Solomon was a daily-wage earner working a wide variety of jobs, gardening, climbing the coconut trees, working as a mason’s assistant, a labourer; he straddled multiple jobs to take care of his Sarahma.
It was Christmas Eve; Solomon had hoped that Sarahma would be strong enough the next morning to attend Mass at the church. He had managed to buy a new saree for Sarahma; times were tough and with Sarahma’s towering medical expenses; the two of them somehow managed to make things run.
They lived in an old abandoned factory. The factory had been closed for over 10 years now because of labour-issues and the property was caught in an ugly legal battle among the sons of the founder of the company. The property overlooked the lagoon and during starry nights – husband and wife would look at the sky; holding their hands.
Sarahma and Solomon led a tough life in the unkind and harsh city of Kochi; everyone was busy, lost in their own worlds in a mad pursuit of money, power and fame. No one had time for a poor couple like Solomon and Sarahma. When Solomon entered the small enclosure of the old abandoned factory that he lovingly shared with Sarahma; he was in for a shock. Sarahma was lying down on the coir-mat. He dropped the paper-cover which had the saree and rushed to Sarahma. He touched her forehead it was cold. He turned around to look at the wood-fire oven. There was a vessel with some rice-gruel. He removed the vessel, lit fire and began boiling a vessel of water. He then began rubbing Sarahma’s feet, he recollected the camphor that was in the shelf next to Mother Mary’s painting. He quickly got some camphor and pressed it near Sarahma’s nostrils.
He continued to rub her feet and also applied a warm-press using a towel. Sarahma suddenly moaned, she said ‘Solomon, I am dying!’ He chided her with tears in his eyes – ‘Sarahmey, sarahmey, nothing will happen!’ He kept rubbing her feet vigourously. After a while Sarahma got up slowly with Solomon’s help. He supported her and helped her sit on the single wooden chair that they had.
Sarahma said – ‘Solomon I have only brought you suffering; let me die, so you can be in peace.’ Solomon scolded her – ‘Sarahmey, what is this? Be strong!’ He then boiled the milk left for next day’s tea and added it to the rice-gruel and fed Sarahma slowly. Sarahma ate with great difficulty, some of the gruel dribbled down her lips. Solomon wiped her cheeks gently and then gave her some warm water to drink. He then gave her the daily tablet and syrup. He lit a candle in front of Mother Mary’s painting, said a prayer and returned to Sarahma.
He held her hands and sat down on the floor; rubbing Sarahma’s feet vigorously. Sarahma fell asleep after a while. Over the course of the night Solomon fought fatigue, hunger and tiredness as he kept rubbing her feet. At some point in time he too fell asleep; holding her hands!
It was Christmas and the church bells rang with joy and fervour. The rays of the morning sun and the cawing of the crows woke Solomon up. He woke up with a sudden fit. Sarahma was in deep sleep, but the pale countenance of the previous night had gone and she was in a deep but peaceful drug-induced sleep.
He smiled, got up went to Mother Mary’s painting and said a prayer of thanks and lit a new candle. He then gently went about his tasks without disturbing Sarahma. He finished his morning ablutions and a bath in the lagoon and made some black tea to drink. He had bought some unniappams from the shop the previous night. He arranged the unniappams and the tea glass on a plate. He woke Sarahma up gently, she woke up slowly and smiled at Solomon. He said ‘Merry Christmas Sarahmey’ – she held Solomon’s hand gently and with a timid and shy smile said – ‘Merry Christmas Solomon’. Solomon then took out the white saree with the red border that he had purchased the previous evening and gave it to her.
Sarahma smiled and held Solomon’s hands; the two looked at each other; Mother Mary smiled at the two from the painting. Only she knew how close to death Sarahma had been the previous night!!!