The year was 1994 and the blue ambassador was staring at Doctor Jayashil Kaka’s wooden house with its tail-lights on. Maya and Alok had come to visit Jayashil Kaka for Maya’s health check-up. Maya and Alok had been trying to conceive a baby for over 5 years now, and each time their hopes were dashed as the doctor came out disappointed from the operating room. Kaka placed a hand on Alok’s shoulder and said, “Alok Bhai! Maya is not in a position to conceive again. Her health vitals have dropped dead since the last operation and she will not be able to survive the next childbirth. Maybe, destiny does not have children in its plans for you. Take care of her!” Alok found Maya sitting on the creaking wooden bench and saw her looking at him in hope of an answer that could finally bring a smile to her lips. Alok, weighted by the burden of what he just heard, went to Maya and held her hands. He smiled at her and as she got up, he kissed her forehead and hugged her. Maya used to love these warm hugs, Alok always had in store for her. She used to say to him, “The best part about you being tall is, that when I hug you, my ears can feel your heartbeat and life just becomes better, for some reason.” As they headed back to their home, Shimla’s landscape changed from a dusky dawn to a clear night sky.
As Maya and Alok lay in the bed, Maya held Alok’s hand as tears welled up in her eyes and asked, “Alok, will I ever be a parent? Will I never watch my child grow and be happy?” “Ae Maya, don’t worry baba! I promise you that from tomorrow, you’ll never have these fears again. Now, smile karo! Pakka? Good!” Once Maya was asleep, Alok stood up and went towards the balcony of his ancestral home. Without his glasses, the starry night was a brilliant Van Gogh, everything bigger and brighter, blurred in the most beautiful way. Just gazing at the midnight blue canvas above stole every thought from his mind, the usual carousel of worries simply forgotten. All Alok thought about, was Maya’s happiness.
St. Margaret’s was a quaint little orphanage, just 5 blocks away from the Mall Road. It housed 6 boys, with some as young as 3-year-olds to the oldest one being 8. Miss Everdeen, the Christian care-taker was a woman in her late 70s and her health was failing her. She was always worried about the future of these beautiful children, once she wouldn’t be around. Adoptions were very rare then, and it broke her heart to see these little hearts surviving on donated clothes and very little food. The only blissful moment in her entire day was when all 6 of them sat around her in the red coloured sweaters she had woven for them and listened to her old stories of the ‘Panchtantra’ and the ‘Jataka Tales’. The relief it gave her was unparalleled, in all its composure. On a Sunday afternoon, with the warm sunlight splattering through her old drawing room window, an unfamiliar knock graced St. Margaret’s doors. It was Alok. In a tea conversation that lasted hours between Miss Everdeen and Alok, a lot was talked about. Alok left the orphanage with a wide smile along with 6 unknown faces that showed happiness and grimness alike.
“Maya Madam, Ajji sunte ho?” Alok shouted in glee. Maya came out, looking perplexed as she saw 6 children, all in identical red sweaters holding hands standing behind Alok. She smiled innately but was also confused beyond measure. Alok came towards her and explained her the entire story. He finished by saying, “Would you be able to cook for the 8 of us in sufficient amounts?” Maya laughed and hugged Alok. She punched him in the stomach timidly and told him to tell her before taking such decisions. Maya went to the children and introduced herself. She led all of them to the dining table and asked them their names and how old were they? She made Kheer in record time and that night, sugar lent its sweetness in all its entirety.
From that day on, the home had a different tint to it. Alarms used to ring in the morning at 6. There was nagging and crying about not going to school, lunch boxes being packed, Maya shouting at the top of her voices for the younger ones to get ready. Ration lists were longer, laundry was lengthier and house walls with white pastel had colourful drawings made on them. A lot had changed and most of all was, that Maya used to be happy all the time. Her happiness was infectious. It used to pass through me like a warm ocean wave, washing away the stress of my day to leave me refreshed inside. As soon as the children went to school, Maya used to make me breakfast and for the next two hours, all she used to talk to me about was how much she loved these children. She used to narrate these cute-sweet stories that happened with them. I could see how being a parent had brought my old Maya back. Maya had started loving life, and taking care of all the children meant everything to her. I remember the day when Abhimanyu had called her Maa and all had followed suit, and how she cried that night. Maya had found peace and I was happy.
But, life still had other plans for us. Feeding 8 people along with the additional expenses we incurred was too much for us to settle through my and Maya’s earnings. As the children grew, their needs and demands were also becoming tough to cater to. I and Maya talked and we decided to sell our ancestral home. I got my job transferred to Delhi and very soon, with all the money we got from selling our old home, we started new lives. The struggle was hard, but the happiness that came out of it felt real. Our 6 children grew up to be responsible young adults. Age had started taking a toll on me and Maya too. Maya had become weak and was advised to rest as much as possible. My work didn’t allow me to be with her all the time. All our six children had accordingly decided amongst themselves and in shifts, used to be along with Maya. From giving her timely medicines to feeding her, they never let Maya alone. I used to stand behind the door and used to see Aman sitting by Maya’s bed and holding her hand for entire nights. Tears rolled up my eyes as I saw them do all this.
Time had slipped and it was 2017. I had recently got retired and was sitting alongside Maya, sipping tea. All our children had graduated college and each one of them was working in a good company. Some were even married! Suddenly, Abhimanyu calls me and tells me and Maya to get ready. He says that it’s a surprise and it’ll be an overnight journey. We do as we were told. After all, relieved from out societal duties, we really did not have a lot of options to spend our time in. Abhimanyu came to pick us up, and off we were to an unknown destination. We were forbidden to ask about it. I and Maya slept throughout the entire journey and some familiar voices woke us up. We got off the car and a familiar air greeted us.
It was strange, being here again after so long. Despite how long we’d been away, we still remembered everything about the place; the pink hibiscuses planted in the front yard, the soft tinkling of the wind chimes that reminded us of the summer afternoons. The crimson paint had faded since we had last seen it, but we still recognized it. We both walked down the muddy track towards our previous home and our hearts both sank and rose all at once. The name-plate shone with all its brilliance as it read: Ghar.
We turned around and we saw all our six sons, with their families. Aman (the eldest one) stepped forward and said, “Papa and Maa, we were very small when you came and took us to your home. We remember seeing neighbourhood kids going to good schools, their mothers adoring them and buying them ice-creams on hot afternoons. All we had was our beautiful Miss Everdeen. I remember, how Papa brought us to home first time and how your expressions changed from surprise to that of immense joy. That Kheer is still the best, I’ve ever had. All of us can never thank you enough for whatever you’ve done for us. You gave us our childhood back. Papa and Maa, you both are the reason why we stand here with our families and look happy. Giving back this home to you is the least we can do for you. We love you, with the strength of a thousand suns!”
Both Alok and Maya smiled and cried tears of happiness that day. Life had never been more satisfying.
One day all the happiness you’ve ever given away will come back and stay. You might never know this, but even one small gesture from your side can end up changing one person’s mood for the entire day. Everyone’s fighting their own battles. The least you can do is be nice to them. Instagram Page coming up soon!