The Perfect Substitute

Updated: Sep 25, 2017

Edited by- Kiara Lakdawala


“Wake Up!” Maa wakes me up at five in the morning.

“Here, have it” she serves me milk and biscuits.

“Anything else?”

“Okay! Now go to sleep Beta!” she tucks me into the bed again as she strokes my head.

~

I had been sleeping next to Maa for as long as I can remember, until about the age of thirteen, when I got sent to a boarding school in Panchgani. Maa would rouse me before dawn every day, serve me milk and biscuits and send me back to the parallel universe of dreams. She bathed me until I was about 12, realizing that it’s time, she then let me bathe myself. Though, she fed me every day when I was young, the persistency decreased as I got older. She massaged my limbs every day just before going to bed and desorbed the world’s negativity as we gossiped. She would oil my hair twice a week, sometimes thrice. She would wash my clothes as well as my undergarments. I faced problems, having to wash my clothes myself at the hostel. She would do everything humanly possible to make my life easier, this world a better place to live in and make me a better man.

However, my life’s reaction of metamorphosing a child into a man lost its catalyst in 1998, when I was sent to Panchgani. And though the pivot of my life had been rotated, mis balancing the whole system, Maa had prepared me well enough to stabilize myself and carry on the reaction on my own. I was now sleeping alone, and bathed and washed my clothes myself. Massages, desorbing sessions and early morning meals were no longer a part of my routine. I was too young to understand the concept of love, but I unquestionably knew that I was addicted to her and though with difficulty, life carried on.

The pivot of my life rotated again in 2004, when I came back from the hostel. I was at home for three months and then had to leave for college. It was meant to be. And though, I would still sleep alone, in my room, and would still wash my own clothes; she would prepare milk and fruits and keep them on the dining table before dawn, every day, for when I came downstairs. I didn’t let her massage my legs and hands anymore even though she insisted on doing it. She would oil my hair twice every week. Having suffered a back injury in Panchgani, my back would now ache after a stressful day, so she started massaging my back whenever she oiled my hair. My back is better now. In a nutshell, the organs of my life that had failed in 1998 were back in action. She sculpted my routine as if it was a piece of art and the outcome is still admired by people around me. She prepared me well enough for college.

I was there for three months and then I bid adieu to ‘home’ and embarked on the journey to make something out of myself. The pivot rotated again and though life carried on, it lost a few organs. My routine remained a piece of her art. And though, love was still beyond my comprehension, I for sure got addicted to her again. Having been through it already, I had lesser difficulty getting over it this time.

Life resumed at its normal pace and its pieces started adding up to form the bigger picture. I completed my graduation and then my masters and finally got settled in Delhi with a job. I was back ‘home’. Adulthood had lately been contributing towards the disturbed routine with Maa, and though I hated it, I couldn’t challenge nature.

The pivot finally rotated for the fourth time on 2nd August 2011, when I met her for the first time at the friendship day bash at my friend’s place. I was too drunk to remember the details, but I’ll never forget the vibes she emitted. Though, she was like a child in her drunken state, she resembled Maa. Her eyes though red, sparkled with care. Her hands though shaking, comforted like Maa’s. We started meeting frequently and sitting next to her doing nothing would balance out everything wrong I had done in the day. Connecting the dots, the frequent meets acted as the desorbing sessions with Maa; the late night, after-work chai, as the early morning meal, and though she wouldn’t massage me but cuddling with her would send all the stress away. And suddenly, in a month, I had found the perfect substitute to Maa.

And just when it all started seeming too perfect to be true, she arrived at my house along with her family with a marriage proposal, and before I could handle my overflowing bliss, they performed the ritual of Roka, just that, in place of Shagun, they presented before us the fourth point of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, stating that if a man has sex with a woman after promising marriage, he can't break up with the woman. If he does, according to the laws in India, he's a rapist. The hype of the moment along with the fear of the Indian laws brainwashed us and the fact that I never promised her marriage slipped through with ease. In another month, we got married and waking up next to her every day, no more reminded me of my childhood days with Maa, rather, started rotating the pivot again, in the reverse direction, degree by degree.


And just when it all started to stabilize, police barged in my house, produced an arrest warrant against me and the next thing I know, I’m in jail with Maa’s eyes bursting with tears. The pivot broke and its edges started stabbing my heart and the inability to do anything about it added to the suffocation. The perfect substitute theory acted as the whitestone and sharpened the broken pivot’s edges as the minutes passed. Apparently, my dream girl and her family had filed another case under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, stating that if the wife states that her husband and the relatives have treated her with ‘cruelty’, whether physical or mental, they can be booked for it without any necessary evidences.


Lawyers gave up before starting and the gender biased Indian laws made love to me without my consent. I had no one to go to, no where I could file a rape case against the Indian laws, and just when my throat became sore from asking this question, the empty walls of the 6 by 6 cell whispered “Death!”

~

“Wake Up!” Maa wakes me up at five in the morning.

“Here, have it” she serves me milk and biscuits.

“Anything else?”

“Okay! Now go to sleep Beta!” and as Maa raises her hand to tuck me into the bed again, I can hear her laugh in symphony with the bars and the Indian laws. I listen to the echoing whispers of the empty walls and I fall asleep, never to wake up again.


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