I was convinced that I could make amends for what I had done. I spent all my days and nights fixated on how to correct this. When I was five years old I remember being seated in the passenger seat of the car with my father on the long drive through the mountains. Meandering routes climbing uphill into the dark green hills. The mist came down early one afternoon and it was as if we were surrounded by white clouds. I could not see the way forward but my father kept going through the mist. He looked straight ahead with such focus I had never seen before and continuously moved forward. As his daughter, surely I could do the same? I could continue straight ahead on this path even if I could not reach my destination.
“Are you saying that you never loved me?” Sandeep asked incredulously. I forced myself to look into those dark brown eyes that scornfully appraised me as if I was an item of waste that ought to be tossed into the wastepaper basket. “You loved him is it? The fool with no money and no future!” He threw down the piece of paper with writing scribbled on it that had let the air out of a fifteen year old secret. We were seated at the breakfast table with our morning porridge and cups of tea. The servants had hurried out of the room when Sandeep had dashed his lukewarm cup of plain tea with one lump of sugar down on the table so hard that it splintered into dozens of pieces just like the fragments left over from my marriage. The tea china had been a gift from his parents. Fine china they had been gifted by the Sultan of Brunei.
“I do love you,” I pleaded. I slowly placed one hand on his arm and the other hand on his knee. I was bent over him like a mother begging a child to stop his tantrum and listen to her. “Please try to understand. This was a long time ago. Think of the life we’ve lived together”. Sandeep stood up abruptly throwing my hands off of him. He shoved me off my chair and attacked the wall punching and kicking it as if it was Shyam. “What have you done to me?” he screamed and left the room. I crawled over to where that piece of paper with something scribbled on it had fallen on the floor. I read the three lines written on that paper and heard myself sobbing uncontrollably. I twisted myself into a ball and laid there until I felt like there was someone watching me.
I opened my eyes to find Sandeep staring at me. “We will never tell her, you hear me? I am her father and no-one else!” he said quietly. I was quiet too. “I have to tell her the truth. She needs to know who her true father is.” I could not understand the words coming out of my mouth. How would anything change if Yeheli found out the truth? She would be devastated and her life would never be the same again. She would find herself a totally different person. Yet somehow I knew that I owed it to Shyam and myself to tell her. I had to reveal to her the hidden for her light to shine through.
“She’s so much like Shyam” I muttered defiantly to Sandeep. “You’ve told her that she cannot spend her life writing and creating music but she has a talent for it. He was so talented too and he could have become a great artist but he never had the money or the opportunities….I broke his heart. I do love you but he was my first love...then Appa (father) died in the war..and you offered me a life with the houses, the cars, the vacations….I was a fool to leave him for all this….and now it's too late he does not want anything to do with me...but he can help our daughter in the industry...his daughter”. I was rambling. I had convinced myself that father and daughter in the music industry together would make up for years of deceit. It took years for me to admit the truth to myself. I watched as the humming toddler turned into the singing child who turned into the songwriting adolescent and I was more and more convinced of who her father was. I was sure of whom she had inherited this hidden talent from.
I looked on as Sandeep discouraged her from performing at the annual school concert and instead encouraged her to enter the medical science exhibition and competition. I could see her shoulders drooping, her eyes tearing up and a sadness falling over her. I could not encourage her the way Shyam would have done. He would have sat with her and listened to her compositions. They would have adjusted the wording and the melodies together. He would have been so patient with her like he had been with me. I still remembered that last conversation we had the day before I got married to Sandeep. He said those dreaded words. “I will never be good enough for you or your family but will always just be your father’s office clerk right? That’s all you will ever see me as!” I could feel the baby moving around as he spoke. His baby. Little Yeheli.
“I’m a bigger fool than him! I should have known that Yeheli was not born prematurely. I refused to listen to the whispers amongst drivers or the gossip amongst the gardeners. He is delusional if he thinks that he can get into our lives!” Sandeep continued in his rantings and ravings. I imagined what would happen when Shyam and Yeheli would meet at last. I could never change the past but could I make up for it? At that moment she walked into the room with that haughty look in her eyes that strangely reminded me so much of Sandeep and looked at us in bewilderment. “What’s happened?” she asked.