Meltdown | Satakshi Dutta Beyond the Panorama March 19, 2021

Meltdown | Satakshi Dutta

Nitu was sitting on the bed with an open school textbook in front of her. It was a hot Sunday afternoon around 1:30 P.M. and some spotted doves were making constant tiring “coo-a-roooo” calls sitting over a wall outside their small ground storey home. Nitu’s mother Pushpo was doing her usual stitching work in her sewing machine and her two years old sibling sister Indu was fast asleep in a small hammock made by their mother with a torn saree and some ragged clothes. Their father Dipok was busy pulling his rickshaw around the town as usual. Nitu also felt a bit sleepy but the sewing machine sound made her somewhat agitated. So, despite her desire to sleep, she indulged herself into some mathematics. The month of May in Kolkata is one of the hottest months of the year. The weather is humid as well as intolerably hot. Though they had electricity and had a ceiling fan but due to the problem of daily power cuts, it was tough for them to survive these months.

Nitu’s father Dipok was somewhat an unpredictable person. Nitu could never understand her father. Sometimes when he came home, he would be full of love and compassion towards his daughters and sometimes he would be completely indifferent towards them. So, Nitu couldn’t understand when to approach her father and when not to. Pushpo was different though. She was always lovable, empathetic and compassionate towards her children. So, naturally Nitu was more drawn and attached towards her mother. She also adored her 2 year old sibling like anything. Though she herself was only 7 year old, her motherly care for her little sister convinced Pushpo that she shouldn’t be worried about either Indu or Nitu or their bonding as siblings. Pushpo was actually a very strong-willed woman. She knew her husband’s unpredictable character well and so she could skilfully handle him and also her family. She was a woman of immense patience and had a remarkable maturity.

Summer time was getting really tough for them as loo was at its extreme. Suddenly one-night Dipok came up with a desire to purchase an air conditioner for their home. He heard someone speaking of the device with someone else over the phone when he was pulling the rickshaw that day in the morning.  Pushpo wasn’t sure at first what it was and so she asked about the details of the material to her husband. When Dipok told her about the functionings of the device, she also got equally overjoyed at first but then when she came to know about its price, she got a shock of her lifetime. She then understood that her husband was again into some unrealistic and irrelevant point of his mental state. Now she was a bit worried about this situation because she knew Dipok. Once something got stuck in his mind, he could literally do anything to satisfy his desire. Though he was dedicated towards his family and never did he by any means abuse them but this state of his mind was only known and could only be controlled by his wife Pushpo to some extent. In the past, Dipok had been accused and jailed for six months a couple of times for his treachery at some local shops. This was another reason for Pushpo to be worried like anything regarding her husband. For the time being Pushpo knew that she needed to handle this with great care and gentleness because any sort of impatience from her side can make things even worse. Nitu heard all of the conversation of his parents but she was silent because she could also somewhat understand that her father wasn’t in a good mood that day.

Next day Dipok left home early in the morning according to his usual routine. Pushpo was still worried but tried not to show her anxiety in front of Dipok. After Dipok left, Pushpo readied Nitu for her school, where Nitu went by herself since it was in their locality. Then Pushpo took care of her younger daughter and brought her to sleep. Now she was free to sit with her sewing works for a while before she could go to the kitchen for cooking. But she got so indulged into her work that she got late for her cooking. Realising the fact, she hurried to the kitchen at once. After lighting up the stove, she started preparing the vegetables and other things. Suddenly she could sense that the flames of the stove were too hot for her to handle. Outside the weather was extremely humid that day and maybe due to excessive sweating she felt really dizzy and started gasping for breath. In the meantime Nitu was back from school and seeing her mother in that position she got overly anxious and tried helping her mother sit down and have some water. When Pushpo was a bit settled with her condition, Nitu told her mother that she could help her finish with the cooking. Nitu felt that she was raising a remarkably sweet and caring child and that made her really happy. During their cooking session, Nitu suddenly started asking her mother about last night’s conversation regarding what an air conditioner is. Pushpo was again in a perplexed state of mind since she didn’t want her daughter to get excited over something which wasn’t affordable for them. But still she took a leap of faith and told her about the basic function of the device. After knowing that, Nitu asked whether they could buy one or not. Pushpo tried telling Nitu in a very persuasive manner that they didn’t have that much money to buy one. Pushpo was tense since she couldn’t understand how Nitu was going to react to this statement. But to her utter bewilderment, Nitu understood and wasn’t at all unhappy with the fact that they didn’t have that much money. Pushpo was once again relieved.

That night once again Dipok started speaking about buying an air conditioner but once again Pushpo tried to handle it with great patience. Seeing this Nitu suddenly came up with an idea. She has seen a picture of Manali hill station in her school where the hills were covered with ice. What if she could fill her entire home with ice? If she could do that then it will remain cold and they won’t even need any A.C.! So, it was the time for action. What could she do? Next morning, she went to school but didn’t say anything to anyone of her parents regarding her idea. She wanted to surprise them. So, what she did next was she went to a local acquainted ice-cream vendor whom she called “ice-kaku” and asked to give her some ice. The ice-cream vendor adored Nitu and asked her what she would do with them. She told him her intentions but despite knowing the consequence of it, he didn’t want to destroy her innocent wish. So, he told her to collect some packets from here and there and after she came back with four or five of them, he broke some ice from his fridge and filled her packets with it. Nitu was delighted with her achievement and without even looking behind, she just ran to her home to give the surprise to her parents. She knew her father would be at home for lunch at that time. When she came back with those packets in her hand, her parents were evidently confused to see that. Almost all of the ice had turned into water by the time she reached her home. When she was asked about the reason why she was carrying those packets, she told them her wish of making their home filled with ice so that they could get relieved from this heat. Innocent Nitu didn’t know the fact that the ice would melt and become water after a while. Pushpo was really touched by the effort of her daughter and to her surprise she watched her husband meltdown in a very unusual manner. He came up to his daughter, embraced her in his arms and started sobbing! Nitu couldn’t understand what was happening and so she tried consoling her father. Then she got a bit upset since there was no more ice left for the house to make it cold. Both of her parents lovingly caressed her and kissed her. They showed her that they were extremely happy and satisfied with all the efforts she had made for making their life more beautiful. Once again Pushpo felt gratified to have got such a daughter and also was tremendously happy because Nitu did a very difficult task in such an easy way which Pushpo couldn’t completely do though she has been trying for years. Nitu changed her father’s thoughts just within a few minutes. Pushpo wasn’t sure about their future summer months but at least for this year their hot summer was sorted out with lots of love, understanding, family bonding and a huge “meltdown”.

Written by Satakshi Dutta

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