Authors: Marisha Pink
Tags: #fiction, #spiritual, #journey, #india, #soul, #past, #culture, #spiritual inspirational, #aaron, #contemporary fiction, #loneliness, #selfdiscovery, #general fiction, #comingofage, #belonging, #indian culture, #hindu culture, #journey of self, #hindi, #comingofagewithatwist, #comingofagenovel, #comingofagestory, #journey of life, #secrets and lies, #soul awareness, #journey into self, #orissa, #konark, #journey of discovery, #secrets exposed, #comingofrace, #culture and customs, #soul awakening, #past issues, #past and future, #culture and societies, #aaron rutherford, #arun, #marisha pink, #odisha, #puri
‘Of course,’ Aaron answered, swallowing hard in an
attempt to suppress the tears he felt bubbling just below the
He knew that his mother’s belongings would have to
be cleared away eventually – as two grown men they had no use for
the majority of her possessions – but knowing it and actually doing
it were two wholly different things and Aaron couldn’t help feeling
that this act had an unwelcome air of finality about it. Still, he
didn’t want Arthur to see him cry, it would only make them both
THE door to Catherine’s study loomed ominously ahead
when Aaron reached the top of the second floor staircase. At
Arthur’s suggestion he was to focus his clearing efforts there in
case he found material useful for the medical degree he would be
commencing at Oxford University in October. Dr Catherine Rutherford
had spent decades building up an enviable collection of books,
journals and unusual case studies from her work around the world,
and the contents of the study had been her pride and joy. Anything
that Aaron did not want or need was to be donated to the university
where she had occasionally lectured until the illness had forced
her to stop.
Aaron’s pulse quickened when he approached the door,
the palms of his hands soft and clammy from the sweat of
apprehension. He had been inside the study countless times, yet
without her there, and without her permission, he felt like an
intruder trespassing on her very soul. Her life’s work lay within
its walls and logic told him that each item held at least an
intrinsic value, or else his mother would never have kept it. The
very thought of giving, or worse throwing, away her belongings felt
like waving goodbye to small pieces of his mother herself. It was a
responsibility that he would have preferred not to shoulder, but
categorically he knew that the room could not stay as it was.
Neither he nor his father wished to use it – it was too painful
somehow – but left untouched the many shelves of books and files
would simply gather dust and they both knew that she would not have
wanted her efforts to go to waste.
Drawing a deep breath, Aaron turned the polished
bronze knob and gently pushed back the door. Stepping inside, he
was at once struck by how small the room felt. Floor to ceiling
bookcases lined all but a single wall, creating the foreboding
sense that someone was standing over him. To his left, a small sash
window permitted a soft stream of light to enter the room, but the
mountain of paper that littered the executive desk positioned
beneath it restricted his view of the garden below. He stared into
the small space before him, his right hand still clasped firmly
around the doorknob for support. As a child the room had always
seemed much larger, infinite even. The bookcases had towered over
him from their great height and he had barely been able to see over
the desk. He had passed entire afternoons sprawled on the circular
red rug at the centre of the room, playing contentedly with his
toys whilst his mother busily worked at putting the world to
rights. Now he virtually matched the bookcases in height and at
best he would be able to sit cross-legged on the faded red rug.
Time seemed to have moved on, almost without him realising, and
looking despairingly around the room he heard himself sigh,
uncertain how or where to begin.
Tentatively approaching the nearest bookcase, he
lightly stroked his index finger across a row of thick spines,
clearing a line through the thin layer of dust that had already
Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine, Gray’s Anatomy for
Rang and Dale’s
; all titles
he recognised from the recommended reading list that the admissions
tutor had sent to him. He pulled the heavy volumes off the shelf
one by one and stacked them in a neat pile at his feet. Continuing
along the shelf he paused to inspect each title in turn, trying to
recall if it too appeared on the list, and slowly the pile began to
grow. Aside from the odd book that piqued his interest, he placed
everything else neatly into the sturdy cardboard carriers that
Arthur, ever the pragmatist, had left for him to use.
By mid-morning he had cleared one whole bookcase and
made a respectable start on a second. The pile of books he intended
to keep now constituted three short stacks that easily reached to
his knees, and the countless cardboard carriers had assembled
themselves into a small brown fort surrounding him on all sides.
Methodical in his approach, Aaron had become entirely absorbed in
his task, the concentration and physicality of it providing a
welcome distraction from the emotional fragility he felt whenever
he allowed his mind to wander back to his mother. When he reached
the third bookcase, a cursory glance at the gold carriage clock
that adorned its top shelf alerted him to the fact that it was
lunchtime. Ordinarily his stomach would have been crying out for
food by this time, but his appetite had severely diminished since
the loss of his mother and, still full from breakfast, he decided
simply to take a short break.
The third bookcase was crammed full of box files,
which his mother’s erratic, doctoral scrawl informed him contained
archives of niche medical journals. Pulling the box labelled
88–89’ from the top shelf for company, Aaron lowered
himself cross-legged onto the rug, exhausted from the graft of the
morning. He leant back against the dense cardboard fort and clicked
the box file open to reveal around a dozen faded journal issues,
each one as illegible as the next. The sun had obviously gotten to
them long before filing and Aaron wondered why his mother had
deliberately kept texts that she would not be able to read. A
former specialist in paediatric medicine, it was possible that the
journals contained her own article submissions, or that
collectively they were of some financial value, but whatever the
reason his mother had never done anything in her life without just
cause and he was certain of a logical explanation.
He held the February 1988 issue up towards the light
and peered closely at the front cover, squinting while he tried to
make out the faded images. A thin slip of rough, off-white paper
fell from between the pages and drifted slowly through the air
before finally coming to rest in his lap. He glanced down at it in
surprise; the ends were somewhat dog-eared and both sides were
covered in a large and unfamiliar inky black scrawl. Instantly
intrigued, he set the journal to one side and, lifting the scruffy
piece of paper from his lap, began to read in earnest.
P.O. Box No. 21, Puri H.O.
Puri – 752 001 (Orissa)
To Dear Catherineben,
I am hoping this letter is meeting with you in the
very best of healths. And for your husband also I am wishing
I am very sorry for writing again but it is a very
much long time that I am not hearing of you. Am I saying something
too bad for you? I am so much hoping that it is not something I am
saying wrong for upsetting you. Maybe you are not receiving my last
letters? I don’t know how these things are working in UK exactly
but we are not such problems having before.
I am sad very much in my heart for not hearing of
you. Always before you are writing and giving pictures of Arun and
like this I am knowing that my boy is okay. I am smiling all the
days when your letter is coming, but now is only very much worrying
for something bad happening with Arun.
I am praying to God every day for bringing me some
news of my boy. My pujari is telling me to being patient and I am
in my heart knowing that God is doing only what is best for me, and
for Arun, and for you, even I am not understanding his ways.
I am thinking how very much busy you are being with
your important doctor work. You are having very much a kind heart
and I am thinking maybe now is more important you are helping
people like you did helping me and so much time not having for
I am promising I am trying to being patient
Catherineben, but now is so long for waiting and I am scary for the
time is not enough. I am with all my heart asking you again and I
am praying to God for making this one thing for you important also.
I am staying everydays sick in my bed now, not even to the mandir I
am going, and the doctor cannot anymore helping me.
Hanara and Lakshin are giving me the care and for
this I am knowing already I am very much lucky. To having here two
children is a blessing truly, but it is in my heart always the one
who is missing. I am knowing it is not much time more for me in
this world Catherineben and I am wishing for see my dear son Arun
only once time more.
I am understanding that this is not in our agreement
and for this I am really very much sorry again. You are so much
giving to me and my family and it is not for not thanking you and
certainly not for making a trouble in your life. Only it is to
seeing with my own eyes the man my boy is becoming. To be knowing
surely that he is happy in his life from my choices so that
peacefully I am resting when the time is coming.
After this I will not anymore asking for you
Catherineben, this is my really promise.
I am waiting for hearing from you very soon.
With very best wishes,
Your friend Kalpana
AARON stared in disbelief at the paper in his hands,
his pulse quickening as the colour began to drain from his cheeks.
His mouth tasted as though he had been sucking on coins and his
throat was rapidly closing in on itself. A million questions raced
through his mind, too quickly for him to make sense of any of them.
Shaking, he read the letter again, and then a third time, and then
a fourth, but still he found himself unable to process the words.
Nothing seemed to make sense and it was only on the fifth reading
that his mind stood still long enough to focus on a single phrase:
Maybe you are not receiving my last letters?
In that split second Aaron knew the real reason his
mother had kept the faded journals and his stomach did a quick
somersault. Pulling the box file closer towards him, he held each
issue up in turn and gave it a gentle shake. His suspicions were
instantly confirmed when the movement yielded a small flutter of
letters from between the pages, each scrawled in an inky black
lettering identical to that which covered the first note he had
found. The faded red rug no longer visible beneath him, Aaron felt
tears prick his eyes for the second time that day. Paralysed
amongst the sea of letters, tears coursed down his cheeks, slowly
at first, but soon picking up speed, until his vision became so
blurred that he was looking at, but could no longer see, the
letters that lay all around him. He gasped desperately for breath
between the violent sobs that rocked his body, yet the string of
questions continued their relentless tirade and before long his
upset and confusion had transformed into an irrepressible rage.
Like a man possessed he struggled to his feet and,
defiantly wiping away his tears, attacked the third bookcase with
new vigour. Box file after box file was wrenched mercilessly from
the shelves, the journals inside shaken violently, finally forced
to give up their secret hoards. Each shelf was stripped bare, its
former contents sent crashing to the floor in a flurry of perfectly
preserved notes, until nothing remained but a thick blanket of dust
outlining where the box files used to stand. Collapsing
breathlessly back into the fort, Aaron sat back against the stacked
carriers, panting with exhaustion from the sudden surge of
activity. The manic outburst had helped to quash his rapidly rising
anger, providing a vent for the intense frustration he felt, but
now all about him lay more letters and ultimately more
A soft knock at the door startled him and he looked
up in panic, half- expecting Aunt Ruby to come barging in.
‘Aaron, is everything all right in there?’ came
Arthur’s concerned voice from the other side of the door.
‘Yeah, it’s … it’s fine,’ he lied, his heart beating
furiously inside his chest.
‘What was all that banging?’
‘Oh, I … I just knocked a stack of books over,
that’s all. Everything’s fine.’
A brief and awkward silence followed while Arthur
appeared to contemplate Aaron’s excuse, but it seemed to satisfy
his concern because he quickly changed the subject.
‘Aunt Ruby’s not back yet. I don’t know where she’s
got to, but I’m starving and I can’t wait any longer. I’m going to
order a pizza or something for lunch; do you want anything?’
Food was the farthest thing from Aaron’s mind after
what he had just discovered and he wasn’t ready to face Arthur yet
either, not until he had more information.
‘No thanks, Arthur. I’m still full from
‘Okay. I’m sure there’ll be a few slices left over
if you change your mind later.’
Aaron listened while Arthur’s heavy footsteps backed
away from the study door and made their way downstairs. When he
could no longer hear them, he breathed a deep sigh of relief and,
gingerly mopping his brow, turned his attention back to the chaos
that lay before him. The sheer number of letters was overwhelming,
perhaps ten or even twenty years of correspondence; a lifetime’s
worth. He reached for the nearest one and began to read
compulsively. Entirely engrossed, he consumed letter after letter,
pausing only to reflect on the things that he had read and what
they might mean. However, far from offering any explanation, each
reading only served to add to his confusion and to raise more
questions about his biological mother and the nature of her
relationship with the only mother that he had ever known.