September 21 2016: 12 Noon
As Harini opened the door, Aadvika, who followed her, froze , her body trembling.
“Harini, meet Meera Ma.”, Raghu smiled. “If not for you, I would not have met her there,” he continued.
Harini looked at him puzzled.
“If you had not called me, I would not have come to the entrance of the super market. That was where, I saw her. In the billing section. Remember, A special person about whom I told during one of our meeting? She is the one. Meera Ma.” He paused to smile.” I asked Ma, if she could accompany me , to meet the most important person of my life,” he continued.
“Ma, This is Harini, about whom I told you in the super market.”
“Mom.”, the words slipped through her lips, tears running down her cheeks, involuntarily.
Meera stood there looking at her daughter. Raghu’s words were never audible to both of them.
“Aadvika.” Meera called, as she rushed to hold her daughter. Raghu and Harini stood there puzzled.
“Ma.”, Aadvika raised her hand to hug Meera, stopped somewhere in the midair. The conscious brain re-played the final conversation she had with her parents, six years ago, while her sub-conscious still tried to hug her mom.
“Dare to contact us, Aadvika. You are left with only one choice. Either your parents or that guy.” Raj’s hoarse voice filled the house.
“Dad, please stop addressing him, ‘That guy’. He is your son-in-law.”, Aadvika cut him short.
“You were so timid, from where did you get the guts to back answer us.”, Meera’s voice broke.
“True love, mom.”, Aadvika replied, ignoring her mom’s tears.
“Oh, really? It can give you the nerve to confront your parents?” her father snapped.
“No, it gives the grit to stand for It.” Aadvika snubbed.
“Aadvika, think twice before you take this decision. Are you sure you can stay away, without contacting us.” Meera uttered her words, entreating her not to go.
“Try to convince Dad, mom. Why can’t he let me choose my life? You have met Manoj only once. Why don’t you meet his parents?”Aadvika spoke stronger and louder.
“I don’t like him. I don’t want my daughter to marry him.” Raj replied.
“Your daughter wants to marry him.” Aadvika folded her hands.
“She is not going to listen.” Raj looked at his wife.
“Aadvika, please understand.” Meera tried to stop.
“You want your wife to listen to you and when someone else expects the same from your daughter; it is not fair, right?”
Raj shot a contemptuous look. His daughter was frantic.
“Aadvika, for one last time I am warning you, we shall never contact you whatever the situation might be and we expect the same from you. Even if we shift, I might not be in a position to share information about my place or contact number.”
“Dad, I know your anger will mitigate. I know this hard situation will alleviate. I am moving, believing the same.”
“Aadvika, please think before you leave us,” the austere in his voice assuaged.
Aadvika shook her head and left.
That was six years ago.
Her mother’s voice brought her to the present.
“Raghu , she is my daughter. It has been six years since I saw her. Thank you so much.” Meera held Raghu’s hand as she cried.
“Aunty but..,” he began, as he felt Harini’s cold hands, clamping his wrists hard, gesturing him not to speak further.
The sudden touch, closeness, bought Raghu a different feeling. He looked at Harini. He was not sure how long he stood that way.
Aadvika’s voice broke his thoughts.
“I am so sorry ma.” Aadvika broke into hysterical tears.
“Raghu, why don’t we take Meera Aunt to her home? It would be a better place for them to talk.” Harini looked at Raghu.
He was surprised how understanding she was. The concern she had for another person amazed him. Her thoughtfulness staggered him.
She was beautiful, not just for the eyes, but for the heart too.
Raghu took Meera back to her home.
Payal welcomed Meera’s guests and was happy about the reunion.
Harini and Raghu were seated in Goutham’s house, leaving Meera’s house in privacy for the Mom and Daughter.
“I thought she just had a son.” Raghu shook his head.
“It was a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly; Meera Aunt tried to speak about her daughter. Uncle cut her short, then. The topic about her daughter never came up after that. Now we understand why.” Payal replied.
“Oh.” He nodded weakly.
Aadvika sat in silence and hesitation. She did not know where to begin.
“I should have listened to you mom.” Aadvika broke the silence.
“Why did you leave me back in suffering, Aadvika? You knew the turmoil, in which we were in, after losing your brother. You moved away creating the void again.” Meera spoke, wiping her wet eyes.
Aadvika did not have an answer. She sat in silence.
“I know your dad was harsh on you. I was not able to make either of you understand. I could not coax your dad or wheedle you. I stood in between, lost and helpless. I wasn’t able to make you stay or walk away with you. I had to stay with your dad.”
Aadvika held her mom’s hand, lowered her head and cried.
“It was your brother in the beginning, then you, and finally your dad; all of you, my family, the people whom I thought were my future, left me behind, all alone in this world.”
“I have even wondered what my mistake was. I had a family. A caring husband, two lovely kids; when I turned back as I grew older, I had none. “ Meera’s eyes reddened as she cried.
“I am so sorry.” Aadvika spoke, covering her face. Her shoulders shook vigorously owing to the sobbing spasms.
Meera sat there, wondering why Aadvika never asked about her dad.
“Your dad.., ” Meera fumbled for words, while Aadvika covered her face and cried.
“You know…,” Meera spoke again.
Aadvika nodded her head, still covering her face.
She looked up, tears blurring her vision.
“I came to know through Suganya, two weeks after dad’s demise. I did not have the strength to call you up and talk to you. Your number was not reachable. She told me you were safe. She also told me, Dad did not want me to know your place of stay. “She cried as her voice trembled. Suganya was Aadvika’s second cousin.
“I discerned what my folly was, when my dad did not want me to know about him, even after five years of separation,” she continued.
Aadvika gasped for air. The hollow of her throat grew deeper as she heaved for air.
Meera moved closer and patted her on her back to calm her down. She could not control her tears.
“Soon after you left, your dad accepted the transfer, which was pending for a long time. A change of place would help, we thought. He was posted in Delhi. We came here. It was not a single day I hadn’t thought about you. I could not speak about it to your dad. Every time people around me asked about my children, I remembered my lost son and the daughter, whom I did not want to lose, but could not speak to.” She paused, letting out a sigh.
“Mom, are you still angry?” Aadvika tried to speak.
“No, I was just disappointed and vexed. It is not an age for me to lose my temper. It is an age to keep my emotions together, in a better way. It is an age to sit back and see how well my children are. It is an age to motivate my children to face life better, with the lessons what life had taught me. ”
“There is no use talking about the bitter past. Tell me, how are you? Where are you settled?” She asked.
“I am with my in-laws in Mumbai. I work in a school there.” Aadvika paused. ” I don’t have a child even after six years of marriage, Ma.” Aadvika continued. She could not resist any longer. She rested her head on her mom’s shoulders.
Meera never expected this coming.
“Do you want me to talk to your in-laws?”Meera asked slowly. “How did you manage all these years when you were asked about us?” Meera continued.
Aadvika remembered the lie she made up to Sujatha and her curt reply.
‘They are in old age home, as there is no one to take care of them.’ Aadvika would lie.
‘That is so unfortunate. Anyway, all that I care for, is, you. Don’t brood about missing them. They should be fine. You have a life, which should move on. Don’t hold the past, you decided to move away, didn’t you?’ Sujatha’s curt reply would come in.
“I managed somehow, ma.” Aadvika was not ready to reveal the reality.
They sat in silence.
“Mom, I am not going to go back to them. I am going to stay with you.” Aadvika broke the silence, after few seconds.
“No, Ajju. That is not right and not a solution too. You have to live with your husband. I can talk to them if you want. We can consult a doctor here, if you want.”
Aadvika paused for a moment. She shut her eyes in anguish. She thought about Manoj, her love, her life.
A look of woe flashed through her face.
“Ok Mom, I will stay here with you for few days. Let me not think about the situation back there, be it my in-laws or baby. I just want to live as your Ajju, not worrying about anything. Can I? Please.” She pleaded.
Meera cupped her daughter’s face and hugged her.
“You are my daughter, do you even have to ask about it?” She smiled, as tears rolled down Meera’s cheeks.
“Seeing you again, gave me a great hope. Being with you will multiply it several folds. I will face my life better. “ Aadvika spoke in between her tears.
Meera hugged her daughter, trying to figure out how to set things straight for Aadvika. The purpose of her life has started to grow.
They heard a knock in the door. Raghu and Harini stood there, smiling.
“Lunch time!”, Harini grinned.
September 21 2016: 3 P.M
“Khanak, come, let me put you to sleep.” Payal called.
“Thank you for abating my search of a purpose to live, which would not have happened without you.” Meera smiled at Raghu.
“Thank you for showing me the greatest inspiration of my life, again, which would not have happened without you.” Aadvika smiled at Raghu and Harini manifesting her gratitude.
Harini squeezed Aadvika’s hands, smiling at her.
“Right things happen at the right time.” She smiled.
Harini’s phone rang. She smiled again.
Harini walked towards door, opened it, as if expecting someone.
“She is here. Please come in.” Harini spoke, letting in a couple and a man.
“Let me talk to Aadvika.” Sujatha gritted her teeth.
“Mom, please. I am here to apologize and take her back.” Manoj stopped his mom.
Payal, Harini, Raghu, Meera and Aadvika stood there looking at the new guests.
Aadvika swallowed hard as she saw her husband and in-laws approaching.
“Mom, he is Manoj, if you could remember his face and that is my father-in-law and mother-in-law.”Aadvika lowered her voice to introduce the guests to her mom, amidst her surprise.
“I called your husband. Sorry for doing it without your consent. I thought he wanted to know what was happening with you.” Harini spoke, looking at Aadvika. “I gave him this address and requested him to come here. I had to tell him about the reunion too.”
Meera walked fast to welcome them.
“Greet her. She is her mother.” Manoj mumbled.
“Why would I? I have a son. You are their son-in-law. They should greet us first. You made us to accept our daughter –in-law, without knowing her family background. We have not seen her parent’s pictures too. We just went by the assurance you gave, that they were equally good. Now you order me to greet them. “, she spoke under her breathe, looking at Manoj.
“Hi Aunty.” Manoj turned away from his mom, breaking the conversation, trying to smile, as he saw Meera coming.
“I am repeating and you..”, Sujatha turned towards the lady approaching them. As she got closer, Sujatha got a better view of her facial features. Sujatha stopped her words somewhere in between, looking at Meera. Sujatha was not sure why. The lady looked oddly familiar. She looked at Meera for a long time.
“Madam, why don’t you sit first. Sir you too and my dear son-in-law, you too.” Meera smiled looking at them. Meera’s voice broke Sujatha’s thoughts.
“I am able to understand what has been going around in my daughter’s life so far. I was not able to meet you before and I am sorry for that. My husband and I were in extreme grief, when Aadvika decided to move out. We already lost a son early in our life and when our daughter left us too, it came in as a huge blow for us…,” as Meera spoke, she stopped as she saw Sujatha’s expression.
Sujatha stood up from the chair as if she the words ‘Lost my son’ and the oddly familiar face of Meera had harked back to what had happened several years ago.
“You are Meera , right? Mrs. Meera Raj.” Sujatha asked. Her forehead was filled with lines of curiosity.
Meera was astonished by the sudden recognition.
“Uhh, Yes. But how did you recognize me, when we haven’t met before?”
Sujatha walked fast towards Meera.
“This is the second time we are meeting.” Sujatha began.
Of course, twenty one years of gap was seen through the wrinkles and the dark patches of skin. Her grey eyes and warm smile stood beyond aging.
I am sorry to ask this, but you lost your son in a theme park, in Chennai, right?” She looked at Meera.
“Yes.” Meera nodded weakly. “My Son Rahul, left us, forever, in that theme park.”Her eyes were wet.
Payal looked at Meera’s house key. The key chain had the letter R beautifully inscribed. She knew why.
“I guess you forgot the small incident which happened prior to that terrible accident.” Sujatha looked at Meera.
1995 – KSP Theme Park – Chennai.
“Ma, give me my cap.”, the eleven year old Manoj stood tenth in the line, as he counted, while waiting for the Octopi, which were spinning, to come to a halt.
‘The Octopus’ was the last ride available for kids.
“Have it son.” Sujatha extended her hand.
As Manoj moved a little off the line to get the cap, a smaller boy sneaked and took Manoj’s place.
“Hey, I was standing here.” Manoj threw an angry look.
“Amma, I want to go.” The smaller boy wriggled his arms.
“Dear, so sorry, we are running out of time, can you please allow my son.” A woman asked Manoj.
He turned to Sujatha.
“Hi Madam, I am Mrs. Meera Raj. We are running out of time, we need to catch a train tonight. My Son wants to finish this ride; Can you please let him stand before your son?” Meera asked.
“Sure Madam. It is just a small thing. We can understand. “Manoj’s father replied.
The smaller boy stood happily in front of Manoj.
“Rahul, please Thank this Anna.”Meera instructed her son.
“Thank you. I will tell my sister what a ride it was.” He grinned.
“Thanks again, Mam. I have left my daughter back home with grandparents. She is having summer classes. That is what Rahul is talking about.” Meera tried to converse with Sujatha.
Sujatha nodded, manifesting her apathy.
Manoj saw that the octopi came to a halt finally and the next set of kids walked in to take their seats. As Rahul took a seat, Manoj, to his disappointment, found that the ride was full.
“Amma.”, he screamed, still standing in the line.
“It is OK Son, come out. Let us go the next time.”, consoled Sujatha.
“What kind of kids do these parents bring up? Why don’t they teach them some public manners? My son has to wait now.” Sujatha mumbled.
“That is ok Sujatha. He is the smaller boy, after all. What are we going to lose, waiting for another few minutes?” Her husband consoled.
“Manoj, come. Dad will get you an ice cream. You can relish the ice cream as you wait for the ride.”He called his son.
Manoj spotted an ice cream truck and ran towards it. As Sujatha and her husband followed, they heard a loud thud and a wild scream.
They turned in utter shock.
One of the seats in the Octopus ride had fallen on the ground, crushing the child who rode on it. Sujatha and her husband rushed to the scene.
Tears rolled down Sujatha’s cheeks as she saw the boy twitching beneath the octopus arm. It was Rahul.
Meera and Raj rushed to the scene, mourning. By the time the lifeguards rushed to the scene, Rahul lost his life due to severe head injury.
That was 20 years ago.
“If not for you or your son, my Manoj would have gotten into that seat and I cannot imagine that seat crushing my son. You were the one who gave me my son. My son, Manoj stands right beside me today, just because of you and your little angel, Rahul.” Sujatha cried as she held Meera’s hands.
Meera stood there, gesturing a vacuous nod, due to the unsought reminiscence of her son’s quietus.
“I had always been possessive about my son. Aadvika knows it better. After realizing, that without Aadvika’s mom, my son would not have been with me, I will definitely change my attitude towards her. I will accept it without any shame. I promise you, I will look after your daughter as my own, from now on, as an infinitesimal token of redress for your mammoth loss. The fact that I am being called ‘Mom’ by my son is because of you, Meera. Your daughter,Aadvika, to me is much more than a daughter-in-law. My savior’s kid. I will look after her, like the apple of my eye. I wanted her to give me a grandchild but her family had given me my son long before. ” Sujatha spoke, as she walked towards Aadvika.
Payal and Harini had tears. Khanak who had no clue what was happening, joyfully sat from one chair to another, playing around.
Raghu moved to the nearby window, to ponder on the fact that her son was Rahul and not Raghu by any chance.
Aadvika sank into the chair, holding her head. Her little brother’s image flashed through her mind.
Before his mom could talk to his wife, Manoj rushed.
“Aadvika, I need to talk to you.”
“Yes Manoj. Tell me.” She raised her head.
“Not here. Personally.” He dragged.
She looked at him, eyes wet.
“I know. This time the table has turned.” He repented.
As they moved to the other room, “Aadvika, I don’t know where to begin.” He began.
“I can help you. You told me, I am not a family material, If I had not forgotten the exact words.” She looked at him.
He nodded, as he hung his head.
“Will you forgive me?”
She stood still.
“Will you come back to me?”
She folded her hands across her chest.
“Not because my mother had realized her mistake. Just because I had realized the fact that your absence creates a void in my life, a black hole that sucks in all my happiness and purpose of life,” He paused.
“, even if your brother had not saved me, even if my mom hadn’t realized, I would have apologized to you the same. I promise I will give you the best life and happiness which I have never given you in the past.” He continued.
“You will give me all that you promise, probably after I have a child?” She asked as she raised her eyebrows.
Aadvika struck the most sensitive chord.
He shook his head “No.”
“What If I am really impotent, as you name me?”
“Potency is not pertained to an organ called uterus. It is in an organ called heart. ” He replied.
“What If I cannot bear a child?”
“My love is unconditional. All ifs and Buts don’t have a place.”
“What If I can never give you the family you dreamt about? A family comprising of the two of us and our children.”
“We two are already a family, aren’t we?”
She looked at him, amazed.
“Don’t look at me that way. I am the same Manoj, except for an additional sense which made me realize that my life is so hollow without your love. The past two days showed me what it is to live without you. Will you forgive me? Will you come with me?”
As Aadvika tried to speak, she heard a sharp noise from the adjacent room.
“How many times have I asked you not to do this,”Payal chided her daughter, who had taken Aadvika’s hand bag and started digging into it. “When are you going to stop this habit?” Payal continued.
Payal started stuffing things back into the handbag, which Khanak had taken out.
“Mom, 11. Look, number 11.” Khanak smiled, ignoring her mom’s anger, showing a rectangular device inside a plastic cover.
“Now, Enough of your brain storming sessions. I know two parallel lines meant an eleven, keep it in.”, Payal spoke, in stern voice, not sure how much her daughter understood her language.
Payal stopped, as if something flooded her brain.
She placed the bag and ran to Aadvika with the kit.
“Aadvika, see. If this is a recent test, you are… “, Payal smiled.
Aadvika grabbed the kit with trembling hands. Tears rolled down her eyes involuntarily. For a change, they were tears of joy. She saw Manoj and her mom walking towards her. She hugged them both.
“The result is positive. I am. I am..”, she closed her mouth , crying and smiling at the same moment.
She was a mom now.
September 21 2016: 5 P.M
“So?” Harini asked as she fixed her gaze at the bustling road of the Nation’s Capital city, standing in the portico of the studio hotel apartment.
Harini and Raghu returned to the hotel, as they had few hours before Raghu’s departure.
“Ahh, too many twists.”, Raghu forced a smile. “I thought something else.” He stopped, looking at Harini.
“I can understand.” She nodded. “Don’t worry; you have tackled harder things, better. When you have accepted the bitter realities and moved on, convincing yourself that your assumption was wrong is not a difficult task.” she looked at him.
He was startled.
“Don’t look at me that way. It is a logical guess.”She smiled.
He nodded, looking out on the enchanting twilight. He did not have much time, he would be flying high above those orange clouds in another three hours’ time.
“Harini.” He slowly called her, as he rested his left shoulders against the glass, facing her completely, recollecting everything happened between them so far.
The way Harini met him first in the coffee shop. The way he thought, she was from the consultancy, the way she took him around Chennai. She showed him his birth place, newer and better. Things were beautiful when she was around. The turtle walk night; A walk to remember, for his life time.
“Harini, This evening, the cool breeze, my memories, my emotions…” He paused. “… You and I enclosed within a small space, voices echoing, I feel I could tell how beautiful this moment is to me, so that is echoes in the room and in my heart for multiple times.”
She turned to him in a reflex, was he the same guy at the airport?
“Don’t ask me how and why. I don’t know why. You remind me of the missing pieces of my past. Not the dolorous tale, but the positive yearning that you will put those missing pieces or fill them with your love.” He took a deep breath as if he was about to talk non-stop.
“You are the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to me.
To me, your face will be the first thing that comes to my mind, when I see something beautiful.
To me, you are the first person, who comes to my mind, when I want to share something beautiful.
To me, you are the most beautiful person.
To me you are the wetness, the cheeks feel, when tears of joy roll down.
To me you are that emotional moment in life, which we wish, to stay forever.”
His every ‘to me’ reminded Harini of the last question she had asked. “Who am I to you?”
“I want you by my side, in such an evening, leaning against the wall, looking at the sky, holding hands, to talk for hours.
I want you by my side, to share everything.
I want you by my side, to make my life more beautiful.
I wish I could be your present, to make you smile in the future.
I wish, I could be your past, about whom you could think and smile.
I wish, I could be your future, which you would look forward to, with a smile.
I wish I could write a letter to you, listing down, how beautiful you had made me feel. I wish I could sit with you , to make you read it and I wish I could see how beautiful your facial muscles move, reacting to my note and of course, not to miss the beautiful blush that sneaks through your cheeks.”, he paused.
“Yes, like those.”, he pointed to her cheeks.
He spoke as if there was no tomorrow. He wanted her. He thought he just expressed it.
He moved closer, as they stood facing each other.
“I wish, I could now say, ‘Ask your parents, to stop looking for a groom, cause, they have got one, who is seeing his future in you already, just by, looking into your eyes- the eyes of his love.’”
Harini felt, her eyes to widen, lips struggling as she tried to smile , while her jaw dropped in amusement.
“Sure, I will.”, she managed to gather herself and speak. His words travelled through her slowly, waking up the dormant senses, causing her goose pimples.
She quickly withdrew her arm from the glass to her body, rubbing them hard.
“Not just the cool wind, sometime, it is even the warm words.”, she smiled.
She made sure her cheeks blushed, for she wanted him to know, she was in love.
“We are not very young, to fall in love at the first sight.”, she told him.
“You are not beautiful – to fall in love at the first sight. You are beautiful – to fall in love at every sight, for the rest of my life.”, he added.
“You did things, which impressed me, but without knowing that they would impress Me.” She smiled.
“I wanted a person who would respect me, my likes, give me some freedom and someone to love me forever. In short, like you. To be shorter, it is ‘You’.” She paused to smile. The blush came in as a bonus.
He looked at her, wanting to hug her tight. He tried to hold her hand, at the least.
He was now sure, he would not be mistaken, for the line about which he spoke, was now meaningless. They stood beyond.
She was still looking at him. She moved closer, resting her head on his shoulders. He raised his hands to hug her, stopped somewhere in between and gently placed them on her head. He was sure, she will forgive him for disheveling her hair strands.
September 21 2016: 9 P.M
Few hours later, the three women, stood there, waving hands to Raghu, who walked fast towards the check in gate.
They stood there smiling. Their lives had changed.
Six Months later:
Harini drew a chair to sit next to Aadvika.
“Thank you so much for making it to my wedding.“ Harini smiled at Aadvika.
“We even made it a point to ask her, if she was in love. She gave us a strong ‘No’. All of a sudden she came to us, telling us about her love interest.”, Harini’s mom smiled.
“Expect the unexpected.”, Aadvika smiled, placing her hand over her baby bump. She stayed with her mom for the first trimester, after which she moved back to Mumbai. It was a couple of months later, Sujatha and her family helped Meera with the shifting. Meera was now staying in the same flat, as that of Aadvika, just a floor lower.
“You friends are philosophical too. “ Sai nudged.
“How many weeks?” Harini’s mom asked.
“27. We will invite you all for the baby shower. Please come without fail.” Meera smiled.
“Harini, you should attend this. It is so good. “ Added Raghu’s Aunt.
Aadvika smiled, ignoring the tear drop that peeked from her eyes. Life has changed.
“My parents thought, a wedding will end the worry.” Harini smiled.
“I thought a baby will end the worry.” Aadvika added.
“Though my wedding took place on time and I had my children at the right age, I was still worried, I had no one.” Meera spoke.
“Worry never ends; it does not leave us too. The best way to tackle , is to live the moment and stop anticipating the future. Right things happen at the right time. Just give time, some time.” Raghu smiled.
“Wow.”, Harini winked.
They all had a good laugh.
WINDS OF LOVE gust through!!