Monthly Archives

April 2018

AtoZ Challenge 2018LifeStyleParenting

A Zen Life – #AtoZChallenge 2018

posted by Anupriya April 30, 2018 0 comments

Mr. Gunjal was busy getting the house in place. He also made his wife chalk out the food menu for whole of next week, and stocked up the kitchen with every single item that would make his grandchildren happy. Candies, lollipops, all kinds of berries available in the local market and kids favorite fruits – he had it all sorted. Mrs. Gunjal though, was more excited to have her girls to herself for an entire week. Their husbands were to join only a week later for the celebrations.

Oh yes! There was to be a celebration in the Gunjal household. Mr. Gunjal was getting retired after a fruitful working stint of 40 years in the same organization. As was a popular culture, everyone expected them to throw a party to celebrate the occasion. The girls weren’t very keen though. They were of the view that, it was better to spend money on travel than on throwing away money on feeding people. The girls were well aware of their parents’ struggle throughout their life. They knew that their parents had lived life on a shoe string budget to save for their education and marriage. Now they would have none of it and ensured that their passports were made 6 months prior to the retirement and planned to send their parents off to a foreign location for a holiday. But Mrs. Gunjal insisted that they throw a party for the near and dear ones.

‘Let this be an excuse to meet those people who have played a significant role in our life’s journey.’ She argued. Everyone including Mr. Gunjal conceded to her wish. And now here he was, preparing to welcome his girls, grandchildren and his sons-in-law. He was thrilled at the idea of having a full house for a full week.

Mr. Gunjal was 19 years when he figured a job opening with a local newspaper where he could do night shifts and study during the days simultaneously. He went for the interview and was ecstatic to have obtained the job. Marriage followed four years later after he managed to buy a 1 BHK house for himself. His family was back in the village in UP, but he was sure that he wanted to settle in this city where he had initially come to complete his graduation. Mrs. Gunjal was a moderately educated but a wise girl who put her heart and soul into her household. Together the young couple started gathering blocks to build up their castle.

Amrita came into their lives after two years of marriage and became the apple of their eyes immediately. Mr. Gunjal ensured that she got into the best city school which was a high ask for the couple. They were hardly graduates and were most comfortable in vernacular. To be able to get their daughter into a convent school was a dream come true for them. But once Amrita got into the coveted convent school, the struggle  to manage the school’s expectations and ensure good performance by Amrita began.

5 years later Smita came and completed their family. Mr. Gunjal who was ahead of his times with his thoughts was surprised when friends and relatives instead of congratulating him, actually expressed their sympathy for having another girl. This did not deter him from celebrating the arrival of his younger daughter with full fervor.

In the years that followed, he was often cornered by his own parents to give it another shot and try for a third child in expectation to have a boy child, his answer was a firm shake of his head.

‘I am a middle class salaried person. I want to give my kids the best education available in this city, for which I have only limited resources. I will not jeopardize their future by bringing in a third child and increase my expenses.’ would be his reply.

In the years that followed, the couple who took this bold decision for their times, got caught in a constant tussle with the world to prove that not having a son wasn’t the end of the world.  It was more important to cherish what one had and provide their kids the best of the world that they could afford.

The next two decades were followed by the Gunjal household getting caught in a race to perform well and ensure a secure future for the Gunjal girls. Mr. Gunjal was very clear about one thing and he imbibed the same in his daughters,

‘The future is going to be all about education. And it will be imperative for every girl to be financially independent. Pursue a stream that will ensure that you have a career and a salary to live life on your terms.’ Mrs. Gunjal who had harbored similar dreams in her childhood but never managed an education beyond 12th standard seconded her husband’s views to the T.

‘There never was a surplus penny in the house. But neither did we ever feel the lack of any resources that were necessary to up our game in life.’ Amrita is heard saying these words even today, whenever a discussion about her growing years crops. The grounded upbringing was something that both the sisters took pride in even today.  It shadowed all their resentment about not having lavish holidays, visits to restaurants for dinners or movie halls. Because they still remembered how their father had brought the latest video gaming console for them because he believed that it would help them develop various life skills.

When Amrita started college, she was an out and out extrovert participating in various extra-curricular activities. Thus spending hours after classes in the college campus and reaching home only after dark. Mr. Gunjal quipped at his wife’s objection,

‘If you expect them to up their game and have an edge over the crowd, you need to be bold enough to let them spread their wings and fly.’

Infused with confidence, Amrita went to do her MBA and obtain one of the best offers with a coveted employer. Smita followed suit and got herself a seat in an even better MBA college the year Amrita got married.

The only mole in an otherwise yielding life for the now aging Gunjal couple was that their girls had now really put on wings and flown away from them. Like quite literally. They were both in different ends of the country and the couple was getting old and lonely.

Mrs. Gunjal took more time than her husband to come to terms with the situation where she had no body to take care of and look after. Her girls were all grown up and had their own lives to lead. She was most relieved when Smita one day introduced Sharman to them who worked with her but belonged to the same city. She thought that her daughter would have more reasons to come back to their city now. Amrita choosing to marry a guy who was a native of a far off state had upset her to no extent. But she had come to terms because Raghav was a real gentleman. The perfect guy that the Gunjal household needed as their elder son-in-law. He was dedicated and valued them as much as his own parents. And Sharman only complemented him in every manner.

While Mrs. Gunjal sometimes still resented the fact that they were left alone in old-age with both their kids settled far away, Mr. Gunjal reasoned pragmatically,

‘Let’s not look at it as a custom where the girls have to move away with their husbands. In today’s times, boys too move to far off locations for career advancements. We can’t be selfish to hold them back. Each one has her own destiny and they ought to live their life with no strings attached.’

For the last half a decade, Mr. Gunjals’ life had fallen into a routine. He would spend the mornings taking care of his garden and exercising. Then he had a very light and healthy breakfast before leaving for work. Once back home in the evening he would have his green tea and suit up for his long evening walk. He walked almost 6-7 km on an average and encouraged his wife to do the same.

Smita would sometimes quip at her father, ‘Papa! Why are you making such a big deal about fitness? Please be easy on yourself.’

The old father who now wore salt and pepper hair would give away an all knowing smile.

‘If we remain healthy you can be free to live your life as per your will. I do not want that any of you two be tied down to us because of our ill health. So beta, our health is our wealth. It is the only legacy that this middle class father can leave for you girls.’ Smita looked on in awe of her forward thinking and ever planning father.

Today is the day when Mr. Gunjal has retired from his job. His daughters with their husbands, his two grandsons from Amrita are all infront of his eyes running around to meet the guests and making the party a lively affair. How he wished that Smita plan to have a kid soon and he see his family more complete. As he greeted the people thronging the terrace of his home to wish him luck for his second innings, Mr. Gunjal looks around and meets Mrs. Gunjal’s gaze. The slight nod from his lady, acknowledges what he has conveyed to her through his smiling eyes.

The message that he has conveyed is,‘We have met every challenge of life heads on till date.  Let’s enjoy our second innings with the same poise. Looking forward to the Zen life that awaits us.’ She smiles all knowingly and nods with a promise to confirm to his words.

Read my other AtoZ Challenge posts here

AtoZ Challenge 2018MotherhoodParenting

Trying to be a Yes Mom – #AtoZChallenge

posted by Anupriya April 28, 2018 0 comments

Amrita woke up with a resolute gleam in her eyes. Raghav immediately sensed that his wife was upto something and asked as he picked up Nik in his arms to wake him up.

“What’s up wifey? You look like you are prepping yourself up for something today.” Amrita grinned and nodded with appreciation at her superbly observant husband. Yes I am on a very important mission today, she thought.

“I’m going to be a YES MOM today.”, announced  Amrita inviting a confused frown from Raghav, who was still struggling with a sleepy Nik. “I’ve been reading a lot about negative impacts of saying no to kids. They are all talking a lot about being a YES MOM and how it can be a booster for your kids’ growth and development. So I decided that I too must give this YES MOM thing a shot.”  Amrita further explained.

Raghav smirked and whispered something into his son’s ears. Nik immediately jumped up and gave out a loud shout of joy. Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018LifeStyle

Xerox Habits – #AtoZChallenge

posted by Anupriya April 27, 2018 1 Comment

Amrita wasn’t really feeling like socializing at the party today. It was short call from her mother-in-law to get ready for a family get-together in the honor of …. ahh forget it! With a family gathering almost every week, it had stopped mattering to Amrita what the occasion was. She had set a code with her mother in law, Radhaji to figure how pompously or soberly she should get dressed for the occasion.

“Get ready for a normal gathering dear. Raghav will pick you up by eight and I’ll stay back home to be with the kids.” a brief call by Radhaji was enough.

On another occasion, she would say, “We need to go to a large family gathering dear.” an indication enough for Amrita to up her dressing quotient a little for the occasion. She would gather the details of the gathering on her way in the car.

It’s not that Amrita did not enjoy going out. Infact she really liked meeting most of her husband’s cousins and had come to be friends with quite a few of them over the years. It’s just that the frequency sometimes got on to her. Nevertheless, Amrita did look forward to meet people especially after she had left her job.  These gatherings gave her the necessary oxygen to keep going through the motions of her otherwise monotonous life.

As Amrita entered the banquet hall at a newly inaugurated restaurant, she saw that around 50 people had already graced the occasion of annotation of one of her husband’s cousins as a Doctor.

Amrita shared warm pleasantries with most of the people present already. And then got into a her comfort zone with some of her husband’s first cousins and their spouses.

“So Amrita, what are you upto these days.”

“Nothing much. Just waiting for Nik’s vacations to begin and start packing for our trip to my sister’s place.”  Amrita said with a glint in her eyes.

“Oh! I happened to see your sister’s wedding picks on the social media. You two look so similar. Almost like twins.” exclaimed a cousin, as Raghav joined them at the table offering a mocktail made to order for his wife.

“Yeah! They are twins. Didn’t you know.” Raghav took a dig at his cousin as well as his wife, who he knew was tired of people calling her and her 5 years younger sister as twins.

“Yes! We do look similar. But twins? Please give me a break. They mean to say that either my girl looks beyond her age or I do not look my age. I chose to take offence on both.” Amrita often quipped whenever someone compared her and Smita as twins.

“But you two do look like ditto!” Raghav would then reply as a matter of fact and Amrita would sigh admittedly.

“I know. God it must be some very strong DNAs at work.” she grinned as she gave her husband a sharp look.

“Yeah in our case DNAs havn’t done their job too well.”, an eves dropping aunt pitched in.

“Hi there, Massi! How have you been?” Raghav turned towards his aunt and gave her a side hug. The short and stout lady ruffled Raghav’s hair fondly and asked him about her sister’s where abouts.

“Oh! Somebody had to stay back to look on the sleeping kids. Ma insisted that we go and she stay.”

“Oh! But talking about the DNA thing, you know what the similarities are not just about the looks.” Everyone looked on amusingly at the 50 something lady. They knew she would have something interesting to share with the group.

“Oh Mom! Please, we do not need your woven stories today. Just not in the mood.” said Mohan, the elder son, whom she dismissed with a slap on his arm.

“So when we were young we four sisters shared the room and our two brothers shared one room and the parents and grandparents shared one bedroom each. So that left no separate room for the guests whenever there were any.” Radhaji’s elder sister had everyone hooked with her stupefying story telling skills.

“So once my maternal cousin came stay with us and decided to take turns to sleep in each bedroom so as not to cause too much continuous discomfort to anyone in particular. After four days of his stay, he walked upto to my mother and asked her, Bua are you trying to save money? Is there a problem?. My Ma was almost bewildered at this question, so she asked her nephew the reason as to why he thought so.” It was evident to everyone that the older lady was going to come up with some thing really funny, because she was already grinning thinking about what was to follow.

“So what had happened?”

“Ahh! My cousin had spent four nights sleeping in four different rooms of the house with different occupants and he had not been able to have a sound sleep because even during the month of June, our fans were running at low speed. When he mentioned this to my mom, she said that in her room they preferred slow speed of fan because that’s how  her husband liked it and she had gotten used to it. Later that evening, when she mentioned the same to my Dadi, she got a similar reply. Betaji, your Dadaji likes the fan slow and so I too got used to it. In our times who would object to the husband’s will. It was revealed at dinner that all six of the siblings also like the fan to be slow. I find the loud noise of a fast running fan to be very distracting, said the younger one of your uncles.” Listening to this everyone in the group broke into laughter. That is, except for Amrita and Raghav. Amrita was startled, while Raghav was grinning.

“Maasiji, you mean to say, it’s a DNA thing. Your habit of liking the fan slow!” exclaimed Amrita. To this she got a long faced nod from Raghav’s aunt. And she herself slapped her forehead in response as everyone looked on in confusion. So Amrita decided to explain,

“So every since we’ve been married, I have had this basic difference with Raghav where he would want the fan slow even when I would be sweating. He just wouldn’t give in. And his explanation always is, I find the loud noise of a fast running fan to be very distracting. Thank god we have air conditioners, otherwise I would never be able to sleep in the same room with your nephew.” Amrita blushed at her last sentence and everyone in the group broke into a loud roar.

Well that’s some complex percolation of DNA across generations creating Xerox habits.

Read my other AtoZ Challenge posts here

Kid IssuesKids Learning

Will My Child Grow Up To Be What He Should Grow Up To Be?

posted by Anupriya April 26, 2018 1 Comment

Oh No! Please do not judge me as a mother who has already set goals for her kids to grow up to be a doctor, or an engineer or even a dancer or musician for that matter. At the same time neither am I sure nor do I commit to be that liberal mother who might just take it in my stride when Nik might grow up and come up to me saying, “Mom! I want to be a communist activist! I will fight against the capitalist system that is ruining our country!”

Then, what is it that I am really scared of? Before I answer my own question, let me take you through a small background of why this question has been troubling me for a couple of days.
Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018Kid IssuesMotherhood

A Worried Single Mom – #AtoZChallenge

posted by Anupriya April 26, 2018 0 comments

Amrita picked up some pastries and muffins from their favorite bakery and proceeded to her friend’s place. Sakshi had been a sole friend in the town ever since she came to live here post her marriage. They had met as client and vendor in her first job at a web designing company and hit it off almost immediately.  What Amrita appreciated most about Sakshi was that despite being a single mother of a 14 year old boy, she never played the sympathy card in any of her commitments. Instead Sakshi was a bad-ass woman, who knew what she wanted from life.

“The father of my child, my then boyfriend doesn’t know that I gave birth to this child. I decided to bring my child into this world and raise him all alone. And I have no regrets about my decision”, Sakshi was often quoted saying to her friends. Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018LifeStyleMotherhoodParenting

Has the Real Village Burnt ? #AtoZ Challenge

posted by Anupriya April 25, 2018 0 comments

Amrita was exhausted. She couldn’t manage the pick-up and drops for Nik’s activity classes all alone anymore.  With a little baby to nurse to, Nik’s hectic routine was taking a toll on her. At moments, she wondered if she should discontinue with some of his classes. This she contemplated would give some breathing space to him and to her. But then I would have two kids in the house all the time to take care of, she argued mentally. That would be even more hectic, she reasoned shuddering at the thought of near future when the little Lucky would no more be constricted to the cot. As she envisioned herself running after her two kids all over the home, she had creeps about how she would manage life with two boys in the house.

Amrita really wished she had some neighbor who would have kids her boy’s age and would be willing to pool and take the kids to the activity class. Things would be so much more manageable then. The thought made her brood at the fact that they were living in an independent house and not in a residential complex where most of the activity classes happened within the premises and the kids could be left on their own within the safe confines of the complex.  While her husband had grown up in the same house, where they currently resided and boasted of having a fun time growing up while playing with friends on the streets, she hardly ever saw any kids playing the roads these days. Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018ParentingWoman Empowerment

Unwarranted Extravagance on Wedding Ceremonies – #AtoZChallenge

posted by Anupriya April 24, 2018 0 comments

“Everything about last night’s wedding ceremony emanated opulence. Isn’t it?” Smita remarked as she propped her back on Sharman’s shoulder.  Last night they had attended the wedding of the sister of Sharman’s colleague and thereafter had a Saturday night out at the night flea market, shopping for decoration pieces for their home.  They were now enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon post a late brunch. Sharman was watching his favorite sports series on the television while Smita picked up a latest release by a popular mythological fiction author. But Smita’s mind kept running to the wedding function she had attended last night.

The venue was like straight out of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie. Decorations were abundant with colors and the choicest of accessories complemented by artistic lightwork. The garland exchange ceremony of the bride and the groom was set-up on an elevated revolving stage fitted with torch lights and flower pumps. It had felt like the Gods themselves had descended to bless the couple. It was not just the decoration, the food was galore. Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018Motherhood

Tears of a Childless Mother – #AtoZChallenge

posted by Anupriya April 23, 2018 0 comments

Amrita woke up at her regular time and realized that no one had unlocked the main gate of the house. She frowned as she cocked her head to look out as it was very unusual for her mother-in-law to be late. By this time everyday she would usual leave for the cow shed to collect milk.

Amrita hurried towards her mother-in-laws room to check on her and got her fears confirmed. The old lady was down with fever.

‘Please ask the domestic help to go and get the milk from the shed’ said the old lady in a semi asleep state. Amrita nodded to her and instead of telling her maid to go and get the milk she decided to go herself instead. Morning air would do her some good to awaken her mind.

At the cow shed she saw that the milkman was still milking the cows to give her the daily assured amount of milk for their family. Amrita often thought very irritatingly of her in-laws insistence on getting the milk from the cow shed. ‘This is the only cowshed left in the area. This too shall be shut very soon. Why can’t we switch over to packaged milk’ she had often argued. But to no avail. Nevertheless, as she sat in the waiting area overlooking the cows being milk in the traditional manual way, she kind of cherished the moment. Such antics, our kids will never be able to appreciate. Lost in her thoughts, she was brought back to the moment by a loud mow of a cow.

And there she saw her.

Mrs. Kedia looked nothing like her age. Her supple and clear skin and stiff and lean structure, made it impossible for anyone to believe that she was nearing 50 years of age. Everyday, around the same time in the morning she would come to the cowshed and feed hay to the cows with her own hands. Amrita saw that while she patted the cows one by one to feed on the fodder, she whispered in small sentences in the ears of the cows. It was as if she was having a meaningful conversation with them. If the neighborhood was to be believed, she had been following this routine like a ritual each day since last 15 years.

Amrita had heard Mrs. Kedia ‘s story from her mother-in-law and had wanted to throw up at the grossness of her situation.

Mrs. Kedia’s first born saw the day of light for just a month when he succumbed to chronic fever. The family grieved the demise for a couple of months, but rejoiced the news of her pregnancy only six months later. And this time there was double reason to celebrate, when months later she gave birth to twin boys. The household was bright with lamps and colorful bulb lights to celebrate the arrival of the twins.

Life was bliss for young Mrs. Kedia as she reveled in her fast growing twins. Time flew away in an eye’s blink and when the twins were 5 years old, she realized that she was expecting once again. Mrs. Kedia prayed to god that she be blessed with a girl child this time. Her family would be complete then. She spent her days, praying, working on the home chores and taking care of her twins, who were now going to school.

A couple of months later, Mrs. Kedia frowned for a couple of seconds, but did not really complain when the mid-wife brought a little boy-bundle of joy in her lap. But her heart went out for her husband’s younger brother’s wife, who had three girls and had medical lost all hopes of conceiving again. She looked at the tiny bundle of joy in her hands and then looked up to her sister in law. She tenderly signaled her to come near her and passed on the little boy wrapped in white cloth in sister-in-law’s hands. The mother of three girls looked on in disbelief. Her wide eyes questioned the implication of her elder sister-in-law’s action.

Mrs. Kedia smiled and nodded assuringly, telling her sister-in-law without words that she knew what she was doing. She understood how difficult life was for her younger sister-in-law. In those days society considered a woman incomplete if she failed to bear a boy child for the family. She was only insuring that life would be easy for her sister-in-law. Everyone else looked on appreciatively at her benignity, and the younger Mrs. Kedia fell down at the feet of the woman who had blessed her with a boy child.

The kids began to grow in a joint household, but the young Mrs. Kedia could not keep up her promise of gratitude over the years. She became more and more possessive of ‘HER’ son and did not like it when he addressed his taiji as ‘Badi Ma’. She snapped at him whenever he threw a tantrum that he wanted to eat with the elder boys what his ‘Badi Ma’ had cooked. One day the insecure mother declared  that they wanted to move out of the joint household and live separately.

Mrs. Kedia though hurt did not object and thought it only logical that the boy stayed with her mother without causing her any agony. She smiled sadly at her sister-in-law’s decision and got on with life.

Life seemed to be taking a smooth course untill tragedy struck Kedia household once again. And this time it came with a double blow. Mrs. Kedia had gone to the neighborhood to attend a ceremony while the boys decided to stay back and spend the evening playing. They went to the terrace to fly a kite. Some time later, a kite got stuck on the branch of the tree that was seemingly just at a hands distance from the concrete fence of the terrace. One of the twins, decide to go bold and smiled daringly at his brother telling him that he was going to get the kite back.As he climbed up on the concrete fencing wall of the terrace to reach out for the kite, he lost balance and fell down. The other twin looked down in shock. After moments of remaining numb, it occurred to him that he must run out to call his mother. Back then mobile phones were not common enough. Their father did have one, but he carried it with him for work purposes. He ran urgently towards the neighbor’s home across the road where he knew their mother had gone.

As he thought of his brother lying in a pool of blood, he ran mindlessly ignoring the speeding bike that was approaching from the end of the street.

The entire neighborhood looked tearfully at the double tragedy at the Kedia household in the form of bodies of two young boys that lay covered with white cloth. Those who heard the news, rushed the Kedia house expecting to hear heart rending wailing of a mother who had lost both her kids in a blink. But no! everyone was disturbed by the composed demeanor with which Mrs. Kedia sat at the corner. Tears refused to give away from her eyes that were set on the lifeless bodies of her sons. Relatives tried to bring her to realize the catastrophe that had hit her life by shaking her vigorously. But to no avail.

Mr. Kedia agonized by the possibility of losing his wife to the tragedy tearfully walked upto her and cried inconsolably while holding her hands. People who had witnessed this felt their blood freeze as they watched the couple who had suddenly turned childless. But Mrs. Kedia did not yield. Instead she held her husband’s hands and rubbed them trying to comfort him. What she said next has become a folklore for everyone present in the house at that time.

‘If this is what God has planned for us, we are nobody to question his will. And if he had planned to inflict pain in my life in this manner, I refuse to give in and shed even a single tear to impart him any satisfaction. Our 15 year old sons will remain alive in my memory forever. You too must not fear anything. We have a life together. Let’s not pain our sons’ souls by crying over them. Their onward journey will only become more difficult.’ She hugged her husband who was crying breathlessly.

Life continued for the Kedia household thereafter. Mrs. Kedia kept herself busy with more religious engagements like the one she practiced by spending time with the cows at the cowshed.  The gwala at the cowshed had once told her mother in law about a dialogue he had had with Mrs. Kedia.

‘Sister, why don’t you ask back for the son you had given to your sister-in-law? She still has her three daughters. You will not remain childless once you have him back.’

With a determined expression, Mrs. Kedia had replied, ‘If it was for me to bring up that kid, impulse would not have caused me to give him to my sister-in-law. He isn’t a property or a donation, that I can ask back for. And who knows, the reason why he is alive today is because he is being brought up by a different mother. I don’t even want to think about his destiny, if he were to grow up with me.’ She looked on at the cows with affection. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears that had become a part of her.

Read my other AtoZ Challenge posts here

Blogging

Studying Abroad – Steps to take Care Of #DefinitelyPTE

posted by Anupriya April 21, 2018 0 comments

Never in the past was studying abroad so enticing and affordable as it is today. The last two decades were the era of brain drain of various working professionals in industries such as Information Technology, Automotive Engineering etc. But this decade is seeing a rise in percentage of youth who wish to go abroad for academic advancement and bring back the knowledge to their country, apply it and contribute to the development of our society and economy.

As a admissions consultant for students aspiring to study abroad, I have come across various challenges that students face while planning their study abroad. As a parent, I feel that it is imperative that all parents are aware of these challenges as they support their children in their career aspirations. Continue Reading

AtoZ Challenge 2018LifeStyleMotherhoodParenting

The Surrogate Mother – #AtoZChallenge2018

posted by Anupriya April 21, 2018 0 comments

Amrita looked on at the drama unfolding infront of her as she put little Lucky in the high chair and put a bowl of carrot infront of him. She had suffered so much with Niks eating habits that she decided to try out baby led weaning with her younger son. And was she disappointed? Not at all! At 9 months, Lucky ate all the fruits and finger foods on his own. She had to start with use of spoon and bowl with the boy soon. Amrita made a mental note of the same as she looked on at her elder son throwing a tantrum in the lobby.

‘Why do you have to go?’  Nik sobbed as he held on to Sandhya. Sandhya was short enough for little Nik to reach upto her waist and hold her tightly making it difficult for her to move. Sandhya’s toil worn face let out a mild smile as she ruffled 5 year old Nik’s hair,

‘I’ll be back in a day or two, Nik Baba’ she said in an assuring tone in her quaking voice. Her eyes checking out the wall clock repeatedly, fearing she might miss the direct bus to her village.

‘But please don’t go. What if I miss you? And what if Lucky misses you?’ Nik whined his hold still tight across her waist, he looked up pleading at the old lady with smoky grey hair.

Amrita observed Sandhya di’s face and realized that her eyes had become red suddenly. Probably due to the burning of tears that did not come out. Her heart went out for both her son and the old lady. She decided to put the old lady out of her agony lest she might miss her bus. Amrita moved towards her son and pulled him apart from Sandhya and held him tightly in her arms.

‘Nik baby, do you like to go to your Nani’s home in your vacations?’ Amrita continued when Nik nodded in affirmative, ‘Sandhya di also needs to go to her Nani ghar once in awhile. We must let her go.’

‘But I will miss her too much.’ Nik complained.

Amrita hugged her son and patted his back. Pulling him apart she smiled into his eyes, ‘She will miss you too dear.’ She turned towards Sandhya who stood looking at them with a torn expression, ‘Sandhya di, please be back soon. Nik will really miss you too much. Promise him that you will be back soon?’

Sandhya to overwhelmed to say anything, nodded quickly and put her hand on Nik’s head before quickly turning around to pick up her bags and leave the house.

Amrita let out a deep sigh and smiled at her elder son and distracted him with his favorite Cartoon show on the television. She settled back on the couch with a quick glance on the road outside watching Sandhya hurry away with tiny but hastened steps. Her thoughts automatically drifted towards the time she had met her for the first time.

Sandhya had started working in her mother-in-law’s household when she had been a young girl herself and Amrita’s husband Raghav had been as old as Nik. She had since been a permanent member of the same household. Even though Sandhya routed all her earnings for her ailing parents’ treatment, brother’s study and younger sisters’ marriage, she never married herself.

‘If I marry, I may not be able to work and earn as much.’ Sandhya gave a simple reply with a lopsided smile whenever asked the reason for not getting married in her hay days.

When Amrita became pregnant with Nik and was put on bed rest due to certain complications, Sandhya took it upon herself to make sure that she ate the right things at the right time. Amrita almost felt exasperated at the feel of having another mother-in-law hovering over her all the time, and a stricter one at that. When Nik was born, Sandhya volunteered to take care of the boy, while Amrita recovered from her C-section surgery. Even in the midst of the night, when Nik started wailing, Sandhya would pick him up to comfort him even before Amrita got up to check on him.

As Nik began to grow, Sandhya took over the responsibility of his nanny. She would massage him, give him a bath, feed him and play with him whenever she was not busy with other household chores. At that time Amrita had been really relieved, because she planned to join work in a couple of months. The very fact that Nik bonded well with Sandhya and spent a considerable amount of his awake time with her, came in as a major point in her favor, when she put her case to join back work infront of her mother-in-law.

A couple of months back in work, Amrita’s gratitude turned into jealousy when she would come back home and Nik would remain busy with Sandhya completely ignoring her presence. Amrita wished to spend all her time at home with Nik, only if Sandhya would allow that. A tiny squeal from the little one, and Sandhya would rush to sway him into his embrace and comfort him until he was playful again. Amrita today let out a smile of disbelief when she recalled how she had been extremely frustrated at that time. She had even contemplated leaving her job, lest she might lose any significance in her son’s life. She remembered how she had been on the threshold of snapping at Sandhya and asking her to mind her own business while staying away from her child. But better sense had prevailed, and she decided to slowly wean her son away from the old lady.

But during a week long break at home due to an ailment, Amrita observed that the dedication and affection that Sandhya showed towards her son was at a different level.  During those days of forced rest, Amrita realized that the old lady with blood flecked eyes actually did not have a family to call her own. They were her family. She did go back to her brother’s family time and again like this one instance, but that was not because she cared much about them. It was more because she still felt a sense of responsibility towards them and wanted to check on their well-being.

After the leave ended, Amrita felt a new sense of gratitude towards the old lady for loving her son as her own and made it a point to thank god everyday for having Sandhya in her life.  She knew that if for some reason, her mother-in-law or she herself were busy or tied up with an emergency, there was Sandhya di to take care of her son as good as like a mother.  Or maybe even better, Amrita contemplated. These days, when Amrita looks at the aging Sandhya who has slowed down a bit physically, she shudders at the thought when this surrogate mother to her kids, might not be fit anymore to take care of her kids. How then would she manage the household? Or more importantly, how would she ever be able to fill the gap of her absence in her kids’ life? With a little prayer for Sandhya’s long life – her kids’ happiness Amrita gets up and gets on with her work.

Read my other AtoZ Challenge posts here