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A Gentle Calling

by Priyanka Maurya
(Mumbai, India)

Standing in front of a birthday cake on which two pink coloured six and zero candle lit proudly, Mr Sudhakar was feeling overwhelmed. He was unable to fathom how his two daughters, two sons in law and his ten year old grandson were with him today, travelling from all parts of the country, just to spread a smile on this old man's lips.


He cut the cake amidst the happy voices which surrounded every corner of his otherwise quiet house “Happy Birthday to you...Happy Birthday to dear papa...Happy Birthday to you...!" His grandson's cheers being the loudest.
For a moment, Mr. Sudhakar's eyes went blur and two drop of joy made their way through his cheeks, down to the floor. With a lump in his throat, all he could say was, "God bless you beta...Thank you!"

On hearing this, his youngest, Anagha came to him and hugged him and said, "Ohh papa, please don’t cry.”

As Mr. Sudhakar was busy devouring his cake, Anagha came towards him along with Mohan, her husband and said, "Papa...there's something else we want to tell you."
Whether it was his age, or so many years of life behind him, such tone always made Mr. Sudhakar miss his heartbeat a little. With a piece of cake stuffed in his mouth, he stopped midway and just looked at them with anticipation.

Anagha, her cheeks flushed, she said with tenderness, "Papa...I'm pregnant. You are going to be a grandpa again."

Mr. Sudhakar who had held his breath for the few seconds, let out a small shrill of relief and pure joy. He kept the cake plate aside and hugged his little one really hard. He could not help but think ‘God...my little one has grown up!’
Letting her go, he embraced his son in law who was beaming with happiness and excitement for the new adventure which lay ahead of him. Everyone was screaming with joy. The house was filled with laughter. For a moment, Mr. Sudhakar felt as if Malini was right there with them, smiling and blessing their daughters.

"I wish mom were here today..." Aradhana, his elder, said standing beside Mr. Sudhakar.

To which Mr. Sudhakar patted her shoulders gently, longingly he gazed at the hung photo of his deceased wife Malini and said, "She's always here my love...she's always here."

It was almost dinner time and Arul, his grandson was running all around the house, playing with his toys, and giving background score for each toy vehicle he owned. Aradhana and Anagha were chatting and moving to and fro from the kitchen and into the living room, serving the special delicacies which they had cooked for the occasion. Sharad, his elder son in law, and Mohan his younger were engaged in an animated talk about the worldly news, seated on the couch with Mr. Sudhakar.

But Mr Sudhakar was quiet. He looked around himself as if observing it for the first time. A sense of contentment took over him, a sense of relief. He looked around the happy faces that had filled this place today, vibrant with energy and zest for life. His saw his two daughters and despite all his follies into raising them, they had turned into beautiful human beings. He saw a little of Malini in each of them today. A smile spread across his lips.

Beyond the happy faces, his eyes wandered around this house, this beautiful little house which he and Malini had built together with tremendous hard work, patience and abundant love. Every corner, every wall of this house was stamped with memories: memories of love, memories of togetherness, memories of the infant cries of their girls, memories of the growing up, memories of those tender bickering between him and Malini and then those shy, blushing moments of Malini when Mr. Sudhakar made futile attempts at bad singing in the hope of reconciliations, and those chirpy giggles of their girls looking at their father.

Then there were memories of loss, memories of that shock, anger and fear of Malini’s cancer, memories of the sheer helplessness which Mr. Sudhakar felt in those days, memories of their daughters’ confused and scared looks at their mom and dad, unaware of the future.

With these memories, also came the memories of the excruciating pain which his wife went through in her last days, and the same, (at times more) pain which he went through when he watched his beloved,
withering away little every day.

And then came those years of numbness which he felt after her demise and his absolute confusion as to how to raise their daughters alone, how to be a father and a mother to their daughters. And lastly his struggle, to force himself to breathe every moment, to wake up every morning without his better half, without Malini, for his daughters...for that one commitment which he made to Malini in her last hour.

Mr. Sudhakar closed his eyes, unable to relive all that again. He opened his moist eyes to the present, to this day, this point in his life where he for the first time knew exactly what he wanted.

**
The dinner was over and everybody had gone to sleep. Mr. Sudhakar slept in his room, his daughter slept together with Arul in their childhood bedroom and his sons-in-law in the living room. After a vibrant chaos of the day, the house was peacefully quite. All he could hear was the sound of crickets and one or two vehicles passing by.

Mr. Sudhakar was on his desk, arranging his medicine bottles, to make room for the letter pad. He opened a blank page and from the desk drawer removed a dusty old, ink pen and an ink pot. It was Malini’s favourite pen. Filling the refill with ink, he started writing:

Dear Malu,
I turned 60 today. Of course, you know that. Everyone had come to celebrate my 60th. It was a perfect day. Our little daughters have turned into beautiful women, beautiful human beings Malu. And I’m sure that Anagha will also be a wonderful mother just like Aradhana.

But I turned sixty today...without you Malu. Never had I thought the day I married you that this is how our married life would be! NEVER! Still, I have no complaints. Each day spent with you was like living a lifetime in it. I was so lucky to have you as my wife Malu...so lucky!!

I still remember the day I saw you at that bus stop, clutching the bag around your shoulder as if your lifeline resided in it. Watching you get into that bus everyday was the highlight of my day. I had to change two buses to reach work every morning, just so that I could be there at the time when you would board the bus.
From the day at that bus stop when you almost after a month of me just watching you, stood at the stop, letting the bus go by and for the first time, acknowledging my presence from that opposite footpath, till the day in this bedroom of ours that night when you were breathless and tired, knowing that it was time, my life was a bliss.

You gave me everything a man could ask for. But you left too soon Malu...too soon. There were so many things I couldn’t do for you...so much I didn’t say...so much I didn’t ask.

Neways... I am writing this letter to remind you of the promise which we made to each other. That night you took a commitment from me, commitment of being there for our daughter, commitment of moving on and living a happy life, commitment of being both a mother and a father to them, commitment of being strong and happy.
Today, when I saw our family in one room, today when I saw our girls, I realised that I‘ve fulfilled my commitment Malu. I did everything you asked of me. I did my best.

Now it's your turn to keep the commitment. Now, you have to fulfill your end. You know what I want and you are going to help me do it. You promised me that when the time comes, you will help me...

I want you Malu I want to come to you I want us to be one again. I kept my word dear, there's nothing here for me. I've lived. Now I don't want to live anymore. I want to come to you I want to be with my Malu... Help me Malu... Help me come to you..

I love you so much..... I love you so much....

Yours and only yours,
Sudhakar


The next morning, as everyone waited for Mr. Sudhakar to join them for a cup of tea, Mr. Sudhakar lay on his bed, a dreamless sleep, a gentle smile spread on his lips.
HE NEVER WOKE UP!!!!
***

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