I rise. The house is sleeping.
In the dark I go to the corner of the room where the battered old trunk lies forgotten. As quietly as possible, I undo the latch and creak the lid open. The smell of naphthalene and dried neem leaves fill the air. Softly, softly… I move the old newspapers and they give way with a soft shirr. I rummage through the old saris, shawls and stuffed toys, all souvenirs of the past. I almost pause when I feel my old Teddy but then my hand finds it.
Slowly, carefully, quietly I pull it out: an old black telephone. It feels heavy, the cord is tangled around the receiver. I sit there in the dark and untangle it.
I pick up the receiver.
I pause, did anyone hear that?
I hold the receiver in my hand and dial.
Six numbers. The dialer rotates back with a soft whirr.
In the unrelenting dark, a line is thrown.
Somewhere, a phone rings.
My trembling hand holds the receiver to my ear so hard that it hurts.
No one says my name like that any more.
“Baba, it is really you? How are you?”
” I am fine. Tell me about yourself.”
“Baba,” I say through my tears, “Baba it’s so good to hear your voice. Why don’t you call me? I never thought….”
“We cannot make calls, we can only receive. Tell me, how are you?”
“I’m okay, actually I’m not okay. I’m just so upset and hurt and nothing is working out….”
“I know, but surely you do know by now that in life, more often than not, things do not work out the way you expect them to. This is not the end of the world.”
I smile through my tears hearing his oft repeated phrase, ” I know Baba, I keep telling myself that, but…”
“But ..what? Look around you, you are blessed with so much. Stop hanging on to what could have been. Be patient. Who said you have to have everything exactly when you want it?”
“I know, but I feel so frightened, so insecure, so uncertain.”
“Believe. Remember that poster you put up in your room: ‘even in darkness, light dawns…”
“…for those who believe,’ ” I finished.
“You and I, we believed. What happened? ”
“I just don’t believe any more, Baba. I cannot find the strength to go on.”
“You will. You must. No matter what. Not for anyone else. For yourself.”
“Look within yourself. You alone can bring yourself out of your own misery.”
I am smarting a little here.
“But, Baba, how do I know?” I cry.
“You know. You only need to remember. And don’t make excuses, one can live with failure, not excuses. I raised you to be strong….” His voice softens, just a little, “and I am always here. You can call anytime you want.”
“I’m always there, I never left you.”
A pause. Silence.
“But I have to go now.”
“Baba, wait, there’s so much I have to tell you… ”
“I know. I also get every message you send. And hear every thought, even the ones you try to hide. I’m with you, always, you only have to look. Now, wipe those tears, you know I don’t like you crying. I really have to go.”
“Baba, no, don’t go!”
I hear him smile, his voice seems to come from far away.
“Ah, Ipsy, you have to let go!”
And the silence of a dead receiver. I press the lever again and again, the line stays dead.
I sit up in my bed, it is almost dawn. My father’s voice echoes all around me.
Tears run down my face, I bury my head in my hands, my palms smell of naphthalene.