“Hurry up! What are you doing?????”
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Bang! bang !bang ! I hear someone thump at the door with increasing frustration. I am frustrated too. Can’t they understand that all this hurry up and banging is only making me freak out? Obviously they don’t, for the tirade continues.
“Come out of there quick.We’re getting late”
The whole family was waiting outside, waiting for me. All dressed to the nines. Dressed for my sister’s graduation.
“You always run to the bathroom when it is time to leave. Why can’t you plan things better?”
Blame it on Grannie mom, I say in my head , YOUR mother , the one who always made us go to the toilet the moment we called for the lift. “Beta, always go to the toilet before you go anywhere. Who knows how long it will be before you get a chance.” Our retorts and pleadings that we didn’t need or want to go to the loo were met with strong stares- the raised eyebrows and protruding eyeballs, daring any unformed drop of urine to stay inside.
“I’m done, Mom, ” I say, quickly getting up and with a last minute look in the mirror open the door.
But, it doesn’t open. I jiggle the handle and it still doesn’t open. I try shaking the door but it just doesn’t move. A strange feeling starts up from the bottom of my stomach. It can’t be happening can it? “I’m stuck!” I wail. ” Mooommmm! Help!! I’m stuck.”
“What do you mean your stuck???” thunders my father. “How can you be so stupid!”
I’m not stupid Dad, I’m stuck an your shouting doesn’t make the door open. I can’t get out and your yelling is not helping. Go get someone to open it.
Someone on the other side of the door seems to have read my mind for I hear my brother’s calm voice telling them that he just had informed housekeeping and it wouldn’t be long before someone came.
There’s more jiggling of the door handle. From the outside this time. I hear the scratch of a hairpin. It must be my mother who’s taken it out. She is the original lock picker and has rescued many a trapped person. But this is the original sticky lock whose levers refuse to budge. I can hear something wiggle and something jiggle, but the lock stays firmly stuck.
“Be calm, beta,” she assures me, ” I’m trying to open this lock.”
“Don’t be stupid Sharda. You’re not Nancy Drew in some stupid detective novel.”
“Keep quiet a minute, let me concentrate.” Some more jiggling and wiggling. An ominous click but the handle doesn’t move. Not even a nano millimetre.
“Forget it Sharda,”
“Ya mom, let it be. We’ll wait for the housekeeping staff to get here. They said they’ll come.”
“Oh. Don’t tell me about housekeeping. They are completely useless. They never come when you call them. And if they were so good, this would have never happened in the first place. You go ahead. I’ll open the door in a minute. Then Shobha and I will join you.”
“It’s all your mother’s fault . Training the children to go to the toilet just as we’re ready to leave. Always we have to run and go anywhere.”
“Don’t bring my mother into this now. She’s been dead for over five years now. It’s your fault for booking us this in cheap student accommodation . Why couldn’t we stay in a hotel?”
“SSh, Ma, this is not the time to fight with Papa. Let’s just wait for a bit.”
” SHUT UP! Like mother like children. I’m not going to waste my time with you. I’m going now! If she has come all the way from India to spend her sister’s graduation ceremony in the bathroom, she is welcome to do so. But I’m not wasting my time.”
“Ok Papa, I’ll come. Wait, waiiiiit” and a shuffle of feet joined the receding footsteps in the hallway.
I can see my mother’s mind working, thoughts crowding her mind faster than she can think. Poor thing, caught between the devil and the deep sea. Should she follow my father and brother or should she wait for me? And miss out on our family’s moment of glory. Four years of scrimping and saving,the odd conversation on a scratchy phone line, occasional glimpses of a life shared online, gut wrenching moments of intense despondency, hours spent in worry over safety and security, a tangible and constant ache of an absent loved one at family celebrations and festivities.
Four years of all this, only to be stuck behind a bathroom door?