Ankur quietly walked into the room and sat on the bed, never taking his eyes off his father. He picked up one of the photos and saw his mom smiling back at him. Then, he realized that there were many of them. He picked each one of them up, one by one, and stacked them up in a neat pile.
As Raj calmed and the tears subsided, he noticed the photos were gone. He became aware of Sneha's arms wrapped around him and Ankur sitting with the stack of Mala's photos. For the first time, he felt guilty. He was so immersed in his own grief that he didn't notice what his kids were going through. They had lost their mother and, while he grieved, their father, too.
He took both the kids in his arms and held them tightly. Nobody said anything, but together they comforted and reassured each other. They would make it through this.
While Raj struggled with his depression over the past two months, Ankur had slowly retracted from the world. He lost his connection to the world. He didn't know how to approach anyone else. He didn't know how to communicate without Mala.
Mala was his extended arm. She always knew exactly what he wanted, like she could read his mind. He didn't know how to tell someone when he had pain in chest or in his stomach. Mom always knew that meant he needed to burp. How could he tell someone he needed them to help him do his special exercise that made him burp?
How could he indicate if he was having indigestion?
That he wanted to take bath?
That didn't like the cartoon on the television and he wanted to watch something else?
He didn't like loud sounds and had to cover his ears even whenever someone used the blender. How could he tell them that loud sounds were bad?
Instead, he would panic as the stimulus overloaded his brain. This hypersensitivity led to temper tantrums. Getting angry was the only way Ankur knew to communicate that he was scared and over stimulated. It never worked…
He had trouble sleeping. He became very picky about food. He wandered around the house, searching for Mala. Perhaps she was hiding behind that door. He wanted to tell her that he was having nightmares and couldn't sleep properly.
He wanted to follow her. He just wanted to be comforted. He struggled with even the smallest things, like asking for water. The household help intimidated him. He felt so low that he became physically sick.
It was as though he was locked in a cage of emotions and wishes. There was no door. No escape. He became aloof. The household help misunderstood him, Sneha was usually at school or other extra-curricular activities and Raj was… trapped in his grief…
When the frustration became too much to bear, which happened often, he spoke, but only randomly distorted words came out.
No one could understand…
No one tried to understand…
Each person was in his or her own realm of lonesomeness…
Everybody was heartbroken…
Pessimism had mysteriously, painfully, spread through his life, its toxicity sucking out the pleasure.