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With mindless flicks, her brushes incessantly painted a blue door that stood amidst virgin white walls.

Blue…the colour of sea…signifying trust, loyalty, commitment, intelligence, tranquillity, all of which she’d kept seeking after her better-half left a childless her, for another marraige.

Her journey had been a lonely despair thereafter.

Then one day, her step-son returned, begging an apology for his late parents, seeking to care and open that door.

Only now, did she understand why the door had to be closed.

You can’t hold on to something that doesn’t want to stay but what is yours will ultimately find you.

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She went about her regular chores with unusual quietness. It was her birthday but the day held nothing special. Who would bother about birthdays of an insignificant person as she?  

“Come back. We’ve some guests in the evening. I need your help.”, Memsahib addressed.

She nodded sombrely. Memsahib usually paid for these extra works, unlike many others. At least she could buy herself something for today.

It was late in the afternoon. With slow steps, Janani approached the house, got inside and gently closed the door ‘click’.

 “Happy Birthday…”, resounded the shrieks of excited children. A lovely cake decorated with candles, baked my Memsahib awaited on the table,  amidst some balloons and ribbons.

A smiling memsahib handed over a brand new jeans-top and a pair of Gucci shoes, similar to the ones that the family wore and  which she’d secretly admired all along.

Janani stood dumbfounded. How had Memsahib known?

 

 

                                         Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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Emotional abuse had battered her spirits.

Ages passed away in pain, seeking light, with no hope of restoration ever.

“Train your mind to see the good in everything”, some advised. Clearly, that’d be a mistake, since then you’d leave the door open and tip the evil to rise.

“Train yourself to see not the good alone, but THE TRUTH.”, spoke her mind.

She pondered…resolved, ‘It’s now or never.’

This Holi, overwhelmingly, she chose kaleidoscope freedom, broke away for good, reclaimed herself.

So now it dawns, ‘There’s no good or evil…only the power within, which some are too weak to seek.”

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“Underestimate me at your own risk, it’ll be fun;
The game’s always on…”, would invariably, be her silent scream.

They called her disabled, repulsive, dependent and just how wrong they could be.

Severe congenital limb deformities and speech apraxia made her obnoxious.

Mother, ashamed of her existence, broke away, abandoning her and dad.

Dad couldn’t handle the teenage physical changes and placed her in a ‘Home’, subjected to endless tortures.

Books, her only companion, seemed inadequate now.

She ran away with a true friend, a transvestite, who revived her self-love and faith.

“And so, the adventure begins”, she told herself.

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She knew her mom inside out, of what she’d approve and all that she’d not.

Extraordinarily strict but straightforward, after all, she toiled for the family.

A loyal daughter, she would always act as her mother would deem appropriate, ever careful never to hurt her, even at the cost of her wishes.

Years later, a successful civil engineer, she got married. An angel arrived. As her daughter began growing, she was amused to note her excessive attachment, unconditional obedience and the innocent ardour to make her happy.

It reminded her of her own days.

” Everything is connected”, she mused.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

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Akshita went to the shopping mall, taking along her son, Armaan, since there was none whom she could leave him with. Six-year-old Armaan loved to accompany his mother wherever she went and would often tag along. Being an only child, he was pampered by his parents. But of late, he was finding them getting stricter, when it came to his behaviours on moral values, though he could never really fathom what they were trying to get at. Nevertheless, after much persuasion, convincing and scolding, he would reluctantly agree to all that they would insist.

Though his parents usually provided Armaan with everything he wanted, and probably much more, he still had his weaknesses. He couldn’t really resist taking the things he liked, even if they belonged to others. Occasionally, if anything caught his fancy, he would simply pick it up and bring it home, without bothering to ask for the owner. This could be a pencil, an eraser or even a small toy. Sometimes Akshita would have no peace, watching over him, while standing at the billing counter of a store, lest he slips in a chocolate bar or a candy, into his pocket.

Likewise, he would also forget or lose his things anywhere and even give up without a fight, if anyone wilfully took them. To him, the “concept of ownership”, was yet unclear and not quite decipherable. Therefore, he would find it difficult to differentiate between the things that belonged to him viz-a-viz that of the others. “Sharing is caring” is what he was taught but “sharing” meant only temporary use and did not fetch him the right to ‘take away’ what belonged to others or even ‘give away’ his own, was something that he was still unable to interpret.

When Akshita looked at his peers, many of them, were quite matured in their attitude for this age, with a few just like Armaan. In a bid to raise him with healthy ideologies, she would often try various methods to correct him. She would teach him to take care of his own things; forbid him from taking things that was not his; reproach and insist he return anything that he’s brought home, without asking; explain what “stealing” meant and it’s bad consequences; tell him stories of how thieves are eventually caught by the police who could really get nasty; create belief in god and explain him as to how god would be angry at those children who stole other’s things etc.

Though Armaan seemed to be slowly changing and had by and large improved, he was still unpredictable. There would yet be those brief instances, when he would be overcome by temptation and act upon impulse. A reluctant Akshita, knowing that he was yet going to need some time, to totally grow out of it, would give up but not without reprimanding him. At the same time, she would always remain on her guard and watch over his activities, whenever she took him out.

Today, they had entered a huge supermarket to buy out the weekly groceries. Armaan seemed to be behaving well in the store and Akshita felt glad about it. After they were through with their shopping, famished, they dropped into an adjoining restaurant and occupied a table.

Akshita looked around. It was a nice place. One side of the restaurant which had the billing counter, also displayed a huge variety of delicious pastries and chocolates. She placed an order for two sandwiches because Armaan loved them and they waited for the meal to arrive. During this interval, Armaan suddenly began to act restless. He refused to sit up and started moving about the place. Especially he kept frolicking around the chocolate-pastry section. Akshita could not understand what had suddenly gotten over him, when everything had been going well, so far. She guessed that the goodies were probably getting him, a bit far too excited.

“Armaan, come here and sit beta”, she would keep on calling.

The words just didn’t seem to get through to him, though. At times, she would warn him that if he continued behaving like this, she would cancel the order and immediately leave, upon which he would quickly bounce back to his seat. But then he would sit there for only two minutes and eventually get back to his prancing activity. Exhausted and tired, somehow, they managed to finish the meal, pay the bill and get back home.

During the night, she saw him munching something.

“What’s that you’re eating?”, she questioned.

“Nothing”, he replied.

“Whatever it is, SPIT OUT.”, dad commanded.

Armaan spit out a whitish lump.

“What’s that? Was it a tissue that you were chewing?”, Akshita asked disdainfully.

“No, it’s a chocolate.”, he replied, hesitantly.

“Show me.”, Akshita and Sudhir both demanded.

He pulled out a packet of Mentos.

“Where did you get these from?”, Akshita demanded, for that was never a part of her today’s purchase.

“It’s from the restaurant. I took it from there.”, he replied in a straightforward manner, with a childlike, innocent expression.

Akshita and Sudhir both got furious. A frustrated Akshita simply got up and spanked him while Sudhir began yelling at him. Akshita joined in the screaming too. At the end of the session, both declared that they would not talk to this bad boy, at which, a tearful Armaan, began crying and pleading a “Sorry”.

“Do you know what you’ve done?”, Akshita could not bring herself to relent.

“No.”, he nodded his head faultlessly.

“I only took a chocolate. ”, he replied in a small voice.

Sudhir glared at him.

“Because there were so many. But I took only one.”, he explained. The parents realised, he was trying to appease them with the fact that there were still several left behind, for the store-keeper’s use.

“Did we pay money for that?”, she jibed him further.

“No”, he replied innocently

“Did you ask that uncle whether you can take it? Or did you ask Mamma?”

“No” he replied, now, with an expression of having made a mistake.

They understood that rebuke was pointless because Armaan had not yet discerned anything.

“We’ll go to the restaurant tomorrow and pay up.” Sudhir suggested to Akshita.

Akshita agreed while Armaan intently listened to them, completely lost and trying to get a hang of what wrong he had done.

“Yes, and we’ll also apologise”, she added.

She then turned to Armaan and said, “Now, it’s YOU who will apologise. Not us. Because, it’s you who did it. You will say sorry to that uncle. Understood?”

“Ok. I will say sorry to uncle”, he agreed, not quite comprehending.

“Yes”, Sudhir agreed. Practice was better than preaching. Things sometimes needed to be demonstrated to make them see the light. Besides, Armaan needed to face it to sense the guilt, that was yet unknown to him. Today, for him, this embarrassment would be a small incident, as against the entire family losing face tomorrow, if this habit continues.

After sometime, a tired Armaan went off to sleep while a disturbed Akshita wondered, whether she should get him counselled, in case this behaviour persists.

Next day evening, as they all went to the restaurant, the waiter greeted them with a wide smile of recognition. Sudhir and Akshita headed towards the counter and explained that they wanted to pay for the chocolate that their child had unknowingly taken away.

The restaurant owner, cashier and the waiter, were all extremely abashed and firmly declined the money, for Armaan was just a child. But Sudhir and Akshita would have none of it because they did not want to encourage this practice with Armaan. He had to understand that what he had done was not correct. Next, Sudhir commanded Armaan to apologise. Armaan turned red- faced. His expression reflected shame and insult, as he mouthed an inaudible “sorry”.

But the restaurant guys would not agree. After much persuasion, the owner told them the price of the Mentos and Sudhir placed the money at the counter which the owner was still mortified to accept. They all felt sorry for the little boy. With great hesitation, they took the money and in return, dotingly handed over two lollipop candies to Armaan as a gift, which he aacepted, but with his head bowed down deep, so much so that, now he found it difficult to say a “thank you”.

At home, they found Armaan thinking about it, for quite a long time and seeking more clarifications on all that had happened today, after which he finally declared, “Mamma, I will not do it again.”

At least for now, the parents felt glad about the example that they had tried to set, to make him see perspective, by getting him to make a restitution. Maybe, he will need some more repetitions of this, but they were determined to do it and if required, arrange for him to be counselled.

At bedtime, as they all lied down to sleep, Armaan insisted that Akshita hug him and she immediately found herself lying down beside, caressing him. Once he drifted off to sleep, Akshita couldn’t help lovingly stroke and kiss her little boy, besides feeling bad for all that he had to go through today. But nipping this off in the bud was necessary, which could happen only if certain lessons were provided at the right time and in a manner that he understood.

She loved this little boy more than anything else in the world but, a bittersweet journey that it is, parenting does render its own share of ups and downs, she realised. Sometimes parents get no choice other than to act tough, but all in their child’s long-term interest and welfare. She was glad about the way they had handled the situation today.

Author’s Note:

Small children often take the away things they want, without seeking permission. They don’t realise that it’s wrong for them to do so or even understand the fact that there’s a cost involved.

Having come across a parent who decided to handle it through an illustration, I felt I should share the story.

Akshita went to the shopping mall, taking along her son, Armaan, since there was none whom she could leave him with. Six-year-old Armaan loved to accompany his mother wherever she went and would often tag along. Being an only child, he was pampered by his parents. But of late, he was finding them getting stricter, when it came to his behaviours on moral values, though he could never really fathom what they were trying to get at. Nevertheless, after much persuasion, convincing and scolding, he would reluctantly agree to all that they would insist.

Though his parents usually provided Armaan with everything he wanted, and probably much more, he still had his weaknesses. He couldn’t really resist taking the things he liked, even if they belonged to others. Occasionally, if anything caught his fancy, he would simply pick it up and bring it home, without bothering to ask for the owner. This could be a pencil, an eraser or even a small toy. Sometimes Akshita would have no peace, watching over him, while standing at the billing counter of a store, lest he slips in a chocolate bar or a candy, into his pocket.

Likewise, he would also forget or lose his things anywhere and even give up without a fight, if anyone wilfully took them. To him, the “concept of ownership”, was yet unclear and not quite decipherable. Therefore, he would find it difficult to differentiate between the things that belonged to him viz-a-viz that of the others. “Sharing is caring” is what he was taught but “sharing” meant only temporary use and did not fetch him the right to ‘take away’ what belonged to others or even ‘give away’ his own, was something that he was still unable to interpret.

When Akshita looked at his peers, many of them, were quite matured in their attitude for this age, with a few just like Armaan. In a bid to raise him with healthy ideologies, she would often try various methods to correct him. She would teach him to take care of his own things; forbid him from taking things that was not his; reproach and insist he return anything that he’s brought home, without asking; explain what “stealing” meant and it’s bad consequences; tell him stories of how thieves are eventually caught by the police who could really get nasty; create belief in god and explain him as to how god would be angry at those children who stole other’s things etc.

Though Armaan seemed to be slowly changing and had by and large improved, he was still unpredictable. There would yet be those brief instances, when he would be overcome by temptation and act upon impulse. A reluctant Akshita, knowing that he was yet going to need some time, to totally grow out of it, would give up but not without reprimanding him. At the same time, she would always remain on her guard and watch over his activities, whenever she took him out.

Today, they had entered a huge supermarket to buy out the weekly groceries. Armaan seemed to be behaving well in the store and Akshita felt glad about it. After they were through with their shopping, famished, they dropped into an adjoining restaurant and occupied a table.

Akshita looked around. It was a nice place. One side of the restaurant which had the billing counter, also displayed a huge variety of delicious pastries and chocolates. She placed an order for two sandwiches because Armaan loved them and they waited for the meal to arrive. During this interval, Armaan suddenly began to act restless. He refused to sit up and started moving about the place. Especially he kept frolicking around the chocolate-pastry section. Akshita could not understand what had suddenly gotten over him, when everything had been going well, so far. She guessed that the goodies were probably getting him, a bit far too excited.

“Armaan, come here and sit beta”, she would keep on calling.

The words just didn’t seem to get through to him, though. At times, she would warn him that if he continued behaving like this, she would cancel the order and immediately leave, upon which he would quickly bounce back to his seat. But then he would sit there for only two minutes and eventually get back to his prancing activity. Exhausted and tired, somehow, they managed to finish the meal, pay the bill and get back home.

During the night, she saw him munching something.

“What’s that you’re eating?”, she questioned.

“Nothing”, he replied.

“Whatever it is, SPIT OUT.”, dad commanded.

Armaan spit out a whitish lump.

“What’s that? Was it a tissue that you were chewing?”, Akshita asked disdainfully.

“No, it’s a chocolate.”, he replied, hesitantly.

“Show me.”, Akshita and Sudhir both demanded.

He pulled out a packet of Mentos.

“Where did you get these from?”, Akshita demanded, for that was never a part of her today’s purchase.

“It’s from the restaurant. I took it from there.”, he replied in a straightforward manner, with a childlike, innocent expression.

Akshita and Sudhir both got furious. A frustrated Akshita simply got up and spanked him while Sudhir began yelling at him. Akshita joined in the screaming too. At the end of the session, both declared that they would not talk to this bad boy, at which, a tearful Armaan, began crying and pleading a “Sorry”.

“Do you know what you’ve done?”, Akshita could not bring herself to relent.

“No.”, he nodded his head faultlessly.

“I only took a chocolate. ”, he replied in a small voice.

Sudhir glared at him.

“Because there were so many. But I took only one.”, he explained. The parents realised, he was trying to appease them with the fact that there were still several left behind, for the store-keeper’s use.

“Did we pay money for that?”, she jibed him further.

“No”, he replied innocently

“Did you ask that uncle whether you can take it? Or did you ask Mamma?”

“No” he replied, now, with an expression of having made a mistake.

They understood that rebuke was pointless because Armaan had not yet discerned anything.

“We’ll go to the restaurant tomorrow and pay up.” Sudhir suggested to Akshita.

Akshita agreed while Armaan intently listened to them, completely lost and trying to get a hang of what wrong he had done.

“Yes, and we’ll also apologise”, she added.

She then turned to Armaan and said, “Now, it’s YOU who will apologise. Not us. Because, it’s you who did it. You will say sorry to that uncle. Understood?”

“Ok. I will say sorry to uncle”, he agreed, not quite comprehending.

“Yes”, Sudhir agreed. Practice was better than preaching. Things sometimes needed to be demonstrated to make them see the light. Besides, Armaan needed to face it to sense the guilt, that was yet unknown to him. Today, for him, this embarrassment would be a small incident, as against the entire family losing face tomorrow, if this habit continues.

After sometime, a tired Armaan went off to sleep while a disturbed Akshita wondered, whether she should get him counselled, in case this behaviour persists.

Next day evening, as they all went to the restaurant, the waiter greeted them with a wide smile of recognition. Sudhir and Akshita headed towards the counter and explained that they wanted to pay for the chocolate that their child had unknowingly taken away.

The restaurant owner, cashier and the waiter, were all extremely abashed and firmly declined the money, for Armaan was just a child. But Sudhir and Akshita would have none of it because they did not want to encourage this practice with Armaan. He had to understand that what he had done was not correct. Next, Sudhir commanded Armaan to apologise. Armaan turned red- faced. His expression reflected shame and insult, as he mouthed an inaudible “sorry”.

But the restaurant guys would not agree. After much persuasion, the owner told them the price of the Mentos and Sudhir placed the money at the counter which the owner was still mortified to accept. They all felt sorry for the little boy. With great hesitation, they took the money and in return, dotingly handed over two lollipop candies to Armaan as a gift, which he aacepted, but with his head bowed down deep, so much so that, now he found it difficult to say a “thank you”.

At home, they found Armaan thinking about it, for quite a long time and seeking more clarifications on all that had happened today, after which he finally declared, “Mamma, I will not do it again.”

At least for now, the parents felt glad about the example that they had tried to set, to make him see perspective, by getting him to make a restitution. Maybe, he will need some more repetitions of this, but they were determined to do it and if required, arrange for him to be counselled.

At bedtime, as they all lied down to sleep, Armaan insisted that Akshita hug him and she immediately found herself lying down beside, caressing him. Once he drifted off to sleep, Akshita couldn’t help lovingly stroke and kiss her little boy, besides feeling bad for all that he had to go through today. But nipping this off in the bud was necessary, which could happen only if certain lessons were provided at the right time and in a manner that he understood.

She loved this little boy more than anything else in the world but, a bittersweet journey that it is, parenting does render its own share of ups and downs, she realised. Sometimes parents get no choice other than to act tough, but all in their child’s long-term interest and welfare. She was glad about the way they had handled the situation today.

Author’s Note:

Small children often take the away things they want, without seeking permission. They don’t realise that it’s wrong for them to do so or even understand the fact that there’s a cost involved.

Having come across a parent who decided to handle it through an illustration, I felt I should share the story.

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Affinity and Moods by Inkitoutpls - 4M ago

(Forceful religious conversions, making a spouse give up their personal faith in inter-religious marriages, is one of the very poignant issues, prevalent across our society since ages, which is what inspired me to come up with this fiction.)

It was 5 pm. As the rickshaw took through the traffic jammed roads and briefly halted by St.  Mary’s catholic church, absentmindedly, Shefali’s hands went up to cross herself, but she instantly recovered and stopped. The act did not escape her husband Amit, who appeared to be looking outside, for, unaware to Shefali, he had caught it through the mirror. He did not react but by the time, Shefali happened to look at him, he seemed to be lost in his own thoughts…a little disturbed.

Time had flown. Sixteen years into an enormously blissful matrimony and blessed with two wonderful children, 14-year-old Aarav and 10-year-old Asmita, their family had been complete. Their equation had remained enchanting, as always. He still remembered those days of their lovey-dovey courtship, where they would not step back from anything, for the rapture of just being at each other. Not a thing had changed. As he recalled the lengths to which Shefali had gone, in a blind bid to be with him, his heart overcame with love, gratitude and pride for the loyal companionship she had brought. She had never minded any of those sacrifices though he had never asked for it.

His extremely conservative family had been apprehensive and unwilling to accept Shefali, a thorough catholic Christian. But Shefali, not willing to give up, came to meet them and saw to it that they did. The dialogues between his mother and Shefali would remain etched in his heart forever, for they held nothing but her love for him.

Mom: Shefali, how is this possible? You are a Christian and we are extremely religious Hindus.

Shefali: But Aunty, I will not be able to live without Amit. Besides,  I love your family values and culture. I am willing to convert myself or do whatever the needful to be a part of your family. I will fully adhere to all your cultural practices and do everything you say. Knowing fully-well how religious your family is, it is my promise to never do anything otherwise. I will always sincerely strive to learn whatever you all teach me and never attempt to offend you anytime.

‘Unlike your culture, there’s no such thing as conversion in our Hinduism. You will always remain what you are and we will  be what we are. How can one even adjust to another religion, forget adopting it. Conversion? Huh! Impossible!!!’, Mom was just about to retort all this, but held back. The genuine plea in Shefali’s voice had touched her core. She could not ignore it. She had found it difficult to refuse her outright.

Yet,  mom had tried to stay a little curt.

Mom: I’ll have to consult our other family members. I cannot commit on anything.

But Shefali had not been the one to budge.

Shefali: Ok Aunty. Kindly let me know when I should come to meet them. – she replied nonchalantly.

When no response arrived for the next few days, Shefali again turned up at their doorstep. By now, Amit’s mom had understood that it was pointless. The force of love was powerful and unstoppable. When the heart wants what it wants, it simply wants without any logic or reason. Was there any point in trying to fight it? His mom realised that Amit liked her too and if the family consents, nothing else would make him happier.

Shefali was a neighbourhood girl, whom they had known very well for the last six years.  She had grown up into the woman she was, before their very eyes. A motherless Catholic Christian, she had been brought up by her late grandmother and father, as per their faith. A simple, sweet girl, she had been a close friend of their daughter Suneeti as well and that’s how she had arrived into their family circle.

As for Shefali, when the 18-year-old Amit walked into her life, everything changed. He came from a joint family where the members were very religious and sincerely followed their rituals. Every morning, without fail, the male members could be seen offering water to the sun. Inside their house, was a large temple, where people did their pooja, maybe thrice a day by offering, Kapoor aarti, dhoop and prasad. It was at these times that she loved the clinking sounds of the hand-bell, that came from their house and more than that, she loved seeing the handsome Amit, walk out donning that saffron teeka. He was so sincere, matured and obedient that she couldn’t help the feelings of love surging through, whenever she looked at him. Though she had kept her feelings to herself, it was by chance that Amit and Suneeti had happened to discover them and once they did, there was no looking back.

A sixteen year old innocent Shefali had been naive when she had fallen in love with Amit and unaware of what lay ahead. But her resolve stood firm. As an only daughter, her father completely respected her wishes. Amit’s family appeared reluctant and unwilling, but the siblings, Amit and Suneeti stood firm in their support of her. Though, the siblings had never been comfortable with her promise, at that time, this is what seemed the most sensible thing to do, in the face of the situation. And eventually, after they were married everything settled down, for true to Shefali’s word, she always kept her side of peace and adherence.

She had blended extremely well with the family members, given up eating non-vegetarian food, learnt their ways of life and almost forgotten that she was a Christian. The children too were never informed, for the question never arose. Eventually, his parents had passed away and after Amit had found a new job in Mumbai, he, with his own family, had permanently shifted there.

Today, for the first time, Amit realised that even though Shefali had given up all that was hers by birth, just to be with him, something of it still resided inside of her and that was her identity…her origins. She had subjugated it, side-lined it, discarded the recognition of it, for the sake of keeping up their happiness, but how can one miss it’s calling?

Doesn’t a true union of partners ask for a complete acceptance of each other faiths? And, doesn’t that include giving due respect to each other’s spiritual beliefs as well? He now realised that their so-called mutual love had always lacked in equilibrium, because, an ideal interfaith marriage demanded recognition of the divinity prevalent in both the faiths and non-interference into their partner’s freedom to pursue their spiritual goals.  While he felt extremely grateful for being blessed with a life partner like her, regret tugged his heart, for he had neglected her in that sense, all along. Morality demanded that, at least now, he reciprocate her love with an equal vehemence and in the same spirit. It was high time, he set her free.

Next day, he returned home with a small gift-wrapped box.

“Surprise!!!”, he loudly announced.

“What’s it, daddy?”, the children came running.

“…For your mom.” He declared.

“Show us what it is… show us please”, they began insisting.

“Wait, let your mom open it”, saying thus, he handed over the packet to Shefali, who took it, completely surprised.

When she unwrapped it, she stood stunned. It was beautiful Holy Cross in gold.

“But Amit..”, she was speechless. The children looked astonished

“But daddy..”, questioned Aarav.

“Yes son. We never told you. Your mom is a Christian by birth. Treating faith as a secondary concern, years ago, she gave up everything, mainly her identity, only to be with me. It is my duty to give back what is rightfully hers.

Shefali, the promise you made, was to my parents and my family. Today, they are no longer around us. I could never dream to deny you of your basic right to exist the way you should. Your religion is your birth right…something that your parents have conferred to you and no one has any right to take it away from you. No one can decide what you should or should not follow. I’m very sorry that I had taken it all for granted. So, henceforth please follow everything that gives you satisfaction, peace and happiness. It will be my duty to ensure that no one comes your way.”

He then turned to address the children:

“As for you children, remember that true love would always stay above any religion…there can be no greater proof of this  than your own mother. You must also know that your identity is hybrid. We’ll decide about your future at the right time, but for now, going forward, if your mother is comfortable, we’ll accompany her to the mass, as often we can.”

She stood looking at him with tears welling up her eyes, as the children proceeded to hug them both.

Photo by Jasmine Wallace Carter from Pexels

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My story published on Momspresso

#ImageBasedFlashFiction

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It was six in the morning. The cook had already left, finishing his daily routine of preparing breakfast and lunch. Adarsh got up and silently tiptoed into the kitchen, so as not to disturb Vartika. He switched on the coffee kettle, packed his own and their five-year-old daughter, Raavi’s lunch box. He then woke up Raavi and helped her get ready for school, since her bus arrived by seven.

Once Raavi left, he had his own breakfast and got ready for office, not forgetting to collect the soiled clothes and set them aside for the maid who was to arrive by nine. Before leaving, he looked at his pregnant wife, with a gaze that overflowed with love and affection. She was yet blissfully asleep. “Sleep well, my dear. See you in the evening.”, he whispered to himself and left.

The evenings were not very different either. The cook would arrive again to prepare fresh meals. After Adarsh was in, the family would have dinner, spend some precious quality time together and then he would proceed to load the dishwasher before going to sleep. A tuition teacher was hired to take care of Raavi’s studies since Vartika was in no position to exert herself. Every bit of rest she was getting was helping her sail through the pregnancy. His parents were to arrive by the next month to share the burden. Mom had hinted that if things went well, they could look at permanency, so that Vartika does not have to compromise on her career. The thought gladdened him. But more than that, what made him happy was finally they had accepted Vartika and Raavi, wholeheartedly.

He recalled that day, when he had broken the news to Mom. He had been moping around her, for five long hours, trying to discern how and when he could say it out and finally decided this was the moment.

Adarsh: Mom, I want to talk to you.

Mom: Hmmm…(she looked up, only to resume knitting)

Adarsh: I like a colleague of mine.

His did not miss the taken-aback expression on his mom’s face, who was trying hard to stay, as cool and unaffected as possible.

Adarsh (continuing): Her name is Vartika and she’s a divorcee.

At this, Mom stopped everything and straightened up.

Mom: I’m cannot say that I’m fine with it, for the news is certainly not giving me any comfort. (she bit out angrily)

She had somehow seen something like this coming. Why else had he been avoiding meeting any of the girls that they’d suggested all along, under those lame excuses?

Adarsh: Mom, but there is something else that I must tell you. Vartika has a three-year -old daughter, Raavi.

His mom immediately stood up, dropping all her knitwear, with a horrified expression on her face. The visible rage clearly signalled an oncoming storm. Warily, he kept looking at her, waiting for it to be let out.

Mom (screaming): Couldn’t you find anyone else for our family Adarsh? Was it worth rejecting all those girls, for this one? And how can you be sure she has been truthful about her background? And above all A CHILD?…sired by another man? WHYYY? And how are you going to convince your father? What will the society speak of us?

Mom, clearly upset, started weeping.

Adarsh: Mom please don’t jump into conclusions (Adarsh hastened to explain).

You have not yet met Vartika. She’s a very sweet girl.

Mom (scoffed): Girl?

Adarsh: Oh! I mean lady…very plain hearted…she has told me everything about her past…of how her husband would drink and abuse her. In fact, when I met her, she was extremely depressed and under a lot of pressure, as she’d been going through that divorce. She decided to separate from him only because she felt that her daughter would be better off without such a bad example of a father.

Though we blended instantly, right since we met, initially, I was only a shoulder to cry on…she used to discuss every detail with me and hear out my opinions. The friendship was more of a comfort-lending one…she used to be very sad at how her marriage had turned out…then gradually she began picking up the pieces, accepting her single status and we ended up being good friends. It never occurred to us that our friendship was getting thicker…Raavi was just a one-year-old at the time of her divorce and Vartika had once brought her to an office function…she was one of the cutest toddlers I’d ever seen…just like our Ansh (his nephew)…so adorable and innocent…I began dropping into their house, on my way home in the evenings, just for the pleasure of being with Raavi and eventually fell in love with both of them. Besides, I started feeling sorry for Raavi, about her fatherless situation and the way Vartika’s was struggling to balance both ends. My bond of understanding with Vartika was anyway very strong and so I thought why not?

But Vartika has always been extremely wary and reticent about this. She feels that with her background, it’s not fair to me or our family and has even tried to dissuade me. But both of us are aware of our strong camaraderie and that we like each other a lot.

Now, you tell me mom, how can I marry anyone else, when I so strongly feel like this for Vartika? Would it be fair to the other girl? And what is wrong with Vartika? That she was into a bad marriage was none of her fault. Also, one more thing…she is two years older than me.

That had been the final straw. She had simply lost it then.

Mom : WHYYYY? (Mom’s loud scream loomed across the hall.) Why did you have to choose only her to fall in love? Why not someone of a proper match? … someone younger…. someone not married…someone not with a child at least… so many alliances are coming for you and you don’t want to even look at any of them…WHYYY?

Adarsh (emphasizing in a matching tone): Because Mom, love does not seek perfection in a partner. Have you not seen what happened in the case of our neighbour, Sharmaji’s daughter? She is so beautiful, talented, qualified and despite all that, why is a divorce happening?

That shut her up. She pondered silently for a long time and said nothing…and probably even slept over it. She thought about it for some days while Adarsh, on his part, made every effort to stay controlled, never attempting to raise the topic himself. Before discussing anything with the family, she began discreetly enquiring with her close friends, about couples who were divorced and remarried, trying to understand their reasons and situation. She met Vartika personally and found her to be a person of simple values but at the same time, sensible and strong. And as mentioned by Adarsh, Raavi was indeed an extremely beautiful and captivating child. She then took it up with her husband. They met Vartika’s people, who were also equally apprehensive, because of an earlier bad experience.

Questions were raised by many people in the society, as to why Adarsh’s parents agreed to this marriage when they could have found a better situation for him. Some of them even regarded Adarsh’s choice quite doubtfully. But Mom had already prepared her answers. Anyway, she had no choice because, as Adarsh indicated, love with one and marriage with another one was not fair to anyone. And gradually, this marriage happened.

But mom had laid down a condition. Adarsh will have to stay separately with his new family for two reasons:

(1) Adarsh and Vartika, would need time and privacy, to develop enough mutual understanding over their responsibilities. Hence, the presence of in-laws could likely create a mayhem.

(2) Vartika was a divorcee. Should anything go wrong in their son’s marriage, they did not want any part in the blame-game. It was better that the parents’ stayed entirely out and see where things eventually led.

Of course, these reasons were not revealed to Vartika but nevertheless, she comprehended and understood that she had a larger part to play, if she had to get them together in the long run.

But, as Adarsh had assured, everything fell into place, for the couple seemed to have the knack of adjusting to each other very well, in working out their domestic affairs beautifully. When people saw how Adarsh doted upon Raavi, they began realising that parenting is something that came from the heart, for which one need not be a father by procreation. With that, Raavi, naturally, became a part of her extended family. Everyone commended Adarsh’s maturity and large-heartedness here, while he attributed it to being in love, besides the support and understanding from his own parents. With trust rooted firmly in place, the bonds in the family only grew deeper, loving and more respectful.

And now, after two years, when Vartika, who was expecting their first child, was advised a complete bed rest, Adarsh’s family could not be more than elated and promised to be there for them, in every way possible. Vartika was more than happy to have given them a reason to come together again.

To everyone, it felt like the biggest valentine’s day gift ever, for they had got a real proof, in coming to realise that love is something that’s mostly never perfect…but it’s an emotion whose existence could only be FELT…probably in various forms…say like it’s abiding…true at heart…there’s a sincere will to share…it’s most often fearless…unconditional…empathetic…something that sets one free and yet brings joy and peace to the soul.

If this was not a blessing, then what else is? For, only this kind of love has the power to move mountains.

Photo by Ibrahim Asad from Pexels
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