‘Chote Sahab! Mem Sahiba ka janmadin yaad hai na aapko! Agle hafte Mangalwaar ko woh assi(80) saal ki ho jayengi. Aayiye na aap ghar. Thoda dhoom dhaam se manate hain.’
Translation: Sir, your mother’s birthday is coming. She will be turning 80 this Monday. We will celebrate her birthday in a grand manner. Do come to the party!
That’s what my voicemail told me in the morning. Little did I realize that I woke up late, much later than my usual late.
The babalaas of last night’s alcohol was still reeling in my head. I shouldn’t have partied that long. But, the occasional merry-makings were an addiction, hard to let go.
As I led my still tired legs to my telephone, I realized that the voicemail was actually by Shyam kaka, our caretaker.
He has been with mom since the day I left her for my job here in Mumbai. My elder brother and my twin sister were settled in Delhi and Bengaluru, respectively.
Seldom were our contacts, but Kaka made sure to check on us through frequent calls.
Now, my mom turning eighty surely deserved a grand party, as he mentioned. I booked my ticket and made sure to reach my home in Bhopal in the early morning hours of next week’s Tuesday.
My family was a very typical Indian family. There were love and grudge at equal proportions.
My sister and I have been each other’s best friends since birth. ‘It’s a twin thing,’ they all said.
Our brother was more like the typically stubborn elder brother type. We never found love in his eyes for anybody, except one.
‘Alicia’ was her name.
Hailing from a traditional background, our mom was never ready to accept my brother’s love affair with a Christian girl.
But, we all know, love has its ways.
It’s congenial when you’re ready to abide by it, but it’s equally menacing to force its way through.
Dad left us very early, a point my brother never hesitated to bring froth when he had a quarrel with mom regarding Alicia, which was almost every day.
Alicia won the war with mom.
My brother, as her prized territory, went with her and got settled in Delhi. My mom missed him, though, dearly.
She tried numerous attempts to make amends but all in vain. In her will, she divided her property into three parts.
50% went to my brother. While I and my sister, we got 25% each.
Everyone thought this would bring a change of heart in my brother, but he proved us wrong.
His adamant insistence was never going to give up.
When I reached home, I was surprised to see my sister already present there. She arrived the night before. I was ecstatic to see her. And I bet she felt the same.
We exchanged a warm hug. There was anxiety in our eyes.
‘It’s a twin thing,’ you know.
I asked Shyam Kaka if my brother was going to come.
He nodded. He told me that he persuaded him to come every year from that day.
He owed a responsibility towards her.
I didn’t feel it was a good idea. It could have dire consequences.
He was never fond of mom. And visiting her every year was only going to add to his woes.
He arrived at 12 PM.
There was no trace of love or endearment in his eyes.
He was instead looking like a claustrophobic. He was desperate to get it over with as soon as possible.
We expected him to become nostalgic, and all we got was his arrogance right on point.
He was wearing a cross around his neck.
We realized that he had converted himself to a Christian.
It was very cold, undoubtedly, but being a resident of Delhi, he was the only one in the entire house without protective gear.
A lot of shopping was to be done for the party.
The four of us divided the list of requisites among ourselves.
The party was a grand success. Everyone enjoyed it to the fullest. My mom was jolly good to see her elder son on her birthday, albeit neither of them being on talking terms.
She went to sleep. We all went to sleep. And when we woke up, we faced the most dreadful day of our lives.
Our beloved mom lay on her bed, lifeless.
Not a bed, actually, her deathbed.
We were clueless.
We were not qualified enough to comprehend her reason for death. Shyam Kaka contacted the police and the medical team immediately.
I was sitting in that room.
Unable to stop my tears.
I couldn’t look at my mom’s corpse.
I started roaming here and there in her room like a headless chicken.
Suddenly, my eyes fell upon a shocking sight.
My brother’s cross was on the uppermost shelf. I didn’t know much about Christianity. But I knew one thing for sure. They never sinned with their cross still around their necks.
That little mistake by my brother was enough to put him behind bars.
There was still around thirty minutes before the police were scheduled to arrive. I decided to confront him.
I saw him in the drawing-room, and I told him what I found. He was astounded.
‘I took off the cross. That’s true. But, that’s because I didn’t want to upset mom. I didn’t want her to know about my change of religion. I… I kept it on the couch.’ He was weeping like a baby
‘Well, a couch can never walk on its own, can it? So, how did this thing reach her room?’ I cross-examined him.
‘Save it for the police. I had no interest in listening to his unreasoned claims and excuses.’ I steamed off the room in a fit of rage.
I visited the backyard to get some fresh air.
My eyes fell on yet another, even more, shocking sight.
My sister was putting some mud and soil on the spot, perhaps an effort to cover-up a recently-dug hole. She looked startled to see me. But, she regained her composure and walked towards me.
‘Listen, bro! You don’t need to ask me for any explanation. You can go and check for yourself. I Ioved her more than anyone else. I stood by her every time she was down. She was a part of my soul. Yet, all I got was a meager 25%? He is now supposed to visit her every week, according to Shyam Kaka. It won’t take long for mom to change her will and give the entire property to him. I confide this in you because I trust you. You can hand me over to the police. I won’t protest. I want a safe future for my children, and I’ve done that. But something tells me that you won’t. It’s a twin thing after all.’ She winked at me and left.
I hurried to that hole.
I dug it.
I found a vial of Digoxin. I knew it to be a fatal poison. Able to kill a person in even small dosages.
I was in a dilemma. I had to turn one of them in—either my guilty sister or my innocent brother.
Somehow, I didn’t like the term ‘innocent.’
He was the actual killer. He chose that bitch Alicia over mom. He deserved punishment: one way or the other.
I looked at my watch. It was 10:50 AM.
The police were to arrive within ten minutes.
I realized I had to get rid of something.
I searched my pockets for it.
I took it out.
And placed it beside the empty vial.
The two vials of Digoxin lay side by side.
One devoid, one full.
They were looking like my sister and me. On our prams. Laughing together, crying together, and staying together.
While she was explaining her actions, it seemed like my own thoughts and plans were being reflected on me.
I didn’t have to use my vial to kill my mom; she did it for me.
Unknowingly, but for the same reason nonetheless.
‘It’s indeed a twin thing.’
Aniket Das is currently a student in agriculture at OUAT, Bhubaneswar. He started writing eight months back. An avid book lover. What fascinates him the most are the stories based on mystery and suspense.