He is silent. The only sound filling the room is the burble of the small fountain in the corner. Dusty particles float in the air in the thick ray of sun that is shining through the window. You want to thank him for seeing you but your throat tightens up. This is the first time you are exposing yourself to the possibility of receiving condolences. The most vulnerable state of grief. Will he say he is sorry for your loss? Will he try to console you? You have been fencing yourself against sympathy as it only affirms the un-share-ability of loss. Or so you believe. The value of acknowledging the other’s pain is in the acceptance of their reality. But can that pain ever be shared? Can the sheikh feel yours? Can he see the hole inside of your body that has been throbbing lately? When you finally look up he welcomes you with a wide but sealed smile, as he slides a platter of cookies toward you and welcomes you to his abode. Warm rays of sun that shine on the cookies, diffuses their sweet smell in the room. “How is your mother doing?” He asks to your surprise. No expression of empathy. How rude. Who cares how she is doing? She is not the one who has lost a father. “She wants me to find a buyer sooner rather than later. For the house.” You find yourself answering reluctantly. Even combative. He gently hums as he exhales. Silence falls back into the room. You break it quickly. “I actually wanted to see you to ask if he has left a note with you? A will? Anything at all?” You try to sound respectful but there is something in the room that is making you restless, jittery. The muscles of your feet pulse as if needing to bolt out of the room. He sighs. “He didn’t say goodbye to anyone. I’m sorry.” Says the sheikh as he tilts his head. His smile slopes along ever so slightly. You keep quiet, pulling the fingers of your left hand with your right hand one by one. He continues: “He wasn’t a very good father was he?” His harsh words are accompanied by his soft tone and the murmuring sound of water. You try to swallow the lump in your throat: “He suffered from depression.”
Depression. They can now identify it in brain scans which show abnormal functions of different areas of brain. The hippocampus of a depressed person is smaller due to lack of neurotransmitters. Scientists believe that stress over time can suppress the production of new neurons in hippocampus. In other words, there is a correlation between the sluggish production of new neurons in the hippocampus and depression. But that’s not all. Depressed people tend to have a hyperactive amygdala, which is a part of the limbic system. A group of structures in the brain that’s associated with emotions, anger, pleasure, sorrow, fear, sexual arousal. In a way a depressed person feels more, deeper. They lack the ability to balance and regulate mood. When father was joyful, he flew you up to the heavens. His laughter was contagious. Even mother would agree. His love unbound. His anger, fear, and sorrow were just as expansive, pronounced. His emotions filled the room, left no space to breathe. And so you learnt to wear the invisibility cloak. Like a ninja, you could turn into shadow when father was not in the mood. How can one attribute moral value to functions of the brain? Or its malfunctions for that matter? The biology of depression absolves his sins.
The sheikh interrupts your thoughts. “Does that make it fair to you?” The lump in your throat finally bursts. You too loose the ability to regulate your mood. You are his daughter after all. The sheikh slides a tissue box toward you. You take the whole box under your chador as you keep apologizing for your tears. You know well that they won’t stop flowing anytime soon. Fairness. What a vile concept. You sit in front of him and let the tears flow along the water stream of the fountain. The room falls back into the quiet murmuring of the fountain. The sun warms your back but your hands are freezing. He asks the man standing outside to bring you some tea. You can see the man’s feet moving, pausing, kneeling down, putting the tea glass and saucer on the lotus of the carpet in front of you. You pick up the hot glass. Hold it in your hands, allowing the heat to burn your palms, the tears to silently stream down your face.