When I came back home that night and saw that my wife was crying, a lot many things crossed my mind as possible reasons. But none of them was anywhere close to what my wife told me. When my wife informed me that my mother is dead, I thought she was kidding. My mind refused to believe that my mother was dead. I mean how could I accept that my mother who was barely 50, who was fit enough to finish a marathon last week had just died. I realized my wife was still speaking, telling me about some lung ailment that was the cause of her death but my mind was already shutting down. I could barely hear what she was saying. My mind was too numb to process the details.
Next few hours were spent booking a ticket to go to my hometown and convincing my wife that a 26-hour trip which included 2 bus rides and 3 flight changes was not an option for an 8-month pregnant lady.
When I reached home, I saw a weak, old fragile man in the living room. I couldn’t recognize my father. He looked like he lost too much weight in just a couple of days. His eyes were sunken and I had never seen his hair so white. My father was much older than my mother but he never looked so weak before.
After the ceremonies were over and the guests left, my father and I were alone in the house for the first time without my mother’s smile to warm it. My father was very weak and I didn’t like the idea of him staying alone in the house that he shared with my mother for almost 30 years. So I convinced him to come and live with me. And to be honest I saw a faint smile on his face when I mentioned that he is going to be a grandfather very soon. I think it was the attraction of seeing his first grandchild that finally convinced him. My wife was also very happy. Sometimes I felt that she got along with my parents more than I did. Anyways it was decided that everything will be packed and my father will come with me and we had 2 weeks as my wife was alone.
My father was too grief-stricken to pack up my mother’s stuff. So I began the emotionally tiring task. My father wanted my wife to have my mother’s wedding dress and the few pieces of jewellery that belonged to her. Rest of the clothes were to be given to charity. My father kept her favourite book of poems and the rest of the books were to be donated to the city library.
It was when I went to the library I had the biggest shock of my life.
My first thought upon seeing the librarian was that I have seen him before. It took me a while to realize why he looked so familiar. He looked exactly like me. Well, exactly how I will look in another 20 years. The moment I realized the uncanny similarity in our looks my mind simply went into overdrive. On one hand, I have not inherited any of my father’s physical traits and on the other hand, a man is standing in front of me looking like a future version of me. This was enough to make me wonder who my real father is. By looks alone, there seems a pretty good chance that this man is my father.
I didn’t know what to make out of this. Was he my mother’s lover who got her pregnant before she met my father or did my mother cheat my father and had an affair after she got married? In either case, I was almost sure that this man is my real father. I am not sure how I felt about my mother then. If this man was my real father, does he know about me? Did my mother’s husband know that I wasn’t his son? Should I be angry at my mother for cheating her husband or should I pity her that she didn’t get enough love in her marriage that she went out looking for love?
While driving back home I kept thinking about the differences between my parents. My mother loved books, I never saw my father reading anything – not even newspapers. My mother loved music and dancing, my father was tone deaf and had two left feet. When my mother wanted to watch old classic movies, my father had more interest in catching up on his sleep. While my mother was keen on experimenting in the kitchen, my father preferred to have a fixed menu. My mother was 12 years younger than my father. She was still studying when they got married. Maybe they were not happy together.
Slowly I began to think about how emotionless my father was. I have never seen him show any romantic gesture towards my mother. I have never seen him cry. I have never seen him express any kind of emotions. He wasn’t passionate about anything. Didn’t have any hobby. I could understand why my mother would look for love elsewhere. Maybe I was justifying her infidelity because I wanted to believe that I had a better father than the one I grew up with. I felt terrible to think this about the man who looked after me for his entire life.
After reaching home I started looking for clues of my mother’s affair. I just wanted to know about the man who was my real father. I looked for hidden love letters, maybe pictures or anything. Instead what I found was another shock that came in a small shoebox. I found my mother’s diaries. She had kept diaries for a long time. There were several diaries. I started reading from the oldest one.
The first diary was when she was 19 years old. I scanned many entries before reading the entry that changed everything I knew about myself and my life.
She was raped. She was coming back after her classes when some men grabbed her and pulled her in a closed van. She didn’t know where they took her or how many people raped her before throwing her back on the street from they picked her. She was taken to the hospital by some kind people. Police couldn’t find out the culprits. When she came to know that she got pregnant, my grandparents wanted her to go for an abortion. That seemed like the most logical step. But my mother’s insistence to have the baby pissed of my grandfather. He asked her to either get an abortion or leave his house. That time my father worked as his accountant. He came and took my mother with her. He married her, gave her and her unborn child the safe environment that was needed. He always treated my mother with respect and loved me like his own son.
I realized one thing after reading my mother’s diaries. She didn’t love my father. She worshipped him. And for my father, my mother was the reason for his existence.
My father is dead. He died in his sleep 5 days after my mother’s death. I was sad but I had realized that he couldn’t live without her. My father never showed his emotions. But he loved my mother. I had to clean his stuff from his office. There, he had a studio that I had never seen before. In it were hundreds of painting. All were of my mother’s. Her face, her eyes, her smile – on various sized canvas, using different mediums – watercolours, oil colours, charcoal shading and many more. My father had painted my mother in so many different moods. He loved her and this was his way of expressing it.