Mrs. Irani looks at the wall clock in the living room, right below the picture of Zarathustra. It’s 7:45 pm and Shirin isn’t yet back from work. She would have reached home by now if she had taken her usual 6:10 local train from Andheri.
Mrs. Irani’s heart begins to sink. She reaches for the home phone, puts on her reading glasses hanging down her neck and dials Shirin’s cellphone number. It rings several times before going to the voicemail. Mrs. Irani slumps into the frayed armchair. She knows where Shirin is right now. Her mind is racing fast; How does she stop her from being there? How can she bring her little Shiru back home to her Mommy again?
She picks up the tattered phone book and maniacally turns the pages to alphabet R. She takes few deep breaths to calm herself down and starts dialing the number. The phone rings, She exhales a quiet sigh of relief when Roshni answers.
“Hello Roshni, this is Mrs. Irani, Shirin’s Mom”
“ Hello Aunty, How are you?
“ I am fine Beta, How are you and your parents? asks Mrs Irani, making sure to not sound desperate.
“Everyone is doing great Aunty, I have just reached home from work”
“That’s nice. Roshni, I just called to ask if you have spoken with Shirin lately?”
There’s a brief pause, Mrs. Irani senses a little hesitation in Roshni’s voice when she replies “Actually Aunty I have been really busy at work and so is Shirin I think, we are just not able to connect off-late”
“Oh OK. Haven’t talked on phone also?” Mrs. Irani presses on.
“Aunty is everything alright? You can talk to me straight, is anything troubling you?”
“No no nothing like that” She stops for a moment, then decides to continue “I only want to know if Shirin is still meeting that Boy”.
The phone line goes quiet. “Roshni beta I know you are Shirin’s best friend but I too am like your mother, am I not? Won’t you help me know what’s going on in her life” Mrs. Irani’s tone gets fervent.
“Aunty, off course you all are like my family. I am not trying to hide anything from you. Shirin and I haven’t talked on this subject since we last met at your place when she made a promise to you that she would break up with Vikram.”
That name! how much she loathes the sound of it. She knows Roshni is lying to her. “OK you want to keep me in the dark, it’s fine, but remember I am her mother and I will find out. Also remember that you have parents too, can you imagine them going through the same pain as me? Mrs. Irani slams the phone down.
It’s past 8, she must eat dinner and take medicines to keep her Diabetes under check. She has absolutely no appetite for food but skipping the daily doze isn’t an option. She drags herself to the kitchen , softly saying hymns from the holiest of all books; Avesta “I approach you with good thought, O Mazda Ahura, so that you may grant me the blessing of two existences, the material and that of thought, the blessing emanating from Truth, with which one can put your support in comfort.”
Food tastes awful and the TV show is hurting her eyes and ears. At the sound of the door bell, she jumps from her chair at the dining table, spilling some water over her night gown.
I will be calm, I will not yell at her for being late, I will not let my baby drift away. She makes a silent resolution, while walking hastily to open the door.
“Hi Mommy” Shirin looks exhausted
Mrs. Irani goes to give her daughter a tight hug “Come my Baby”
“Mommy, I am sorry my phone ran out of battery so I couldn’t inform you that I would be home late”
“I was so worried Shiru. Come come dikri , let me serve you food. You must be starving”
“Actually Mom, I was so hungry that I picked up some junk from the station and ate in the train, you don’t worry I will eat later in the night when I am hungry again”
“Ok baby, you take rest. How was your day at work?”
“My day was hectic Mom and tomorrow I have to leave early. I am going to go to bed. You please don’t forget to have your medicines, OK?” Shirin said going inside her room.
Mrs. Irani sits in her chair again. She gulps down her tablets. She is thinking hard; Did her daughter behave as usual? Was her face slightly flushed with excitement? Did she avoid making an eye contact?
She gets up and silently walks towards Shirin’s room. The door is partly shut, she can hear the water flow in the bathroom.
She goes inside her own room and starts preparing for her night-time prayers. “The fabric of my life work they destroy, The evil doers, extolled as masters and mistresses, Who dispossess persons of their rightful heritage And those who will retard the good and truthful from the realm of the Good Mind, O Mazda.”
Mrs. Irani wakes up with a start. She is used to having disturbed, broken sleep. She decides to check on Shirin before trying to go back to sleep; May be she too is awake and is now hungry. She tiptoes to her daughter’s room, the door is shut but she can hear her muffled voice speaking on the phone. She stands outside the room, holding her breath.
“He is gone, gone forever” She hears Shirin say “I miss him so much Roshni, I feel as if a part of me is amputated from my soul”
She continues talking but her words get buried into the sound of her weeping.
Gasping for breath, Mrs. Irani stumbles back to her own room and locks the door from inside. She is overwhelmed with emotions. She runs to stand in front of the sacred flame to thank Ahura Mazda for helping her daughter stay on the right path and for saving them both from the eternal doom.
She prays frantically before dropping down on her bed out of exhaustion.
She wants to finally sleep undisturbed. She shuts her eyes as tight as she can but the sound of her daughter’s weeping, is getting louder. Her Shiru who brought so much joy to her, is grieving.
Mrs. Irani covers her ears with both her hands but the deafening cries are piercing through her whole body…