Meena was only fourteen when her mother left. One morning she woke up to the wails of her one year old brother crying and found out that her mother had left sometime in the dead of the night. Her father sat in a corner, not knowing what to do or how to console a crying one year old. As cries got more high pitched and louder, the other siblings woke up. There are three more of them. Meena is the eldest of five.
It was only years later that she found out that her mother had eloped with her lover, leaving her husband and five children stranded. Meena's father had had no clue and was in shock for months afterwards. Which is how it became Meena's responsibility to look after her four siblings.
Meena learnt to do everything. She would get up at 3.30 in the morning. Cook for the day. Wash all the clothes and get ready to go to school. She would then dress the two oldest siblings for school and wash the other two. On her way to school, she would deposit the two youngest siblings at her paternal aunt's. On her way back from school she would pick up the little ones. Most days she missed school, trying to calm baby tantrums, sooth growing pains, teething pains and hunger cries.
One day, when the one year old had grown up to be two years Meena found that the little fellow was having breathing difficulties. He seemed to be in pain. When she tilted his his head back she could see that there was something stuck in one of his nostrils. He was howling by this point and everything she had tried to dislodge what was stuck in his nose was proving to be futile. She was about to drag him to the bus station to go to the hospital when inspiration struck.
Meena threw a handful of dried chillies into the fire burning in the stove. The fiery smoke achieved what she could not all that while. At the smell of burning chillies, her brother sneezed, sending out the little peanut that was stuck in his nose hurling out.
Meena is twenty seven years old now. She doesn't miss her mother. Her only regret is that the mother who was never there would not see how they have grown. How they have fared without her. That is all.