The fourth secret


She and I met. At a social function. And as elders laughed and made merry, she and I found a corner. I asked her. ‘What do you like to do? Painting perhaps?’


She smiled. I like to do four things. Everyone knows. About the three things. My Ma and Baba. Too. I love art and craft. I love to eat. I love swimming.


And the fourth? I asked.


She smiled. As children do. Innocence embraced in lips. And said.

The fourth is a problem. I know I like it. I am also good at it. But if you tell the world. They will not believe. Ma and Baba. Too.


No one believes that I like singing. And I can sing too.


She. My friend in Class Five. Promised she will sing for me one day. But alone. She requested.


I look forward to that day.


Out


She was breathing faintly. Tears rolling down. The agony in her effort to breathe was evident. She was surrounded by her children. And her doctor. For many years. Servants stood near the door. Folded hands. Prayers on their lips. A frown on their face. Gloom in the air.


She murmured something. The doctor who was holding her hand said. She is trying to say something. The eldest stepped up. ‘Yes Ma. Is there something you wish to say?’
Her hand outstretched on a cotton sheet. She showed a sign of three. Three fingers. Two folded.
They all gathered close. She murmured. Very soft.


I have a debt. A promise I made to Swam Narayan temple. Ten thousand rupees. Please pay.
A finger folded.


I wanted to gift Malti Bai’s daughter a gold necklace in her wedding. I have one in my locker. Please give it to her.
Second finger folded.


And what is your third wish. The eldest asked.
She opened her eyes. Smiled. And whispered.
That I will tell you when we meet next.


With the index finger laid out on a white bed sheet. And a witty smile on her lips.

She died.

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