Updated: Sep 14, 2022
It is often claimed that life is tough and no matter how hard things get, we should keep fighting. Individuals are expected to fight no matter the situation. Neither the factors that support a person to fight nor the reasons for an individual to not fight aren’t discussed. A couple of winners are cited while thousands of failures are forgotten.
“A Desolate Soul” by Nikhila Kotni is one such forgotten story of a fragile soul who couldn’t live with her circumstances. Filled with sorrow, the story shows how the members we look up to mean so much when facing life turning situations and how life seems meaningless when we lack the strength and are abused by the very people we look up to.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
Naina stood at the edge of the water tank and closed her eyes. Her thoughts took her back in time to when she was in school. In an old house, her aunt and cousin held young Naina before she was about to run away, not wanting to listen to them. As she looked at them with her eyes wide open, her eldest cousin said, “Your parents will always keep fighting because of your Zodiac sign! They are most unfortunate to have you.” Gawking at her, Naina’s aunt said in a sad voice, “My sister never had a peaceful life. Her husband made it even more complicated but this kid just made it worse. Look at her…” Turning towards Naina, she cursed, “She is like a dirtbag breathing life. Even her fate is ugly.” They stared at her as Naina’s cousin suggested, “Let’s admit her in the boarding school that I’m working in mama. I will keep an eye on her and she can stay away from my uncle and aunt and that will offer them the little peace they are hoping for.” The mother looked at her daughter for a moment and nodded in agreement. There was silence and darkness for a moment until another memory popped up. Young Naina stood in a corridor, while a thin short woman stood beside her. Naina stared at her parents while they left the boarding school and the women beside Naina took her inside. The next memory started with a phone ring and young Naina ran towards the corridor hopefully. The attendee picked up the phone to say, “Hey Naina!” Feeling delighted that she finally got a phone call from her parents after many months, Naina rushed to the phone with a beaming smile before the attendee said, “Can you call Archana? Tell her parents had called.” Walking away with a dim face, Naina called Archana. For days, the phone rang multiple times and every single time Naina ran towards the phone filled with hope to talk to her parents. But she never received a call. Adding to that, every weekend, Naina felt extremely disappointed when she saw other kids having a great time with their parents who visited once a week. The next memory was about Naina’s birthday. The day when her parents finally arrived. Until then the only family member Naina ever saw was her cousin. Whenever she saw her, she gave a nervous smile and tried her best to avoid her. On her birthday Naina wore a beautiful pink frock her parents got her and they celebrated her birthday at the school canteen. Naina looked at her parents standing on her either side as she cut the cake. She glowed with a beaming smile on her face feeling loved for once. After the birthday party, Naina and her mother sat on the lawn as her father spoke to the teachers. Staring at the sunset, her mother said, “Your father has not fought with me in the last three months even once. He was calm and caring. We are finally happy together…” Listening to her mother spitting out cruel words without any self-reflection, young Naina closed her eyes.
Opening her eyes, Naina saw the dark blue sky and a blurry full moon covered partially by clouds. She looked at it for a moment and took a deep breath. Turning around, she realised she was standing on the four-story building. A thought passed her mind as to what would happen if she would just fly for a while in her last few moments.
But the destination of the flight terrified her. Even she acknowledged, “That would be messy!”
Still standing on the water tank, she let her memories absorb her again. The next memory she got was that of a girl saying to her, “Look! You should be thankful that I’m even talking to you. My mom strictly prohibited me from even smiling at you. Your father is such a bad person and so are you!”
Those words hurt her so much that she used to often wake up at night recalling them out of the blue. One night when she woke up terrified that she might lose her only friend. She took deep breaths before seeing her mother talking on the phone nervously.
Ending the call, Naina’s mother noticed Naina woke up and walked into another room to get her a frock. Throwing it at her from a distance, Naina’s mother instructed in an intense tone, “Wear it now!"
Fearing her mother, Naina changed her clothes immediately. As soon as she was done, they heard a car honking and both of them got into the car. When they reached their destination, Naina held her mother’s pallu and walked into a hospital room. She saw a person on the bed with a white bed sheet covered over them and noticed her mother weeping. When the nurses uncovered the body, Naina looked at her shaved father’s face filled with fresh stitches across his nose and forehead.
The next memory was Naina getting down from a car, and following her mother and aunt. Entering their new home, Naina’s aunt said, “The apartment is on the third floor. You will have cool breezes and a good atmosphere. The change will be good for you.”
Naina walked into the house towards the corridor and looked down, this time without struggling to look. Meanwhile, her aunt assured, “Her school is nearby and you don’t have to suffer dropping her. She can just walk from here.”
When Naina’s mother asked her if she knew the directions to her school, Naina nodded yes.
A year later, when Naina returned home, her mother shouted, “Why do you always cause me so much trouble? You are just like your father!”
Naina stood silently in a corner as her mother yelled at her, “Why did you attend a stupid school function instead of studying? Is it that necessary to see kids dancing? You are such a brat! You are not allowed inside today! Much better leave me and let me live my life peacefully!”
That wasn’t the first time nor was it the last. Naina often stood outside their main door in wrinkled clothes and a torn bag. She could recall how her aunt, mother or cousin used to ask her, “Where are you coming from instead of the tuition centre? With whom have you been roaming? You are such a bitch. You are so unworthy!”
Truth and lies were both considered as lies and every word spoken to her is out of spite.
In the dark night, Naina crouched in her georgette white frock to slide the heavy lid of the water tank to see a dark rectangular hole. She bent towards the hole as the narrow waves of water reflected her face. She kept her legs in the cold water and felt a shiver down her spine. Looking at the beautiful blurry moon still covered with clouds, she jumped into the water.
In the cold darkness, Naina heard a different voice say, “A few days back her mother asked me if she came to the tuition and I’ve told her she didn’t for a couple of days. Imagine the trouble she might be in!”
And following that statement, Naina heard a couple of girls giggling until one of them said, “The funny thing is that my mom heard her mom yelling at her. Her mom was saying that she was roaming out with somebody. I mean come on, who would even look at her!” and the girls giggled even more until the teacher entered the classroom.
Opening her eyes underwater on the silent night that was lit by the moonlight, Naina heard a couple of girls teasing her by calling her, “Blackey! Blackambo!”
Walking past them in silence as the remaining girls screamed at the top of their voices, Naina wore an uncomfortable expression as she turned back to glance at the girls laughing at her.
Giving up, Naina suffocated in the dark water until one last memory hit her mind, “What have you given me except for misery and sorrow? Your educational loans, medical tests, day-to-day expenses have made me a pauper. I’m sick and tired of you and you are making my life hell.”
Recalling her mother’s face, Naina heard, “You are a burden that I cannot get rid of and after everything, you don’t even care if I live or die. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, your horoscope was right. You will never love your mother. You are such a heartless person and you don’t deserve a mother like me in a million years.”
Before giving up, Naina glanced at the moon one last time and could feel the clouds start to move away from the moon.
For a moment, she felt like she sat on the sand as the ocean waves washed her feet. It was so soothing and peaceful and not even a moment of her existence felt like it. Listening to the waves playing their tunes, Naina felt as if Mother Nature hugged her through the cold winds. In her abode, Naina smiled and so did the mother who held her.
Filled with love, Naina heard the mother say, “You look so beautiful, child. Keep smiling!”
Tears rolled down Naina’s cheek as she struggled to grasp a breath. She smiled looking at the bright and clear face of her mother that looked like a full moon one last time before losing herself. In a world where people are expected to be tough, a fragile yet beautiful soul gave up on herself after being rejected by her own.
This short story is available in paperback & ebook.