillers that were given to me. The hand-writing was a mess, every letter! But I did not care.
“Words matter, Priya, words do,” I constantly reminded myself.
“Dadaji trusts Anshu, you can’t let him down.”
Next I looked at the clock, it was 5:30 a.m. Dadaji was smiling at me from the window and I was beyond happy to realize I was so engrossed in writing that I forgot about the hospital I was in. I had forgotten the broken limbs, and I had forgotten the fear of permanently damaging my fingers.
From somewhere between my happy moments, crept in the pain again. Maa and the doctor hurried towards me, thinking that their fears had come true. The paper was snatched away, and after a while, dad took it away, preparing for submission. My reports had come, and the plaster needed to be altered. But my mind was still on that essay.
It was not complete. Something was missing. I called dad back as he was about to leave the room. The last line wasn’t there.
“My dadaji is my father.”
And with trembling fingers, I signed it off as Priyanshi Dhawan.
~ Priyanshi Dhawan | Edited by Farrokh Jijina