The Ladies were moving around aimlessly in the compound. The old age home for ladies were either homeless or suffering from dementia. Some were limping from old wounds and some were held to walk around due to ailments. But one was seated near the gate.
She was in her nightdress, donated by some samaritan. Her hands had never done physical work nor her face had seen the bright sun. She looked beautiful, surreal, as if time was her only enemy, robbing her of her memory. I looked around for the warden and as we locked eyes, she came over to where I stood over. She introduced herself as ‘Rodali’ and gave me a sweet smile. The smile for donation. I enquired about the lady, who she was and where she had come from?
Rodali looked forlorn for a second and said, ‘Second, her name, as she told us, came one night, completely drenched from the Bordoisila and rang the bell attached to the gate. She stood at the gate and was shivering. Her hair was cut in different places, hands were full of muck and her feet were dirty. No shoes, no identification, nothing. She just had a tattoo on her left hand engraved ‘A’. She was obviously in a shock. We took her in and cleaned her, gave her tea and comforted her. All throughout she was quiet. A quietness she carries even to this day. We asked her name and she simply put two fingers up and said ‘Second’ in clear English. It’s been a year now and though we have given her photo to the police and newspapers, nobody has come for her. She does a lot of work here, keeping the place clean, cooking or helping with nursing, if anyone falls sick, but we never hear her voice. Her eyes are always towards the floor. It’s as if Second is partially mad or has dementia’
Intriguing! Social work was not my forte but I was always drawn to the sick and infirm. I had just passed by this old age home for ladies and my attention was drawn by the happy noises inside from laughing. She definitely had my attention and I intended to find out more. I called Rodali and asked her permission to visit for the next week to assist in any way I could at the Home. Rodali was more than happy as there was a staff shortage and she could use some. I left for home after two hours, studying the working intricacies and come better prepared the next day.
Second went to her bed and as she laid down on the soft mattress, she pulled the drawsheet on her face. Second? Her name may be Second to the world now but her transition from Anamika (A as in the tattoo on her right hand) to Second has been an arduous and pitiful one. Pitiful, because her stars were fallen, especially Rahu. Arduous because of all the misdeeds of others. Anamika was born second child to her parents and all her life, she could remember being second in being appreciated, loved or remembered, be in family, school, college or office. She married for love, but she was her husband’s second love, as his first was his ‘others’. She excelled in office and designation but when it came to official increments, she stood second. Patriarchy loomed large in her life, as she could never excel in the eyes of her parents, despite bringing laurels in extra-curricular activities. Always second. But Anamika thought, this time it will be different. She had lost her first husband and was single for ages, disbelief in the entire system of remarriage and love. This time, she thought differently. She thought finally, she was meeting a man, Anurag, who would treat her as his first love, despite being a widower.
Anamika was finally happy. As days crept into months and then years, she realised that the man she lived with, may not be all that he portrays. Anurag did not marry her legally, for fear of losing out monetarily. He did not provide for her financially or gave her a shed as all the property and finances he had, he willed it to his only child. There were no photos of them in the house, as his first wife’s portrait dominated the house and he would never allow a ‘second’ to interfere in his love for his first wife. To the legal world, Second was his amusement until life was in him. There were moments when she had begged him to atleast give her a place in her name so that after him, God forbid, she could live in dignity. But again, Rahu was laughing! She left a formidable job and career to become his consort. She smiled at the world and flaunted materialistic riches, knowing this too will stop with his passing. Anamika had often told Anurag that in old age, when both of them would be incapable of physical work, they would have to depend on Help. But alas! He did not heed her advice. Today, after twenty years of living together as a couple, Anamika was chased out of the abode she lived with Anurag. In his belief in Anamika, he too treated her as Second.
Anamika gazed at the ceiling and could hear her loud shrieks as her hair was caught hold of and chopped by the uncouth, as Bordoisila raged. After all, wasn’t Bordoisila unleashing, the best time to torture someone when voices are muffled by the hailstorms and the noise created thereafter? She knew then that her time has come. Since Anurag did not listen to her advice when time was with them, she had to leave him with his family and go to a place where she will never be searched for. What best but the Old Age Home for Ladies below the hillock where she lived. This way, she could look up and see Anurag, as long as life was in her. In her immense love for Anurag, he could never treat her as Second.
Anamika was tired. Tired of behaving dumb and with dementia. For she understood what was going on around her and she saw Anurag by the window everyday, from her position, sitting near the gate at the Home. It was time.
Anamika took out the P tablets she had meticulously stored over the year, counted them to twenty and went to the window. The lights in Anurag’s room was on. He was probably watching television or talking. Not missing her. She looked into her hand and mixed the twenty tablets in the water. Sitting near the head of the bed, she drank the water mixed with medicine. She could slowly feel the cold sensation filling in her legs and her heart was stopping. She lost her consciousness.
Next morning as I stopped in front of the Home, I could see a 108 ambulance parked and a lot of concerned faces. Faces were also pouring in from above the houses in the hillock. One noticeable was a white bearded face on the top floor of the white marbelled house. He stood there and suddenly vanished. I enquired what happened to Rodali and she said Second died from an overdose of P tablets. But where did she get so many P tablets? Suddenly there was noises and a man barged in. He was the same man in the window. White bearded. He shouted out ‘Anamika!!!’ and fell down by her side. The attending EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) caught hold of his falling body and as he laid the old man on the floor, life had gone out of him. Anurag laid next to Anamika, as a First to his Second.