Aren't We A Family?

By Srijaya Char

Sarita at 26 sat staring at her father’s photograph that she kept within her wardrobe.  She felt nostalgic about the days that she had spent with him as a little girl; she was vaguely aware that her father had done something that had upset her mother and that they had a few quarrels regarding ‘some’ incident which she could not fully understand. But as a little girl she was fond of her father and was also aware that she was an adopted girl and was not biologically related to them; but the love and affection that she received from them was something that she cherished till today. It was sad that her father was no more.

The phone rang. “Hello, she said.”
I am Veda. Remember me?”
“Veda, how can I ever forget you? Where are you?” Sarita was excited
“I was wondering whether I should come home. Would you mind?”
“Come Veda, why do you ask?”
“Sarita, you know my mother’s relationship with your father. I also feel that your mother resents me.
“I have nothing against you. She may have her own feelings of resentment and hurt; but that is not your fault.” Please do come.”
“Do you know that Ranjan has left for USA? He has completed his CA and is working for an American Firm now” –Veda said very casually.
“Yes. Ranjan. The name rang a bell. Yes I do remember him. We were good friends in college."
“Okay, I’ll try and be there in the next hour.” – said Veda
“I feel a little uncomfortable when your Mom is around. Is she there?” – Veda said a bit hesitantly.
“No Come” –she said and disconnected.

“Who were you speaking to?” asked Laxmi as she came in to her room..
“Veda.” – Sarita said without any hesitation.
 “I’ll be at Jadav Mall till 6.00 PM from now. Hope you will dispose her before I am home,” said Laxmi and left with a handbag.

Mom thinks that she has every right to be upset about Veda’s visit. What wrong did Veda do? Could she be responsible for her birth? Why are adults so unreasonable?

“What a mess this world is,” thought Sarita. Adults commit blunders and children have to bear the brunt.  She was well aware that she herself was an adopted child and all of her parents’ relatives were aware of it. She was adopted when she very young. She was given all the love she needed from her foster parents and she had no qualms about anything. Though they did not share her blood with them they never at any time treated her differently. They loved her like their own child.  But, Veda was her father’s own daughter through Mallika. At least she had the privilege of sharing her father’s blood. It means that father was not sterile. It was Laxmi who could not conceive. Is that why she resents Veda? How could Veda be blamed for her birth? She was the kith and kin of her father outside marriage. Does that make Veda a sinner?  Many of the characters from our epics jumped into her mind. Sita was a foundling. Janaka brought her up with so much love and care. Dasharatha had three wives. Nobody cribbed. All the sons of Dasharatha were so close to each other. All the Pandavas were born to different fathers. Karna was abandoned by her mother; otherwise there would have been 6 pandavas. Most of our venerated epic characters had more than one wife.  How about Lord Krishna? He had two legitimate wives and several Radhas as girl friends. Didn’t they all live in harmony? Does it not speak of family bonding?

There was a knock at the door and Veda came in. Come Veda, How did you come?
“I came in my car.”
“Oh, that’s nice. You own a car?  How are you and what are you doing now?”
"I completed my MBA and I am a corporate Head of a company. I wish our father was alive. He would have been proud of me. It is sad that your Mom still does not accept me as a part of her family."

“Let’s not talk about that. Now, to tell you about myself; I am not as intelligent as you. I do not know my genes. May be I am the first generation learner. God knows! I just got through my commerce degree with difficulty. I am hunting for a job. Everyone looks at my marks and I get rejected.”- There was sadness in her voice.

“Don’t be so pessimistic, Sarita, by the way will you work for our company?  It is Sky High Financial Services. It is a subsidiary of Universal Jumbo Ltd. It provides financial services through technology to customers and is known for “thinking out of the box”. It has alliance with Romano Financial of USA. I may be able to recommend you for a lower rung job in our office. Interested?” asked Veda.

Sarita was partly listening and partly in her own world. If she was the ‘real daughter’ of Venkateswar and Laxmi she would have also inherited some intelligence from them. Her thoughts wandered. She had never been an A or even B grade student; and she had just passed her degree in commerce.

“Are you interested in working with Sky High Financial Services?” – She repeated.

“Yes. That would be nice. My academic record is not all that good. How will you recommend me?” – Sarita asked.

“Oh Sarita, we don’t require brilliant people to work at that level. If you work diligently with one of our auditors in the financial section, you can make it to the top after some years of experience. May be you need to take some exams after an internship.”

It was lunch time. She did not realize that she was talking to Veda for nearly one hour.

“Veda, have lunch with me.” – She said with warmth in her voice.
“No Sarita, your mother may be here any minute. She may not like it.” – Veda said.
“Mom said she will be back only at six in the evening,”
“But still, can’t we have lunch somewhere outside?” – Veda looked at Sarita’s face with hesitation.

Sarita called her mother and told her about her lunch program.. “Let us go out for a while. I have a lot of catching up with you.” – Sarita said as she went into the room to get dressed. Veda sat and looked at the photograph of her father. She had no resentment towards him or Laxmi. She thought of her mother Mallika who bore the brunt of being an unwed mother. She admired Venkateshwar for all that he did for her taking full responsibility in educating her and seeing her in a good job. There was no point in thinking negatively about his having had an affair with her mother and being responsible for her birth.

Ranjan who was a distant relative of Mallika was partly responsible for Sarita’s adoption into that family. Rajan’s parents in Tumlkur and had their own house and agricultural lands. They did all they could to see that Ranjan got a proper education in a city. While he was in school all the teachers who taught him were quick to recognize his intelligence and willingness to learn. When he was ready to go to college his School Head managed to sponsor him to a good College. Soon after his graduation he earned a scholarship for himself for his post-graduate studies and when he went as an intern to a Financial Company, the CEO Mr Nazim Jamal, gave him all the help required to earn excellent certificates and saw to it that he got into a big financial company as a Junior Manager. He worked hard and soon became the Head of his Department. He came across Veda in the same Financial Company where he was working as a Charted Accountant. Veda was a fresher and an assistant to another auditor and it was Ranjan who took great interest in Veda’s job. He also realized that he was her distant cousin through her mother Malllika. They became good friends and by and by he came to know all about her. They were good friends and got along well.
.
When Mallika was down with the dreaded disease; he tried his best to be of help to the Venkateswar  though Laxmi and her relatives never took him in their fold and fostered him as a relative.  Mallika was never dependent on anyone. She worked and earned and owned a small two roomed apartment that she bought herself.

**

Veda drove Sarita to a good food joint and they enjoyed their lunch talking about all and sundry. Sarita made a mention of Ranjan more than twice asking her about his work, his place of stay, his future plans and finally made a mention that it was a long time since she saw him and would be happy to meet him if he came to India sometime. “When is he likely to come?” –Sarita asked.

Veda knew that Sarita was fond of Ranjan. “Why shouldn’t you contact him by e-mail? I have his email ID. I’ll give it to you.” – She said as she took out her diary and gave her his mail ID.

“I wonder whether he would like it.” – Said Sarita with hesitation

“Why not Sarita?” He has been good friend to you. I hardly contact him though he is supposed to be related to me. I have nothing much to say to him. You have been in the same college and you will have more things to say to each other.” – She said.

Veda dropped Sarita home and did not get down from the car as she knew that Laxmi would be back and would not want her in.   Sarita could read Veda’s mind and she did not insist on her coming in. She got down and waved while she left.

Veda was good looking and had a svelte figure. She resembled her mother Mallika who was beautiful. Being an adopted daughter, Sarita was neither like Laxmi nor Venkateswar, but she could be described as being charming with a warm smile with dimpled cheeks. They were in good terms with each other... She had argued with her mother several times that she was not doing the right thing by not accepting Veda as a part of the family... She was tired of telling her that she should be fonder of Veda than her as she had her father’s blood. What wrong did she do?

“What is family and what is family relationship?  Here we are just four of us, mother,
Veda, Sarita and Ranjan in the same town. The main elders Venkateswar and Mallika were no more. Should we not bond as one family? Each one is related to each other and each one is on her or his own. Is this called a family? Our closeness cannot be called closeness of a family because of many reasons. But don’t we belong to a family? Mallika has a sister.  She is in Ajmer; married with children. Has she ever tried to contact any of us? No. Sarita knew the answer. Indian family relationships were false.  Just because of the accidental birth of Veda to her foster father everyone seemed uptight. She could not figure out who was at fault. Though she was an adopted daughter, everyone welcomed her in the families of both her parents but no one seemed to be in favor of being in touch with Veda. It was unfair. Our own epics always eulogized children born to parents out of wedlock. Even taking for granted that they were all concocted stories, they did have some lessons to be learnt. Temporary infatuations, illicit relationships, illegitimate births, bigamy; everything was accepted and there was no stigma attached to any of them. It is only in the present century that we scoff at western way of life but think that all that we are doing is right and fair when it comes to family relationships. We are experts in giving titles like ‘Pativrata’, ‘Sumangali’, and ‘Gruhalakshmi’ to women and put them on pedestals but get treated like door-mats by men. When will these deceptive expressions get uprooted from the psyche of our society?” – Sarita was in her own world of thoughts before she fell asleep.

It was the August of that year and when she received a call from Veda’s company to attend an interview, she was taken aback. She had not even applied for a job and a voice told her that she was expected to meet Mr. Venugopal, the Manager of a branch of Silky High financial Services the next day at 10.00 AM.  “Sure, I’ll be there.” was all that she could say. “Should she call Veda and ask her for details?” – She thought. She even picked up her mobile; but on second thoughts, she just left it at that. “She would not even tell her mother.” – She would just go with her certificates and see what was in store for her.

She did not sleep well that night. She tossed and turned. She got up the next morning; and felt rather vague about everything that was happening around her. The person who had called had given her the address of the Branch Office.  She had her breakfast with her mom silently. “You don’t look very well, Sarita. Is something bothering you?” – Asked her mother Laxmi.

“Nothing mom, I didn’t sleep well last night. I have a slight headache. By the way, I have an appointment with a company today at 10.00. I shall be going. Some sort of an interview. I’ll try my luck.” – She said nonchalantly.

Sarita got ready to leave home, “All the best Sarita.” Was all that Laxmi said as she left.
“Thanks mom” – Said Sarita and left home.

The interview went off well and Sarita was given an appointment order on the spot. “You need to assist our Senior Accountant Mr. Sastry. Meet him tomorrow with all your credentials, he will brief on your job. You will be paid Rs.15,000/- as a starting salary and you can work up on the ladder with your talents and hard work. I am satisfied with your knowledge of the work and your ambitions.– Mr.Sastry had said when she left.

There was jig in her steps as she reached home and hugged her mother. “I made it. I got it. I will be an Assistant Accountant working for Mr Sastry at Silky High Financial Company. It is branch of the main office where ……..

“Veda works there. Isn’t it?” – Asked Laxmi.
“Yes” – Said Sarita expecting some negative remark from her mom; but she said nothing.
Instead she said “Wish you a good career.” – Sarita felt relieved.

** 

Sarita did well in her job, took up some training, did an internship with a senior and became the section head in her Office. Veda had left for USA on an assignment and was expected only after six months. She had told Sarita to visit her mother sometimes as she would be alone and liked her. She was playing with this idea for sometime now. Mallika was a very nice person and Sarita’s association with Mallika was really very cordial and friendly. ‘What if Venkateswar had a relationship with her?” – It mattered very little to her. After all, he was her foster father and not a biological one. He was only her guardian during her childhood and when he died, all she knew was that she had lost a fond father.  She was just about 11 when he died and she had almost forgotten him.


Six months passed and Sarita came to love her job.  Now it was almost time for Veda’s return from abroad. Sarita was eagerly waiting for her arrival. They had been in touch through e-mail and she knew what she was doing and when she would return.

Sarita received a call from Veda about her return from USA giving her the date and time of her arrival. Sarita was quite excited! ‘Mom Veda is coming back from USA next Saturday. I am going to the airport to receive her.” – Sarita was delighted.

She gets a car from her company and she known her way. Why should you go? – said Lakxmi.

“No, I want to go. She has been responsible for my job and career and I want to give her that importance. I will go whether you like it or not.” – Said Sarita vehemently and left.

She took a day off on the Saturday when Veda was arriving and went to the airport to meet her.  Sarita suddenly taken aback when she saw Ranjan as both of them walked past the airport lounge after the security check. Her eyebrows went up and she greeted both of them with a “Hello and welcome home”. “How come Ranjan is also back? You never mentioned about it. Why?” – Sarita asked Veda while getting into Sarita’s company car. “Will you come to my house?” – asked Sarita with a bit of a hesitation in her voice.

“Not now Sarita. I need to meet  Ranjan and see him off. and I have some formalities to complete at my company. We’ll meet again sometime soon. I have something very interesting to tell you.

“Interesting?” – Sarita’s eye-brows went up.

The story continued here...........