Fixer-Upper

Wrrum, tick, wrrum, tick. the sound of the ceiling fan coming back on woke her. Where was she?! Oh right! Power cut so she had come to sleep in the large hallway with the front door open . There was something important to do. What was it? She struggled up from the mat and sat staring blearily around her. Something exciting, out of the ordinary. The perfect solution. Solution to what? What was the problem? Perhaps it was just a dream.  She got up to go to her room when she noticed the side room was closed and a garbage bag was outside it. Now the memories came flooding back. It was not a dream after all. She was going to fix it, that’s right! Grinning she walked to the bag and rummaged through it until she found what she was looking for. She picked up the pieces and walked back to her room, put it in the desk drawer and locked it. She tucked the key under her pillow and made a knot in her saree so she wouldn’t forget again and went back to sleep.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

“She left the front door open again” Ding! goes the tumbler-davara as his wife plonks it in front of him.

“You know no one’s going to come up to the fourth floor to steal. Why the drama?”

“Drama. Seriously?! And who said anything about stealing?!”

Seri, vidu! It’s too early in the morning to fight. You know the doctor said it is only going to get worse. We cant lose our cool so soon. I will get the child lock on my way back this evening. I’ll fix it. We’ll find a way. ”

The newspaper rustles as he hides behind it. He hears her muttering something in the kitchen. He sighs, folds the newspaper and inhales the fresh scent of his early morning filter coffee.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

His mother was muttering again. That is all she seemed to be doing these days. Apart from banging  stuff on kitchen counters of course. When was the last time they had an early morning hurry burry without the dark looks and tightly-gripped-together lips? He used to hate getting up in the mornings, now he just loathed it. It was so much better when Bobo was there. He could still feel the warm fluffiness under his chin where Bobo used to curl up every morning. He loved Bobo. He missed Bobo. If Bobo came back everything would be fine. Nobody will be angry at Paati anymore and Amma wont look so exhausted or Appa so sad. He had to look for Bobo one more time. He could fix it, go back to normal life again. He would be like Chota Bheem and save the day!

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

Gone, again!  Even this morning, the entire Sahasranam recitation went fine. Not one name dropped. That is 1000 names, that is, and all present and uttered out loud. And yet, here it was this knot in her saree mocking her memory. What could it be for? Looking out the window of her back room she saw the road with its swarm of people walking by. The traffic snarling, people busy going everywhere. Was it ever like this before? When was the last time she had time to just sit down and think? She was too busy to sit down, that’s for sure. She should be out doing things. But what things? She squeezed the knot between her fingers closing her eyes, hoping she’d remember that way. Well, no point sitting and hoping for something.  The trick is to walk it out, something might trigger the memory. She shuffled out to the main hall and looked around. Where was everyone? Shouldn’t they be here by now? She walked to the front door and found some strange plastic thing on the knob. What was this? It didn’t let the door open! Curious, she leaned in to look closely at the hinge. This is interesting! Surely this wasnt there before. She couldnt possibly have forgotten this! It must be something new. It looked new. There! that was the original door knob still there underneath this covering. Just need to take the covering off and the door will open as before. That was easy! Just need that… that…never mind the word! she knew what she wanted. The thing that will fix it just fine. This was going to be fun!

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

” He stole a cat! Are you going to do nothing?!

“I am sure he didn’t steal it. Besides, it could–”

“It is not Bobo. For God’s sake don’t you start saying it is Bobo!!”

“It IS Bobo!!” his son shouts from his room, behind the closed door. “I CALLED AND HE CAME TO ME!!”

“You went to it carrying milk and cheese. What do you expect? IT IS A CAT!!!”

Alright! It’s fine. Even if it is not Bobo–”

IT IS BOBO!!”

“– EVEN SO, its not like he stole it. He found it wandering the streets”. Then in a whisper, ” It has made him happy. The first time in weeks I have seen him smile!”

“It had a bloody collar on. Of course it belongs to somebody. You can’t ignore facts, just because your son is happy!! I want him to be happy too, but not this way. What is happening here? When did we start losing the plot altogether?!”

“I didn’t see the collar. Fine! we’ll put up notices tomorrow. We’ll give it a week. If nobody claims him by then, he’ll stay.”

“HE IS BOBO. I AM NOT GIVING HIM BACK!!”

“Son, IF this belongs to someone else you wouldn’t want them to feel bad like how you felt when Bobo left, would you? I promise you, we’ll get a new Bobo for you. I’ll fix this, believe me.”

“Yes, but what if Bobo had gone to this other person when he left us and that person now sees the poster and wants him back? He was my Bobo first!”

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

The door was fixed alright, but what is that “thing” in her saree for? It was still sitting there mocking her, and as if that were not enough she couldn’t remember the word for it. The talk with her daughter-in-law was just a disaster. It was frustrating. What do you do when your efforts are met with blank incomprehension and the panic in the eyes of the person you were trying to talk to? What’s the point in crying at her?!  What had she done?! She had just come looking for answers. She went back to her room and shut the door with a bang. She needed to calm down but her brain would play back the conversation, gaps and all and the panic would start again. When her grandson walked into the room it all started to make sense. His face was aglow with happiness. That look of joy, that was it! Bring that carefree smile back in his face and fix it there. That’s what she had to do. She remembered that now and the rest came floating back. Of course! that is what she had picked up from that….that…no! she was not going to get lost in that world of words again. She was going to hold on to this moment if it killed her. She quickly drew a piece of paper toward her and started drawing her grandson just as he looked right now with that glorious smile on his face. So words had deserted her. Never mind, she still had images. She was going to keep this paper with his face on the desk so she will never forget what she had to do! The…thing…fluffy thing…ptch! never mind, just stop it grabbing the pencil. There! Her grandson and she both laughed as she picked it up off the paper and set it aside so she could finish her picture.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

It was all a disaster. Bobo didn’t fix anything, he just made it all worse. Now Amma was mad at him. He couldn’t think how to explain it to her. He knew it was Bobo, he just knew it! Even  Paati did, they had laughed at Bobo together when he played with her pencil. Just like how they both used to play with Bobo before. She recognized Bobo, he was sure of it. But now it was all wrong. Now all he did was picture Bobo pining for someone else. Someone who had bought him a collar. Now looking at Bobo only brought fear, a deep pain in his stomach that made him not want to eat anything. Even the ice cream Appa had gone out to get especially for him. Would someone really come to take Bobo away? Another thing to fix apart from all the others that Bobo’s coming back was supposed to fix! It was all just a great big disaster.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

This little thingy goes on that, and now this whole thing on this… There, now this first half is done! This whole “images” idea works. Just have to forget there was ever another way to communicate. Forgetting, she could do; no problem! In fact, she was getting to be a regular pro at forgetting! Her dry chuckle sounded loud in the sudden silence. The war of the words must have ended sometime ago. No point worrying about what all that was about. Wouldn’t understand anyway and trying only seemed to make everything worse. Silence was good, it was comforting, helps with thinking. Calms you. She stretched and straightened her back and turned off the light. So dark outside, must be late. Perhaps should go to the store tomorrow. She turned the light back on and drew a picture of the tool that she needed to buy in her diary. She put that and her incomplete project back in the drawer and locked it. No more knots, no more emotional attempts at conversation. Once this was complete that’ll be proof that her new system works. After all it helped her fix this …thingy…and they were just going to throw it away too!

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

“She was upset with me earlier. For taking her saree to the wash. She has worn it for a whole week, she wouldn’t give it to me to wash, so I just took it and washed it while she was in the bath.”

“That was good. Maybe she was not upset because of that.”

“She kept thrusting the thalappu of the replacement saree at me. It was all knotted and I could tell she was bothered by the saree. I dont think she could have possibly meant anything else”.

“So she wore the replacement saree. That couldn’t have been so bad.”

“I did try to explain to her that the old saree was filthy and she will have it back tomorrow.”

“How did she take that?”

“Like everything else, tried to say something, couldn’t and so walked away and shut herself in the room.”

Silence, as he tries to think of a way to comfort her. She finishes brushing her hair and gets into bed.

“You know the worst part? It was the saree I had bought her last Diwali. A simple cotton one because she wanted only that as it was the softest and didn’t bother her as much as silk does.”

“The replacement saree? Yeah I remember the Diwali saree. She said she didnt have that color, right?”

“Not really, but that’s not the point. The point was, she wore it again for Pongal and when your sister asked her why she wore an old saree, said she loved it best. That was just six months ago. Now she can’t just find the words, she has forgotten her likes and dislikes too. How much longer before she forgets us?”

He hugs her tight as tears flow not sure he can fix this anymore.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

No one had called yet. He had made sure he had his fingers around the collar when Appa took the photo for the flyer. He didnt think Appa had noticed. He made sure to keep Bobo out of Amma‘s way so she wouldn’t get mad again. But in the evenings he noticed Bobo sitting at her feet under the dining table. He seemed to like playing with her saree and she didn’t seem to notice. So perhaps Bobo would stay after all. But Bobo was not fixing anything.  Paati now rarely came out of her room or speak to anyone. He thought perhaps Bobo slept in her room during the day when he was off at school because he had seen his hair on the bedspread. But he couldn’t tell if  Paati noticed or not. He wasn’t sure what she did all day. They had a new girl in to keep her company during the day, but he thought it was more to make sure  Paati didn’t leave the house and wander off.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

The maid girl was a genius! What clear illustrations! There, that’s her knock. Good, now where is the drawing of the tool? Oh! yes here it is. Good girl, memory worth the two of them. Her personal memory-…person. If she were only a bit more dextrous with tools, she could finish the whole project by herself. Well, thank God she doesn’t! Then there truly will be nothing left to do but sit and worry about the big blanks in her brain. No sense in worrying about it now. Where is that shop? It was round this corner wasn’t it? Wait! where is the girl going now? Oh, this is a new one! So shiny! Look at all those tools. Much better than that old shop that was round the corner. What was the owner’s name? He had that black tooth in the front. He knew her name, was always ordering people about to get her coffee while she chatted about the specifics of what she wanted. He had a daughter didn’t he? What was her name? Nice girl, two braids. Wait, where did the girl go? Don’t panic, she has to be here somewhere. Oh, thank God, there she is. Well, isn’t she the smart one, she’s found the exact tool. Oh, right, she has the drawing. Not that smart then! So many words on the packaging, but that is ok, the girl will know what to do. She has even remembered to bring her purse..with money…well, she is a regular memory-bank isn’t she? Memory-bank! That’s a good name. Anyway, here’s the tool now for the final piece to fix, then…well better not think of the “then”. As Krishna says …what is it? Sure it starts with ka…Should ask the memory-bank girl, she was sure to know.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

“I don’t know…”

“What?”

“That girl the company sent…”

“What about her? She seems alright. She had really good references.”

“I know. Its just that she seems so…I dont know…meek…”

“Meek?! Well you dont want an aggressive care-taker do you?”

“No of course not. Perhaps, “meek” is not the best word. It’s just that Amma always liked energetic people. People with some quickness of mind, you know?”

“Well, Amma is not quite herself now-a-days, is she? So perhaps this is what she needs now. Besides, you were the one who told me she gets upset when people try to engage her in conversation. So perhaps, “meek” is what is best.”

“I know, I know. I just… we used to do things together all the time. I miss bouncing ideas off with her. Remember that Kangat’s wedding? That embroidery pattern was all her brain-child! I just miss her, I suppose.”

“You think we should perhaps get someone who will stimulate her more? Do you think she will deteriorate faster with this girl?”

“No, I dont know. I might just be projecting. Maybe she does need someone to just calm her. She definitely seems calmer.”

His phone beeps. He checks his message.

“I have to go now. I thought this was a good fix…”

“No, go. We can talk when you get back. Besides she has been here only a week. We still have time to make a decision.”

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

Paati was definitely upto something. Ever since that girl came, the two of them were in her room all the time. Even Bobo seemed to be in on the secret. He slept outside her room, guarding the door. Anytime someone came close to it, he’d open one eye, stretch and flex his claws! Appa thought the girl was the solution. There was definitely less shouting with the girl around, but he was not convinced. He didn’t think Amma was either.  There was something strange about her. She kept smiling secretly to herself when she thought no one was looking. And then there was that sound. He heard it the first time last night. A sort of whirring noise. He was about to go check it out, when it had stopped suddenly and he had heard that girl giggle. What was she upto? He was definitely going to find out tonight. He was going to sneak into Paati‘s room and find out. The two of them where upto something, he was sure of it.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

Done! All done! Unbelievable. The silly Memory-bank was bouncing up and down on the bed watching it fly. She was going to destroy the surprise if she didn’t stop that giggling soon. But still that whirring sound….she should jump too! Well today is the D-day! What time is it? Oh right, that’s his step! Quick have to be ready before he opens the door. Where did that stupid girl go? Yes, yes I am coming! Oh everything is here, good. One…two…here we go!! The door opens and her grandson walks in. That look on his face! Much better than the drawing. He was hugging her and jumping up and down. He was throwing words at her too, but it didnt matter. The happiness is back.

***                             ***                            ***                       ***                          ***

Amma fixed his Battle Robot Helicopter!” she says as soon as he walks in the door. She’s got tears in her eyes.

He looks around and sees his son manning the remote and the Robot zooming overhead, while the cat chases the chopper’s shadow on the ground. His mother is sitting on the sofa with a big grin on her face, he hasn’t seen in months. The girl is throwing directions at his son, not meek anymore.

“What?”, he says stunned.

“That’s what they have been doing all this time in her room. They have come up with some picture cards to “talk” to each other with. They even went to the shop to get some special part to fix the pieces together. It’s only words that upset her. She’s still there, we just needed to find new ways to communicate.”

“What?”, he says again, not really caring. His family was fixed. His mother had fixed it, like she used to fix all his problems when he was younger. The details could wait.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s