Fiction Desi Happy

Raghuram was waiting at the lounge of Hotel Solitaire, a famous five-star hotel in the city. He was waiting for his colleagues to assemble there for Brunch. It was an official meeting and was generally being conducted there every quarter. While a few had already turned up, some more were yet to join. He was very particular about punctuality. Unfortunately, others took it casually. Even if it were to be a get together just for eating, it was an official meeting. His assistant Subhash generally used to handle such meeting and eating. But he had gone on leave and hence Raghu had to do it himself. He was getting restless as few only turned up.

Fretting and frowning to himself, he was looking around. Just then a hotel staffer, a young man in uniform caught his attention. “Ah! Sunil!! Is that you?” He exclaimed. Sunil also reciprocated – “What a surprise Raghu!”.

Sunil went inside and came back in plain clothes. They both exchanged pleasantries and had many things to talk about, but could not carry on. Because, by then, the officemates had arrived and were waiting. So, Raghuram had to cut short his meeting with Sunil, but was still mentally with him cherishing their friendship.

Sunil was his close friend from school days and it continued in the college days also. Later, they parted ways. Raghuram went ahead, prosecuted further studies and got selected in the campus interview and accepted the company’s offer. A lucrative job! He was still sticking to it. Sunil too got a solid offer through campus interview at the degree level itself but he declined the offer, as it called for accepting the job at a place far away from his parents and our village. He had promised to be with his parents and be in the village itself. They never met after that date. Now, all of a sudden…! A pleasant surprise indeed. 

Raghuram was curious to know why he gave up his village and was here on a job in city. He was always cited him as example. Raghuram’s parents also wanted that their only son be with them in the village itself. Instead, the son requested them to be with him, so that he could pursue his career which often challenged his qualifications. They refused to leave the village saying ‘they felt fish out of water.’ Later he told them about his love interest in Sheela. She was a Christian. They did not agree, but did not oppose either. They refused to attend his marriage and did not even see the girl. But, his mother gave him a precious jewel for his beloved wife. A bangle! It was their traditional jewelry passed on from generation to generation.

After his marriage also, his parents never visited him. Initially, he felt hurt but later got reconciled. For his parents also, it was the same. Outwardly they carried themselves to show that they were comfortable in the village with known people and known surroundings. More than his father, his mother felt the pinch. Though she was a midwife and a well-known figure in the village, she felt the lacuna. Cross marriages were not so common in her village. Stray cases of inter subcaste marriages had taken place. Even those parents were criticized and the couples were not accepted easily in social functions and community festivals. She did not want her family to be rusticated just because she approved her son’s marriage to a girl of an alien faith. In their village, even today, Christianity was believed to be a religion which was bent upon converting the non-Christians. It was a hearsay that those engaged in conversion could easily amass huge amounts and also make foreign travels at a short notice.

Raghuram on the contrary was feeling sad that his parents did not acknowledge that he had risen to high levels at a short span. Having come from a very ordinary family, his elevation to present economic status and progress in life were enormous. He attributed everything to his parents and wanted them to be proud. But they refused to acknowledge. They had almost severed all connections. Once in a while, they got to know some news about him from those who visited the big city. The whole world was fast changing… But neither his village nor his parents. They continued to be orthodox. He was patiently waiting for good times to come.

A brief meeting with Sunil was not enough to enquire about his parents nor about their wellbeing in the village. Meeting him at the same hotel where he was employed would not be suitable for detailed updating of family matters. Similarly calling him to his office also would not be proper as he was likely to be interrupted more often. Best was to invite him to his residence. Long back Sheela had told him that she did not want guests at home without she being informed in advance. Today when he wanted to call his wife and let her know about Sunil’s visit, just then she called him at the same time. It was a sheer coincidence. She had good news to convey. He was carried away by her message and he totally dropped Sunil matter. This was important. Sheela was in family way. They went to the doctor and got it confirmed. At the same time, doctor warned Sheela to be very careful throughout the period of pregnancy. Both Raghuram and Sheela were confident of managing themselves on their own. But not for long.

Raghuram felt the absence of his mother at this stage. She was well experienced in this line. He even thought of Sheela’s parents and also considered taking their assistance. But they were also equally unreconciled about their daughter’s marriage outside their caste. But not as staunch as his parents were. Their main grouse was they were not willing to live with their son-in-law in his house, for taking care of their daughter. So Raghuram was left with only one choice --- Go with Sheela and leave her with her parents. He was almost get-set-go to Sheela’s parents and drop her there.

If things were that easy why will anyone think of God?

Raghuram had office exigencies that required him to stay put. Unless the statutory auditing at office was fully completed and they submitted a clean chit, there was no Sunday no holidays for him. So much of workload was there. There was absolutely no chance of going out of station. No scope. Sheela was certainly not in a position to take up air travel or bus journey. Raghuram was in a dilemma. He was caught between two major issues.

For his office problem, he was whole sole in charge. He could not assign that to his subordinates and office would not entertain personal problems coming in the way of official discharges. It was a matter of few more weeks for the auditing to be over. Once this annual phenomenon was over, it would be a big relief. As days were passing on, his tension was also growing on. It was at that point of time he decided that Sheela’s case was more crucial than his office. In case something went wrong with her or to their first baby, nobody would ever pardon him.

He decided to seek Sunil’s help. If he could avail leave from his employer, escort Sheela and drop her at her parents’ place, he would be highly relieved of his guilty feeling. After all Sunil was his close friend and a very reliable person. Going by his nature, Sunil was sure to oblige. But whether circumstances would be in their favour? He called Sunil on phone and wanted to know if he was free. As expected, he was not free. Hotel Solitaire was about to open another branch shortly and his services and presence were essentially needed at this crucial hour. It was a great opportunity for him to prove his mettle and elevate himself. But Sunil did not bluntly refuse. He had a distant cousin who could be thought of as an escort. When both Raghuram and Sunil were tied down with their emergencies, the only via media was to rely on this unknown guy as escort.

As days were getting advanced, Sheela was losing confidence and her anxiety level was shooting up. Certainly, she needed someone to console and counsel her and ward off her unknown fears.

Touch wood! God was great! So far so good.! Future always remained secret and unknown. The only way to overcome uncertainties was to rely on prayers. That is what all three were doing --- Sheela Raghuram and Sunil.

Raghuram did not waste time. He fixed a taxi and sent Sheela with an escort. Sheela’s parents were informed of her coming there. Even taxi numbers and details of driver etc. were shared. Sheela’s parents had simply ignored their hotch-potch misgivings and were eagerly looking forward to meeting her. As a measure of safety and precaution, they even fixed an appointment with a local doctor.

Raghuram kept his fingers crossed. An eight-hour long journey by road. Both driver and the escort were conscious of having a mighty responsibility of reaching the pregnant lady safely to her destination. No harsh driving, no jerks, and very slow on speed breakers and speed bumps. Journey was very comfortable indeed. But not for long. It was a for half way through only. In spite of all safety measures, all vigil on a silky-smooth ride, Sheela suddenly felt uneasy and felt insecure. Either the baby was taking turns inside the womb or she developed some unknown problem. She tried hard to control herself. She kept assuring herself, after all a few more hours and she would be safe in her mother’s arms.

Her uneasiness developed stronger and now with a pinch of pain recurring at intervals. It was very clear that she needed medical assistance. The driver stopped the car and looked for availability of a doctor, clinic or hospital at nearest point. A local guy guided them to a village medical practitioner. As time was fast slipping out and the situation turning emergent, the driver straight away took the car in the direction of that particular village and from there to the medical practitioner.

An old man came out and seeing the delicate situation, rushed inside and told his wife to set the table for immediate medical attention. Both driver and the escort slowly brought Sheela in. It was not a full-fledged hospital nor a clinic. A typical village house equipped with urgent maternity tools. Sheela was temporarily relieved of her fears when she felt that she was safe in a doctor’s custody. A lady came to her rescue, checked her pulse and comforted her with gentle words and tender caresses. Like an experienced woman, she checked the position of her womb and the baby inside. Immediately she went inside and readied herself with her medical tools.

In a short while, the entire atmosphere got transformed into a different world of mirth and merry. As though an angel from a fairy tale came down with a magic wand and touched everything. The driver and the escort were delighted to hear the first cry of newborn baby. Their joy knew no bounds. Because, they were solely responsible for safety of Sheela. The job entrusted to them was carried out successfully, though not the way it was intended. But the end result was good. When the lady attendant announced the birth of a son, they hugged each other in ecstasy. She told them to inform their master. Of course, to Sheela’s parents also, as they must be worried about the delay.

They were waiting anxiously and praying for her safe arrival. Just then the news of newborn baby was conveyed by both Raghuram and the taxi driver. They simply praised him for his presence of mind and took the wise step to ensure Sheela’s safety. They took the address of the place where Sheela was admitted. They engaged a taxi and were coming down. They were expected to reach there soon.

Raghuram telephoned the driver and asked him to hand over the phone to the lady who attended on Sheela. The lady smiled at her husband and asked him to pick up the call. At the very outset, he exclaimed, “Dey Raghu!” Raghuram could not believe himself. Did he hear a familiar voice for which he was yearning for years! Again, the phone call said, “Hey Raghu! You are blessed with a son. Come down immediately. You left this village. You were reluctant to come back. Now you see! Your son has set his feet on this village. That is Divine Destiny.”

His mother took the phone and happily responded.

“The minute I saw Sheela, I understood who she was and what she is to you. You don’t have to introduce your family to me. I will introduce them to you. My dear daughter in law and my bundle of joy called grandson.”

Raghuram was in tears. ‘She accepted us as her family!’ How she eschewed the differences of inter-caste relationships and accepted them in her family fold was really a wonder. Equally choked in emotions, he sought their blessings and attributed everything to their broadmindedness. But he could not refrain himself from asking how she found out that Sheela was their daughter in law whom she had never seen before. All communications between son and parents had remained cut and severed for the last few years.

His mother replied, “It Is a big suspense.” Before she could complete her conversation, there was commotion outside the house.

Sheela’s parents had come. They thought it would be a hospital. But it was a house that too a non-Christian. Both driver and escort confirmed that it was there that Sheela delivered her son. They also broke the open secret that the newborn baby was none other than their own grandson. Immediately Raghuram’s parents came rushing to the door and wholeheartedly received the other pair of grandparents. A double bonanza for the two grandparents! One, the gift of God in the form of new grandson and another one, a bigger one, the revival of their old relationship.

Sheela slowly gaining conscience, initially did not understand, but soon realized what was going on. Without knowing anything, she actually landed at a place which turned out to be another parental home for her. A sheer coincidence which would happen only in fairytale stories!        

Her parents ushered in to see their daughter and her newborn baby. They were full of praises for Raghuram’s parents and their hospitality. Really it was their hospitality that restored the connections between the two strained relationships and made the two families as one extended family. Sheela’s mother took out a pair of new glittering golden bangles and was about to put them in her hands.  She then saw Sheela having some old-fashioned bangle in her hand which she tried to replace it with the new ones. Exactly at that moment Raghuram’s mother entered. She said, “Please don’t remove that one. Had it not been for that bangle, I would not have recognized the girl whom my son had married. It was that bangle which solved our tangle. Long back I had given it to him as our traditional piece of jewelry handed to me from generations. Now it is Sheela’s turn to preserve it and pass it on to this cutie’s bride.” Saying so, she lifted the little boy, the junior Raghuram.

Sheela held her mother in law’s hands and asked, “Amma, now that we are one family, how are you going to face the village people? Will they not question you?”

“Sheela, you need not worry about that. Now there are some more families here with cross marriages. In fact, I have myself stood by their sides and united them. We villagers too have learnt to live and let live in harmony. It is humanity at large which matters. When I attend to child births, I never see the community of mother or her baby. Then why differentiate and bring in castes at later stages? This boy is my ‘Guru’ for putting good things into practice.” She placed a small bracelet near the boy and said, “That old one was for you and this one (also old) is for him. Earlier this bracelet was given to me when Raghuram was born. Now I pass it on to you.”

No doubt, jewelries are precious. More so if they foster in new relationships.

It got proved once again!    

October 02, 2020 18:04

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