Amrita was really worked up. She was to travel across the country to her parents in a week’s time and she didn’t know if she could manage the kids all alone. Actually, managing the kids wasn’t the real problem. The actual problem was what she would do if one of them started whining and pinning for their father. She remembered her last visit to her parents when Nik had started wailing within minutes of setting his foot in his grandparents home. Amrita had spent the next two days in a constant effort to keep him busy and amused before he became accustomed to the idea of spending time with his Nanu.
But now with two kids, Amrita was getting jitters of her lifetime. So much so that she even considered leaving Nik behind with Raghav. Nik could then travel with Raghav a week later. But wait! How could she even consider such a thing? She could already visualize her mother’s wide eyed in betrayed anger and her father’s misty eyes screaming extremely disappointment. Her mom-in-law once told her about how she was not allowed entry into her parents’ home because she had gone alone without any of the three kids. At that time, Amrita was just a new bride and could not fathom the gravity of the situation. She had found it absurd, ‘How can the grand children be so important that the daughter takes on a second place in the priority list?’ she had squealed amusingly. But now she knew better. Rather she knew more.
Amrita and her sister, Smita had never experienced grand-parents love for their paternal grandparents stayed too far away and given their parents’ limited resources, they could visit them only once in two years. And they had never seen their maternal grandparents. They had passed away in an accident even before Smita was born. Amrita knew that grandparents share a very special bond with heir grand children, but had never experienced it herself. Her first tryst with a gravity of this emotion was when her father had held Nik for the first time after his birth. She knew her father to be an extremely emotional man. Also one who was extremely fond of kids. But that day she had seen him hold 5 day old Nik in his palms, his eyes shining with unshed tears he was murmuring sweet nothings into his ears. Amrita realized that could never have fathomed the depth of this emotion from any stories that she had heard or read till date.
She knew that in her parents’ case the craving to be important to their grandsons was intense for one more reason. In his youth her father had displayed an extremely unconventional attitude in having just two daughters and not trying for a third child expecting a son. But now in his old age, when both his daughters were married and the old couple lived alone miles away from both their kids, Nik’s birth had given them an inexplicable hope. One, they were relieved that their daughter will not have the bear the societal pressures of bearing a son for a secure future. Two, they could now have their fill of having a little boy run around in their home which hey had never experienced till date. Well it will be two boys now, Amrita reflected.
Amrita recalled what her mother had told her when she met her after Nik’s birth. ‘I am glad that God blessed you with a son.’ Amrita had glared at her.
‘Oh, for me anything would have been a blessing. But I was scared for your Dad. He would have stopped believing in God otherwise.’ Mrs. Xxx had muffled.
It disturbed Amrita to hear what a mother said. Despite all their efforts to be responsible daughters who tried to be there for their parents as much as possible, her father still was stuck in the age old gender bias. Hadn’t he taken a stand for his daughters years ago, ‘I have resources to responsibly bring up only two kids. I will not risk their education and right to a bright future for my greed to have a son’ She had been so proud of her dad, when she had eves dropped on him having a discussion with her grandparents. She figured they had actually reprimanded him to give in to their wish to have a boy grandchild. Then why now had he succumbed to the societal pressures? Why had insecurity gotten the better of him? These questions were deep rooted and Amrita neither had the inclination nor the energy to find answers to them. She was too busy planning her trip to her parents the coming week. Her days began with a prayer to keep her kids in good spirits during their stay at Nanu’s and ended with trivia over how she would manage if the kids decided to go awry with their tantrums to go back home.
And the rest of the family just didn’t help.
‘I guess you should have planned a shorter trip. The kids might not like it there.’ said her mother-in-law nonchalantly. Amrita pondered. May be she is infact right. Here they live in a joint family with their cousins and a full house with 10 adult members. And there, it’s just my mom-dad. Should I shorten my trip? But then mom-dad will be hurt. A week in six months isn’t enough.
‘What will you do if they keep crying and ask to meet dad?’ her sister in law took a dig at her. Her already distressed mind was in panic. Thank god, there’s easy video chatting these days.
With clouds grey with doubt and apprehension, Amrita began her journey to her parents’ city. Her time in the airport went as per plan with nothing much to worry about. The only thing that bothered her was the constant phone calls from both sets of grandparents checking on their whereabouts and if the kids were fine.
Later, when they reached Nanu’s place, Nik was thrilled. Lucky had dozed off in her lap during their drive from the airport to home. Once home, Nik walked through the entire 3 BHK house, as if inspecting the space.
‘Nanu, what happened to the AC in your room?’ his clinking voice brought a wide grin on Mrs. Gunjal’s face. Amrita just sat at the dining table enjoying her favorite fennel sharbat and observed that Nik had remembered things from his last visit almost 8 months ago. Her gaze went to her father. He picked up Nik in his lap and begun a conversation with his eldest grandchild.
‘You do remember that there was an air conditioner in that room.’ Mr Gunjal was smiling ecstatically as Nik nodded in affirmative.
‘I also saw that you have put a new AC in Massi’s room.’ Nik fiddled with his Nanu’s stubble, before adding, ‘Can we take that room? I like the new curtains there.’
Amrita turned to look up at her mom and saw the satisfaction that she drew from Nik’s enthusiasm over the recently renovated room. Her mom had got everything refurbished recently to make the room look like a kid’s room. Amrita had found the entire activity to be a waste of money, ‘So much for just a fortnight of stay throughout the year. You could’ve used the money for yourself instead.’ But Mrs. Xxx had gone ahead with her plan, ‘I am sure they have everything they want and need in their paternal grandparents’ home, but we too want to have a share of pampering our grand children!’ she had exclaimed.
Later that night, post dinner when Amrita had almost let her guards down and was ready to retire for the night with the kids, Nik threw a tantrum. ‘I want to sleep on this new couch with Papa’ he started to wail. Any efforts to explain anything to him only led to a higher pitched cry. Nik was on the floor throwing away his limbs and crying incessantly, ‘I want Papa…. I want Papa…’ Amrita took a deep breadth and was about to move ahead to pick Nik up from the floor, when her dad held her hand. He nodded with a slight movement of his chin and signaled to her to let him handle things.
Mr. Gunjal picked up his grandchild in his embrace and took him out of the house. ‘I see that you are missing your papa. But I want to show you something beautiful.’ Amrita realized that he was taking Nik out to distract him with the fireworks outside. Their home was in a locality surrounded by wedding banquets. During the wedding season, it was normal to be able to view fantastic fireworks that marked the celebrations. As expected Nik loved the glittering sky and got engrossed in enjoying the view. Almost half an hour later, he came in giggling with his grandfather and insisted that he sleep with him that night.
Tired Mr. Gunjal settled on his bed and took Nik in his lap, ‘Beta, Nanu may not be as interesting as your papa, but he really loves you as much. This old man waits for long months for you to come and spend some days here. This is all yours and you must learn to enjoy every little thing in this house.’ The old man sighed, tiredness visible in his wrinkled face. Yet his eyes shone with a strange excitement. Amrita felt as if he were stretching himself to make the best of the limited time he had with his grandchildren. He started telling Nik a story about a jungle, but Nik exhausted with the journey had already slumped off to sleep in his lap. Amrita helped him put Nik to bed and retired to sleep herself. She was relieved that kids had been managed well atleast for the time being. She recalled the intensity of fondness in her parents demeanor while interacting with the kids and realized that she had never seen her parents so passionate even about her or her sister. A mild smile played on her lips as she remembered something that her father had said when Nik was born, ‘Don’t expect me to be the same strict old man any more. This is my grandson. You are my capital investment and he is the interest. From a businessman’s perspective interest is always dearer than the principal. I am going to indulge this little boy to my whims and fancies.’
With this assurance that her parents will find a way to manage the kids throughout the stay, Amrita dozed off for the night.
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