THE STARS GAVE NO ANSWER
But she got it in reality.
Now she looked out and was surprised to see Deepika, their only child at the gate. Deepika was a pretty 23- yearold girl, married to a nice boy for the last two years. Both Akash and Deepika lived in the city.
“Deepika dear, whats the matter? What brings you here like this?” “Its Akash...he...he.” “Yes Akash. Anything happened to him?” Shyamala’s heart was in her mouth. “No...no. He is all right. But...but.”
Shyamala looked out when she heard the click of the gate. She had been dusting the furniture. Once Varun went to office, she had nothing much to do. They had a fulltime maid, who did the washing and cooking as well.
“I think we can cut down expenses, and keep the maid for just washing and cleaning. That way we need to keep her only for a few hours. I can very well do the cooking myself. You know I love to cook.”
Varun would smile, “No dear, this is the time for you to take it easy. You did work to the bones in the initial stages, when we couldn't afford a help and I am grateful that you did it all, with never a word of complaint. You did not even have time to pursue your hobbies like reading and writing. Now is the time to pick up the threads. Thank goodness I’m doing well and we don't have to pinch and stint and count the pennies. So the maid stays.” She would laugh up at him. “Ah...those days when we had to squeeze the toothpaste tube to eke out the last bit and wait for the junk man to sell off the papers and books and bottles. But they were happy times, wasn’t it?” Varun would nod in agreement. “Whoever said that when poverty comes through the window, love flies out through the door, should have seen us then. Thank you, dear, thank you for everything.”
And Shyamala knew what he meant by everything. For forgiving him that one lapse.
Now she looked out and was surprised to see Deepika, their only child, at the gate. Deepika was a pretty 23-year-old girl, married to a nice boy for
the last two years. Both Akash and Deepika lived in the city.
Deepika was tugging a suitcase and in a minute was at the door. Shyamala had already opened the door.
“Deepika, what a pleasant surprise!” She hugged her daughter. “But you never even called. We would have sent the driver to fetch you. So where is Akash? Have you come to stay because he is away on project work? Anyway I’m glad and so will Varun be when he gets home. Shall I ring him up now?”
“Net yet, mom. I have to talk to you,” came Deepikas muffled reply. It was then that Shyamala saw tears welling up in her daughter eyes and it shocked her to the core. What had gone amiss?
“Deepika dear, what’s the matter? What brings you here like this?” “It’s Akash...he...he.” “Yes, Akash. Anything happened to him?” Shyamala’s heart was in her mouth.
“No...no. He is all right. But...but.”
Relieved that nothing dreadful had happened to Akash, Shyamala bade her daughter wash her face, and drink a cup of tea, and then they could talk.
Deepika took a sip of the tea, and then a tear dropped into the cup and words came out brokenly.
“Akash ch-cheated me. He went on an official trip, stayed in a five-star hotel and...and had a one-night stand with a call girl. That’s what he did and why I have come away. Oh, how could he?” Shyamala had a good opinion of Akash. A decent loving youngster, who she felt was a good match for Deepika. She had seen how caring he was. That he loved Deepika was evident in his actions. He was also on amiable terms with both Varun and herself. They felt they had chosen wisely and could not have entrusted Deepika to better hands. It seemed hard to believe Deepika’s accusation.
“How do you know that?” she asked her daughter.
“Oh he told me himself. After coming home he was acting queerly as if he had something to hide. A guilty conscience. And then he made the confession himself. He said he had not wanted to do anything with this call girl but she had foisted herself on him and come into his bedroom. He was contrite, begging my forgiveness. Promising it would never happen again. He said he could not live with a guilty conscience. He begged for trust and faith in him. But I have done with him. I am not going back.”
“Deepika, don't you see that he could have kept it a secret? The very fact that he made a clean breast of it to you, should make you relent. He has always been a loving caring husband hasn’t he?”
“No mom, he betrayed me. I can’t stand it. Put yourself in my place. If daddy cheated on you, would you forgiven him?”
Shyamala was quiet for some time. Then she looked straight into Deepikas eyes. The words came slowly.
“He would and he did and I forgave him.”
“What?” said Deepika. “Are you talking of dad? Dad loves you so much.”
“Yes, my dear. It happened long ago. But that does not tarnish his image. He is true and trustworthy and we are lucky to have him. You as his daughter. I as his wife. I have no regrets. And what is more, I forgave the other woman.”
“Oh how could you, mom?”
“I forgave them both because the pathos and tragedy of the sin, redeemed them. Dad and this woman were colleagues, though they worked in different branches and met only when there were meetings or conferences. At one such meeting in the city, they occupied adjacent rooms in a hotel. One night they were both sitting out on the balcony, when dad saw that Kamala – the lady that is – was weeping silently, and trying to hide her distress. Being a colleague dad was distressed and wanted to know what was wrong. She told him the truth then, what nobody else did. She had come to a breaking point and needed to share her grief. “I am a cancer patient. My days are numbered. There is no hope. Anyway I never married. So when I go there will be no one to grieve for me. I am lonely and afraid. I just wondered and asked that stars over there. Where will I go from here? But you know even the stars have no answer. It just winked at me, as if to say, “you’ll know the answer soon.” Maybe I am silly but...but’ and she fell into dad’s arms sobbing.
“And dad could not help feeling sad for her, and he led her into her bedroom. He lay down near her, trying to soothe her, though he could not find the words. And then he found himself merging with her, not as an act of lust or passion, but as a deed born of compassion. Not to seek sexual pleasure but in some way to give solace to a soul in anguish and distress. It was like holding out a branch of sympathy, showing that he cared for her misery. That her grief and pain touched his heart. Varun confessed it all. What could I do, but forgive him? And do you know I went with him to meet Kamala, as she lay on her death bed, in the final hours.
“She knew that I knew. She held my hand and whispered. ‘Do you forgive me?’ I nodded silently and pressed her hand, as she slipped into another world. Maybe the star was twinkling still and waiting for her.
“So, Deepika, forgive Akash. He is a good man. Remember: to err is human, to forgive divine.” And Deepika nodded her head, and smiled. We
Yes, my dear. It happened long ago. But that does not tarnish his image. He is true and trustworthy and we are lucky to have him. You as his daughter. I as his wife. I have no regrets. And what is more, I forgave the other woman.