THE STARS GAVE NO ANSWER

But she got it in re­al­ity.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Hyma Bal

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.

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