SUHAS stopped to catch his breath. He could walk no further. He put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Even this simple action took a great deal of effort, and he almost gave up midway.

Suhas was on his way home from the photo shop near his place. The day was pleasantly cool and he thought he would be able to cover the short distance easily as always, but he was already exhausted and home seemed far away.   

‘Gosh, what’s wrong with me, I must be growing old!’ he gasped.

In all the 24 years of his life, Suhas had never felt as helpless as he did today. For a strong and healthy young man like him, it should have been child’s play, but strangely today a bag with a single photo frame was too heavy for him to carry. It seemed to weigh like a ton of bricks, hanging not just from his shoulder, but crushing his entire being under its weight.

‘Let me go return this to the shop,’ he murmured in a choked voice, but he knew he was hoping in vain; there was no going back in this case.

Feeling tired and faint, Suhas leaned against the wall that separated a popular local restaurant from the footpath. He had often eaten here and had always carried home their upma and stuffed paranthas that Mother liked so much. Today, however, the air reeked of cooking oil and masala continuously on the boil; Suhas almost gagged on the thick nauseous vapours that seemed to envelop him like a shroud.

 ‘You OK, young man?’ a passer-by paused, then hurried along as Suhas waved him away.

 ‘Help, please help! Can you please tell me why I am feeling this way?’ Suhas wanted to scream out, but the words died somewhere within him, smothered by the load he was carrying. Too early, still too early, perhaps, to share the enormous weight.

 Heart heavy, he shifted the bag from one shoulder to the other. Home was just round the corner now, but he could barely drag himself there.   

He sighed as he looked at his watch and started to walk again on the seemingly endless road. It appeared to be impossible but, somehow, Suhas managed to keep on going without letting the once-familiar, shared landscape and memories obstruct his way.

Finally he was home at last, still unprepared though for the people who would be coming to “visit” Mother today. Suhas put down the bag and, with shaking hands, pulled out the frame that held his mother’s photograph. This morning, she had passed away. 

‘We are home, Mother,’ he whispered.

 There was no reply. No relief either from the grief that gripped his heart in its deadly embrace.

Suhas could only hope time would somehow lighten the unbearable load. Perhaps, someday.