My dear, how are you feeling?” Dr. Lal asked gently as he caressed his wife’s hair off her face.

I am feeling much better but there’s something that making me anxious after we met Raman?” She responded feebly.

“What is it, honey? What makes you anxious about that gentleman, Raman?” Dr. Lal asked.

He must be like one of our children… he has so much care for us being a stranger and our children…” She paused as Dr Lal kept caressing her forehead with his fingers gently. He didn’t stop her to speak but express herself slowly.

Don’t they even remember us?” She asked looking into her husband’s eyes.

My dear Sudha, we have brought them up independent. And even if they remember us if they are busy with their own life how can they come here spending so much money? And about Raman, I understand he is a good man but he is doing all these as part of his profession. Right, my dear?” Dr Lal tried to calm her mind down with such an unsatisfactory response. He shrugged himself yet didn’t let her understand his state of mind at all.

He brought her a cup of steaming ginger tea, she accepted it after some reluctance. Dr Lal smiled to himself and jibed “It seems people are right when they say that in old age we go back to being kids.” but it failed to bring a smile to Sudha’s face, rather she sulked at him. 

While sipping her tea she looked up at her husband, “Mohan, you remember how every Sunday Dhara used to say that she wants to eat breakfast made by daddy?” Sudha said reminiscing. Dr Lal let allowed himself the indulgence of bittersweet remembrance for once and nodded with a woeful smile. “Yeahh, I remember that well, and I was such lousy cook back then” He laughed and added, “all I used to do was toss some eggs on her toast and she would be so impressed.” Sudha grinned along.

“And Prateek wanted to be your compounder, he would tag along with you to the clinic and play Pacman at your PC” She chipped in. “Don’t ask, he would have cost me my medical degree, I almost gave wrong injections because he kept disturbing me.” He said still vexed at the memory. 

“And my Palak. She was an out and out Daddy’s Girl.” He teased his wife and she scornfully added “She was more of Daddy’s Nurse. You literally paid her 100 rs for helping you out for one hour in the clinic” Sudha slapped his shoulder saying it and he roared with laughter. 

“Today no one cares if mother suffered a heart attack.” She said dejectedly. 

“They don’t know Sudha.” Dr Lal reasoned.

They would have known if they cared to call sometime” Sudha added bit annoyed. Dr Lal knew no matter how much he tries to placate her, she was a mother and can never stop expecting from her children. Was it really so wrong to expect a call from your own children he wondered? 

A tear rolled down her left eye, “If my Saransh would have been…..” She hiccuped and choked on tears “He would never have left us like this….he loved us the best. I know the other three thought I loved him more, but the truth was he loved me the best.” Sudha said as the empty cup trembled in her hand. 

Dr Lal saw her and his heart bled. He wished he could have given her what she desired most but he was helpless. “Now Now, get a hold of yourself Sudha, you must not take the stress.” He told taking the cup from her hand and wiping her eyes with his handkerchief. He knew that Saransh was her stolen one. He was an unplanned baby, and doctors had advised Sudha not to continue with the pregnancy as she was just recovering from Jaundice but she wouldn’t let her baby go. She decided to go ahead and she gave birth to him at 7 months of gestation. Once again doctors told he would not make it, he was weak and blue. But against all odds he survived and she nurtured him to health with all her might. 

It had been such long long time ago, but the memory is still so fresh. It was ironical how the parents remember the first 6-7 years of a child’s life forever but the kids can never recollect anything from those years when they were taught the most basic surviving skills by their parents. He grinned, he was being the cynical philosopher. It took him 30 minutes to pacify his wife and put her to much-needed sleep. 

He slowly walked out of her room, closing the door on his back and went to his study table. Opening a drawer he retrieved a diary and opened the last page. A number was scribbled there in the corner. He looked at it for a lifetime before reaching a decision.