Short Story: A Life With An Agony!

Short Story: A Life With An Agony!

A father’s inner turmoil and the weight of loneliness

He was a clerk in the account section of a government office. He became head clerk after the birth of his first daughter. He was very happy that he got a promotion just after the birth of his daughter. He celebrated her birth as luck for him.
After some time, he was further promoted to become Section Officer on his second daughter’s birth. Now, in the department in which he was appointed, there were more opportunities for additional income than ever before. He was very happy to think that now he would send both his daughters to a top school and then college. He was happy that he would give them higher education, and he was happy that financially he and his children would have a better quality of life. He was happy that he would now make both of his daughters the civil services officers. He started saving a large part of his salary for his future in various ways and with the extra income he started buying expensive things for his home. After a few months, he bought a car and then a house. Now his life was getting comfortable. There was comfort, yet, as a matter of fact; there was no satisfaction and peace in his life as he used to think tirelessly in his free time.
Earlier, he used to reach home straight from his office on time. After the birth of his first daughter, he would begin restless from four o’clock. He used to look at the clock on the wall again and again and when the office time was over, he would go straight to his home and first take his daughter in his lap, play with her innocent smiles and laughter; thus, all his tiredness would go away.
But now after becoming an officer, his lifestyle gradually changed. Now he started sitting late after office hours with some of his dear colleagues. His companions used to arrange special kinds of wine, high-quality roasted cashews, and various types of the best salty snacks. In some time, the playing cards game would turn into gambling.
In this gathering of game, gambling and wine, some would tell the stories of their wife, some of their in-laws, some of their children, some of their daughters-in-law, and some of their sons-in-law. In these stories are pain, suffering, disappointment, deprivation, complaint, desire, longing and yearning for hope!
Thus, time was passing very fast. His daughters were stepping on the threshold of adulthood.
Now Mr Kumar was also worried about his daughters’ marriage and loneliness in the future. He would say that parents serve their whole life for their daughter, give her a higher education, fulfil her dream of becoming a civil officer and a good home, a good life, then always worried about her husband, her children and her sasural-laws house.
There would be a time when the daughter would be in her own house and the parents would be left all alone. In such a case, one feels the lack of a son to stay with him and support him in his old age. Parents desire to live and pass their old age with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren with a note of happiness.
At such a time, his colleagues would advise him that he could still try for his son. On this, he would share his observations and say that I have seen such houses, where three or four, even eight daughters were born due to the desire for a son and the parents could not do justice to anyone, which was their right.
Hearing this true fact, his other companion consoled him and said that today’s daughter is also like a son. There is no difference between a son and a daughter. A daughter is no less than a son. A daughter also earns name and honour like a son, a daughter also cares like a son, sometimes better than a son.
Kumar used to express his opinion by saying: “But I don’t want to interfere in my daughter’s house. I don’t want her to leave her home again and again to serve us and stay between two houses, between the two pots of a mill. His mate would remind him that he still had a long time to grow old and advise him not to cramp him to have such thoughts of obsession for old age in future.”
Like a philosopher, Kumar used to narrate his experience and observation that time would pass very quickly. Our old age will also come very soon. I saw many senior officers living in old age in solitude, and loneliness, in spite of property and wealth. Gradually, loneliness turned into a mental illness, a life full of soreness and aches.
In fact, I get scared thinking about what will happen to me if my wife leaves this world before me. I cannot live alone. I cannot even live in my daughter’s or my son-in-law’s house. What will happen to me in such a case?
He is haunted by such thoughts and fears of loneliness in his future life coming ahead. He himself suffocates with the weight of his own anxieties and agony of thoughts.
Saying this, he would get up, walk towards his car, keep his feet steady, his eyes on the road while driving and would reach the door of his house.
This had become his daily routine.
In fact, now, this obsession of his thought had become an integral part of his life, a life with agony!

The writer is a former IBS officer in AIR/DD in Delhi & Bhopal, and the winner of Sahitya Akademi National Award and Delhi Urdu Academy Award and Urdu Laureate. He can be reached at [email protected]

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