Saturday 24 June 2023

'Immortality' by Ani Banerjee

Ma said, “is when your kids hook you up to tubes and keep you alive well past your expiration date.”

“Awwww, Ma, May your wit be immortal,” Sonali, her daughter, who arrived from Houston yesterday, replied.

“Sonali should rest,” Ma’s son Ari, sitting near her foot, said.

“Sonali, listen to Ari,” Ma said

“Ma, Ari died nine years ago,” Sonali replied.

“Weird,” Ma thought, but when she looked again, she could not see Ari. Maybe she was hallucinating. 

“Cockroach,” Sonali screamed, like she saw a ghost. Ari said, “So American.” There was Ari again and this time Ari laughed, and so did Ma.

“Sonali, this is India. You expect American standards?” Ma said.

“I do, Ma, I do. No reason for this smell of bleach, and that horrible damp spot on the wall behind your bed, like a dancer. Cockroaches in the basin. I think you should go to a better hospital.”

“If I could go anywhere, I would go to the mountains, easier to climb to heaven, ” Ma said.

“You are not going anywhere,” Sonali said, both women realizing that Ma had only a few days left. Sonali sat on the bed, next to Ari, and laid her hand on Ma.

A sparrow entered the room from the open window and picked up the cockroach. It circled and whirled up to the ceiling. The damp dancer started her dance. The sparrow joined and swayed in a rhythm, round and round, waiting for Ma to join.

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