Countless cars were lining outside the Parkhi house. It was an unusual sight but it was also an unusual day for the Parkhis. Tara was standing by the window of her mother’s bedroom, looking over at the crowd assembled outside their house. She wondered if her mother even knew half of them. Taking the last drag of the cigarette she was holding, she glanced at her mother’s empty bed. A shiver ran down her spine as the room suddenly turned cold. Dadi, Tara’s paternal grandmother walked in. “What are you doing here, Tiu? You need to attend the guests, come now” Dadi said in her quivering voice.

Tara, all of 18, stubbed out the cigarette butt on the bedside table and followed her Dadi out of the room. As she entered the hallway, a surge of people gathered around her. Some women tapped her shoulder, some caressed her hair and some let out silent tears as they held her hand, trying to console her. Tara didn’t understand why she was being looked at so pitifully. She didn’t need to be consoled. She wasn’t sad, perhaps a tiny bit upset. But all she wanted was to get done with the day and resume her life.

Waking up to the news of her mother’s death had been shocking, no doubt, but it lasted only for a moment. Her mother had been absent for most part of her life while she was alive, so her death had hardly changed anything for Tara.

Dadi, why do people wear White at funerals?” she asked looking at the hallway that was filled with people in white. “Sshh..! Not right now, Tiu.” Dadi grabbed her hand and dragged her to the room where an even bigger crowd was seated. Some people were walking in from the entrance door with garlands. In the center of the room, under a huge pile of flowers and garlands, lay her mother’s dead body. Tara walked towards it and sat beside her sobbing father.

Pale and lifeless, Amrapali looked like she had finally found her peace on the deathbed. Ironically, she was surrounded by people who had all been victims of the storm she had caused during her lifetime.

Two hours later, when everyone had paid their respects to the dead and the rituals were done with, Tara found time to escape to her room for a much-needed break. She plonked on her bed and closed her eyes when suddenly she had flashes of her last night’s conversation with her mother.

“You reek of alcohol, Ma. You are not in your senses. You disgust me!” Tara had yelled. Amrapali had developed a drinking problem since a year and it had become unbearable for Tara.

“No Tiu, please just hear me out. Look, I got the letter. We just have to..” she had said, running to the desk and grabbing a piece of paper “Here, we have the address now, Tiu. Everything is going to be fine. We all are going to be fine” but Tara didn’t want to tolerate her mother’s made-up stories anymore. She was convinced that Amrapali had lost her mind.

“Stop talking to me!” Tara had held her mother by her shoulders. “I hate you. Do you hear me? I hate you.”

Amrapali had burst out in tears “Tiu, please don’t say that..I beg you beta, I’m your mother, trust me please. Just listen to me.. one last time..”

Tara had had enough. “Mother? oh! where were you all this time mother?” Tara was frustrated “You’ve been as good as dead to me all this while. And now you’re drinking and mumbling things. How can you expect me to trust you?”

Amrapali crashed on the floor in tears. She felt helpeless and regretful. She had lost it all, right when she had had it all.

“Stop the drama. Just STOP! I am done with you. Why don’t you just die?” Tara had stormed out of the room.

A knock on the door startled Tara from her thoughts. She was pulled back to the present only to feel unsettled. It amazed her how her mother had pulled off a master stunt even while dying. If anything, Tara hated her even more.

That night, Tara couldn’t sleep. She was furious at her mother for dying, and more because she felt guilty over how mean she had been. Their last conversation kept playing in her head repeatedly like a broken record. As she was about to doze off, a light bulb went off in her head. The letter. She remembered that Amrapali had been mentioning some letter during their argument. She had been saying that things were going to get alright.

Tara ran to Amrapali’s empty bedroom. She searched for that peice of paper. She looked for it on the desk, in the drawers and even on the bedside table. She picked up the pillows to check if that’s where Amrapali had left it before she breathed her last. But the letter was nowhere to be found. Then she opened the closet and in a little corner, among a pile of books she saw it. A letter addressed to her mother by one Siya Kashid. As she opened it, millions of new questions arose. be continued

This story is a part of the Amrapali series I am working on. Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

About the Amrapali series: An eighteen-year-old Tara has grown up resenting her mother. But a sudden turn of events forces her to go on a journey that reveals some heartbreaking secrets about her mother’s past. Will Tara be able to forgive, forget and accept her mother?

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