I've always had trouble swallowing pills. I have this feeling, this fear that it would get stuck in my throat and choke me. When we were children my mother would crush the medicinal tablet into a fine powder, add some sugar and water to it and make us eat the whole concoction. It was awful, and left behind an unwanted bitter taste that lingered on your tongue for a long time. I was a sickly child and was constantly under one medication or the other; yet I cannot really master the art of swallowing pills.
Now as I stared at the small pile of pills I had collected, the first thing that came to my mind was how on earth I was ever going to take them all. Crush them again, I guess, and make myself a strong drink. There were pills for headache, cold, fever, stomach ache – the kind of pills you can easily get without a prescription. I had spent the last one week collecting them, going to unfamiliar localities where no one would know me. It was not easy, and there were days when I couldn’t bring myself to approach the store. I would stop my scooter near the store and sit there for a long time, not moving, simply staring in space while a battle raged in my head. People must have found me very strange, a grown woman sitting on a scooter for a long time, looking lost and bewildered. It was uncomfortable. Sometimes I’d pretend to call someone and would say loudly into the phone “If you are not here in five minutes I am going without you.”, but that meant I had to leave within five minutes. In spite of all the cold feet and the change of minds, I’d still managed to amass a good amount of painkillers of all sorts, enough to kill a person.
You see, I had decided to kill myself. I was too scared to slash my wrists or hang myself, so I thought overdosing on pills would be the easiest way. I was tired of the anger, of the fights, and the hurt that lived deep inside. All I wanted was to sleep and never wake up.
I thought of my mother, God bless her soul, dead for twenty years now. I suddenly wanted to hear her voice, suddenly wanted her help, her sound advice. She was the kindest person I ever knew, and died too soon. She was forty-six, a happily married woman with two daughters when one Wednesday morning she didn’t wake up. Nobody knew why. She was in perfect health, had a job she loved as a restaurant owner, had a husband and children who adored her; she had every reason to live for. I was fifteen and my sister Kimteii was twelve; we were devastated. My father, who was three years younger than my mother, was simply lost. He didn’t know how to live without her. I didn’t go to school for one year, and he hardly noticed.
Because I was sick so often I spent a lot of time at home, following my mother wherever she went. Her death was something I could not accept. I woke up every morning expecting to hear the sound of her cooking in the kitchen, her singing along to the radio, and would wait in my bed for her to come and wake me up. But she never came. All that was left behind was an emptiness, a silence that filled every corner, a meaninglessness that invaded our lives.
He had to feed his children, so my father continued going to work. But he didn’t know or care if his children went to school. My teachers excused me for a week, but when I didn’t appear for the second week the principal sent a note to my father asking when I would return to school. My father never saw the letter because I tore it up into pieces and threw them out of the window. My aunts and uncles then slowly realized that I wasn’t going to school, but by then it was too late. Half the school year was gone, and I was not willing to leave the house for any reason. I feared that if I left the house, my mother’s spirit would leave the house with me and fly away; I still liked to believe that she was still with us. I stayed indoors for a year, and even though I was perfectly able to do all the housework (my mother had trained me very well) a cousin came to live with us.
I went back to school the next year, a year older than most of my classmates. Everyone had heard of my tragedy, and they were all very kind to me. I was in Class 10, board exams ahead, and my father, finally recovered, was terribly worried that I might not make it through. But I passed the exam with flying colours - a nice 62%. My father wanted to send me away for further studies, but I flatly refused. How could I leave the town where my mother had breathed her last? How could I survive a day if I didn’t see my little sister who was turning out to look more and more like my mother? I was not ready to move on. So I finished my pre-university and college in Aizawl, and because my father had friends in high places I easily secured a government job as a clerk. It was not a bad job, not too exciting either, but it was an easy job and I soon became very good at it.
Ten years went by in the blink of an eye. Kimteii married a boy she had known since childhood; they were both twenty-one when they got married, and in my opinion too young. But she was happy and it was all that mattered. My father refused to get married again although there were plenty of widows and divorcees trying to hook him. Marriage was something that never entered my mind. There was a man in our office building who expressed his interest in me, said I was not like the other young girls, said I was sincere and responsible etc etc. He often came to visit me at home, but I couldn’t like him at all. He was five years older and when he laughed his nostrils would flare up. I guess that was the reason I couldn’t bring myself to like him; the flared nostrils came in the way of romance. After a year of visiting me he finally gave up, and he is now married to a hairdresser who opened shop in the building next to ours, and they already have two kids.
It was in August 2005 when I got a call from an old classmate.
“Hello, is it Dinteii, Laldinliani?”
I didn’t recognize the voice, and so I cautiously replied yes indeed it was me.
“This is Lalrinsiami, your classmate in Class 10, do you remember me?”
Of course I did, everyone knew her.
Lalrinsiami was the most popular girl in our class – funny, smart, and polite. She was now a doctor and lived in Lunglei with her doctor husband. She was in Aizawl for two months and thought it would be fun to have a class reunion; after all it had been fifteen years and not a single reunion so far. I was surprised, it was so sudden, and I hadn’t really stayed in touch with any of my classmates. But I was intrigued – wouldn’t it be nice to go? To see how everyone was doing, how they turned out, who got married and who didn’t.
“It sounds like fun, yes I will come.”
“Good. I have some more people to call and will let them know you are coming.”
“OK, and Lalrinsiam, where are we having the reunion?”
“I will call you back and let you know, but it’s most likely to be at Zoremmawia’s place, I will call you back.”
“And Dinte, one more thing..”
“They call me Siami now.”
“Oh I see. So long then Siami.”
We hung up.
The reunion was a success. Around fifteen people turned up from a class of about sixty, not a good turnout but we had fun nonetheless. Zoremmawia’s wife had recently given birth and so the event was held at the house of Siami’s husband’s parents’ house. It was a big old house in Vaivakawn, only the parents and a younger brother was at home, and they tactfully stuck to their own rooms.
Seeing people after fifteen years was strange. Some people had changed completely, some remained the same. We talked about the school, about the teachers – Brother Philip and his high singing voice, Sir Rammuana and his old noisy bike, funny incidents, and mostly about ourselves. Where we studied, who we married, where we lived now. We talked about the people who didn’t come, why they couldn’t come, how some people had vanished, and who was doing what where and how well. We complimented each other on how beautiful we turned out, and the girls of course talked about our clothes and hair and where we bought what for how much. Someone brought some old photographs and we laughed at our ugly faces and at our clothes that looked funny now but were considered stylish fifteen years ago. After dinner someone suggested singing, and we sang the school anthem and some school songs we could remember.
The party broke up at around ten. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, and everyone promised to keep in touch. We even suggested having a reunion every year, although we knew at the back of our minds that it really wasn’t possible.
(to be continued.......)
(to be continued.......)