The soap slipped out of her hand. When Mrs. Mehta tried to reach for it, she slipped from the commode where she was sitting and taking her bath. That is how it all began.
I am sleeping on the wet bathroom floor. At least, that is what I find myself doing now. Did I pass out for some time? I do not know. I remember falling. What is the time? How long has it been after I fell? Will Uma wonder what I am doing in the bathroom for so long?
There is no pain, except for a dull ache on the right hip and the head. I must have fallen on the hip. Did I hit my head, too?
I should try to get up. My elbow manages to take my weight but my palm slips right off the floor. Ouch! That hurt.
What a day I chose to fall. My dear husband has gone out with Deepu, my son-in-law. They have to sort out some ticket issues. We are flying back to London the day after.
My hip is on fire. I must get up. I will hold on to the edge of the pot and pull myself up. That is better. The servant is not cleaning under the pot properly. I must tell Uma. I must rest for some time. I will put my head on the pot. I must not fall asleep. Imagine! They find me sleeping stark naked on the bathroom floor, wet and soapy, with my head on the edge of the pot.
How can they come in? Uma keeps telling me never to lock the bathroom door. And I securely bolted it. Force of habit. Who enters a bathroom not planning to get out ever? Don’t think like that. You are not dead.
I call out to Uma. My voice comes out so weak, I find it funny myself. She can’t hear me. She must be in the kitchen. Deepu and Tarak will be back for lunch.
Maybe Tarak would have heard me. Whom am I fooling? He pretends to hear all that I tell him and I pretend that he can hear. How many years have we been doing this? We are going to London to celebrate 55 years of marriage. After so many years, he is like part of my body. Hazy eyes, arthritic hands, weak heart, heavy legs and deaf husband.
If my legs were not heavy, maybe I could have got up. The doctor says my legs are swollen because my heart is weak. Some things I don’t understand. I understand I am dying. But, not in the bathroom. Not like this. Such a shame!
Uma is knocking at the door. I want to tell her I am all right. It is such an effort to talk. I tell her the truth. I have to shout. Finally, she understands. I tell her not to panic. I tell her I am getting up. Or, at least trying.
Now, that I have rested I should try moving. No, don’t get up. Just crawl. It is easy when the floor is wet and slippery. It is beginning to dry up. How long have I been here?
Uma is banging on the door and shaking it. She must be trying to work the bolt loose. Not working. I will have to open it. For that, first I have to reach the bolt.
Why is the door so far away? Why is the wash basin area at a higher level? It is so difficult to move up when you are heavy and crawling. I think I have scraped my skin. Enough. I must rest for some time.
They will be back soon. And Deepu will unlock the main door and enter the house. Then they will see Uma trying to break the bathroom door. Then they will do something.
You can’t hold on to a bucket when you are trying to get up. Not when it is empty. It topples. Uma screams when she hears the bucket fall. I am fine, I tell her. The bucket fell; I didn’t. I have already fallen.
Undo the bolt, she says. I want to. Just that I am down here and the bolt is right on top, high up the door.
The mop with the long handle. I must reach it. It is at the corner, far from the bolt. I must reach it. That is my only chance. As soon as I have finished resting.
I am feeling cold.
I must rest on both my elbows and drag myself forward. Oh, I am such deadweight. There, I have the mop. Don’t let go of it.
I can’t reach the bolt with the handle. I must move forward some more. After a little rest.
Uma is saying the security guard has offered to climb up the drain. All the way up to the sixth floor? And how will he remove the grill to reach the window? Then he will see me in this condition? Don’t worry, I tell her. I have the mop, I don’t need the guard.
If only I can stop my hand from shivering. Difficult to do this with one hand. I will keep both my elbows on the floor, hold the mop with both hands and try. Why does this mop keep dancing?
It is cold. There it is almost open. Oops! Have I relieved myself?
Ninety minutes after she entered the bathroom, Mrs. Mehta managed to open the door. Uma rushed in, grabbed Mrs. Mehta under her arms to pull her to her feet. Uma moved her foot to get better balance and slipped. As she fell, her head hit the edge of the basin and she fell right on top of Mrs. Mehta. The doorbell rang. With an effort, Mrs. Mehta lifted her head, looked past the bunch of keys Deepu had forgotten on the table. Oh well! As soon as she pushed her unconscious daughter off her back, she had some more crawling to do.Or should she wait for Uma to wake up? Hope she is all right. Better start crawling.