The Camaraderie of Strangers

The thought was always there,
night and day.
It haunted her like a shadow,
pursued her like remorse.
A foreboding certainty,
that something very terrible was about to happen,
eating away, poisoning her soul.

She stood upon the pinnacle of a cliff,
ruling over spiritual kingdoms of darkness,
principalities of the unknown,
luring her to destruction.
As the nights would descend,
not the comfortable nights that soothe the troubled minds of mortals,
but the nights that agitate the soul,
her neck always painfully rose six inches above the cushion,
torn, tormented, anxious,
mind like activated charcoal,
and just simply out of control.

Years ago, in a flash, she had lost her young husband,
and it was a trauma from which she never recovered.
Medicines, therapy, hospitals,
rounds of psychiatry wards,
there was no way for her problems to be addressed.
For in the caves of her mind,
bad dreams had built their intricate vicious nest.
She was my mother-in-law,
but she knew me only as her nurse-in-chief.
For twenty-five years she lived with me,
and in fact, the only time I saw her at ease,
was when she lay dead in peace.

Her death was not mourned,
everyone just grieved for a life wasted,
but strangely I miss her,
for between the two of us was a silent, unspoken kinship,
an affinity, a kind of camaraderie of strangers,
which probably only time would blur.
As the night descends,
I tend to visit her room out of an old habit,
and I feel her presence,
her vacant eyes, that face forlorn,
and her singing Bedam Shah Warsi’s kalaam soulfully,
Zameen se aasmaan tak ek sannate ka aalam hai,
Na jaane mere dil ki veerani kahan tak hai
(From earth to sky pervades an eerie silence,
I know not the extent of the desolation of my heart.)

Sangeeta Kampani, 63, was formerly with the IRS.

Featured image:  Danie Franco / Unsplash