I Am Sorry
“Sorry Maa, I couldn’t draw the house properly.”
I look up from the sketch book into the remorseful eyes of my five-year-old daughter. Her eyes hold tremendous pain for a girl that young. I keep the book aside and envelop her in my arms without a word. Words, I had realized from the past few experiences, did nothing to ease her self-inflicted torture.
After tucking her into bed for her afternoon nap, I climb up to one corner in the attic, which houses a trunk full of Seema’s belongings. Flipping the heavy lid open, I take one photograph in my hands. Your smile, your twinkling eyes, the tiny cleft in your chin and the captivating dimples, all these look so familiar to me; my daughter, Arya reminds me of you every single day.
The similarities don’t end there. Arya has taken after you in many other ways. And the most recent and dangerous one is her habit of saying sorry.
Our first meeting plays in my mind like it was yesterday, even though 14 years have passed since. You were a beauty, not the classic one, but one that slowly but surely, made her place in your heart. Tall, lean and elegant, you always dressed up immaculately. While the bunch of us looked like homeless wrecks most of the times, you carried any and every outfit with panache. Your soft voice, doe-shaped eyes, forever dimpled face, and polite talks enchanted everyone. Yet you never seemed to accept that people found you beautiful. We attributed your lack of belief to your modesty.
Another thing that we could never quite convince you to stop was your habit of apologizing constantly, even for things you had no control over.
‘Sorry, I am early. Sorry, my bike isn’t that comfortable. Sorry, there are too many potholes. Sorry it’s raining. Sorry, my handwriting is cursive. Sorry, my dress doesn’t fit you. Sorry, my heels don’t match your dress. Sorry, you failed the exam.’
We always thought you were way too polite and too well-mannered; the notion that it could be something else never crossed our minds. When my cousin once mentioned that you might be battling some issues, I laughed openly at him, not taking his words seriously. And why would I? You had a wonderful family, crazy siblings, and friends who loved you to bits. Even the teachers and the principal adored you. Your picture perfect life was completed by Pranay, who loved you beyond the realms of possibility.
But your staggering lack of self-confidence destroyed the life we all dreamt of having. Your married life was something I envied; never having had a boyfriend, I couldn’t imagine someone loving me so selflessly. But everything changed when you got pregnant. The signs were subtle, but always there. While your happiness was palpable, I wish we had caught on to the underlying fear in your eyes. Each of those questions- Do you think I can be a good mother? Will I raise the baby right? Will I be able to give the baby a good life?- held clues to the storm raging within you.
The tornado struck when the baby was born. You refused to look at her. When I placed her in your arms, you were shaking like a leaf in tempest. The way you looked at me, like a deer caught in headlights, scared me enough to take her away from you. You continued your refusal to see her and I thought it was temporary.
But nothing could prepare me for the news I received two days later. You found jumping from the tenth floor window easier than having to mother a baby. Your note solved the mystery of your death- you were terrified of raising a girl who was just like you. A girl who would never be able to look at herself in the mirror and think she deserved being born in this world. Your last words were imprinted on my heart- I’m sorry, sorry for being alive… till now.
Pranay couldn’t bear your loss and followed your path the next day. The little angel became an orphan within four days of her birth. I adopted her, with a promise that she would never feel sorry about herself for anything- she deserved the best of everything, and I would make sure I gave it to her.
But now, history is repeating itself. Her apologies scare me. I look down at the smiling face and fervently hope that I will never have a second trunk in my attic, with a similar photograph smiling at me from her memories