Tied to the armchair with a broad brown leather belt, his fists clenched, muttering, gasping unintelligibly under his breath, angry at something or somebody, an unhappy frown shadowing his brow, hair cropped short, feet bare and sharply white. She recalled his first image, Everyone called him Tari. He was always around the house, on the bed, trying to walk along the wall, holding on to it for support, or sitting tied to the chair, but she never saw him run…..or maybe he could not. He never went to school either. she realized this, days, months, and years later. Then she heard someone say ‘mentally retarded by birth’ and needs to be treated by small doses of the drug Phenobarbital.
It was a disturbing evening when he just fell flat on his face and hit the side of the bed. Sharp cut in the forehead let out a gush of dark red blood. She was terrified, she started crying, crying at seeing him bleed, crying at his pain, which she felt. Why did she feel so?
Why did she like him so much? Who was he for her? He would smile at her when she went near him, he would suddenly grip her arm so hard that sometimes she would shout – Let go! Please. He would laugh, laugh and laugh. The laughter would turn into fits they made him roll on the floor. No one could stop him until the laughter turned into tears and moans of pain that no one could stop. Then she knew he could not stop himself. He would never be able to stop this laughter by himself.
She saw her father’s concerned face as he paced in the room; then heard him say “He cannot control this, it will require treatment.” She saw her father fill up a small syringe. He was a doctor. He inserted the needle into the shaking arm, the laughter mixed with cries continued. Trembling she went closer ,bent over him as he lay there, his eyes were closed , his face was wet; she felt afraid and then knew..Oh! He, he was her brother. He was only six years old. He would be fine when the laughter subsided and I thought all was well. She played with her sister when he would just sit in his chair tied to it. He liked music and songs. Father would put on the black records on the player. Tari would scream for more and it was difficult to stop.
Memories of painful cries strike sharply as she turns the pages of childhood. Mother was always working, cooking washing looking after guests and holding Tari . He was not a normal child. She never heard her mother complain about him but could often see her swollen eyes and sad countenance. They never went out in the evenings.
Who will look after Tari? That was always the question.
Tari did not know who he was . He could not change his clothes or eat by himself but they knew when he was hungry. He would scream and cry. He wanted to be part of life itself, hold onto something, wish for peace. One day she could not find one of her books. After a long search finally she saw it in Tari’s hands. He had twisted and crushed it. It could not be read. Ahe cried, “Mama see what Tari has done to my book.” Mama was helpless. Tari could not be punished.
It was hot that summer afternoon. As she stepped off the tonga coming home from school, she sensed an unusual silence. The family stood in the porch, heads bent, faces concerned.
Her heart missed a beat and then beat faster, the heavy schoolbag bag felt heavier on the shoulder. Tari! She ran to his room; the chair was empty, the brown leather belt hung loose. “We can’t find him. Its been three hours now,” she heard a voice behind her. She sat down on the steps outside and stared emptily in the air. Evening turned into night, night into the next day. Three days went by. The lost Tari. Why was he in this world which he never knew nor understood?
For me he was a bond of love, of unconscious relationship, of mystic entity, a truth, a state, a form, an image yet a shadow; she wanted to help him but never knew how.
Mother was a pillar of patience having him as a child. She could not speak of his pain and fears, wants and needs, hurts and happiness. They could tie him to a chair but could not untie his being, his self, his mind;
Tari came into their lives with laughter with hope with a divine presence; he must be in heaven. His soul was alive but his Spirit, enchained.
© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar
ANJUM WASIM DAR was born in Srinagar (Indian Occupied )Kashmir,Migrant Pakistani and educated at St Anne’s Presentation Convent Rawalpindi. She holds an MA in English. Anjum has be writing poems, articles, and stories since 1980. She is a published poet and was Awarded Poet of Merit Bronze Medal 2000 USA .She’s worked as Creative Writer Teacher Trainer and is an Educational Consultant by Profession.