All the members of the family, except Lopa and Niranjan, sat in the front room for the family meeting. Nilanjan was the head of the family: a responsibility that he had neither ever thought would fall upon him, nor was prepared to shoulder. “Dr. Lahiri will come at ten in the morning”, he said. That was the only comment he volunteered for, through the night. He was made to skip his regular dose of bhang goli that night, as his nephews had nearly hijacked him at eight fifty.
Yes, he did worry for his sister, and for his bed-ridden brother, but most of all he worried for himself. When Niranjan had fallen on the steps of Vijaynagram Ghat and taken to bed he had established Kirti as the de facto head of the family. She was running the household well. Life was generally peaceful for him and he wished to keep that noiseless tenor that way. But now, he was being called to action. He responded by snoring within twenty-five minutes of the beginning of the meeting.
Bhaal was the eldest functioning member of the family and it was he who would decide their course of action. He went to see his mother and was told that his mother had not spoken a word since she entered (was carried to) the room. Her eyes looked unnatural. He couldn’t understand how Lopa could gather the courage to stay in her presence. He tried to look away from his mother, but her wide pupils had a magnetic pull. He went near her, close enough to actually see his reflection in her eyes. There was no indication of recognition in those eyes, not until he turned to leave.
The big brass lota from which his mother used to take water early in the morning hit his back near the left shoulder joint. The cry “O Mother” came out and Bhaal sat down on the floor. The loud clanging noise of the empty vessel dancing on the floor brought Somu and Suli there. Lopa was already trying to stem the flow of blood from the gashed back of her husband. Somu ran downstairs and brought the alum crystal they used on such occasions. Kirti did not speak at all during the whole episode.
A lot of blood had flown before it started congealing. Bhaal went down with his brother and stayed there till the morning. A rikshaw was called at seven thirty and the two brothers,along with Lopa, took their mother to Sir Sunder Lal Hospital. Lopa and Bhaal held Kirti from two sides on the rikshaw seat and Somu went along on his bicycle. Kirti did not resist, neither did she speak till they had reached the Pumping Station at Bhadaini.
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