And how it ended.
We started for home. Vinod was humming an old Hindi tune as he drove along the highway in the wee hours of the night. I could feel his happiness on seeing his princess after three years. Finally, after a wait of about 10 minutes,we saw Renuka coming out of the arrival gate. She looked stunning in a denim blue jeans and black T-shirt. Her long black hair was even more shiny. Seeing us Renuka left her luggage and ran towards us. Her smile revealed her immense happiness on returning home after years.
It was the day when Renuka returned from the USA after graduating.
I heard Vinod call out “Aren’t you ready yet? Flight is on time. You know it takes almost an hour to reach the airport. Hardly half an hour is left for Renuka’s flight to land.”
I was frying the chicken kababs which I had prepared to carry with me. Renuka never enjoyed the food served kababs and “What I placed packed that on in an was is board. it this?” the aluminum in usually a fried casserole. asked hot foil Vinod. Renuka. “Some If snacks she doesn’t for like the food served in the flight she will be half starving,” I replied. Vinod smiled. “Diya, your daughter has grown up. She is staying alone in a different country, travelling around the world. Do you think she will be really starving if she doesn’t like the food?” Vinod asked. “But she just loves her mama’s kababs so much. She hasn’t tasted a single one for three years!” My voice choked as I spoke. Vinod was about to say something. But he stopped. We reached the airport within an hour and hurried towards the arrival point. My eyes searched the flight information board. Yes… Flight No IF192 had arrived from New York. I couldn’t hold my tears. I would see my baby after three long years. I stood at a corner in the visitors’ zone and eagerly watched the passengers walking out with their luggage.
Finally, after a wait of about 10 minutes,we saw Renuka coming out of the arrival gate.
She looked stunning in a denim blue jeans and black T-shirt. Her long black hair was even more shiny. Seeing us Renuka left her luggage and ran towards us. Her smile revealed her immense happiness on returning home after years. Seeing her running towards us with her arms stretched out and tearful eyes, I remembered her first day at school.
The first time I left her alone as she walked towards her classroom with trembling steps to face the world. She turned back once and looked at me with tearful eyes. It was then I understood the tremendous confusion that troubled her little heart. She wanted to ask me, “Ma, why are you leaving me alone? I cannot do anything without you. Who will save me if my teachers hurt me? Who will feed me if I am hungry? I am feeling afraid, ma. Don’t leave me alone.”
I panicked in fear as I
stood at the end of the corridor watching my baby enter her world all alone. But I couldn’t explain to her that day, “Renuka, I am your shadow. I will always be with you wherever you go, whatever you do. My eyes will always follow you whether you see me or not. My blessings will always protect you whether you feel it or not.” She was too young to understand this.
“Maaaa.” Then a jerk, a hug and tears of joy. I don’t know how long I stood there hugging tightly my baby, my life.
“Do you ladies have any plan to return home tonight or will you stand here hugging each other and crying the whole night?” Vinod interrupted.
“Baba, I missed you and ma so much.”
“We missed you too, my child.” I noticed the crystal drops in Vinod’s eyes.
We started for home. Vinod was humming an old Hindi tune as he drove along the highway in the wee hours of the night. I could feel his happiness on seeing his princess after three years.
Renuka was too exhausted after the long, tedious journey. She leaned against my shoulder and closed her eyes.
“Oh” I remembered the kebabs.
I took out the casserole from my bag and opened it. Renuka sprang up in excitement as the tempting aroma of the hot kebabs filled the air.
“Ma, I love you so much,” confessed Renuka as she grabbed the casserole and finished her favourite kebabs one by one. I stared at her as she relished the food just as she used to do during her school days when she returned home after long, tiring hours.
When we reached home it was well past midnight.
We all were too tired. Renuka wanted to sit with us and chat the whole night but she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
So we just freshened up and went to sleep.
Soft morning rays glowed in through the window. I opened my eyes. After three long years it was a bright, happy morning. My child was sleeping peacefully in her own home, in the next room. Nothing could have been more peaceful for a mother.
Hearing a soft knock on the the door I sat up.
“Ma, have you woken up?” whispered Renuka.
I hurried to open the door worriedly.
And then… I couldn’t believe my eyes! Renuka was wearing a beautiful red sari which I had gifted her on her eighteenth birthday. Dazzling golden necklace, earrings, bangles adorned her like a queen. Her long black hair was tied neatly in a bun.
Seeing me puzzled, Renuka interrupted the silence between us and spoke.
“Ma, since I have achieved the first rank from our university, I want to go to the temple to offer puja. It will be a new beginning of a new life for me.”
I couldn’t utter a single word. Renuka, who had never had any inclination towards religious matters had dressed up in a sari early in the morning to go to the temple!
“My lovely princess. I never noticed when my baby has grown up to be a beautiful young lady.”
Renuka blushed at her father’s compliment.
“Even I want to go to the temple. After many years we are together again,” I said.
“Yes, let us begin this day seeking divine blessings,” added Vinod.
When we reached the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, it was drizzling. The sky was shrouded with black smoky clouds. The weather was a bit colder than being pleasant.
Dakshineswar Temple is a very famous temple in Kolkata. People from all over the world come here to seek the blessings of Kali.
We bought flowers, incense sticks and sweets from the nearby shop and entered the temple.
A feeling of divine happiness and ecstatic joy filled our hearts as we offered puja to the goddess.
The temple is situated by the bank of the holy river Ganga. We walked to the river bank and sat on the steps that led to the bathing ghat.
Everything around was calm and quiet. A few boats sailed lazily across the river.
It was a beautiful experience of serene beauty away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
The sun was getting hot. We sat in the car. Vinod as usual was at the steering whil. We started along the winding way adjacent to the temple. On both sides of the road were small, cluttered shops selling commodities for daily use. Groceries, stationeries, toiletries everything was available in the market. There were vegetable vendors, fish stalls lined up along the narrow lanes. Renuka was seeing this usual picture of Kolkata after a long time.
“Ma, Kolkata has not changed a bit in these years. Though of course, the dirt and crowds on the streets have increased.’
“This is Kolkata, young lady. No matter how congested, polluted it becomes the city will never lose its spirit. The markets will always be crowded, the eateries will also be racing even if the pockets of the citizens are empty.”
We smiled at Vinod’s description of our home city which we always found to be ever-charming. As we drove along the busy streets Vinod suddenly remembered.
“Renuka, we have a surprise for you.” “Surprise?” “We have arranged a party at the Gemini Club this Saturday to celebrate your excellent achievement.”
Renuka’s face turned pale. “Party? This
Time flew for the next few days. Renuka mostly preferred to stay at home. She was either watching popular Hindi movies on TV or gossiping with her father. Sometimes she talked to her friends over the phone.
Saturday? But, baba, I am leaving for the US this Saturday,” said Renuka.
I was more than shocked.
“What? This Saturday? You have come home only for six days? Today is already Monday!” I couldn’t control myself.
Renuka kept quiet for a few moments.
“Ma, actually you know I have applied for a job in a few companies there. But I need to be present there for the interviews. You know how difficult it is to get a decent, well-paid job nowadays,” Renuka finally spoke.
“Well, in that case, I have a solution,” said Vinod. “We can advance the party to Friday.”
“Yes, baba. That’s a great idea! I will be able to meet everybody after so many years.” Renuka seemed to be happy with this proposal.
So it was decided that the party would be held on Friday evening.
After reaching home Renuka opened the gift boxes which she had beautifully packed and brought for us. There were watches, perfumes, shaving kit, sweaters, hand bags, chocolates and so many other things.
Time flew for the next few days. Renuka mostly preferred to stay at home. She was either watching popular Hindi movies on TV or gossiping with her father. Sometimes she talked to her friends over the phone. Vinod had taken leave for a week to spend time with his daughter and was utilising it to the utmost. Every evening Vinod and Renuka would go to the park for a stroll. They would return with some hot potato chops and onion
pakoras. We would enjoy the hot snacks with tea while watching the evening news on TV. Sometimes Vinod and Renuka would debate on the present political situation of India and every time, without fail, Renuka would win. One day, Vinod finally accepted “Diya, no wonder our daughter has excelled in Political Science and International Relations.”
I used to spend most of the time in the kitchen preparing Renuka’s favourite dishes. But my eyes were always on the calendar as each day passed. My heart cried silently whenever I thought I would become lonely from Saturday once again. Vinod was always busy with his job, friends and parties. Of late, he had become very health conscious and didn’t prefer to eat much other than soup, salads and grilled meat. So I could only brush up my culinary skills when Renuka was there. She always encouraged me to try new dishes… And it doesn’t need to be mentioned she loved every dish that I prepared. Even if it was not worthy to be eaten she would proudly say, “Ma, you are the best cook in the world.”
Thursday morning, I was preparing breakfast in the kitchen when Renuka came and hugged me from behind. “Ma, I have an idea. Let’s celebrate motherdaughter day today. Only you and me will go out. We will go to the Victoria Memorial Hall, watch a movie, gobble street food, go for shopping and enjoy the whole day just as we used to do in my school
Next morning, as we sat at the breakfast table, I brought up the issue. “Renuka, I guess within a few weeks you will start your working life. A life you have never lived before. You will have to take up tough challenges, face unprecedented difficulties, meet deadlines, tolerate the anger and abuse of your bosses etc.” “Yes, ma, I know it,” Renuka smiled. “But, child, there is yet another life which every person in society needs to live. It is married life. Having one’s own family is like having your own small world in this vast world.”
days when baba went on tour. We will have lots of fun.” She was very excited. “But, Renuka…““Please don’t say no, ma. I am leaving on Saturday. I don’t know when I will be able to come to India again. Let me go back to my childhood and enjoy at least one day with you, ma.” Renuka turned away her eyes to hide her tears.
I had learnt to control myself.
That day we enjoyed ourselves like never before. We went to the Victoria Memorial Hall, watched a popular Hindi movie, had panipuri, pao bhaji, roadside noodles and ice-cream till we couldn’t digest anymore. Then Renuka took me to a foreign brand garment store and to my utter shock bought some western outfits for me. I didn’t want to buy them but she insisted saying that I looked dull and boring in loose Indian attire. Renuka also bought some shirts and trousers for her father. We returned home after having dinner in a popular Chinese restaurant.
Vinod was dozing off with the newspaper in his hand. The TV was switched on.
Renuka dropped herself on the sofa and put her legs up on the centre table. Within minutes she was asleep.
“Renuka, you are too tired, baby. Please go to your room and sleep,” I told her. “Yes, ma.” Renuka rubbed her eyes and was about to go to her room when Vinod exclaimed. “Hi! When did you return? Sorry I fell asleep while watching the news. How was your day?”
“Baba, it was a fabulous day. But I will tell you everything tomorrow morning. I am too sleepy now. I also have some surprises for you.”
“Okay, dear. Have a good sleep. We will talk tomorrow,” Vinod smiled.
I sat on the couch beside Vinod.
“Vinod, it was a great day for me. I enjoyed like this after many years. We had a ride on the time machine and went back to our old days. “I spoke the words inattentively while taking out the new dresses from the shopping bag.”
“Good. But we need to talk to Renuka about some serious matters now. Have you asked her when is she intending to get married? I will retire after two years. After that we will have to depend entirely on my pension and savings. I want her to start her new life before my retirement.” Vinod spoke in an unusual tone which was not at all familiar to me.
I felt very guilty for not thinking about this matter before.
“No, Vinod. I didn’t think about it before. But I will definitely talk to her tomorrow morning.” I was really feeling ashamed for being such an irresponsible mother.
Next morning, as we sat at the breakfast table, I brought up the issue.
“Renuka, I guess within a few weeks you will start your working life. A life you have never lived before. You will have to take up tough challenges, face unprecedented difficulties, meet deadlines, tolerate the anger and abuse of your bosses etc.”
“Yes, ma, I know it,” Renuka smiled.
“But, child, there is yet another life which every person in society needs to live. It is married life. Having ones own family is like having your own small world in this vast world.”
“But, ma, why do I need to marry? You and baba are my world.”
“Yes, now we are there. But who will be with you when we will be no longer in this world? At that time if your husband and children hold your hand and rub your tears you will never feel lonely in this world.”
“Ma, stop! Please stop. I don’t want anyone else in my life now. I will let you know if I ever decide to marry.” Renuka burst into tears and left the dining hall. The discussion stopped there.
From afternoon we got busy with the arrangements for the party. We had already decided to host the party at home instead of the club. Vinod was busy giving directions about the decorations, table arrangements, attending the guests etc. Renuka was trying one dress after the other as she could not decide in which outfit she would look best.
I was very busy in the kitchen as it was Renuka’s wish that I would prepare the main course dishes for the party which would definitely include mutton biryani and chicken chaap.
Everything was ready before evening. I sat on the couch to rest a while. Then suddenly, as I turned my eyes to Renuka’s room, my heart cried in pain. Half-packed suitcases were lying on the floor. Passport, visa, ticket all were on the table. Renuka was preparing to leave the next evening.
I knew I had to be strong. My child had a brilliant career ahead. I had no right to stop her and ruin her life.
Suddenly a gust of wind stormed through the window and her ticket fell on the floor. I quickly ran to pick it up and then I noticed that in her ticket, the destination was mentioned as London. I checked again and again if I was making a mistake. But no. It was a ticket for U.K.
“Oh goodness! Renuka has bought a wrong ticket!” I was about to place the ticket on the table and run to intimate her when my eyes stuck at an email in her open laptop on the table.” It read: “My darling Renu, “I am missing you so much. Why did you go to India just after the day we tied the knot? I couldn’t even kiss you properly. Every moment of my life is so lonely without you.
From afternoon we got busy with the arrangements for the party. We had already decided to host the party at home instead of the club. Vinod was busy giving directions about the decorations, table arrangements, attending the guests etc.