The Last Anniversary
by Sangeeta Saha
Nandita cherished the golden orange mellow of the sunset sky and the flight of homeward birds from her south-facing sixth-floor balcony in Palm Avenue. She lifted her coffee mug and whispered to herself, “Cheers to our 40th anniversary Auro.” Her lips bore a sunken smile and her eyes were smeared by some blurred images.
“O, welcome home at last! So you couldn’t make out time for dinner even today.”
“And what’s so special today, your Highness!”
“So everything fades out after ten years I suppose!”
“Ah, it was some an-ni-ver-sa-ry! O c’mon, don’t act childish. I had a long hectic schedule today and then an important meeting and then…” Auro didn’t have any senses to speak further. He was fast asleep with his coat, tie, shoe attire.
Rage and despair choked Nandita’s voice but suddenly her heart skipped a beat when she noticed a traumatized face hiding secretively behind the long curtains of the doorway. It was Aalok, her eight-year son.
Nandita spent sleepless nights holding her son firmly until he fell asleep. Aalok was suffering from trauma and insecurity for a long time then. His little heart couldn’t calculate why a man he knew as a friendly Dad suddenly turned into a frightful merciless stranger.
Aurobindo Chatterjee was the chief executive of CIC, Chatterjee International Company. But twelve years ago he was a bright student of St. Xavier's with a dream to build a better environment and social standard of the downtrodden. Nandita was moved by his idealism and strong conviction. When they passed out college Nandita was in a trance, totally engulfed by Auro’s personality and the dreams he drew in her eyes. They soon got married in court against Nandita’s father’s wish who wanted to send his daughter to study abroad. He refused to give his blessings when the newly married couple went home to meet their parents. Nandita vowed in her mind that she would never return to her parents home unless her father calls them. She was overwhelmed by Auro’s love and was ready to assist him day and night in social welfare. But as days passed Auro’s idealism faded and his temperament changed. He followed his father’s footsteps and began to assist him in his business. Very soon success and power reigned his lifestyle.
For a couple of years, Nandita had a faint hope that Auro will spare some of his valuable time to devote himself to the commitments he made to materialize the mission he used to dream of. But she was wrong. With each day Auro got entangled more and more in the increasing responsibilities of the company. Aalok was born and Nandita engaged herself looking after her child still hoping that one day Auro will regain his lost emotions through their son. But she was wrong again. With each passing year, the gap between Nandita and Auro widened more and more. Auro not only proved to be an insensitive husband he could not even become a caring father.
Aalok never felt comfortable with his Dad. He was afraid and traumatized when he watched his father screaming loudly and being violent usually when he came home totally drunk at late hours. Nandita was so desperate to protect her only hope, her child, from a mentally disturbing circumstance that she decided to get separate from Auro. After ten years of bitter married life, Nandita left home with her eight-year-old son.
Nandita brought up Aalok with the affection and care of both parents and a time came when Aalok’s world was only his mother. As time went by Aalok excelled in the academic field and proved himself eligible to get a scholarship in economics at the Edinburgh University, UK. For the past two years, he had been the H.O.D of economics in Goethe University, Frankfurt and was also engaged in the global economic exchange programmes.
Aalok’s mission of life was to make his mother feel proud and to show that all her
effort and sacrifice did not get in vain. He communicated daily with Nandita and urged her to stay with him and always be by his side. But Nandita never agreed. She had so much to do. By that time she was a renowned author. She could well maintain her life without anybody’s help. In the early years of the separation, Auro got mad to be parted from his son. But the bitter part was that Aalok himself refused to meet his Dad. His trauma turned into a strong aversion and hatred towards the man who abused his mother. For Nandita it was not a feeling of triumph, it was a mixed feeling of regret and helplessness. After much arguments, Auro gave up finally but regularly sent a whole lot of money for his son’s education. Nandita donated most of it in different charitable institutes and NGOs. Now she herself runs quite a lot of orphanage and women welfare society.
This could have been a story of satisfaction and fulfilment of all the wishes of Nandita. But it was not. For the past six months, she was suffering from a feeling of guilt. The first ten years of her marriage, life was not at all smooth. It was full of disturbances and hopeless arguments. The next twenty years were also full of difficulties to bring up her child properly and to struggle for the establishment of both herself and her son. In the past ten years as her life just began to smoothen up and she just started to spend her days with a sigh of relief something was still disturbing her mind.
Auro’s reckless life proved to be fatal for him. Two successive cerebral attacks paralyzed him totally. It was followed by a massive facial palsy which distorted his face and made him unable to speak properly. Nandita visited him from time to time. He was under the surveillance of nurses for twenty-four hours. Auro’s boastful egoist attitude subsided as he laid helpless and numb like a vegetable on his bed or wheelchair. Whenever he saw Nandita his face twisted in pain as he mumbled his last wish to meet his son. Nandita’s heart filled up with sympathy and pity. One day she informed Aalok about his father’s illness and how he was eagerly waiting to meet his son. But she was shocked when Aalok shouted out furiously and refused to visit his father. He also said that he did not like the idea that his mother visits that man regularly. Nandita was shattered to the core of her heart. Aalok spoke so arrogantly that he sounded exactly like his father from whose influence Nandita tried to protect her son with her utmost effort. But she realized that she failed to bring up the modesty, compassion, and tolerance in her son’s nature.
Then the day came. It was their fortieth anniversary and obviously the last one. Auro was having breathing problems for two days and was shifted in the ICU of the Fortis hospital. He was kept in ventilation but the doctors gave up hope. It was a multiple organ failure. Nandita had no wish to go to the hospital, instead she requested Aalok for the one last time to acknowledge him that it was his duty as a son to be with his father in such a situation. Aalok sounded so harsh and cruel when he refused again saying that even death could not mend up the gap between them! That day Nandita repented as she thought that she probably made a wrong decision to separate the son from his father. A sword of realization was stabbing her mind saying that a grand qualification was of no use if it does not glorify the good qualities of a person.
Nandita sat alone in her balcony till the last ray of sunset subsided into the dark sky. Two drops of tear full of repentance streamed down her cheeks. ***