by Meenakshi Kumar
(New Delhi, INDIA)
I was hurriedly taking bites from mouth melting, freshly prepared muffins when mom called out to check whether I had taken my bath or not..!
"Mum…i`m o..oing"… making an attempt to prevent the food to fall out of my mouth, and the voice finding it difficult to come out correctly as my mouth was full to almost its maximum capacity..
Saying this I rushed towards the bathroom as I was fully aware that mom would not wait an extra second to reach the inauguration spot of Rani Aunty`s new muffin store, and I could have missed being part of the fun party at the new store.
This store was a part of dream project of Rani Aunty who wished to create a space in the city where families could spend some moment in peace. There was a play area with few nannies to take care of kids while the couple could enjoy shakes, salads, cakes and the store specialty ‘the Muffins’ and get the dose of freshness.
Mom had taken leave from her Bank for the inauguration and her leave was fully justified because she was the one who had to cut the ribbon and declare inauguration of the store. Definitely this would raise anxiety in the mind of readers to know more about Mom, because one needs to be a public figure having risen to the status of a celebrity to announce the beginning of an important event in someone`s life.
Mom occupied a place higher than any celebrity in Rani Aunty`s life. Then it was also not a long nurtured relationship..it all started just six years back…
We had gone to spend our holidays at our granny`s house. Usually grandpa and grandma would come to Delhi during our holidays because it was difficult for Mom and Dad to manage leave. Then it was a good change for our grandparents to come out of their traditional home and stay with us.
When granny became seriously ill then there was no option left for my parents than to be at the granny`s side and look after her. Dad stayed for a week and once granny started recovering he left because he had a project getting delayed due to his absence. Mom decided to stay back with me and my sister to take care of granny.
Granny had a good support system of servants and a whole big family of neighbors’, who were always ready to help in her problems and celebrate the joys of life.
Granny`s illness had made our house a hub for get together in the evenings. The male members would be back from work and accompanied with their wives they would come to inquire about granny`s health. At a place where electricity shows up just like an item number in a movie; gossiping serves as most important source of entertainment. So, granny`s illness became an opportunity to grab few moments of entertainment for all the well wishers of our dear granny. This opportunity provided benefits like the package deal on a product; people coming to inquire about granny`s health would have tea, snacks and gossip free in a cool room where inverter operated fan and light would work when all other houses would be lit by the light of lanterns.
Rajani`s marriage occupied the top of the gossip column of all visitors. There was a clear division of groups on this topic. Those in favour of Rajani were from pro woman group and called themselves modernists; their faces gleamed when they praised Rajani for her guts. They said, “Rajani has proved that nowadays` girls are no less than boys”.
Other group was staunchly against the freedom of women and quoted scriptures to prove that women were lesser mortals and intellectually low in comparison to men. They said, “Rajani should not have rejected the proposal. Now who will marry this girl? Moreover, she could have had the support of her husband to look after the family.”
The pro-Rajani group said, "What if the son in law would have refused to look after her family?” Poor Rajani she would have been
in no position to do anything for her bereaved family.
Somebody would say…"You see if she crosses her marriageable age there would be..."
And the discussion would go on and on..until granny would intervene. This was becoming a sine qua non of everday`s tete a tete.
Mom had the curiosity to know more about Rajani, but if she expressed her anxiety in public then she had the risk of getting her professional status being marred, which even granny wouldn`t appreciate. Mom`s professional qualification and her status of working as Manager in a public sector bank had added star in the status of grandparents because at a small and remote district of Uttar Pradesh; there were hardly few women qualified beyond a graduation degree, in granny`s known circle of well wishers.
Finally, one day when all guests had left, Mom hardly able to control her curiosity, asked grandma about Rajani.
Rajani was daughter of ‘Postmaster saab’, the village postman, who died of a heart attack few months back. Rajani was a beautiful and intelligent girl who was a University topper in her subject. After the death of her father Rajani refused to get married to the boy with whom she was already engaged.
The reason for not marrying was that she knew well that her father`s savings was the only resource left for the family to survive, and her marriage would cost her family the entire savings and even much more. How could have she left her family in lurch after her father`s death..!She decided to support her two younger brothers and mother rather than leaving them and being at the mercy of her husband and his family.
She had started taking tuitions and looked for a decent job to support her family. Unlike metro cities, employment opportunities and that too for a woman, is almost negligible at smaller places.
By listening to people`s discussion we had already developed a soft spot for Rajani, and her story moved Mom deep inside her heart. Next day, Mom took the directions for Rajani`s house from a servant, and after dinner we decided to take a stroll so that we could meet Rajani.
In the thatched roof, dimly lit house, there were three children sitting on a chair facing a pretty girl sitting across the table.. She had big beautiful eyes, fair complexion and her long hair formed into a loose lock near her nape. The serenity on her face glowing in the light of lantern was no less than the glow on the face of a beauty queen.
Mom did not like to disturb her that day. Next day she called for her and offered to get her a job in Delhi. Rajani`s family had no objection because my mother`s credentials were well known to everyone in the muhallah(colony).
Rajani, became our most favorite Rani aunty and came with us to Delhi. Mom got her a job as assistant in a private company. With Mom`s effort she could get a place in women`s hostel. Rani aunty was interested in cooking, so she attended a baking course during her weekends.
Thereafter, she started a mini outlet of snacks that she would operate on the weekends. It instantly became a hit and began the story of Rani's Bakery.
One after another franchisee stores were opened. Now the dream store of Rani Aunty was to start. In six years her life changed completely. Both her brothers are settled; one went abroad and another qualified for the officer`s post in the Government.
Then arrived the Mr. Perfect in her life. A well settled handsome boy who fell completely for Rani aunty`s looks and of course the taste of her muffins. With mom`s permission she got engaged to him and her marriage is due after the opening of her dream store. Her mother stays with her and she would continue to do so even after she gets married.
For Rani aunty, Mom occupies the place of an angel who did magic to her life.
Sometimes we need just the support of a hand and rest of the journey happens…. ******