It was a warm afternoon. The sunshine seemed to sneek in through the window of the study- room onto my writing desk. I was just musing over a theme to write my next short story when the door bell rang. I looked at the table-clock. It was 4.00 pm – time for my four year old daughter, Shruti ,to be back from school. I opened the door and Shruti clung on to my shoulders as I led her into the hall.
“ Mom! Cheee my mich haj gibn me ‘O’ (alphabet) (see my Miss has given me O).” Shruti took out her art notebook and anxiously showed me her drawing of a bird, below which the teacher had actually given her a BIG ZERO. I looked at Shruti for sometime. How innocent was she to call a zero , an alphabet O ! I wondered at her witty ignorance and kissed her. In an attempt to display a playful act, she had actually invoked in me a tough lesson of life – a journey from pessimism ( 0 ) to optimism ( O ).
That night, as I sat at the desk to pen down my ideas on journey of life, I remembered Deena. I had met her many years back at a Rehab Centre where she was undergoing de-addiction treatment .
“Yes. Deena’s story would be a perfect theme to write on.” I said to myself. “The world should read the life-time journey of the couple Rahul and Deena whose dedication throughout their hardships in life was applauded by none other than life itself. So here’s the story of Rahul and Deena.”The readers may find three first- person narrations( the author,Deena and Rahul) in the story…
I fastened my seat belt and looked at Deena ,sitting beside me. She squirmed sheepishly under the shawl as I lay my arm around her . The plane had just left the land and we were hopeful to reach our destination on time. Deena’s sister would be receiving us at the airport and once again we would be able to tune our lives to proper rhythm.
As I submerged in my pool of thoughts, Deena called for the airhostess and desired to have some lemon juice. After consuming the juice, Deena gave her handbag to me and said, “ Rahul ! There are some letters in the bag.Take them out and read. I had written them during the stay at the Rehabilitation Centre.” Saying so, she leaned her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.
I opened her bag and found a few sheets of paper neatly bunched up. However, I did not want to read them under her roving eyes. I kept the papers on my lap and waited till I was sure that Deena was fast asleep. I picked up the papers and read what seemed to be her notes to her SELF, the contents read thus:
“ My Dear Children! I can feel you watching me from up there with many queries which I feel I am obliged to reply. Please forgive me for being such an irresponsible mother who stood as a mute spectator, when the tragedy struck and took you all from my solicitude. You were under my protege but destiny had something else in store for us. I don’t know whether you heard the desperate wails of your mother but now, as I await your father’s arrival to take me away from this rehabilitation centre, I feel I owe you all, an explanation.”
“ It was the eve of the auspicious Diwali when you, Aarav, my elder son, were born. Our household knew no bounds of joy and there was a huge crowd of our family members in the hospital to see you. I felt your animated movements as you lay beside me . My eyes brimmed with tears of joy and my heart swelled with pride to have brought a new life into this world.Your father could not visit us as he was abroad and did not get leave to be with his family.”
I ceased reading as I saw Deena turning herself to the other side in her sleep. I waited till I confirmed that she was sound asleep and then resumed reading the letter.
“ After a few weeks, I returned home , holding my tiny baggage, you, in my arms. I faced a big surprise as I entered my room, finding your father, eagerly awaiting our arrival. He took both of us in his arms and almost danced. He was very happy and proud. In his moment of utmost happiness, he declared that he had given his resignation and now wanted to be a part of his family business in India. The family was most popular in handicrafts business.”
“ Deena! One day Aarav will look after this business and do us pride!”
As I read this statement, I felt uneasy and decided to read the remaining contents after a while. I looked out of the window. The world below looked extremely beautiful. Soon I felt the burden of the lids overpowering my view and I closed my eyes.
The next few hours saw us in the arms of sleep and we were not aware of each other’s unfathomed pain in our hearts. It was very difficult for both to forget how destiny had tested our times. Though the sorrow had slowly been surpassed with the healing of the passing hours, the pain had remained. A PAIN that had shaken us to our roots. We slept peacefully in the plane before Deena felt the hunger pangs and woke me up.
“ Rahul! Did you read the letter?” Deena asked me after we completed our lunch.
“ No. Not yet. Will read it now. You take rest.” I suggested her.
“ No. I will read something.” Saying so , she took out a copy of a recent trilogy of an Indian author from her bag. Finding her deeply concentrating on the contents of the novel, I resumed reading the letter.
“Aarav my boy! Four years had passed and you had already started going to school. We eagerly awaited your arrival from school and your dad would be the first to enquire about your day’s events.”
Rahul :“Aarav tell the names of five fruits dear!”
Aarav : “ Tu-matu, Hunihun, Pu-tatu, Apppu n Olanj !” (tomato, onion, potato, apple and orange).
“We were in splits as we heard your creation of a cocktail of fruits and vegetables though your lisping made us anxious. Those were the most precious moments of my life for I had you and was expecting my second baby. My happiness had no limits when God put your playmate in my arms as your younger brother, Saurav.”
“Saurav ! You were just like your elder brother but a bit naughtier. As you started growing, I felt a tiring ache that sometimes made me intolerant of your tantrums. You often wrestled with your brother inviting severe beatings from your father. You were very much afraid and hence respectful of your father but my love was being taken for granted. Soon I realised that my motherhood was losing ground and your tantrums flared up every now and then.”
“ I was pregnant for the third time. But I was not happy because the family doctor was very angry at my pregnancy. She had advised me earlier to be careful. She almost screamed at me in the hospital. What do I do now?” At this breaking news by me,your father had looked at me and said, “ O Come on Dee! Remember you are a woman and strong enough to bear my kids. I had told you earlier that I love kids. Ok. We will stop after the third one.”I looked at him with empty eyes and surrendered to his wish as I realised that he was totally oblivious of my pain.
“ So Aarav and Saurav! Thus was born your younger brother Gaurav but unlike you both, he was deprived of my personal care due to my anaemic body. Instead, it was your grandma who actually took care of him and bottle-fed him.”
“ Dear Sons! I want to confess here that each word I uttered from then on ,displayed a feeling of pride and superiority over others. I even boasted that I was blessed by God with three sons in a row whereas other fellow women were cursed with daughters. My swollen snobbishness, like the captain of the Titanic Ship when it set sail on its maiden voyage, knew no humility until that fateful morning………………………………………”
“ Aarav! You were playing with Saurav on the terrace and I, oblivious to your mischiefs, was engaged in giving bath to Gaurav. Suddently I heard a scream from the terrace and ran upstairs, dumping Gaurav almost in the tub. As I reached the terrace, I found Saurav’s wrist slit by you in a fit of fury. Saurav fell down unconscious in a pool of blood and you, after the heinous act, were throwing ghastly looks at the unconscious body.”
“ My anger ( sometimes we don’t follow what we preach to children) knew no bounds when I saw you standing with the blade in hand. I walked towards you and assuming that I might thrash you, you moved back fast and…….tumbled headlong from the edge of the terrace. I saw your body down and just then I remembered that Gaurav was left unguarded in the bath-tub. I ran downstairs to the bathroom. Gaurav was silently floating in the tub………………completely silent………………….the silence of D—E—A—T—H.”
“ I fell with a thud. When I opened my eyes on the hospital bed, a group of grief-stricken faces gazed at me. No one spoke and I comprehended from their gestures that I was getting discharged from the hospital.”
“ Rahul! What happened to me? Why was I here and where are the children?” I enquired as your dad supported me to get up from the bed.
“ Nothing. You just fell unconscious. Now don’t talk much, let’s go home first.” he replied with a grim face.
“As we neared the house, my heart pounded heavily looking at the crowd at the main gate.
We got down from the car and Rahul led me to the front hall silently. What I saw there on the floor definitely needs courage for any human being , to bear such a mournful sight.”
“There lay, on the floor, my shrouded destiny in white. O’ Aarav, Saurav and Gaurav! How quietly you all lay on the floor , ready to be laid on pyre and put to flames of eternity…….I did not cry for my tears had suddenly dried up.”
“ A year passed after you all left me for ever. In this one year, your mother was completely at the mercy of drugs. I could not live without them as loneliness coiled me like a serpent. In my sleep, I would dream of snakes throttling me and I would cry for help. Your father too took to excessive drinking and reconciled with destiny. But I always lived with you all in my being. Seeing my deteriorating health, the family doctor suggested admitting me in a rehab centre where I could be treated well.”
“Thus began a new chapter in my life. After seven months of stay here, I showed signs of recuperation. But I swooned from time to time especially when I saw a child at the centre. Your dad and the family members visited me regularly. I spent two years at the rehab centre and in these years, I am proud to say that it was his untiring efforts that bore fruits. A PERFECT HUSBAND FOR AN IMPERFECT WIFE! I would often smile and comment to which he would never pay attention.”
“ Dear Rahul ! As you read this letter of an infected soul, I am sure, you would read these lines of penance and forgive your wife. I cannot ‘UNDO’ the past but I will try my best to bring back the lost smile on your face. I love you, Darling, for cleansing my soul and putting new hope in my heart.”
As I completed, reading the contents of the letter, an announcement in the plane interrupted my concentration.. The plane was to land in a few minutes. I looked at Deena who slept beside me like a baby in the cradle. I slowly woke her up after placing the letters silently in her bag. At the airport, Sheena, Deena’s sister, received us. She hugged her sister and thanked me for bringing her back home safely.
One day, Sheena visited us in our farmhouse and said, “ I have a surprise for you both. Please come with me.” The meandering road through the screeching traffic and then the calm countrysideled us to ‘HAPPY HOME’. A group of children ran towards us with a variety of flowers in their hands. They welcomed us into the HOME and Sheena led us to the office. She handed over the keys to her sister and said, “ Today is your sixteenth wedding anniversary and this HOME is a special gift to both of you.”
“Sis ! God gifted both of you all that marriage desires but took it away to gift you, what many desired without marriage. God has given you children multiplied manyfolds. Keep multiplying the joys in the lives of these children and they ,in turn, will subtract your sorrows. My best wishes to both of you.”Saying so , Sheena left us. Deena smiled at me, held my hand and said, “ Rahul from now on WE SHALL SERVE ALL OUR CHILDREN HAPPILY……”
And …….Somewhere far, far away ……….beyond the vistas of a vision, three faces smiled and blessed their parents …………..
I concluded the story of the great couple with a deep sigh and looked at the table clock. Oh my God! It was 5.00 am !!!! I had been writing the story, the whole night. Anyway I felt that it was worth spending a night with the special couple, in absentia. Afterall the sacrifice of my one night’s sleep was dedicated to a wonderful bonding called MARRIAGE.
P.S Never give up in life, even if a thousand skies fall……………GO ON.