Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mrs. Skariah

It isn't often a writer gets chance to say about the Characters in her book. When you read a book, you are hearing the narrator describing each moment. But the character exist even before that.
Today, I thought I will write about Mrs. Skariah.
I love the name and spend many an agonizing hour trying to spell her name right. Should it be Scariah or Skariah. Being a Malayalee, I felt more at ease with Skariah.

Years ago, I had to deal with a staff who didn't turn up for work every other day. As such work in a hospital is 24 hours and when a staff doesn't turn up, it affects the work of the whole dept. What was surprising was the fact that usually there is an animosity among staff when one often misses work, but in this case the whole dept seemed to cover up for the missing staff. There was not a single complaint from anyone in that dept. Only the payroll was up in arms.

I have seen her at work. She is very efficient, capable and always had a smile on her face. And I had to find out why she missed work rather frequently.So I called her to my room to to talk to her.

I was sitting at my desk, reading the termination letter HR had already prepared. (The one part of my work I hated the most). I knew she had children. I knew if I let her go, then she may not get another job. I was feeling very miserable.
And in walked this 5 foot 4 woman, a bit on the chubby side, curly hair and bright sparkling eyes.
She looked straight in to my eyes and told me "Dr, I know why you called me for this meeting, but I am hoping you would give me a chance to explain"
Then she told me her story.
She was born in a Kampong ( village), the youngest child of a rubber tapper. She was the only one who finished her SPM  ( 10th std) among her siblings and finally got admission to do nursing. While she was doing her first year, her oldest sister who was married to a very abusive man committed suicide.  Her mother started taking care of the grand children. Everyone knew her sister took her life because she couldn't bear the abuses from her husband.
I was feeling a bit annoyed. Here I am sitting with this letter in front of me and instead of telling me something that would save her job, she is talking about her life story. I considered signing the letter and getting it over with.
She looked at me and continued.
"I was in the final year when I got a telegram from my mother that said, start immediately, father very ill. Dr, there is only a night train back to the village and I rushed to catch the train, all the while worrying about my father. would he live till I reach home? I worried so much.  When I was at the station waiting for the train, I called the village chief's home to ask about my father's condition and to tell my family that I am taking the night train. But the chief didn't tell me anything when I asked about my father, and I knew something bad had happened.
The train arrived at the station near my village early morning. As I came out of the train, I looked for a familiar face, because I knew someone would come from home to pick me up. When I saw that there was no one, I knew something very bad had happened. The village where my house was a long walk from the station. My bag felt so heavy, in my hurry to catch the train, I had no idea what I packed. The streets were still dark and I was a bit scared. But I wanted to see my father, so I walked faster.
Just as I reached my home, I saw that there were a lot of people. Then I saw mother. She took my bag from hand, held my hand and told me to hurry up. I thought my father was taking his last breath and I rushed inside. but it wasn't my father I saw inside my house. It was my brother in law, dressed in all wedding finery. I was getting married to the man who killed my sister and my mother arranged it all.

I looked at her stunned. As a doctor, I have seen different kinds of mothers. But this particular mother was the most unusual. She got her youngest daughter to marry a man who was responsible for her oldest daughter's death.How could she do that to her own daughter?

She still lives with her husband and takes care of her children and her sister's children. She misses work when her husband comes home after binge drinking ( because he hits her and the children.)
I didn't sign the termination letter.
But her story has always been with me. I can still see her walking to her wedding (or is it her nightmare)unwittingly and I wanted to write about such mothers. The ones who could make a difference, but chose not to because of reasons only they know. That is Mrs. Skariah

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