The Business Deal - continued
by Suneet Paul
Back to Page 1 of the story
Seema was delighted to see her and ran into her open arms, “Dadi, it has been such a long time since we met!”
“Yes, it seems like years.. You are never here even during the holidays. When did you arrive?” she asked, wiping her tears of joy on seeing her grandchild.
“Last night. Why, didn’t anybody tell you?”
Dadi sat on the bed and replied, “Well, I hardly meet anybody. Everybody is so busy. My time is mostly spent with myself and my God.” There was a child-like smile on her face.
“And how’s your health?” Seema asked cheerfully.
“I am passing time getting prepared for the call from God,” she said softly.
“Oh, come on. Dadi, don’t you say that. Everybody loves you so much,” Seema impulsively jumped to hug her.
“Yes, everybody is around but I live on with memories.” Dadi pulled her close to her chest.
Benu wanted to enliven her spirits. “Dadi, do you remember the old song you used to sing to me daily?”
Dadi laughed, “Ah- yes. But my voice’s dried up. Come, let’s sing together.”
They started singing and both were once more transported into the happier world of yesteryear. They were reliving the old times. When the song finished, they burst into loud laughter. It was if they had lost their way and suddenly found the right track.
Dadi asked about her hostel, food, friends and life there. She was once again her chirpy self. Seema, feeling stimulated, shared with her everything. She suggested that Dadi shift to Kharagpur and they could both rent a flat there.
“No, bitiya. I no longer have the strength to do that. Let me spend my last days here in peace.”
“Dadi, I am here till this evening. I would like to spend the rest of the time with you.”
“Of course, but aren’t you going around to meet your friends?”
“I don’t feel like going anywhere. It’s the same talk- parties, clothes, film stars. I think I have outgrown that age.”
“Already?” Dadi covered her head with her dupatta* as she settled down for a serious discourse with her grandchild. “Often, we do the same things again and again, but perhaps it becomes relevant because the context changes,” she said with a smile. “Your mother still talks of clothes and fashion as she did at twenty-five.”
“But there’s more to life than just that. I want to make it meaningful, purposeful--.” Seema had a confused expression on her face.
“Bitiya, we generally live our lives according to our customs and society. If one decides to carve an exceptional life for oneself, it is thought to be unusual. But yes, to act according to one’s beliefs is important.”
“Carrying on aimlessly, to me, is a hollow way of living. And people are no longer their true selves today.”
“But why are you bothering your little head about the whole big world, dear? Yours is the age to live life to the fullest with joy.”
“But, Dadi, I find doing many things meaningless.”
Dadi felt disturbed at the anguish her grand-daughter was undergoing. She was reminded of Seema’s childhood. She used to pose difficult questions even then. She had always been different from the other children.
Raman entered the room and finding Seema there, said, “I have been looking for you everywhere. Shall I cook your favourite dish of mixed vegetables, Seema bitiya? Or would you like something
“Go by Dadi’s choice.” She fondly turned her energizing young eyes to the withering face of her grand-mother. “Shan’t we have your makki ki roti and saag today, Dadi?”
“It has been a long time since I last tasted it.” Dadi seemed to be already savoring the flavours of the saag.
Raman nodded genially and returned to the kitchen.
Sitting with Dadi, Seema felt loved and protected. Just then, Vanita called out for her. She got up reluctantly and went to the sitting room.
“See who’s come to meet you,” said her mother enthusiastically.
Seema greeted the two ladies seated on the couch. The room was afloat with perfume. Both the ladies were wearing heavy jewelry. Mrs. Parashar was a good friend of her mother’s but Seema had often overheard her gossiping about their family.
“Come, darling! We are meeting after a long time.” Mrs. Parashar extended both her hands as if to hug her.
“How are you, Aunty?” Seema remained where she was. “You are looking younger.” There was a twisted smile on her face.
Mrs. Parashar took it as a compliment, “Thank you,Seema. But you are looking older.”
Seema laughed, “Someone has to grow old, Aunty.”
Vanita, sensing Seema to be in one of her typical moods, intervened, “Seema dear, please ask Raman to bring in the coffee. He has become slow these days.”
“Everything takes time, Mama,” Benu remarked calmly, already on her way to the kitchen.
Vanita remained busy with her friends through most of the afternoon. Seema spent the time with her Dadi. After a while, they were not talking much, but just sitting together gave them comfort and a good-feel-factor.
Amol rang up late afternoon to say bye to Seema as he would be coming home late and most probably, would not be able to catch-up with her. He explained that a legal clause had to be satisfied before the deal was finally signed.
Walking to the backyard, she found Ankush working on his bike. He was going to participate in the motorcycle race scheduled for next week. Memories of her childhood came into her mind, gleefully running around in this large courtyard. Life was then so pleasantly different, so exciting and playful. She decided to go back to her room and start packing for the Shimla trip. (3)
Ankush stood numb for a while after having attended to the landline call. It was from an Inspector from a Shimla police station, informing that the deluxe bus that Seema had boarded last night, had met with a serious accident. Seema was one of the passengers who was injured critically. They wanted the family to come immediately to the Shimla main hospital. Coming back to his senses, Ankush realized that his father had left for the airport a while back. Amol was going to Mumbai for the same business deal. Ankush made a dash for his mobile phone- to call his father.
Amol had just reached the airport when he received the call from his son, who sounded panicked and scared. He heard him out. There was a pregnant silence for a while. Amol then spoke, “Ankush, your mother and you should leave for Shimla immediately. I’ll join you there tomorrow.” The businessman’s voice was regaining its steadiness, “I will lose this business deal if I don’t go to Mumbai today.” ***
Sahib* - Sir, Bitiya* - daughter, memsahib* - madam, Dadi* - grandmother, dupatta* - scarf, makki-ki-roti* - corn flour, saag* - spinach