“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy. To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one.”
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
When Samir entered the room he only heard the last line that Somesh was reading to Priya from his iPhone.
Samir repeated it, “All the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. It’s profound. Where is it from?”
Somesh slowly took off his glasses, held the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger and pressed it down to release the pressure built. He looked at Samir and answered, “I was reading Priya her favorite book ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. This book is her ‘Geeta’ and her ‘Bible’. Therefore, I downloaded it on both of our iPhones.”
“It seems that there is some truth in this phrase because Dr. Karni consulted the CT Scan results with a neurosurgeon and then told me that the clot is not that big thus they would first try Thrombolysis.” Samir told Somesh.
Somesh couldn’t understand the medical term but he was comforted by Samir’s relaxed expressions. Samir further explained him that it is a process of breaking the clot with the help of medicines. If Priya positively responds to the medications she wouldn’t have to go through the brain surgery.
Priya was still unconscious. She was connected to IV, which was supplying the necessary fluids and medicines to her body. There were few other cords and wires attached to her to monitor her vitals. When the nurse came into the room to administer some medicines into Priya’s IV, Somesh walked away from his wife’s side to the dark red sofa, by the window, meant for people attending the patient.
“She should be conscious in half and hour or so. After that the doctor will come to examine her.” Then she stopped, looked at Somesh and said, “don’t worry, she would be fine. She is in good hands.” She smiled and continued, “can I bring something for you Soomeesh?”
Somesh just nodded his head and said, “No, thanks Alice.” He read the nurse’s name from one of the many tags that she was wearing on a lanyard hanging around her neck.
“Thank you so much Aly, don’t worry I’ll be here” said Samir to the nurse.
She smiled again and left the room.
Samir pulled a chair and sat next to Priya.
Somesh removed his crocs from his feet, lifted his legs and stretched them in front. He was exhausted. “Samir, your mother was a good woman. She didn’t talk much but when she did, it had depth.” Somesh was talking again.
Samir turned back and looked at Somesh. He slid his chair backwards and turned it slightly to the right so that he could face both Somesh and Priya.
“When I came back home from Uday’s house that night, your mom was waiting for me. We didn’t know each other much. She was more of a stranger than a family member to me but I felt that she was the only one there who understood my anxiety during that crisis. While she served me food she spoke about a couplet by Rahim that stresses on the importance of being truthful in one’s relationship. I still remember that- ‘Rahiman dhaga prem ka mat todo chatkaay, tode se fir naa jude jude gaanth pad jaaye. (Never ever break the relationship of trust and love because if its break it will never be the same. Even if it joins, the knot will always be there. So, never hurt the feelings of the one you love.)I took it as a signal that my decision of talking and discussing the matter with Priya was right. Your mom had fueled in extra strength to the promise that I made to myself at Uday’s place.”
“Samir, at that time I was mad at everyone, even at my father, who was neutral to everything. I gave your Mom the benefit of doubt and respected her because of her composure. From her expressions, I couldn’t figure out if she was forced into that vile plan or she herself was so desperate to be a mother that she didn’t care about the chosen path.” Somesh stopped and then continued, “but one thing that I was always sure of was that she would be a wonderful mother. She was so good with my boys that they didn’t miss their mom even once during our stay in Haldwani.”
Samir got up and checked the IV bag. It was almost empty. He picked up the telephone and called the nurse station and asked her to come in. Alice brought a pitcher filled with water and some disposable glasses with it. She told Samir that lunch would be served in the cafeteria soon. He should go and get something for him and Soomeesh. He softly nodded and said, “sure… thanks, Aly.”
Somesh told Samir that he didn’t feel like eating at that time but Samir could go and get something for self. Samir shook his head and said, “I am fine for now.” And came back and occupied the chair he was sitting on earlier. Samir asked, “How soon were you able to reach badi Maa? What did she say?”
Somesh lounged back on his sofa. “Thirty years back it wasn’t as easy to connect with people. We didn’t have the mobile phones then. Having a simple phone was a luxury and not everybody could afford that. I booked a trunk call to talk to my wife but when the people from telephone department called me back my mother said that it must have been a mistake, we didn’t book a call and disconnected the line. My mother made sure that I was not able to talk to Priya. She went to the extent of cutting the telephone wires at our place. We didn’t have the Public telephone booths then. I was in a limbo. I sent Priya a telegram that she should come to Haldwani. All that meant more waiting but I was desperate to talk to her. So, I decided to go to Chennai and meet her.”
Somesh’s friend Uday knew someone in Indian Airlines who promised him to get next days flight ticket from Delhi to Chennai. Somesh’s mother was furious when she found out that her son was flying to Chennai. She tried to stop Somesh from travelling. She repented why did she even break the telephone lines. She commented, “My stupid son is spending a fortune to go and meet that wicked witch of south. She has done some black magic on my innocent boy.”
Somesh wanted to get rid of that drama so he quickly packed and left. Outside his house, he was waiting for Uday who was coming to give him a ride to the bus station. Just then he saw Priya stepping out of a taxi, on the other side of the road. He trembled; he felt the goose bumps and his hairs rising on his limbs. He had never been so excited to see her in his whole life. He dropped everything, rushed to his wife amidst the honks from motor-cars and scooters passing by. He stopped before her and just hugged her in silence.
Last time when Priya heard from Somesh, he sounded different. And after that she didn’t hear from him for quite sometimes. She began to worry for her husband and her boys. Finally, she made up her mind and came to Haldwani with her Dad. Priya’s mom wanted to answer the trunk call that Somesh had booked and tell him that Priya was on her way to his place. But because of Somesh’s mom foul play they failed to connect.
Soon Uday arrived. He saw Somesh hugging a woman; he figured that must be his wife. Somesh decided that they would go somewhere else rather than going inside the house. Uday dropped both Somesh and Priya to a nearby restaurant. Uday took Priya’s Dad with him to his house.
Over the cup of coffee and some snacks, Somesh started telling Priya what had been bothering him for last couple of weeks and why he had been so anxious.
Priya listened carefully to what her husband had to say to her. Her mouth didn’t utter a word but her eyes did the talking. Tears continuously flowed out of her eyes. She was going through mixed emotions; happy and relaxed to find that her husband and kids were fine; sickened by the evil mess that they have landed in; worried that her husband would get in bed with other woman; distressed that her plan to unite with her husband’s family failed; exhausted by hours of travelling to reach from one end of the country to other.
She asked the waiter to get some water for her. She gulped the whole glass, wiped her eyes and asked Somesh to get up and leave that place forever. Somesh clutched her hand and stopped her. She was repulsed. “There is nothing to think about Somu, I hope your heart is not craving to get in bed with her!” Priya remarked sarcastically.
“No… It’s not that and you also know that that’s not the case…so stop making situations harder than they already are.” Somesh said looking at her. Then he started fiddling with water that had spilled from the jug when waiter poured the water in Priya’s glass. “There is something else that I would like you to know.” Somesh said still moving his fingers restlessly in that little puddle of water.
Priya calmed down to see his husband’s meek expression. She occupied her chair and settled down.
“Piu, you are not my first love. There was someone else in my life before we met. But I don’t love her anymore. She was my past but you are my present and my future. Please trust me, I never regretted once after meeting you that I am not with her.” Somesh was filled with remorse and kept talking without even looking at his wife. “I met her while I was doing my engineering in Delhi. We steadily went along for three years but I couldn’t gather the strength to talk to my parents about her. She felt cheated and left me… her name was…”
“Ranjana,” Priya had said.
Somesh stopped doodling with water and looked up in disbelief. His eyes widened, his brows twitched and then he asked, “How did you know?”
Priya smiled and said, “I have been waiting to hear this story from you for last eight years since we got married. But you never fully entrusted me with your feelings.”
She stopped and interlaced her finger with Somesh’s index finger with which he was drawing figures in water a couple of minutes back. Somesh kept looking, waiting for her to continue her story.
Priya spoke again, “Actually Ranjana and I were in same school for four years when my Dad was posted in Baroda. We were best friends and even after we parted we remained friends for many years through letters. She told me about you but I didn’t realize that you were the same Somesh until when I shared your picture with her, just before our marriage. I didn’t tell you about it because I wanted to hear from you … I asked you many times about your ex-girlfriends but you never told me. At first it was a silly prank but then after we had Sanjeev and Shobhit it became redundant so, I didn’t even care.”
“Piu, I am sorry but I was scared that you wouldn’t understand and you would hate me for having an affair. I am sorry but this will never happen again … She please excuse me darling.”
“humm… It will be my rain-check.” Priya said and laughed. “By the way, Ranjana is in Delhi these days… if you like we can see her before flying back to US…Then you would know that I am the bestest.” Priya said jovially.
“I already know that sweetheart.” Somesh smiled back and softly pecked on her cheek.
Priya’s hand twitched slightly. She was waking up. She tried to turn her head towards the window from where the light was coming. As soon as Somesh saw the movement he jumped up the sofa and was right next to her. He held her hand with one of his hand and put the other palm on her forehead. She rolled her lips to say something but words didn’t come out of them. Few drops of tears rolled out of the corner of her eyes.
“I wouldn’t let you go so easily … you lazy bum.” Somesh tried to make her laugh at their husband-wife joke, “come on get up …let’s go home.”
Samir came into the room with Dr. Karni. He shook hands with Somesh and started examining Priya. He started asking her questions- “What is your name? What is today’s date?” Pointing towards Somesh he asked, “Who is that man?”
Somesh eagerly waited to hear her voice. She slowly began to answer the questions, “Prrrriya Sharrrrmaaa, June 29, 2011.” She stopped and looked at Somesh and said, “Somu, my husband.”
Somesh was relieved. Even through her voice was not clear, she slurred. The date wasn’t June 29th but 30th. At least she was comprehending and responding. And most of all she remembered her Somu.
When Dr. Karni left, Somesh went closer and sat next to her. He took her hand and rested his forehead on it. “I was so scared Piu…so scared that I even told Samir his truth.”
“You did???” Priya whispered. “We had to tell him sometime … you did the right thing. Is he okay?” She asked slowly.
“He has been going through some ups and downs but he is willing to hear. He has been here since morning and taking care of…” Somesh stopped as he saw Samir coming in with their older son Sanjeev.
Samir had updated Sanjeev about Priya’s condition. Sanjeev asked Somesh and Samir to go to the cafeteria and get something while he stayed back with his mom.
Somesh followed the instruction and walked out with Samir.
Samir broke the silence and told Somesh that Dr. Karni has suggested to call American Stroke Foundation who would help Badi Maa in her recovery. He said, “we are fortunate that it was not a major stroke and only a small part of the brain is impaired, which is also temporary. She will be all better soon.”
Somesh patted Samir’s back twice and smiled, “You are a good son.”
“Bade Papa, when Badi Maa refused to even think about you being the surrogate father how did you manage?”
“There was nothing left to manage. It was ‘The End’ of the story. I didn’t even think about it any further. We went back to the house to pack our stuff and pick our boys. Your grandmother was happy to see me back so soon. She thought that I had changed my mind and have come back to her but when she saw Priya behind me she was agitated. She started cussing her. She was hyperventilating; she was so angry with me that she started spilling out all my secrets to Priya. Everything that my wife already knew then but my mother didn’t know that she knew.” At last she said to Priya, “If he could not be loyal to his mother and to his pre-marital family where his roots are… do you think he would be loyal to you …Witch???
Priya who was quiet till then faced my mother, looked into her eyes and said, “Yes, Mrs. Geeta Sharma, I have no reason to doubt him.” Then she walked away into the hallway that lead to my room where your mother was playing and taking care of my sons, Sanjeev and Shobhit.
Shobhit jumped off Samir’s mom’s back when he saw his mother walk in. Sanjeev came and hugged her too. It was a happy reunion. Priya looked at Samir’s Mom carefully, “So she is the one,” Priya thought to herself. Samir’s mom sensed the tension in air, she left the room. Shobhit also followed her. Samir’s mom felt the little steps following her; she turned and picked him up, kissed him and took him with her upstairs to the terrace.
Priya started picking up her kid’s and husband’s clothes and other stuff. Within a couple of hours they were packed and ready to leave. Before leaving Priya went back to Somesh’s Mom. His mother turned her face away from her daughter-in-law. Priya said, “I know your love for your family is devout and you can go to any extent to keep’em safe and happy but Maa …love is not about keeping your loved ones encaged in a golden cage but it’s about giving them wings and then waiting to see if they come back to you at the end of the day.” For the first time Somesh’s mom turned her head to look into this young woman’s modest, graceful, kind face. She didn’t say anything but her eyes were brimming with tears.
Somesh mentioned that some of the clothes were drying on the clothesline upstairs. So, Priya got up and went to the terrace to get them.
“ I didn’t see your Mom and Priya exchanging any words but something was going on. As I was carrying the luggage out of the door, Priya held me by my shoulder. She looked at me meaningfully and said, Somesh, we have one more week in India. Instead of touring we will spend it here with your family.”
Samir gave Somesh a confused expression. They had picked up some bread and pasta and went to the cash counter. There Samir showed his card so they didn’t have to pay. They walked to the corner table and started eating.
“Samir, it’s difficult to understand women. They are so unpredictable, especially Priya. I was also confused when she said that. I was surprised because it was her decision not to stay in Haldwani any more. Then all of a sudden why this change of heart?”
“Priya signalled me to stay quiet while she pulled me to the terrace. She stopped at the door and pointed towards your mom. She had stuffed some clothes in Shobhit’s t-shirt and pretending as if that bundle was her baby. She was humming the tune of, ‘Yashomati maiya se bole nandlala radha kyon… and in between she kept cuddling, hugging, and kissing it. She seemed so happy and content. She didn’t even notice that we were there. I turned to look at Priya, she was crying.”
Then when we came down to our room, Priya narrated what she had witnessed earlier, when she went upstairs to pick up the clothes. “Priya told that your mom was talking to that doll and saying, ‘Samir, your Chacha and Chachi are leaving and Shobhit is going with them. You know Shobhit made me realize that I am visible, people can see me and I am a living person.’ Then she hugged that bundle ‘of joy’ and started sobbing.”
That was the turning point that made Priya decide that she had to give a life to Samir’s mom. Priya had said to Somesh, “I’d like to use the rain check that I gave you earlier today… please give this poor woman a life; a child whom she can call her own.”
Somesh interrupted her, “It’s not right…Piu.”
“Somu, right or wrong but we have to do this,” Priya said with a shrill in her voice.
Somesh asked her back, “will that not effect our relationship?”
To that she replied, “I trust you fully and you are just a donor. At times, there might be some repercussions but I promise it would be temporary.”
Their discussion went on for sometime and finally Priya said,”I know it’s not easy for any of us but we will share our sins. I am ready to be your partner in Crime.” Priya stopped and wiped Somesh’s eyes with the a small towel lying there.
“Yupp… mom had told me that she had named me Samir even before I was born.” Samir said excitedly. He took a sigh of relief as if he was travelling back in time and was present there with his bade papa, badi maa, parents, and grandparents when they told their decision to their family. He cheerfully added, “I am sure, Dadi must have hugged you both when she found out that you had made a decision in her favor. Now I know… Why Dadi and Mom made me call you Bade Papa and Badi Maa. It was out of their reverence and love for you guys, even though you were younger to Dad. I am sorry Papa, I misjudged you. Please excuse me.” This time there was no hesitation in Samir’s mind or his tone while calling Somesh ‘Papa’.
Somesh smiled. He threw his dirty disposable dish and cutlery into the trash and went to the restroom.
On the way back, Samir asked “Papa, what happened to your friend Uday?”
“Oh! he is doing fine. He and his wife got together, two months after we met. They had four kids and they are also doing well. We try to meet them when we go to India.” Somesh chirped.
As they walked into Priya’s room they saw Alice was measuring Priya’s temperature. Sanjeev was on the other side of the bed adjusting pillows by his mom.
Alice saw Samir and asked, “How are you related to the patient?”
Instantaneously Samir looked at Priya and said, “She is my Fairy Godmother and I am her youngest son.”
Somesh and Priya looked at each other and smiled slightly. But this time it was Sanjeev’s turn to give those confused expressions.