Scared To Death

Rakhi looked up in awe at the huge billboards forming the façade of a brand new mall. Bright colors and well-dressed people dotted the entrance and compound circling it. Sitting, standing, laughing, eating, holding hands, everyone looked happy. How much everything has changed, sighed Rakhi  

Just as she was about to move forward she thought she saw a familiar face. Was that Raghav, son of her former neighbour’s, the Makhija’s? The boy had his face bent, intently concentrating on his mobile as he waited to cross the road. Why doesn’t he look up so I can confirm it is Raghav, fretted Rakhi.

As if he'd heard her, the boy looked up and stepped forward to cross the road, when from nowhere a garbage truck came hurtling towards him. The boy was flung in the air, and fell to the ground with a thud. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing and time stood still. Till blood began seeping out from under his head and started forming a puddle. That is when a girl screamed. No one had realized that the garbage truck had sped away.

Rakhi was too stunned to react. She stood still. She couldn’t absorb what she had just witnessed. Was that really Raghav, or someone else? After all she had seen him as a little boy last. She too wanted to scream like that girl but no sound came out.

Rakhi walked into the house. Her mother-in-law looked at her and they silently exchanged a conversation. In another lifetime, Rakhi and her mother-in-law had never got along. Her mother-in-law had troubled her endlessly and Rakhi had borne it all. But they were in a different space now, where they understood each other well.

Rakhi started into the distance. Her mother-in-law came and stood beside her. She knew enough to let her be, till Rakhi could not hold back and a torrent of words spilled out of her. After a while a tear rolled down Rakhi’s cheek, others followed suit immediately and soon turned into great big heaving sobs. Her mother-in-law looked at her with compassion in her eyes, she knew exactly what Rakhi was feeling. That look increased the sobs, which had now turned into hiccups.

Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law were standing side by side in silent solidarity when Ravi walked it on the scene. He looked at his mother’s somber face, and his wife’s tear stained one and gritted his teeth.
‘Again, Rakhi?!’ he spat out.
‘Let her be, Ravi’ answered his mother
‘I can’t, Aai (mother)! I am fed up!’
‘Ravi…I saw him...I saw him being hit…by a vehicle…’said Rakhi, between sobs
‘So? So what? When will you stop reacting like this?! When?’
‘I…I..’ Rakhi could not complete her sentence.
‘You know how she has always been, Ravi. Extra sensitive. Don’t be so harsh and impatient with her.’ chided his mother.
‘Harsh? Impatient?Which world are you living in?!’ Ravi let out a sarcastic laugh
‘Ravi…I can’t forget…that…boy’ Rakhi tried to explain
‘It reminded you of our accident, didn’t it?’ asked her mother-in-law, making Rakhi start a fresh round of sobs, as she replied with frantic nods, unable to speak anymore

‘Oh Rakhi!’ Ravi’s face softened, ‘will you ever accept that we are no longer mortals, after all three of us died in that road accident 10 years ago?’

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