Posts Tagged ‘Life’
“Did you read this today?” asked Rahil, “Men need to cuddle and women need sex to be happy in a relationship.” He was referring to the latest research outcome reported in the newspaper. “Really, hun?” he smirked at his wife, Sati. Sati’s face crumbled with embarrassment.
She was timid and more docile when it came to the physical intimacy with her husband, even a year after their marriage. But his regular taunts were getting on her nerves. It wasn’t that she was not interested or was frigid by any mean. She had a healthy libido but somehow Rahil could not just arouse her. She could not help it!
But enough was enough… she looked at her husband and smiled like never before. Rahil could sense the difference and was taken aback. Something was changed in Sati suddenly. Sensuality oozed from Sati, her kohled black eyes, her big red kumkum bindi, her long loose hair, her sari draped lithe body… everything seemed different. This was not Sati he was used to. He was a bit scared at the transformation. Sati moved towards Rahil with a grace of a tigress. She came and sat on Rahil’s lap and started muttering sweet nothings in his ears. Rahil could hear blood pounding in his own ears. He sat there dumb struck. Sati went about the task at hand. What ensued was beyond Rahil’s wildest imagination. He was taken to heaven and back and then back to heaven again. Sati did not wait for Rahil to take her anywhere, she took Rahil with her. The journey started tentatively and became more adventurous as they went ahead. Sati looked at her exhausted husband and his shocked, idiotic smile. He did not know what hit him but he was not complaining at all. Sati gathered her clothes, went to wash room and smiled; a satisfied, triumphant smile; at her own reflection. She could see Rahil, spent and sprawled on their bed. She half turned and smirked at the sorry figure he cut.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror again, redone her smudged kumkum bindi and murmured “Sorry Jay, but I could not take the taunts any longer. Hope you understand.” With that she was gone to her daily chores and called out to her husband to come and finish his breakfast.
What was she expecting from herself?
Why this heartache when she knew this relationship cannot work out?
She was not a sixteen year old who believed in fairytale love stories. She was a mature woman who had seen world. She had always lived her life at her own terms. She was a successful business woman who had recently been featured on Times front page for achieving “Young Entrepreneur Award”. People were envious of her and called her “Ice Princess” on her back but at the same time admired her guts too. She had chosen to be alone in life and had vowed never to marry. It was not that she had never experienced love, but that one failed relationship had taught her never to completely give herself to anyone. She was cautious even among friends.
So what made her long for Kshitij? How things changed between them?
She sat at her french window looking at the gloomy sky. Even natural elements were feeling as sad as her, she felt! She knew Kshitij since more than a decade now. They were never best friends, or so to say, but quite close. They had stood by each other in the testing times they faced in their lives. Even though they did not reside in the same city for many years now, their bond was intact, just a bit rusted.
Then came the news of Kshitij shifting his business base to his motherland last year, coming nearer to her. Though they kept busy with their respective lives, they made sure to keep in touch. Technology had made communication easier. Or complicated?!
She never realized when she started expecting his calls every day or when she started getting upset when he did not sms her good night. He would be the first person she would want to share the good news with. Oh hell, any news for that matter! She felt miserable the whole day, when she did not hear his cheerful good morning. She started getting more demanding on his time and never realized when she clung to him so tightly that made Kshitij suffocated. There were never any exchanges of lovey dovey promises. But the tell-tale signs were there for anyone to notice.
Probably even Kshitij noticed the change in the “Ice Princess”. He saw his friend turning into something else. He was not sure whether he liked that change, though.
She knew she cannot have him for herself even if she wanted. He was married and had two lovely daughters. For all practical purposes he was off-limits. She was not kind of a person who would wreck havoc in anyone’s life, least of all Kshitij’s. Plus, she was not sure what he thought about her. He was always friendly with her, teasing her, bantering with her, sparring with her. He would change subject when he saw that soft look in her eyes, but will not stop talking to her or cutting her off.
Was he too in love with her? Was he feeling guilty of having a wife and hence was not opening up to her? Or was it just that he was too much of a man to insult his friend and cut her off completely but at the same time will not go ahead with anything shameful.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realize someone standing behind her. Kshitij felt a knife twisting in his chest when he saw his strong, iron-willed friend sitting like a lost child at the window. He knew what was she going through, but he also knew she would come around, especially when he was not there anymore. She was made of tough material. He would miss her strong will, her unbending support, her rock-solid backing, but he knew he had to take this decision, for them.
He squeezed her hand. Her eyes lit up the moment she saw him but could sense something was seriously wrong. Her eyes searched his for some clue.
With a lot of efforts he said, “Bye, Roshni!”
At that moment she knew they were never going to meet again as Kshitij never said “bye”, for him it was always “bye for now”.
Roshni looked in his eyes one last time as she asked, “can I hug you just once before you go?”
He took her in his arms and they stood there for some time. Roshni was lost in him when he gently took her arms off him, patted her cheeks and said, “Take Care”. With that he was gone, and with him gone was Roshni’s heart. She stood there with tears flowing uncontrollably.
In a few weeks time ‘Ice Princess” was back with a bang, never to melt again.
“Why are you not ready yet?” shouted Meenu’s mother with irritation. Meenu’s eyes welled up yet again. She was going to be subjected to the torture once again. She went into her room and stood in front of the mirror to assess herself, which she did a lot more often these days.
What she saw was not comforting, especially just minutes before the prospective groom’s arrival. She heaved a deep sigh and started getting ready for the circus. She took out a mustard coloured kurti with crimpson patyala salwaar and crimson dupatta with golden border. It was a beautiful dress and accentuated her pleasingly plump frame. She put a small red bindi between her well shaped eyebrows, applied a little lipstick and let her beautiful, dark, long tresses loose. She appraised her reflection in the mirror again and smiled a bit. “Not bad”, she thought.
As soon as her mother saw her, annoyance showed on her face again.
“How many times have I told you not to wear such bright clothes! Look at your colour…” she scoffed her off.
Meenu tried not to be perturbed, and in any case, this was not the first time that she was ridiculed by her mother. She always sought her mother’s approval and the quest continued in adulthood, though in vain. She stood there with downcast eyes which made her mother even more irritated.
“Now just don’t stand on my head and hope that this man likes you else…” her voice trailed off as she rushed to open the door. Her mother’s voice modulated to a sweet melody as she received the guests.
Meenu knew the routine by now. She had to wait till she was called for and go with downcast eyes and not to speak much. She sighed again and looked up as if asking God, why he had chosen her for such torture. She shook her head in resignation.
She used to be such a happy child. Her mother was always like this but her father loved her a lot. He used to make up for all the hurt her mother bestowed upon her. He never compared her with anyone. He loved her as she was and she basked under his love. She was an intelligent child too, did well in school and went on to become an engineer. Her father was ecstatic when she won gold medals in university examinations. Her mother was hard to please though. She could never come to love her. She chided her father for his affection for their ugly duckling.
“All these medals and certificate will not help in marrying her off!” Meenu had heard this line so many times that it lost its edge, so to speak. Her father would kindly smile or wink or make faces after her mother to make her smile. It was also his way of telling her that don’t take her seriously, you are doing fine. And her heart would swell with love for her father. He would hug her and they would go on to discuss something about current affairs or politics or something silly as which boy was after which girl in the college or how stupid boys were! They would laugh together and her mother’s venomous words would be drowned in their love.
Meenu was awakened from her reverie by her mother’s harsh voice.
“What are you doing standing like a wooden doll?” Meenu smirked at the word “doll” and followed her mother to the lounge.
Even though she was told to keep her eyes downcast, she stole a look at the prospective groom and she froze in her track. Was this a joke? Had he not seen her picture before coming over (she no longer looked at the pictures since she thought it was a futile exercise)? What was the problem with him?
Her heart started beating faster. He looked like a Greek God to her. He was fair and handsome, polite and soft spoken. She cursed herself for not looking at his biodata. She hoped he was not just good looking. As she was floating in the air, her eyes fell on her mother and her jeering look brought her down on earth. She looked at the man in front of her and compared herself with him mentally.
“What is point of coming here and mocking me? One look at me and he will be out of this house. Why insult a girl like that?”
But by the look of it, he was still having polite conversation with her father and stealing looks too. He did not seem like he is going to run away. Their eyes met and he smiled softly at her. Meenu’s pulse quickened and she blushed. His smile broadened at her discomfort.
“Did he make out that I am blushing? Oh come on, Meenu, whom are you kidding? With your colour? Keep your feet firmly on the ground.” she reprimanded herself mentally.
She was startled when she heard her name. He was standing and she knew the meeting was over. As usual she was rejected because she did not fall in the conventional category of being beautiful. No one noticed her delicate features, beautiful coal lined eyes or long, flowing dark hair. No one was interested in her intelligence. It did not matter that she was witty and could make a guy laugh till tears ran down his cheeks. It did not matter how beautiful she was from inside. All that mattered was that she was chubby and dark. She had all the qualities to make a good wife, she had it in herself to turn a house into home, but no one was bothered about it. Her eyes welled up again and she sat there with her head bowed.
She was startled again at her mother’s sweet voice calling her and she looked up to see that he was still standing and looking at her with a quizzical look on his face.
“Shall we?” he asked. She was bewildered as to what was going on. She looked at her father and he smiled at her with his usual soft smile. “Go, talk to him” he nudged her towards him.
More that surprised, she was shocked at the turn of events. “He really wants to talk to me? ME?” she could not believe it but here she was, following him in their garden to find a suitable place to talk.
What followed was unbelievable to her. She could not believe her luck. They talked as if they knew each other always. They seem to share common tastes in music, books and even food. It seemed like a fairytale to her, too good to be true!
“I think I am fine with this match. What do you think?” he asked her. She could not believe her ears. When she did not reply, he went on.
“I can understand if you do not want to answer right away. You do need to sort out by yourself if you would want to spend your entire life with a stranger. A stranger who has a three year old paraplegic daughter!”
In the last two minutes, this was the second time that she could not believe her ears. What did he just say? A three year old paraplegic daughter?
He was saying something and stopped in mid sentence when he saw her shocked face.
“You knew about my daughter, didn’t you? I had told your parents at the off-set.”
She was no longer with him.
She wanted to look into her father’s eyes just once before saying yes.
It was as if a volcano had erupted and she was burnt alive. The scars were not visible but they were there and quite deep. She was so shaken that not a single tear was shed.
There was not a single place in this house where her mother had not left her fragrance. Zeenat remembered her soft hugs and her vibrant smile, her constant chatter and love-filled anger. Zeenat knew and so did everyone else that Zeenat was her mother’s universe. As Zeenat grew up she became more of a friend to her mother than a daughter. Lately Zeenat had started teasing her mother about the glow on her face and twinkle in her eyes. She would blush like a young maiden and then they would both giggle.
How she missed her mother!
Suddenly Zeenat felt extremely lonely. Now that the relatives had also gone, the house seemed like a haunted place. It was only her dad and her. Zeenat was never felt close to her father and now that the bond that tied them together was gone, she felt even more alienated. Zeenat felt a pressing need to be with her mother. With trembling hands Zeenat opened the box in which she kept all the cards and little gifts her mother had ever given her. She spread them all on her bed and hugged them as if she was hugging her mother. Zeenat opened them one by one and revisited each event with the most precious person of her life.
While going through her treasure Zeenat came across a sealed envelop with no name on it. Not only was she surprised but a little scared too! She opened the envelop with trembling hands and thumping heart. She was not wrong; the letter was indeed from her mother!
“My Dearest Bunny,
I know you will find this letter sooner than later.
I want you to know that I love you very much. You are my daughter, my friend and my confidante. Since you came in my life, this life felt like worth living. You filled colours and laughter in my mundane existence. You gave me reason to look forward to evenings when you would be back from your classes. When your friends came over our place and complimented our friendship, how proud I felt! That time was very nice and I felt blessed.
Then one day he came in my life and life looked even better to me. He was everything your father was not. In his presence I felt alive, I felt myself. Do you remember, you said one day that I sang well? Baby, I always sung well but I had forgotten that I could. He made me realize what all I had lost in all those years being wife to a person who did not even acknowledge my existence. If it would not have been for you I would not even have lived this long. I know that what I did would never be acceptable in our society. But it felt just right.
Everything felt just right and suddenly one day you saw us together when you came home unexpectedly. I know you saw us together. You went away and did not even ask me anything. You tried your level best not to show it on your face, but I did see confusion and hurt there. I wanted to talk to you but did not have courage to look into your eyes, did not know what to say.
I think I will never be able to look into your eyes. I don’t know if it feels such a right thing when I am with him, why I feel so miserable when I think of facing you. I do not have answers but I am sure that I will never be able to face you. At the same time, now I can not imagine my life without him. I can not choose between the two of you. So, to end this misery I will have to go.
Please forgive me.
P.S. I love you very much.”
Zeenat kept staring at the paper in her hand. Slowly tears started trickling down her cheeks and turned into a storm. She felt as if her heart was being crushed. She crumpled the letter and hugged it tight as if her life depended on it.
“Ma, if only you knew how happy I was for you!”
After a long time Sri had time to sit and relax on a Sunday. She took the novel her friend had sent her as a gift and curled up on her cozy bed with her feet under the duvet. With the book in hand she looked outside the window and smiled to herself. She was feeling unusually cheery. The Sun was shining bright which added to her vivid mood. With a happy sigh she tried to concentrate on the book.
She had not even started reading when she heard a loud scream. It was Anu’s. Her heart missed a beat. Hundred and ten thoughts ran through her mind in those few moments.
Within seconds she ran towards her daughter’s room. She froze at the sight of her daughter sprawled on the floor, with bewildered eyes and shocked expressions. From where she was standing she could only see Anu but could not see what caused her daughter so much pain. Anu was on her back and was trying to slide back pushing with her legs. It was getting difficult for her to get up as her skirt kept coming in the way. She kept falling back. Sri ran to hug her daughter, to tell her that all is well. Sri wanted to assure her that her mother will never, ever, let anything harm her.
Sri took Anu in her arms and held her tight, whispering sweet nothings in her ears to alleviate her fear. Her daughter was shaking with fright and burst out in tears as soon as she was held. Before Sri could understand anything, another scream reverberated in the hall. Sri turned back just in time to stop the hockey stick hitting her head. The man lunged with the stick at her daughter again but this time Sri was ready. She held the stick with all her might but her slight frame was of no match to the heavily built man. She stumbled and fell back. She kicked him but her leg did not even, so much as, touch the man. Sri felt lost. She knew she will not be able to hold for long. She called out to Anu. Sri wanted her to call police or at least someone else for help but she saw that her daughter was in a state of shock and was staring blankly at the assailant. Sri looked at the assailant herself and she was baffled at the sight. Everything till now had happened at such lightening speed that she had not realized who the attacker was! Before she could think or react, her assailant came after her again. She had to save her daughter at any cost. For that she needed Anu’s help. She screamed at Anu, to get her out of the stupor. Anu looked at her mom but did not react at all. She was too shocked at the turn of events. Sri slid back; she wanted to get to the open area from where she can call for help. Her mind was working fast. Dodging his blows she ran towards the balcony but the stick hit her badly and she fell down. At the sight of blood from her mother, Anu started crying uncontrollably. She rushed to her mother but Sri knew if she came near her she too would be harmed. Sri assured her that she was fine but Anu had to help her. Anu nodded with tears trickling down her chubby cheeks. Sri asked her to get someone to help. For some unfathomable reason, the assailant was not bothered about the girl getting away. Sri was his sole focus. There was menace in his eyes and terror in Sri’s. Sri managed to get to the railing of the balcony but there was only one way to get away from him, downwards from the 10th floor! He threw the stick on the floor and came with his hands for Sri’s throat. It was easy for him now to throw Sri off; even she realized it and closed her eyes in silent prayer.
But the pressure on her windpipe eased suddenly. She opened her eyes; coughing uncontrollably and gasping for air Sri dropped on the floor. Some people were dragging the man away. Anu came running into her arms and hugged her mother tightly. Sri saw the man’s, her husband’s, bedevilled eyes focused in oblivion.
When Zoe first kissed Shrey, he wrinkled his nose and immediately wiped it off. Looking at his expressions Zoe giggled and went to kiss him again. But this time Shrey was ready, he crawled away as fast as he could. Zoe followed him steadfastly. Looking at Shrey’s plight both the kids’ mothers burst out laughing. The innocent chase of turtle and rabbit, as they were known as, went on for years.
They weaved a cocoon around them and nobody was allowed to penetrate it. Once, Shrey picked up a fight for Zoe when one of their classmates made a pass at Zoe. Shrey beat the light out of him. But when Zoe went up to him with a smile, he gruffly told her to behave properly. And his tone was such that Zoe’s eyes brimmed with tears instantly. Looking at her crestfallen face, Shrey sighed and hugged her. She just shrugged his hands off and walked down to their school bus. She did not talk to him for the entire time till they reached home, but by evening all was well again. Tiff forgotten, Zoe and Shrey’s were playing tennis by evening. This was not an isolated incidence, but eventually Zoe would forget her anguish and they would be together again, as always. Zoe and Shrey became inseparable, two sides of one coin, always together but never seeing eye to eye.
However, as they grew up it was evident that how much ever they loved each other or cared for each other they were not cut out to be together. Zoe was bubbly and effervescent while Shrey was a thinker and loved to read. Zoe would go on chattering away her thoughts while Shrey would just nod or give monosyllabic answers. It was difficult to know what went on in Shrey’s mind whereas Zoe was an open book. Shrey would like to keep to himself while Zoe constantly sought his company. So much so that she would expect him to shop with her too! Their adolescence being at peak, things started changing, or say, Zoe started realizing how much she was imposing on Shrey. She realized he needed space. His gruff behavior started hurting her more; she started reading more into his monosyllabic answers and felt left out. There was a time when she would drag him out of his bed just to go on a long drive or go window shopping. Now, she felt embarrassed or sometimes insulted when he would just refuse to be with her. Shrey’s behavior was probably the same, but Zoe was growing up and her natural vanity wanted to be pampered.
All her grievances went up like a smoke in the air the day she came to know that he was going to US of A for higher studies. It was just for a few days that they were together and the thought of being alone filled her with dread. She could not think of her life without him. She went to see Shrey and could not hold herself back when she saw him packing. All the wonderful years of their childhood came to her like a flash. She just stood in the door way looking at her best friend. Shrey sensed someone in the room and turned around to see Zoe’s crestfallen face. She saw the same turmoil in his eyes and the hell broke loose. She just threw herself in his arms and he held her tight, as tight as he could. Both were crying openly now. They never had any friend other than each other all their lives and now the thought of being without each other was killing them. They sat on the edge of his bed, holding each other’s hands, caressing softly. Words failed them but they were not needed today.
“You be good, rabbit! Don’t go on hopping here and there.” Shrey said softly.
“And you pick up some speed, turtle. Else you won’t be able to find any girl for yourself.” Zoe tried to make their mood light.
“I am not going there to chase after some stupid girls. I am going there to study, got it!”
With that the spell was broken and they laughed together. There were no promises made, none were needed!
Time flew by and life went on at both the ends. Whoever said, “Distance made hearts grow fonder” was proving to be wrong in this case. The good natured sparring turned to tiffs and finally heated flare ups. Increasingly the feeling of not belonging to each other started creeping in. The joy of being together was turning into a dread. Zoe was getting possessive about him, while Shrey was feeling suffocated with all the love and devotion. He hated to be answerable. Zoe tried to keep tab on his online life, Shrey hated it to core. The final blow to their friendship came on the New Year eve when Zoe called up Shrey to wish, and made a passing remark about some hot young man in the party. A heated and hurtful argument followed, and how much ever they regret it later, the damage was done.
That was a decade ago.
Fate brought them face to face again. Their eyes met and the world around them ceased to exist. They did not know how long they stood there, in that crowded room lost in their own world. After what felt like an eternity, Zoe noticed someone tug at her pallu, she looked down and Shrey’s eyes followed her gaze. A little girl looked up at her and Zoe smiled at her daughter. Little Zoe clung to her and shyly looking at the man getting all her mother’s attention. Just then a little boy came bouncing and jumped into Shrey’s arms. The boy looked at Little Zoe and asked his father,
“Dad, doesn’t she look like a rabbit!”
A happy, contended smile spread over their faces and the lost years fell by!
Mridula opened her eyes and saw his smiling face. She took a dyspnoeic breath and smiled contentedly. At last he had come.
She closed her eyes again and went back to the day he had entered her life. She remembered his first touch all too well. She was ecstatic every time he smiled at her. How she loved it when he came running to her and hugged her as if there was no tomorrow. Her world revolved around him. His choices became her choices; starting from his favourite food to the colours to the TV shows… everything! Even her clothes were decided by his choice.
But slowly and inevitably things started changing. Other people started getting more attention than her. She felt sidelined but smiled and tried to understand. She assured herself that it is just a phase and he will come back to her as he used to do earlier. Of course, he hugged her and kissed her before leaving home every morning but she missed his undivided attention. They no longer sat together and talked about his day or watched movies together with a bag full of popcorns. He did not have time to tell her each and every detail of his life any more. Most of his time at home was spent either on phone or on the computer. She tried learning computer for him too, but he laughed at her. The laugh was not a mockery, she told herself.
As if this was not enough, she sensed other girls in his life too. She tried to enquire about them nonchalantly but he would say they were just friends and she should not be paranoid about it. But she kept a check for any tell-tale signs. She found none. She increasingly felt insecure. More she tried to hold him, farther he went.
She remembered the last fight they had before he left home for good. She had found some gift in his drawer. She kept looking at it and as the time passed she became increasingly agitated. By the end of the day, when he came home she was livid with rage. She started shouting and calling him names. He was stumped, could not understand her reaction or the things she was saying. He tried to make her understand, tried to calm her, but she would not listen. She did not know when she started abusing him. She could see the shocked expression on his face and later the tears too. But she was unable to control herself. She just went on and on. He tried to hold her tight, a hug she was longing for so long. But this time it did nothing to calm her. In her heart she knew, what she was doing, what she was feeling was entirely wrong. And yet, she was unable to control herself. She did not know for how long she went on but somewhere she heard him say that he was sick of her insecurities and sick of her hold over him. He said he needed space. And then she heard a thud, he had closed the door after him.
He was gone, forever.
That was the last time she saw or heard of him. He never called her or reached out to her. She did not know how and where to look for him.
Today, after about ten years, at her death bed he had come back. At last, her son had come to take care of her. At last he will be all hers! With these thoughts, she opened her eyes again, smiled at him once more with all the love she had for him and her soul gently left her body.
What she did not know and would never know was that he was always around her. He stood by her with all his love and care. He diligently visited her in this asylum every single day. It was just that she could not recognize him.
It was a miracle that she could feel his presence and see him for last one time!
She sat there on the window seat, looking out in the oblivion. Usually she loved watching the rain drops fall and loved the aroma generated when the parched earth soaked up all the tears of Gods. Today she did not even notice when the rain became fierce and when she got soaked in the torrential down pour.
She just sat there re-living each and every moment she had passed with Ankur. Those silly days of adolescence when she unnecessarily giggled at his stupid jokes were still fresh in her mind. How and when they became aware of each other as a man and a woman she never realized. Her skin had tingled at his first touch. Her every cell was on fire then. A small smile tentatively touched her lips. She involuntarily licked her lips as she remembered their first stolen kiss. They were scared of being caught and that made their first kiss even more thrilling. She remembered his ears going red when they saw each other the next day. He was shy and she loved teasing him.
A small tear trickled down her cheeks and a wistful smile came on her face.
She remembered their first love-making. They were both so naïve and clumsy but the thought of belonging to each other was overwhelming. How time flew! And with time their love too found new heights. They were considered to be the best couple on the campus. And then slowly something started going wrong. They did not realize when the things they cherished so much, which were precious to them started getting mundane; when from lovers they became apathetic. With the end of the last year of the college their relationship came to an end too! Why and what went wrong she never knew.
How she missed him and their days together! But she never tried to contact him, neither did he. And life went on.
She looked at the crumpled letter in her laps and a sob broke through her, a sob which shook her very being. Now the tears came in bountiful and rain outside increased its pace, as if Gods too understood her turmoil. She tried to flatten the letter again with her wet hands and read those dreadful lines once again, hoping against hope that she might have misunderstood their meaning. It still read the same thing! She had lost Ankur once twenty years back, she lost him again, now for good. She will never see him again, not in this life. She never believed in “after-life”, now she wished there indeed was one.
She did not realize how long she sat there looking at the letter; it must be late since she saw only darkness from her window. She looked at the letter for one last time and got up with determination. It was now time to say final good bye to her childhood sweet heart, final burial of their love!
Just as she threw the pieces of the letter, she heard a click at the main door. She wiped her face, plastered a smile and went on to greet her husband.
Life really goes on… but she would now wait for the “after-life”.
“Papaaaaaaaaaaa…” Shree ran to her father to give him a bear hug as she saw him on the airport almost after a fortnight. She loved her father a lot but these days he was too busy with expansion of his business and was not able to give her much time. He kissed her on her forehead and hugged her tight. Oh, how he missed her! Shree was his only child and apple of his eyes. Shree filled him up with all that she had done in the past few days at school, about her friends and her win at State skating championship.
“Where’s mom?” Mohit asked her. He did not like that Shree had come to pick him up alone with the driver. He never trusted anyone with his daughter.
“Oh, mom was busy with some meeting, so I came alone. I couldn’t wait to meet you, papa!” His heart swelled with love for his daughter.
In a day or two at home, Mohit noticed some changes in his adolescent daughter. She was more chirpy than usual. She had some shyness on her face which wasn’t there earlier. Mohit disregarded these changes thinking that they were due to the transition of his little girl to the womanhood. Still, he made a mental note to talk about this to his wife. Just to be sure that there was no silly boy in his daughter’s life. BOY, was he paranoid!
But before he could dwell more on the matter he was on tour again and the whole issue was forgotten. But it struck him as odd when Shree did not come to pick him up on the airport this time. And as he noticed, the changes that were subtle earlier were pronounced now. Shree was lost all the time, spent more time in her room. Most striking was, her grades were below average, for the first time in her life. Mohit tried to talk to her but she refused that there was any problem. The heated argument ensued with Mohit striking her hard across her face, again, for the first time in her life! Tears of anger, tears of shame, tears of humiliation, tears of revenge slid down young Shree’s cheeks. She resolved to teach her father a lesson!
Mohit felt bad at losing his temper. He knew how futile it would be to deal with adolescent kids in such upper hand manners. He resolved to make it up to her the next day.
Mohit prepared Shree’s favourite breakfast, rosti and orange juice, and took the tray to her room. He was shell shocked not to find her but a note on her pillow. He collapsed on the bed reading his daughter’s life sentence to herself!
Malti found him sitting at the edge of Shree’s bed staring at the life size picture of their daughter with tears running down his face. He looked so haggard and lost that she had to shake him out of his trance. When she read the note Shree had left behind, Malti almost collapsed. A look of “What and when did so much go wrong” passed between them. They sat there, holding hands and crying over each others shoulders for their daughter.
When did Shree grow up so much! She was all of sixteen and fallen in love. Fallen in love with a sweeper! And she ran away with him to teach her father a lesson!
“God, why her?” Mohit kept repeating this again and again in his prayers.
“She is just a kid. She doesn’t even know how to boil water or who polishes her shoes. How will she survive? What if…” There were thousands of questions pricking Shree’s parents.
Mohit and Malti tried their level best, with all the contacts they had, to find their daughter to no vail. Even the boy’s parents were taken into custody but they too did not know where the duo was. It was almost two months now that Shree had gone. Everybody had given up hope, but Mohit. In his heart he knew he would find his daughter no matter what!
One day as he was returning from his office, he saw a young girl selling vegetables on the roadside. She, just a little, resembled his Shree… though this girl was in shambles, in tattered clothes and looked like she hasn’t eaten or taken bath in months. Mohit shook his head at how almost all girls of Shree’s age reminded him of his beloved child. Tears stung his eyes yet again.
But as he went a few blocks ahead something struck him. No, this girl has to be Shree… the resemblance was too much to be a coincidence. He asked his driver to take a u-turn, he wanted to be sure! He approached the vendor with caution. If it was Shree, he did not want her to lose her again.
He could not believe his eyes when he looked at the girl from such close quarters. His daughter had lost substantial amount of weight, once shiny black hair looked like end of a broom with filth in them. Her once lacquered nails were brittle with dirt underneath, lips were chapped and skin was now dirty and listless! Mohit fought inner battle not to break down with pain in full public view.
“Shree…” he called her tentatively. Their eyes met. Something flickered in Shree’s eyes, hope may be! Without a word father-daughter climbed in the car. Mohit held his daughter’s hand tightly, never to let go again.
He saw shame, humiliation, fear and many such nameless emotions in his daughter’s eyes and gritted his teeth. He vowed to ruin the boy’s life. But that can wait… till his daughter is brought back to life!!!
Roshan collapsed on the bed on hearing what she just heard. She didn’t know what went wrong. How could he do this! She kept staring in the oblivion. Her head throbbed badly.
“Oh my God! What happened Roshan? Are you alright?” her mother almost screamed when she saw her daughter sitting at the edge of the bed lost and looking like she had seen a ghost.
It was then Roshan realized that her face was wet with her tears… tears of anger, tears of shame, tears of helplessness! “Hun?” she said as if coming out of a trance. “Nothing mom, nothing.” She did not want to say anything about the incident, not to anybody, especially her mother. She stormed out of the room.
Roshan wanted to go somewhere where she can find some peace. But peace will come to those who are peaceful at heart and her heart was in shreds at the moment.
She took her bike and zoomed on the highways where traffic was less and she could speed away. As if, the blowing winds would take away the hurt and shame along with them. If only it was that easy to unburden one self! She did not want to go home but it was almost twelve and she realized her mom would be worried. She had forgotten to carry her mobile in haste. She dreaded going home, to see him, to look into those eyes which she used to adore, where she found nothing but love for her.
She knew her parents were not like other couples. She knew her mom had withdrawn from sansaar very early in her married life, a couple of year after Roshan’s birth. She was like a hermit staying with them just for the sake of it. Roshan was now old enough to understand the sexual need of a person. Had she come to know that her father had a relationship, in real sense, with another woman, she would have understood completely. He deserved to be happy. The happiness he did not get from his wedded wife; happiness to be able to come home to a smiling face, happiness to share silly jokes, happiness to hug someone after a long fight, happiness just to feel that he is needed! She understood it all too well! But she could not understand her father’s sexual exploitation of a fifteen year old maid; a girl who was at least seven years younger to his own daughter! She could not understand how the girl too was so casual about it so as to talk about this affaire with her friend, as if saying, “This is what our lives are all about!” Why she did not tell any of this to her parents or was she happy about it? Was it money?
Her mind swarmed with too many questions; questions that would not be answered!
Not only had she lost her mentor but her belief in basic decency, graciousness of being human! She hoped that someday she would be able to pick up the broken glasses of faith and mend them. Even then, the cracks would still be visible and the pieces would still bear the blood from her shredded heart.