Honourable Witnesses

Honourable Witnesses

A Story by Agyani
"

A son disowned by his parents visits to hand them his marriage invitation card

"

Anand took a deep breath and unlatched the gate to his home for the first time in six years. For him, home was where he grew up, where his parents still lived. As he pushed the small metal frame of the door, he wondered if their anger had gone down a touch. He also wondered what it would be like for parents to learn of their child’s marriage through an invitation card. He had no idea, but his parents would soon find out. The only thing that preyed on his mind, though, was how they would react on seeing him.

His parents had cast him out six years ago for impregnating a teenage classmate of his and having a stash of drugs on him. He wasn’t sure which of the two caused his parents to disown him, but he could not refute their decision. He knew he had let them down, disgraced them.

He wished his older brother was there to support him once more. If it wasn’t for him Anand would not have gone cold turkey successfully. He always did well in college, but if it wasn’t for his brother’s contacts, he would not have landed a job as a journalist for one of the leading daily nationals. It was on his brother’s behest that he was there to tell his parents about his marriage in person. Standing there in the garden, he yearned for his brother’s unflinching support.

It was a crisp November morning in Jaipur with the sun shining graciously and a slightly pinching, cool breeze ambling gaily. He had flown in from Mumbai early in the morning and come straight to his home. He had no luggage except for the card in his jacket and a heavy heart. He walked slowly on the garden pathway, taking in the bougainvillea vine running along the boundary wall, the swing on the far end, the yellow gulmohars lined up either side of the pathway, and the small expanse of well-cropped grass. It was all sprayed with a freshness that gently called out to him, pacified him, and backed him.

 When he reached the porch he looked at his reflection in the dark glass next to the door. He tidied his combed hair, passed his hand over his thin moustache, wiped his clean shaved face, and straightened his blue flannel shirt and jacket. People often said he was the spitting image of his father with his lean face, narrow eyes, thick eyebrows and flappy ears.  Anand always took it as a compliment not because of the handsome features he had inherited but because he was likened to someone he greatly respected and admired.

He was careful to step away from the reflective glass before ringing the bell. The sound of his mother’s gait was unmistakable. Her sandals uttered a most annoying dragging sound. But as Anand stood there waiting to see her, it was music to his ears.

His mother squealed in shock and lost balance when she opened the door. Her flailing arm knocked over the Buddha statue on the small table next to the couch. The clattering sound it made alerted Gautam Sharma, who rushed to the door. He was left dumbfounded on seeing his wife gripping the couch’s armrest to keep her body barely a foot off the ground. His perplexity reached unchartered territory when he saw a younger, thinner version of himself standing at the door.

The two men stood rooted to their spot while Mrs Sharma clung to hers strenuously. She was out of breath, and her breathing made for all the sound in the living room. It was almost a minute later that Anand realized she needed help standing up. He mustered enough courage to look at his father only after sitting her down on the couch. The confusion in Gautam Sharma’s face had subsided to some degree but it was replaced by repugnance.

His mother held his arm while he stood there, and she didn’t release her grip when he sat next to her. She was still in shock and held on to him to assure herself that her son was really there. Anand noticed his mother had lost a lot of weight and looked much older than she was. The hazel eyes he always remembered sparkling with an enchanting gleam now seemed lifeless. Her thin lips trembled and her plump cheeks shook with every breath she took.

“I see you’ve changed the curtains,” said Anand in his thin, whiny voice. His mother gave a single nod after a few seconds. Anand looked around the room once more. The two large Chinese paintings still adorned two of the walls and the two small artificial fountains occupied the two corners on his right. There was still no carpet on the stone floor. The white couches and black coffee table were all spotless.

His wandering eyes involuntarily landed on his bemused father, who sat cross-legged holding his hands in his lap. He was loosely dressed in a shirt and pyjamas but all authority in the room gravitated towards him nevertheless. It was like many of the tense conversations they had had in the past when Anand was wary of choosing the right words. His father had the ability to discombobulate anyone by grabbing on to the central thought in their mind, yanking it out and stripping it bare. It was clarity of thought that he valued more than anything.

“Why have you come here after all these years?” he asked in his piercing voice. He strained his eyes and observed Anand carefully.

“I’m getting married,” said Anand with a shrug of his shoulders. His mother was about to say something but checked herself and looked at his father. She didn’t know what exactly she felt. There was a tussle between her joy on seeing him again and the pain his wrongdoings had caused her. Memories pertinent to both the emotions unsettled her even more.

“Is it because you knocked her up?” asked his father. It surprised everyone in the room. Mrs Sharma couldn’t believe her husband would take such an attitude against his own son. Mr Sharma was surprised by how bluntly he spoke. Anand was surprised his father didn’t hold back any punches. But he knew it was six years’ worth of pent up anger and vexation and decided not to dwell on a single statement.

“No, dad, it’s because we love each other and want to get married, start our own family,” said Anand, making a real effort to keep his voice calm. He placed the invitation card on the coffee table. His mother reached out and snatched it as if to prevent it from running away.

“What kind of a card is this? It’s so plain and dull! How can you have a white marriage invitation card? And what’s this? You’re having a court marriage?!” asked his mother with a tormented face.

“Oh, Shalini, how does it matter if he is having a court marriage?” said his father disgustedly. Gautam Sharma did not adhere to societal norms for the sake of it, and his scorn for those who conformed to them got the better of him as he sat there. When he saw Anand’s smiling face, he added: “How does it matter if he is getting married at all? He lives his own life, we live ours. How does it affect us?”

“And the girl, this Monika, her parents are fine with a court marriage?” Anand’s mother asked.

“She’s an orphan, ma. She doesn’t have any family.”

Shalini thought of saying something but decided against it. Her husband, though, decided to continue his passive admonition of his son.

“Oh, so that’s how it is, for here I was wondering who would allow their daughter to marry a degenerate junkie!”

His condescending tone caused Shalini’s eyes to bulge out in shock and Anand’s to close in dejection. Anand always voiced his thoughts given the occasion and reasoned with people, at times a bit too passionately. But the person sitting in front of him was his father. In his time away from home he learned that while one should always treat others without letting their appearance, race, gender, or other differences affect them, there are people who deserve special treatment. There are people for whom you can make a compromise if it can prevent needless acrimony or petty squabbles. Anand had come home determined not to let any strong words faze him. It took a herculean effort to remain quiet. 

“Our son is not a degenerate!” said his mother heatedly.

“I’m not a junkie, dad,” said Anand humbly.

“Maybe not anymore, but who knows what you’ve been up to these past few years? How do I know that you haven’t picked up another vice?”

“I’m afraid that’s something you have to make yourself believe, dad. I could say that you can trust me, but I know I lost that privilege all that time ago, and I don’t hold that against you. I was wrong, and I accept that. But that’s not who I am anymore. It’s all in the past.”

Anand could feel his mother’s grip on his arm tighten a little as the air got stifling. The tension was almost palpable, and Gautam Sharma’s harsh, derisive laugh made things even worse.

“Don’t say it as if putting it in the past makes you a better person!” he said.

“By saying it’s all in the past I meant that’s a part of me I have let go of. I had deviated from my path in life, strayed too far from the road I had chosen, a road the two of you had helped me pick and walk on. It was a dark path that not just blinded me but obscured all my senses, and it took something as enormous as your disappearance from my life to help me reform myself.”

Anand thought of appealing to his father’s reasoning mind but decided against it. This was not about logic. More importantly, he did not want to hide behind rationality.

The silence that ensued was not a result of Anand striking a chord with his parents. His father still wore an ill-humoured expression. His mother, too, was still lost between the present and the last conversation they had had in the house. Her wounds had not yet healed and Anand’s presence opened them further. But unlike her husband, Shalini knew that it was only Anand who could stitch them up. She had the strength and tolerance to listen to him. She was careful not to let her love for him misguide her, while her husband was less tactful in fending off his bitterness and disappointment and keep them from governing him.

“Why did you take so long to come see us?” asked Shalini. The words stung Anand, for he knew what the words insinuated. He was there because he wanted his parents’ presence and blessing for a pivotal moment in his life. While he wanted them to be a part of his new beginning, he had not cared enough to help them deal with their horror and dismay. Shalini’s words made him realize that his visit showed not just his desire to right his wrong but also his negligence towards his parents’ suffering. They were in his thoughts every day for the past six years, and he knew they had thought of him much more than that.

There was no question in her eyes, only sadness and pain. Anand watched as the two entities started to trickle out of her eyes. She didn’t utter a sound, and he was too overwhelmed to say anything. Even his father was moved by it.

Anand could only say ‘Ma’ and squeeze her hand holding his arm. She blinked slowly and her suffering flowed even freely. Her weak shoulders and slim neck moved as she sobbed silently. Her snivelling was not caused by grief but misery and heartbreak. Anand had never seen anyone’s mother cry like someone his age. It devastated him.

“I am your culprit, ma. It was the very act of wronging you that was unforgivable! I cannot ask you to forgive me, but I must admit my sin. I failed you, both of you, and that’s the worst of it! But I vow to spend the rest of my life respecting and following everything that you have taught me, not just because of my faults, but because I’ve only got the one life, and I am blessed to have parents like you!”

Silence enveloped the room once more. Shalini didn’t cry profusely and did not make the slightest sound. Life outside the house was eerily quiet. It was difficult to say whether it was the foreboding or the aftershock of a storm.

“If you don’t have anything else to say, I think you should leave,” said Anand’s father. He was much changed since Anand had first entered, but agony still presided on his face. Anand could see that he had come some way in making amends, but it was just a small step on a long journey. He had not come expecting everything to go back to normal by a single visit, but he was rather unreasonable in wanting his parents to accept him without any hesitation. They couldn’t just let bygones be bygones. Forgiving is not tantamount to forgetting, and it is often the difficulty of the latter that burdens the mind.

“The wedding will take place in a marriage court in Malad West in Mumbai in a fortnight. As per law, the presence of witnesses is required. I request the two of you to be witnesses for my wedding,” he said. After watching his father for a couple of minutes, Anand decided it was time for him to go. He turned and lightly embraced his mother before getting up.

 

Anand had no idea how to dress up for his wedding. He had grown up seeing grooms and other male family members donning the traditional attire of smart, flashy kurtas or sherwanis or three-piece ethnic suits on the day of wedding. He didn’t like the idea of wearing ethnic wear in a court marriage. Even putting on a suit seemed too extravagant a choice to him. But the occasion demanded something special. More importantly, he wanted to look his best if his parents did indeed make it. He wanted to believe they would come, but there was an uneasiness in him that just wouldn’t let off.

The courthouse was bustling with activity. The corridors were full of people moving about with hugely diverse faces. There were faces with expectation, excitement, joy, as well as trepidation, drudgery, and reluctance. The strangest thing was how some of the expressions didn’t match with the faces or the roles those people were supposed to play. It rattled Anand.

When he turned a corner and moved towards the marriage officer’s office, things looked completely different. The air was ripe with anticipation and the corridor was full of people in a plethora of outfits. He could see the regional ceremonial dresses from different parts of the country. Anand felt he was at a costume party. He did not feel out of place in his immaculate tux.

He found his soon-to-be wife waiting for him right by the office with his brother. She was dressed in a yellow saree and Anand knew she chose yellow because he loved it. Her high heels barely made her reach up to his nose, and that pleased Anand. It pleased him because it helped him look into her large, ebullient, inquisitive eyes. Looking at them from above made them look larger and more curious. Her glistening eyes and bright smile outshone her earrings and nose pin. They even made her fair skin appear dull.

When it was their turn to go in, Monika asked if his parents would come. Anand’s eyes were heavy with melancholy as he looked at her and sighed. He produced his phone from his pocket and called their friends - the standby witnesses - to fill in the remaining two spots for witnesses.

The office was more like a school principal’s than a marriage officer’s. Silence and disquietude abounded in the room. The large teak desk had a pile of papers resting on one edge next to a pen stand and glass paperweight. The two walls on either side of the table had aluminium cupboards full of papers and files, the keys hanging in the slots in the doors. There were two glass panes high up on the wall behind the desk through which sunlight filtered in apprehensively, lighting up the room just enough to make everything visible.

There was no chair in the room except the one occupied by the officer; a small, dark, hairless man wearing an oversized suit, hunched low over the table. His clothing, his posture, his closely packed eyes, small nose and thin lips made him look like a rodent. He merely looked up when he heard the door open and motioned them to come up to the desk with his left hand.

“There need to be three witnesses,” he said in a brusque voice when Anand reached the desk with Monika and his brother.

“They’re on their way here, sir,” said Anand deferentially. The marriage office straightened in his chair.

“All the slots for today are filled. You must have seen the crowd outside. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s special day. The law only asks for three witnesses to be present along with the couple seeking marriage. That’s not too difficult to manage in a country like ours!”

Anand closed his eyes and sighed. This was not how he had hoped the day to unfold. There was a knock on the door. Anand’s brother opened it for the witnesses. A few moments later Anand suddenly jerked his head back, for he heard the familiar dragging sound.

The appearance of his parents strengthened Anand’s feeling of being in a school principal’s room, but he was overjoyed. Tears flowed freely down his healthy cheeks but they were out of exhilaration, not guilt. His parents only chuckled at their son’s emotional outbreak, and that caused his tears to gush out. He couldn’t move but just stood there, continuously wiping his eyes. 

© 2018 Agyani


Author's Note

Agyani
Any suggestions and all opinions are welcome.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

A simply heart touching story Agyani. I had trouble accepting the attitude of the parents who banished their so for his follies. As a parent, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’d work through his problems with him. These folks came across as too rigid and harsh. Not ideal parents at all. Especially, since they didn’t even bother to at least keep a track of him, all those years.

Where did he go? How did he make himself capable of fending himself and even get into a responsible relationship like marriage, especially since he started off on such a disadvantaged note are some questions that lingered in my mind while reading the story.

No credit to the parents for forgiving him and coming to the marriage. That’s the least they could do for a neglected, repentant son.

A story that invokes such as strong reactions as these, is a great story. Kudos Agyani!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

I'm glad you shared your views like this. I agree with you that these are far from ideal parents, bu.. read more
Dhara_Ditzy Kat

3 Years Ago

You are most welcome Agyani! It was a pleasure.



Reviews

Beautifully written. This is perfect. I enjoyed reading this.

Posted 1 Year Ago


The amount of feeling and inner thought discussed in these paragraphs sometimes seemed to break the flow of the story. I would suggest possibly revisiting it with the "show-don't-tell" technique, perhaps having the characters verbalize feelings in their minds or bounce them off each other in a dialogue that would allow for a smoother break-up of all that complex emotion.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

2 Years Ago

Thank you for reading and sharing your views! I shall see how to get it better in this story and the.. read more
I was Anand walking through the nostalgic garden with its beautiful flowers and calming scents. I felt nervous when he faced his parents. The mother's tears were heartbreaking and behind the father's bitter authoritative voice, is a man who felt deeply hurt by his own son. I loved the way you gave us a glimpse of Monika. Her smallness and brightness. The powerful love and light in her eyes and smile. Your vocabulary is rich and diverse and your choice of words and emotional descriptions of the scene was impressive. 'unflinching support' is one of my favorites. I honestly felt nervous in the marriage office. Anand wasn't the only one feeling like he was at the principal's. I was in his shoes, feeling deflated and disappointed as soon as he was about to contact alternative witnesses. I cried when he heard his mother's annoying sandals dragging on the floor. They wanted to see him happy. They wanted to celebrate with their son, despite everything and everyone.

You are a wonderful writer and I am going to follow your work more closely in the future, enshalla.

Never stop writing!

~Aysha.

Posted 2 Years Ago


Agyani

2 Years Ago

I honestly don't know how to respond to this review, Ayesha. Thank you so much!
I'm delighte.. read more
The best part of this writing are the emotions attached to it and the detail with which you presented each scene. I could imagine myself watching the whole incident.

Posted 2 Years Ago


Agyani: Why do I say that people read fiction to be entertained? Because they do, just as they go to see movies, and plays for the same reasonm. Fiction publishers are part of the entertainment industry.

Don't confuse the term entertainment with the idea of making people laugh. When we vicariously live someone's life we're not looking to learn about them and their history. History is boring because it's immutable. We want fiction to make us FEEL, not know. We don't want someone to tell us what happened, we want to be made to LIVE it, in real-time, in the moment the protagonist calls now.

Someone with no love life can pick up a book and have an amazing love affair, one that feels real as s/he's living it. Read a Stephen King novel and he may scare the crap out of you. And when you read fiction you're guaranteed to survive adventures that, in life, would leave you bleeding on the sidewalk. And THAT'S entertainment,

Make sense?

Posted 2 Years Ago


Agyani

2 Years Ago

Hi Jay


I still don't like you labeling that as entertainment, but I understan.. read more
JayG

2 Years Ago

• If I'm not wrong, it's like the old "show and don't tell" rule of writing. Please correct me if .. read more
Great story! So well written, and your choice of words is a work of art. You are a talented writer. The imagery was vivid, I could see myself in his parents' home and feel the uneasiness of the situation as if it was me actually standing there in this moment of awkwardness. The ending elicited an appropriate emotional response, I am curious how the alternate ending would look like had his parents not shown. I would say this is one of the best-written stories I have read in a long time. Well done!

Cheers!

Posted 2 Years Ago


Agyani

2 Years Ago

Hey Shawn
Thank you so much for such a wonderful review. I am really happy to read this.
read more
WOW! WOW! WOW! This is a top-notch story with flawless writing skills & excellent storytelling. The strongest part of your storytelling is how you SHOW instead of tell (first rule of good writing). You describe your characters so completely, so realistically, with explanations interspersed which really make the people & the relationships come alive with meaning & intensity & honesty. We really feel how things are in this family, your descriptions are so complete & so multi-layered. What I love is how the central situation (family estrangement) is so universal & relatable, yet you also convey it with a flavor that comes from your own unique culture. I love how your writing conveys your culture, you include so many details about how people act around each other, in ways that are different than what I'm used to in the USA, & therefore your stories are educational as well as interesting. You do an excellent job of painting how broken families interact in painfully hopeful ways (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Paragraph 7: "unchartered territory" should be "uncharted territory"

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

2 Years Ago

Haha, I feel so flattered here!
The central emotion or experience I wanted to investigate an.. read more
Amazing story, very powerful and touching. The story drew me in, and unlike a lot of fictional stories, I cared about the protagonist and was genuinely moved by his plight. Keep up the good work, Agyani. I look forward to reading more wonderful stories from you in the future.

-Derekv

Posted 2 Years Ago


Agyani

2 Years Ago

Thanks for this review, Derek. :)
Great story telling and characters, but I would suggest looking carefully at how many sentences you begin with using the verb to be, proper nouns, etc. and try to inject a few more organic metaphors into the mix. Metaphors and intonation are what its all about, while focusing on objects as distinctive is better for symbolic purposes in the right context. For example, focusing on objects as distinctive and linear helps to accentuate differences between characters, while emphasizing more vague metaphors and analogies are better for helping the reader to identify with the characters.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, but wouldn't vague metaphors and vague analogies be more c.. read more
wuliheron

3 Years Ago

Life is both vague and explicit, because words only have demonstrable meaning in specific contexts. .. read more
I very much enjoyed your story. It is a tale of the prodigal's son, only there is not instant forgiveness and celebration. There are only two ways for the story to end and you captured enough suspense to keep the reader edgy.
The story included ample descriptions to create clear images of your characters and physical surroundings. You created a strong emotional presence that allowed the parents and son to duel in a realistic situation.
I was impressed with the mother's reaction when she first saw her son after a long disappearance. The flowed well with no snags. Your story warms the heart, many families have been put in this predicament. Nice job of injecting enough complexity to let your version of this family crisis stand by itself.
Peace and Blessings,
Richie b.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Agyani

3 Years Ago

Thank you for such a heart-warming review, Richie. It was overwhelmed by your words!

First Page first
Previous Page prev
1
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

662 Views
14 Reviews
Rating
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on November 5, 2018
Last Updated on November 21, 2018
Tags: family, society, pain, relations, respect, marriage, love, India

Author

Agyani
Agyani

India



About
A novelist by heart, but a freelance ghostwriter by necessity. It's only pen and paper (or my keyboard) that help me 'show' who I am and not just 'be' who I am. I am a storyteller and try to m.. more..

Writing
SlapJack SlapJack

A Story by Agyani



Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..


The Peacemaker The Peacemaker

A Story by Agyani