Sujata

An iron bucket screeches as it is dragged against the cement floor.

This was the sound of summer while Sujatha was alive… Or at least till she was packed away to the hospital, when for the first time a maid set foot inside her home. Until then, Sujatha was adamant to keep the chores of her home to herself.

I’m four, five, six or seven years old. The iron bucket wakes me up every summer morning… mornings soaked in the vacuous lull of the vacation… soaked like an old tattered cloth in Sujatha’s hands. Awake but unwilling to wake up, I listen to the cloth as it infiltrates the surface of the water in the bucket, drowns, and is suddenly pulled out by Sujatha’s noiseless hands – triggering the pitter-patter grumble of the dripping water.

Noiseless hands, noiseless feet and a ruined damp cloth mop the floor so unobtrusively that every morning I feel that Sujatha has slipped away suddenly. Hers was a noiseless presence. Small, firm, noiseless presence.

Bent over the red-oxide floor, she is painting it with successive damp strokes – each vanishing as soon as the other appears. “Sujatha?” I mutter, failing to see her bent figure, though aware of her presence – noiseless, invisible. “Hmm” she says silently. And I sink deeper into the thin blanket, prolonging the comfort of the bed and Sujatha’s presence revolving around it.

It’s not always that I would call her “Sujatha”, by her name.

“I don’t mind, but you can’t call me Sujatha in front of others. Amamma is fine’.

Amamma… Amma’s amma.  For me, just Sujatha. Who lived and passed away in graceful noiselessness.

An iron bucket screeches.

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