The Gold Chain --contd
by Meenakshi Kumar
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Sanju was looking at his house, the forlorn house in India; where he had spent his childhood. Long blades of grass had hidden it from view from outside. The brick boundary was covered with a sheet of green and brown algae. Few bricks had broken from the centre of the boundary wall, and the portion of the wall visible from some distance had “BABA CHAAP ZARDA” the ad by the most selling tobacco company in the city.
Sanju`s feet stuck to the land. He wished Amma had come out of the door and wrapped him in her arms. While his gaze fixed on the entrance to his house, he felt a soft hand touching his shoulder. He turned his face to look at the person who had kept his hand on him. It was Shambhu Chacha, Sajjan's father's best friend and their immediate neighbor.
Before Sajjan could say anything, Shambhu chacha held him from the side of his arms and led him towards his house which was just few steps away.
'How are you, Sanju…? Did you receive my letter?'
Sajjan nodded, 'Yes chacha! Where is Amma?
'Amma kept waiting for you Sanju, but her body did not support her. She left us forever..!' said Shambhu chacha.
Sajjan almost froze to the land where he was sitting.
‘There are very few ladies like your mother, Sanju.' Shambhu kaka continued, 'She would bear all pain by herself, but she did not let you have even a trace of her problems. You got married there in US and she celebrated every ceremony of your marriage as if you were with her. She would send you her best wishes through her heart.'
After a pause, he continued, 'From past few months she had started working harder. Earlier she took tuitions for an hour to keep her busy after her retirement from school, but for the past few days she was busy the whole day in taking tuitions despite her failing health. Both your Chachi(Aunt) and myself tried our best to dissuade her, but she did not listen to us.'
'We even told her to go to you to US, but she would always make an excuse that she cannot go and stay anywhere else except her home. She would say when Sanju will come with his wife and baby she would organize a grand celebration.'
'With the onset of winters, her health started deteriorating. One day she had severe attack of asthma. Shyamu, your servant, was knocking frantically at our door. I took out my car and me and your chachi rushed to the hospital. Even before reaching the hospital she breathed her last breath.'
By that time Sharda, Shambhu chacha`s wife, had also joined them. She said, 'Sanju my son; Padma entrusted me with a responsibility before saying her final goodbye to this world.' Saying this she handed a packet to Sajjan. Sharda chachi said,’Padma was confident that you will come to see her after the birth of your baby; she had asked me to keep this packet safely and hand it to you when you come to India.
Sajjan took the packet with tearful eyes. He started to open the packet when Shambhu chacha added ‘Sanju don`t open the packet in front of us; open it when you are with your family, or else let us leave this place.'
Sajjan said, 'Chacha you people had been more than family to me and my parents'. While saying this he gratefully looked at Shabhu Chacha`s wife, his eyes still full of tears ready to spill out to his face.
Sajjan opened the packet; folds after folds; layers after layers, and after the last layer he saw a discolored pair of his woolen baby set which Sajjan very well remembered.
At the end of every winter Amma used to put all woolen clothes in sun before packing it in boxes for the
next winters, and she would fondly hold the baby woolen set in her hands and become lost in memories. That baby set was prepared by Sajjan`s maternal grandmother when Sajjan was born. Amma always used to say that she would knit beautiful sweaters and baby sets for her grandchild.
Beneath the old baby set, there were two more new woolen sets that Amma had prepared with her hands. Sajjan picked up each piece; the baby cap, the socks the sweater and started to judge his mother`s emotion in every item she had prepared. Within those woolen cloths there was a pouch made up of silk with a silk thread passing through the hole that ran the entire length of the pouch. The pouch was tied with knot in the thread by pulling the thread to close the pouch opening. The pouch carried the name of ‘Shantilal jeweller’ written in big bold black colour. Sajjan opened the knot in the thread to widen the pouch opening. Inside the pouch, there was a ‘gold chain’ wrapped in red paper with a small pendant of Lord Ganesha dangling in the chain.
Seeing the gold chain, both Shambhu chacha and his wife looked at each other; Shambhu chacha said, 'So this was the gift for which Bhabhi had started taking extra tuitions despite her bad health. Whenever we asked the reason for her exerting so much she would say’ Shabhujee you will come to know soon about the reason.’
Sajjan brought the packet near his chest and clung to it as if it was his mother; he cried bitterly, his heart felt as if it would explode from grief. Shambhu chacha kept his hand on his head and said, 'Look your Amma is seeing you from Heaven. She will feel the pain on seeing you cry like this.' **
Sajjan sat in the ambulance along with Tanya. Her water bag (amniotic fluid) had burst and hence Sajjan rushed to the hospital as per the directions of her doctor. After few hours of surgery, Tanya delivered a baby boy, but the baby had died in the womb.
Sajjan's heart wrenched with grief; trying to get back his composure he went to meet Tanya in the room. Tanya had blank expression on her face. She was listlessly looking at the wall clock. She did not even look at Sajjan when he moved in; he sat on her bed.
He had nothing to tell her; exercising good amount of restraint on himself to hide his grief at the shattering of their beautiful world of love, he held Tanya's hand and covered it with his other hand. Tanya`s face looked repentant. Tears were flowing down from the corner of her eyes. Without turning her gaze towards him Tanya spoke, "Sanju, may be God wanted me to understand and feel the love of a mother for her child before I have my child in my arms. It is now, I can feel the pain your Amma must have felt for you when you were not beside her. How the heart of a mother craves to have a look of her child which can make her forget the greatest of the pains."
She folded her hands and looked up towards the roof of the room, and begged ‘I`m sorry Amma. Please forgive me.’
Sajjan`s lips trembled with the weight of emotions. The feelings crossed all boundaries, and he started crying bitterly hiding his face in his own hands. Both were crying so that the tears could wash the pain from their heart. A little while later, when Sajjan regained control of himself he remembered the gold chain which he had been carrying with him from the time he was back from India. He took out the gold chain and put it in Tanya`s hand saying, 'Tanya, we will keep Amma`s blessing for our next child.' Both looked at each other and hugged. ****