The Release

Turning a deaf ear to the cacophony of chattering crickets and howling dogs on the empty street, I entered the silent home.

” SK and Kids must have slept by now”. I thought, glancing at the united hands on my wrist watch.

The living room wore a deserted look but the lobby was filled with soft blue and neon lights.

My feet automatically turned towards the bedroom on the right on the ground floor. The ageing mahogany door creaked as it opened. I made a mental note to call the carpenter to fix this over the weekend.

The room seemed to have dipped into a tank of tar coal. A sliver of light from afar filtered through the gap between white lace curtains. Fat Paro may have put the thick brown drapes into dry cleaning this morning. The dainty light was now dancing on the pristine white bed sheet on mummy ji’s four poster bed. I could feel her flat white mojari’s crumbling under my feet.

Mummyji had tried to keep normalcy alive in the room while the death lurked around the corner.

I blinked my eyes to adjust to the lack of light in the room. Though no light is also some light. We sometimes see things clearly in such a light condition.I felt a shiver. The room was steely cold. Air conditioner’s  flip flopping flaps were making strange gurgling sounds like of a new born baby. I  wrapped my arms around my torso to warm them up.

The whiff of Dettol and cocoa butter was missing from the room. The bathroom door opened and closed with a loud thud. Fat Paro wheeled in mummyji’s wheelchair and nudged my elbow to help her move mummy ji to her solitary bed. I chose to hold her feet – the erstwhile dainty legs weighed a mountain now.

Mummyji opened her feeble eyes and gestured Fat Paro to leave for the night.

“You came from office just now beta ji ?” she asked in her faint voice.

Jee Mummy ji.” My choked throat refused to let any more syllables pass by.

” I waited for you to feed me dinner beta ji. Fat Paro is no good.”  Another day, she would have chided me for not taking care of myself and working so hard. Today, her voice had resigned to her imminent fate. I sat by her bedside.

I sat by her bedside.Gently, she just took my hand in hers and started patting it rhythmically,  as if crooning a lullaby to a weeping child.

With our perspiring hands glued together, I continued to stare at the dark shadows of objects in the room. The fan hummed gently over our heads. The air conditioner continued to flip flop.

Neither of us needed lights to see the other. We shared our birthdays. Our husbands had common genes. For past one decade, we were joint custodians of sordid family tales securely stashed in our marital home closet. She had the main key. I had the spare.

Silence had been our constant companion through her battle with the big C. 

“She has 6 months.” the overworked young doctor at the overcrowded Government aided hospital nonchalantly muttered under his breath, without even looking up from her case file.

If only he had known she was the last shaky leaf precariously clinging to a family tree barren by cancer, he may have been gentler in his revelation.

I deftly rubbed cocoa butter in a circular motion on her stomach. The lotion floated on her fragmented scaly skin. Her body had closed all the pores, refusing to accept any more compassion. I continued to rub the cream in a circular motion all over her body. My skin was in a reflection, absorbing the cocoa butter marinated with her fragrance. Her love for life was transferring into my body through that tender touch.

There had been a constant tug of war between me and God for past six months. I loved her, He loved her more. We both knew it was a lost battle I was fighting.

“This bottle of cream will finish soon.” Her mind was still alert even though the body was giving away.” ” Would we need another bottle beta ji?” She tried not to read the helplessness clouding on my face.

I turned the face away. The empty anti-ageing creams mocked at me
 from the shelves of her pearly white dressing table. 
She wanted to arrest her youthful looks. I wanted her to bless her 
grandchildren into their matrimonial lives. Neither would happen now.
Cancer would consume our eternal happiness in no time.

The grandfather clock ticking in her room was a ticking bomb of our household.

I stopped massaging her swollen feet. A certain kind of serenity was floating on her face in slumber as her eyes closed. I got up to leave.

“Can you work from home tomorrow?” her feeble voice followed me to the door.

I walked back to her side and placed my tear soaked hand into her sweaty palm. Both were parallel forces. Neither had the courage to see the other break down.

“Mummyji. Why did you laugh off the yearly check up suggestions? Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier? We could have fixed this, you know! “.  A guilt was looming large on my heart.

“Mummyji. Why did you laugh off the yearly check up suggestions? Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier? We could have fixed this! “.  A guilt was looming large on my heart. A question that begged the clock handles to turn back and make amends.

Of course, she knew. How could she not have known? This wasn’t the first time she had seen cancer swallow a person she loved.

She whispered,” It was just an innocuous inverted nipple beta ji.  How was I to know?  I can see the sun melting into the horizon through that window every evening now. Bas, it is the time to go”.

Her endurance gave me enough strength to hold her hand firmly for some more time. Planting a kiss on her forehead, I moved towards the staircase.


Next morning, the room on the right on the ground floor was filled with bright sunlight through the open windows. The empty cocoa butter and anti ageing cream boxes were shown the way to the dustbin. The empty four poster bed had no mattress, pillow or bed sheet.  A heavy concoction of Dettol, cocoa butter and decay nauseated my mind. All senses had numbed themselves to the loud wailing, floating vapours of incense sticks and the mound of marigold garlands in the room.


Seven years since that day, I rub the cocoa butter into all the pores of my body after each shower and clean my never healing wounds with a Dettol swab.

“It is Shamshaan Vairaag. “My mother chided me. “Make peace with the God’s will. Detachment from the world is not a solution.”

"I have de coded moksha, ma. What else do I need to know? ", 
I said nonchalantly, folding my teenager's jeans. 
"Moksha is cocoa butter mixed with Dettol. 
Everything else is a fallacy."


This is Post No.2 in “#MyFriendAlexa” challenge by Blogchatter.

Thank you for reading. 

Kovalam Beach.jpg


15 thoughts on “The Release

Add yours

  1. Gayatri this is so beautifully written that I am wondering if its based on an actual experience. Love the way you have taken small details like the cream and dettol smell and turned them into emotional metaphors of living with illness and dealing with it everyday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Shalz. Life inspires and stories emerge from our personal experiences or of those around us. This story is also from one such resource and took years to come out on paper.


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