Story : A Ruined family : Legacy of Smoke

~Jiwan Kshetry~Jiwan Kshetry

“Jail or Rehab-home”, Jange thundered “That is where a person like me can live.” He was now virtually unable to control his rage as his hapless mother took further defensive posture at the corner of the room. It had been a straight third day through which he had not got even a puff of hash and he found himself pitiable with increasing sweating and anxiety. The culprit to blame in the whole affair was his mother who now dared telling him she had no more money and he could do anything, even kill her if he wanted. Everything was fine even up to last week when she gave him some amount whenever he asked though after some hesitation.

The other day she abruptly told that she didn’t have money even to pay for the college fees of his brother. Jange tried to become a gentleman, did not argue with mother and went to the source with some non-cash item. Though that item cost much more than the amount he normally paid, the supplier hesitated to give him the drug and gave him an odd glance before he left. From that Jange understood that the next time he may not get the ‘life-support’ with anything other than money. He was by then fairly aware of the temper of the supplier who himself was an addict and did the business only to feed himself. Sometimes when Jange could not manage to bring money, he would allow him few puffs of hashish and let go. But this time Jange was not in a position to take risk and thus needed the money desperately.

No longer had he begun to throw everything on the table to the floor, his mother took one more unexpected step. She took a rope and began tying her neck with it telling him that she was no longer able to withstand the torture and going to hang herself. This suddenly reminded Jange of one similar episode of remote past when she had threatened the same thing.

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He was probably seven or eight by that time, and his brother about five years or so. They lived on a rented room in the city as they had left their home in the village long back after his mother had bitter conflict with the in-laws. Their father worked in some company but he forgot what kind of job that was though that gave the family a good deal of honor. The kids were enrolled on a local private school and they were visibly better-off than their neighbors who also stayed in the rented rooms.

One day the rumors poured suddenly that his father, a still-handsome man had eloped with a woman, that too with a tainted character. People further elaborated that they had the affair for quite long and this honorable man was only one among the victims of that obscenely beautiful woman. Whatever damage was possible was already done by now, as the gentleman didn’t turn up that day at home in the evening. The world of Rupa was thus devastated. She had come to the city severing her relation with the family in the village only trusting this single man. She had even ignored the early and mild rumors about the character of this man. But it was beyond even her wildest imaginations that he would have such a clandestine relation outside his family.

The family was never the same again. It became extremely difficult for Rupa to adapt in the changed circumstances where she had lost not only a husband but also the father of their children and the only source of any income for the family. Despite her sincere attempt she was unable to contain her grief inside her and the two boys eventually came to know what the family was now up to.

It was in this background that Jange had seen his mother attempting some dreadful act. That time she had done everything to mollify the two boys before he saw her doing the wrong thing. When he saw her from the corner of the curtained window, she was about to dash the chair on which she was standing after tying one end of the rope at the neck and the other to the ceiling. He suddenly cried so loudly that even Rupa shivered inside the closed room to discover that he was peering from the corner of the window. She was in the greatest dilemma of her life. She struggled to gather the thoughts as the knot of the rope was rubbing her neck: a gentle push to the chair and she would get rid of all the problems in her real life. Suddenly she thought about the fate of the boy, already fatherless and now witnessing the death of his mother: what would be his life like? Though she had thought a lot about the life of her kids before taking that decision, the shrill cry of the boy at the moment was impossible to ignore. She now decided not to push the chair and took the noose out of her neck. Soon the boys were crying on her lap and she cursed herself for resorting to such a foolish step. Jange obviously made her swear that she would never again attempt the same thing though his brother was little confused about the whole affair.

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Suddenly Jange became sober, though he was still shivering and sweating. He found himself increasingly lethargic and sat on the floor as the memory of the past events made him increasingly stiff. He felt as if all the trauma that the family had sustained over the years was now about to take its toll. Though he had frequently failed to memorize the past events in proper order and had virtually no control over his own temper, the images of that particular day were still vivid in his mind. This was not what was supposed to occur.

For long after the first calamity of the family, he had frequently had dreams in which his mother had successfully hanged herself leaving the two children alone. He can’t express the relief that was felt once he awoke after such dreams to discover that his loving mom was there, alive and well. It was in those disturbed teen-days that he understood the importance of a good and functioning family. What came about his father in the aftermath of the disaster were only the rumors and he was never again seen on the city. What was more disturbing was the suffering his mother was going through as the thorns of innumerable social stigmata associated with single mother pricked her round the clock.

This was why Jange could never excel in studies. In fact, study was never his priority though he knew well that it was near-impossible to get a descent job without proper education. His brother adapted far better to the hostile world then Jange did and always did better than the average in all the classes. For long this fact gave Jange a kind of satisfaction but he never knew when that transformed into a kind of jealousy around his late teenage years. The other factor that played crucial role in ruining his conscience was his perception that his mother lacked the impartiality expected from a mother of two children.

Despite all this, he was an average young man until he was there in the school. He even didn’t know then that the life would be ruined like this in such a short span of time bringing another calamity to his family. It was at the college that he got re-birth as the contagiously ruined soul.

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It was in the college that he met with the friends who had already ruined themselves and came to the college only to spread that contagious and dangerous virtue. First he was aghast at the extent they could go to serve their mean end like intimidating their own parents through friends to extort money for them. The toilets in the campus were the safe havens for the derelicts who were there free to smoke or even inject whatever they wanted and managed. First Jange was apprehensive of all that uniformly feared all the boys in that gang.

But there were some intermediary guys who were fit on both the worlds. They were among the most sociable guys in the class and didn’t take long to convince the new victims to first smoke the proper cigarettes. The second step came with the smoking of cigarettes concocted with hashish. The third step was whatever it could be. The group continuously needed the new or ‘virgin’ candidates because they formed the prime source of financing the drugs before going bankrupt first alone and occasionally along with the whole family.

It was in this vicious cycle that Jange eventually got trapped. First it was the ‘plain’ cigars that were taken as the indicator of ‘sociability’ among the college-goers. The frequency went only increasing and he eventually succumbed to the concocted cigars that were qualitatively different from the puffs of ‘socializing’ smoke. There was then imperceptible transition from the ‘inhalation’ to ingestion and ‘injection’.

Despite all this, peace and tranquility in life always remained a mirage for Jange. It was only disgusting to find that every bout of drug use, the sobriety was increasingly problematic. It was practically impossible to remain inebriated for ever and the problems of real life only multiplied as he attempted to achieve tranquility with increasing dose and frequency of the drug. Indeed he was further stigmatized in the society as everyone in the neighborhood eventually came to discover what he was really up to. People were simply scared of him and abstained from any meaningful conversation with him. He was thus effectively disconnected from the society increasing the perennial sense of alienation that he had felt ever since the tragic departure of his father and near-death of his mother.

All this made Jange a different man: a definitely different creature, a clear misfit in the society. And as a reaction, he came to hate everyone and everything around him and developed an extremely short temper. His impulsive behavior was, favorably for him, able to threaten sufficiently his mother so that she was forced to give him the required money at great cost to the family.

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On the day of this second disaster in the family, Jange looked dreadful with filth all over the body and the unsightly curls in the hair compounded by reddened pimple-studded face. He had lost the routine of taking baths and even washing face as he was nearly crippled once the effect of the drug was over. His mother and brother were accustomed to his behavior and never even suggest a thing to do let alone compel him to do so.

By now he was sitting at the other corner of the room dipping his face in the palms that rested on the folded knees. For the first time in many years, the thought came to his mind: if it was possible to return back to the old world of three gloomy creatures without the menace of drug use. He then recalled how less sad and less miserable he was before he took that first puff of cigarette smoke. He then rearranged the pieces of memory to make the complete journey of him from that reckless puff of smoke and the imminent apocalypse that was eventually invited in the family epitomized by the second suicidal attempt by his mother. Again for the first time he was filled with sympathy towards his mother who had chosen the better life of her kids over the abrupt emancipation from the problems in her life; on that fateful day when he had incidentally peered through the corner of the window.

His mother was also crying now sitting at the other corner of the room, probably recollecting the same turn of the events that had snatched the thing called happiness from the family.

Jange then stood gently though still shivering and went to see himself in the mirror. He then had a bout of inconsolable cry, like that of a badly hurt child. He kept crying loudly and it seemed unstoppable at the moment as his mother was watching at this strange-looking face of her son which was now displaying some humane character after years.

(Source : Jiwan Kshetry’s Blog)

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