The left side of the bed never feels empty even today. I can still feel the weight of his right leg on my right leg. At around 3 a.m. every night, he would gently tap my hand and demand water. “Bottle is on your side,” I’d say. “You pass,” he’d say in a timid voice. His timid voice sounded so affectionate that sometimes I’d pass. Other times I’d pretend to sleep.
That night, too, I pretended to sleep.
He kept on tapping. I kept on ignoring.
Rishu, withdrew his leg and turned his back to me. He never liked being called Rishu. ‘I’m Rishabh,’ he’d say and stamp his feet in irritation. But I couldn’t stop calling him Rishu. Pradeep and I had decided this nick name in the intimate years of our teenage relationship in a college at Delhi.
Rishu, everytime I’d call his name, Pradeep’s face flashed before my eyes. That tight facial skin. The strong jawline. Those broad imperfect lips, lips those were pink like that of a girl. Those dense eyebrows and long eye lashes. His tiny eyes and that broad freckled forehead.
Pradeep had said Goodbye to Rishu and me long back. Rishu doesn’t remember his face except that he is fairly able to identify Pradeep’s pictures resembling the one that hung near the pooja room. He stopped inquiring about his father long back. He knew that the only way his mother could answer was through tears. Sometimes I think how quickly Rishu grew up because of Pradeep’s untimely death.
He died in an accident. Infact, he got burnt when fire broke out in our factory in Gurgaon. He travelled there from North Delhi every day. A journey of two hours one way. They say that the blast was massive. It was tough to imagine a strong built body burning in flames of fire. He had a lot of blisters, I was told. I couldn’t imagine it for his skin was too coarse to sustain blisters. It was 8th March, 2004, a Friday ,and 8th month of my first pregnancy.
I couldn’t imagine raising a child without him but it was too late to make any decision on that aspect.
I was expecting another tap on my hand quite soon. But there wasn’t a slightest movement.
I smiled imaging how he would have slept. Bent back, head and knees too close and curled fingers. The posture he stayed in for nine months in my womb. Mouth open, saliva dripping and heavy breathing. Eyes semi closed only if he was dreaming coupled with a random shake of his right leg if he fell in his dream.
I wanted to turn back and hug my baby. But the effort made me feel too lazy. The distance to be covered a bit too much. Anyway, that was the first thing I did every morning. Kissed his forehead, ran my fingers through his silky straight hair and kept on running them till he opened his eyes and squeezed his brows with irritation. Then I’d give him a peck on his little lips to which he covered his face under the pillow. His skin was soft unlike his father. But his lips were more pinkish than Pradeep.
The alarm rang. It was seven in the morning. 7th September,2014. The sunshine entered the room and found its way to my eyes. I could see the dust particles shining in that particular ray of light.
I turned my back to wake him up.
His mouth was closed. His lips were blue. There wasn’t a drip of saliva and his fingers lay uncurled. His arm was drooping like it had no life. But his eyes only meant that he was sleeping.
Before I could learn what had happened, I fainted. They say he passed away in his sleep. These words choke me. They make me feel dead already. Doctors call it a consequence of some long undetected disease.
I deny. I deny it. Rishu was fine. He slept perfectly fine. His right leg was on my right leg that night. At 3 a.m. he tapped my hand wanting water.