MOM – VII

Sapna was desperately waiting on the platform for Naina’s train to come. Palash Dada made it a point that he will bring Naina along with him to visit her mom this winter vacation. The train came but Sapna could not find them in the coach they were supposed to be in. She searched for them frantically looking inside the train…

Mumma” She heard the sweet voice and turned back but she could not see anything as she felt her eyes were clasped with tiny soft fingers… That brought a delightful glee on her face as she touched those small fingers with hers. The fingers were soon uncovered and Sapna looked at Naina, a 15 year old beautiful girl standing in front of her. Tears rolled down through her cheeks and she wrapped her arms around Naina and kept her head on Naina’s chest with contentment. Palash Dada was standing there and enjoyed witnessing the love exchange between a mother and her daughter because Sapna met her daughter after three years. Sapna had to leave their town for her project work in Mumbai three years ago and Naina wasn’t allowed then by the Orphanage superintendent to go out of the campus till her tenth. Sapna saved every penny that she earned from the project so that she could spend them all on her daughter Naina’s future.

Ok my dear ladies… I am feeling extremely hungry… Hope we will finally leave this platform and go home…” Palash Dada tapped on their shoulders with his both hands and joked with a grin on his face.

I am so sorry Dada…. I was so engrossed feeling the heartbeat of my daughter that I forgot about you. Let’s go home.” Sapna came back to her senses and giggled as they all went out of the railway station.

After a day or so when Palash Dada returned back to his place leaving Sapna and Naina all alone, they both found each other sitting in the balcony, engrossed sharing and pouring out all their heartfelt love and care for each other. Naina was explaining how she spent last three years… how she missed her mom yet she didn’t forget her responsibility to study hard. But Sapna’s mind took her 10 years back when Mrs. Parmar threatened to take Naina away from her.

Mumma? Where are you lost?” Naina asked shaking Sapna’s hands.

No baby… I just went back to think how we struggled when you were just 5 years old.” Sapna said placing her right hand palm on Naina’s cheek, caressing.

Oh yeah… I faintly remember that old auntie… what’s her name… Yeah, Mrs. Parmar. She troubled you a lot…right Mumma?” Naina asked looking at her Mom’s face, keeping her head on Sapna’s lap. And they both recalled the events that had taken place 10 years back…

That day when Sapna offered Mrs. Parmar about being a surrogate mother to the child of her son she felt extremely restless and disturbed. She called up Palash Dada that evening to get some respite, some consolation, and some advice for the offer she had made getting scared of that scheming old lady and her threatening. Palash Dada heard her patiently and made her realised that the offer is not as easy as Sapna thinks it is. He made her understand that surrogacy can cause pain, heartache and confusion for her as she might later find it extremely painful giving away the child because of the bond that will form between her and the child she will be carrying.

Tears never stopped flowing from her eyes as she felt in a deep pit of desperation and helplessness. “Where are you God? Are you really even there? If you really exist why don’t you intervene in our matters? Can’t you see what all are happening to me and my daughter?” She screamed at the top of her voice, weeping relentlessly. She had never ever wept like that before and Naina was in deep slumber and she woke up when she heard her beloved Mumma weeping and screaming in utter desperation. She came running to her and hugged her tight… asking innocently what’s happening to her… why she is crying… But Sapna had no idea how to make a 5 year understand her plight.

She caressed Naina’s silky hairs with her fingers, kissed her forehead and clutched Naina tight to her bosom and said softly, “There are people who are trying to take you away from me and I don’t want to leave you a bit. That’s why Mumma is bitter about God and asking Him if He can really help us or not…” Sapna didn’t want Naina to have a bad image of Mrs. Parmar who’s so respected in her eyes so she didn’t mention her name to Naina.

Naina heard everything that her mother had to explain. Then she looked at Sapna and held her face in her tiny little hands and whispered gently, “Mumma, God knows everything… If you believe that then why to worry when you know that He knows our pain and problems? Don’t cry Mumma… I think God won’t ask me to go away from you…

Sapna smiled hearing her innocent explanation and her faith on God. She was startled by her understanding of God and His character. She felt a peace and assurance in her heart. They both had their dinner and slept peacefully that day… Everyday Sapna waited for Mrs. Parmar’s call but there was no call from her.

Days passed by but there was no sign of Mrs. Parmar. “Was Naina right? Did God really intervene in their matter?” Sapna wondered and kept thinking about it day and night. Almost one month passed away when Sapna decided to request Palash Dada to put Naina in the orphanage as a semi orphan child as she didn’t want the uncertainty of life affect adversely on Naina’s education and childhood. To Sapna’s respite Palash Dada could able to convince the trustees of the orphanage about Naina and she was accepted in and started going to school as well. She did excellent in her studies surprising all. She kept on hitting the top position in the class every year. And that made Sapna proud and she happily went ahead searching for a good job after seeing her daughter in the right place.

Later after few months Sapna came to know that Mr. Parmar had different plans regarding the issue of his son and daughter in law. When he came back from abroad he revealed that he had met a doctor in London who assured him about resolving the issue through artificial insemination.

 

Haven’t I told you Mom God was mindful about us and He has a plan for everything that happens to us whether it gives us joy or sorrow. He always takes care of those who seek Him earnestly.” Naina said as both of them came back from their past to the present.

Yes my dear… You are right… And God also took care of your studies by providing a scholarship which covers almost all your educational expenses. Wow!” Sapna said as she grabbed her teenage daughter in her arms embracing her while they enjoyed each other’s presence.

That day when Naina slept off after her dinner Sapna remembered the statement of Mrs. Parmar which she made 10 years back on Naina, “She is a gem that needs to be polished and I am the one who can do it.” It was a statement of such pride that she had made that day without understanding the fact that it was not she but only God who can make a pauper rich and turn a rich into a pauper. She kissed her daughter’s forehead, looking at her sleeping so peacefully. She is truly a gem whom God polished so well that she shone in her Mom’s darkened life.

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MOM – VI

Sapna couldn’t sleep the whole night. She kept on thinking the worst thing that could happen to her. She didn’t care about her own life but dreaded parting with her soul – her daughter. She was confident of her offer, but was skeptical if Mrs. Parmar would agree. “What if she gets angry at the thought of it? What if she comes with goons and takes away my child in front of my eyes?” Numerous thoughts were racing in her mind. Just then, the doorbell rang. Hurriedly, she opened the door.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Said the voice, that was familiar.

“Oh! It’s that time of the year again! Please come inside my Santa”, Sapna said.

It was Palash Dada, one of the caretakers of the orphanage where Sapna used to live. He visited Sapna every year on Christmas and was aware of her ordeal and the worst things that she had faced at a tender age. Naina waited for him every year, because he brought cakes and goodies for her, like a real Santa. But, this time, both mom and daughter had completely forgotten about Christmas due to Naina’s illness.

“What’s wrong with you? You don’t look ok”, demanded Palash Dada.

“Ya, I couldn’t sleep last night”, she told everything about Naina’s hospital days and Mrs. Parmar to her Santa.

Just then Naina came out running, ” Santa is here!”, she exclaimed. She hugged her Santa and he handed a bag of goodies to her.

“I wish I could help you out, but trust me, God is watching and so is your husband. You will get all the happiness in your life.” Palash Dada said to Sapna as they both watched Naina exploring the colours and candies that she just got.

“Ah! God! I don’t know who’s​ He. If He’s there, I am the last one on his Make Them Happy List.”  Sapna snapped.

“Trust me, God will bring back your happiness.” Palash Dada said, as he bid adieu to her.

Just after he left, Sapna’s phone rang. It was Mrs Parmar.

“Yes ma’am, what did you decide to do – kidnap or take the offer?” Sapna asked.

“I am yet to hear the offer Sapna”, Mrs. Palmer said.

Sapna took a deep breath and said, ,”I will just put this straight ma’am. I am offering to be a surrogate mother. I can’t give you my daughter, but I can give you my womb. It will be your family blood. You can help me get settled in any different city, so that no one comes to know about it. I will start a new life with my daughter and you forget us after that…Uh ..mm..Mrs. Palmer, hello…ma’am, are you there?”

“Oh yes!”, Mrs. Palmer​ spoke. She was lost in thoughts. Clueless and confused, she said,” I will get back to you later.” She disconnected the phone. She never expected Sapna to say a thing like this.

Two women, two mothers were engrossed in deep thoughts. Each thinking about her child whom she loved the most in the world. One decision was going to change their lives.

MOM – V

What just happened? Did Mrs. Parmar really say this? How can she ask for my daughter?” Sapna felt she was going to faint. Just when she believed that there is humanity in the world – God decided to show her the reality. There is none, no humanity, no kindness. It is a bad, cruel world. 

Naina is my daughter. She is my life. I am not letting her go away from me at any cost. I am going to fight this with all I have.” 

Mrs. Parmar’s words still ringing in her ears – “You yourself are struggling to make ends meet, how you can meet her demands as she grows up.  She is a gem that needs to be polished and I am the one who can do it.  Don’t let this flower perish in the heat of poverty.

Yes, that’s true. I am struggling to make ends meet but if I let my daughter go away – then what is the meaning of living.” Sapna was bitterly crying now. She was stuck, she was indebted to Mrs. Parmar – but the cost of debt is her life itself. Why couldn’t she ask for something else? 

Sapna took her phone and called Mrs. Parmar immediately. After a few rings the call was received. 

Mrs. Parmar this is Sapna here. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” this time Sapna had a harshness in her voice. How dare this lady thought that she could just take away my daughter?

Yes Sapna, tell me. When can I come and pick up Naina from you?” said Mrs. Parmar in a mocking tone that pierced through Sapna.

Naina is my life, Ma’am. You could have asked for anything else, I would have given it to you. But Naina herself? I am sorry ma’am. I know I am indebted to you. I will work twice thrice as hard and return back all of your money with whatever interest you want. But I am not giving Naina away. This is my final decision. Please let me know how else can I repay you.” Sapna had a determination in her voice that she never knew she even had.

Oh I see! Really Sapna, you are a fool to think this way. What will Naina achieve by studying in a filthy government school? What about her dreams, Sapna? Do you see that this girl might want to become something big – Fighter Pilot, Fashion Designer, Investment Banker or anything else? Do you think you will ever have enough money to support her dreams, to let her have those wings she can fly with?” Mocking tone still continued in her voice.

Ma’am with all due respect, happiness matters to me and Sapna more than the amount of money we earn or the kind of career we make. She will become what she wants to be even in my limited income. Have some humanity, ma’am. You are a mother yourself, can you imagine selling off your 5 year old son for his dreams? We are poor, ma’am but we do have a heart which is not a stone. I am repeating again – please tell me how else can I repay you.” Sapna was shouting now. 

What happened Mumma?” Naina who was sleeping in the bedroom woke up with all the noise. She seemed scared and that’s when Sapna realized that she was shouting out so loud. 

Do you even realize Sapna who you are talking to? You are talking to the owner of the factory where your husband was working in meagre salary. Do you know what all can I do to you? I can crush you completely and even have your daughter kidnapped.” Mrs. Parmar’s voice now had cruelty and harshness.

Ma’am as I said – I already know that you have no heart. Don’t try to threaten me with all this. I can understand how desperate you are for a grandchild. So, I have an offer to make to you. It is again a win-win situation. Tell me if you are ready to listen to my offer. I need to go now to my daughter. Please call me when you are ready.” Said Sapna without thinking. Words just seem to come out of her mouth as if she was possessed by something else.

Sapna disconnected the call. Her heart was racing, she was sweating, her feet and hands were trembling. She couldn’t even imagine where she got the courage from. And what the hell did she mention about offer. She has no offer to make. What will she say when Mrs. Parmar actually calls back? 

Naina came running to her mother and wiped her tears off. That’s when Sapna realized that she was crying too. She hugged her little girl really long – thinking hard about an offer to make to Mrs. Parmar. 

Another thought was running in parallel – what if she runs away with Naina to a place where Parmar’s cannot find them and trouble them? Kidnapping is also an option with them. We need to run. But where and how? They have no money and no place to go to.

MOM – IV

Sapna nodded in affirmation but her eyes still didn’t know what to expect next.  They made their way to Mrs. Parmar’s car where the chauffeur opened the door politely, let the ladies in, closed the doors behind them and steered towards the hospital as guided by Sapna.

Within half an hour they reached the hospital.  As soon as Sapna entered Naina’s ward followed by Mrs.Parmar, Sapna could sense a different air around her.  The staff was more attentive than ever.

All this made Sapna amaze at the fact that how brands adorned by someone makes it count among people around.  Till yesterday nurses were nowhere close to considerate as far as their words were concerned.  Sapna thought may be the nature of their work made them so.  But today their tones softened and everyone seemed to be on toes for little Naina.  Whatever be the reason for this change it did give Sapna a ray of hope.

Mrs.Parmar met the doctor in charge of Naina’s case.  She spoke to him at length while Sapna was with Naina at a distance.  Following their discussion was Naina’s treatment which the doctor confirmed personally and bills aren’t a hindrance anymore, thanks to this kind lady, Mrs.Parmar.  She met Naina, spoke to her affectionately, caressed her hair, held her hands warmly.  Sapna just stood beside Naina, seeing all this with a soft smile and pearly tear drops in her eyes which were nothing but her gratitude towards this elderly woman and God.

Soon Naina – Mrs.Parmar’s conversation was interrupted by a nurse who came there with medicine.  As nurse got busy with Naina, Mrs.Parmar took Sapna aside and assured her of Naina’s treatment.

With one hand she held Sapna’s hand while the other she kept at her shoulder and said ” young lady, keep your worries at bay, your daughter is in safe hands.  She will be fine in no time, you shall see” and handed over her a card with her contact details in it and continued “give me a call in case of any need and definitely do let me know when you are home.  I want to meet you both at your place, in a space merrier and beautiful, free from this staunch of medicines”.

And after giving some signing off notes to doctor she left.  Sapna kept staring at the petty card in her hand before Naina called her.

Almost after two weeks Naina was discharged.  She was free from her illness and Sapna from her grief.  They reached home which was more or less deserted after Naina fell ill as she was in hospital and Sapna kept wandering for help.

Sapna made Naina comfortable and she fell asleep.  Sapna started to wind up the scattered house and amidst of her chores she remembered that she was supposed to call Mrs.Parmar to inform her about Naina’s discharge from hospital.

She grabbed her phone and searched for the card that Mrs.Parmar gave her.  She dialled the number “Hello, can I talk to Mrs.Parmar please?”

Mrs.Parmar – Yes speaking”

Sapna –  Hello mam, this is Sapna, Naina’s mother ( her new-found identity), how are you mam?”

Mrs.Parmar – Oh yes Sapna! Well I am doing good, tell me how’s your princess doing ( for a person of her stature it was unlikely to remember someone like these two but she did).

Sapna – All thanks to you mam, she is absolutely fine and has been discharged from hospital.  We are at home now.  If you are free tomorrow, we would like to meet you.  Naina would love to thank you personally.  We owe it to you.  I don’t know if I ever shall be able to repay you for what have you done to us.

Mrs.Parmar – No young lady, thank God.  Being born as human it’s the least I could do.  And don’t hassle the little girl, she is just been out of the hospital.  I will come to your place to see her. Can you give me your address please?

Sapna was at loss of words.  She never imagined that this world still hosts people like this lady.  Delighted she gave her address.

And the next day itself Mrs.Parmar paid a visit to their humble nest.  She brought goodies for Naina, spent some quality time with her before Naina was tired and slipped into deep slumber.

All that Sapna could do was to watch her daughter and Mrs.Parmar with amusement, gratitude and to a certain extent disbelief that how things took a turn for good.

“So” Mrs.parmar begin and brought Sapna back to her senses “what next?”.

With a smile Sapna replied “both of us have to resume our school.  It’s been really long that we are on leave.  To take care of her I have to join back”.

Mrs.Parmar countered her saying ” for how long you think you can continue like this?”.  There was a change in her tone.  Was it concern or sarcasm?  Sapna was confused.

And Mrs.Parmar continued “Sapna let me get straight to the point.  I have chosen to help you because I need a favour from you.  Remember you said you would do anything in exchange of this help?  I want Naina.  I have everything in life, you know it well but God has deprived me of the happiness of having grandchildren for my daughter-in-law can never conceive.  Naina gave me a hope and I could give her a bright future which she deserves and you can only dream of but never materialize it.  You yourself are struggling to make ends meet, how can you meet her demands as she grows up.  She is a gem that needs to be polished and I am the one who can do it.  Don’t let this flower perish in the heat of poverty.  Don’t get me wrong, at this point I might be sounding as a harsh hot-headed businesswoman but think as a mother.  A mother always wants her child to be happy and successful.  And oppressing desires in the name of “Learning to Be Content” is a hogwash.  Who else would know that better than you.  In return I would recommend you for a better job for a better living.  It’s a win-win situation for you.  All that you have to do is give me Naina.  Just think of it, it’s for Naina, Your Naina”.

She left leaving Sapna battered to pieces…

MOM – III

He looked at her, realizing why she had looked vaguely familiar.  He remembered her from the time she had come to collect her husbands dues and he had been the one to sign that check.

He listened to her pleas with a slightly irritated look.  He had other meetings to attend to but something in her demeanour gave him pause.

“Mrs. Gupta, I am sorry for your struggles and would like to help but I can’t just loan out company money with the snap of a finger.  There are protocols in place that must be observed,” he said with some regret.

Her shoulders slumped and she began to sob even more. “Then I have truly lost everything,” she mumbled between sobs and stumbled from the office, no longer caring who saw her. In her grief, she headed down the wrong corridor and ended up at another office door. As she was about to turn around,  the door opened, and an elderly looking woman stood there.

“My dear child, what is wrong,” she asked placing her arm around Sapna’s shoulder’s and ushered her into the office.  It looked professional but at the same time, comfortable. The older woman helped Sapna to a couch and handed her some tissue. Moments later she was giving her a hot cup of tea and waited sitting down next to her.

Finally, getting herself under control and with gentle encouragement from the older woman, Sapna told her the whole story though leaving out the small part about how Mr Parmar had made her feel uncomfortable the day she came to collect Harsh’s last paycheck.

“I remember your husband Mrs Gupta.  He was a good and loyal employee and was so very proud of you and your precious little girl.  He had a picture of the 3 of you in his wallet all looking so happy and from the look on his face as he looked at you both,  very much in love with his ladies.”

Sapna gasped as it dawned on her who this woman was…Mrs. Parmar.

“Oh,  please forgive me, ma’am!  I just realized who you were!”

Mrs Parmar patted her shoulder.  “Do not worry about it, my dear. Though our son is managing the office,  I am the owner of the business along with Mr Parmar.  Now, let’s get you cleaned up and go and see your little girl.  I’d like to meet her. ”

Continue to read the next part HERE

MOM – II

Sapna stood gazing at the tall building – in the seventh floor of which, was Mr. Parmar’s office – the place where her Harsh had worked for eight long years. Her head was reeling. Her eyes were going dim. She felt as if she was about to collapse.

Why is life so harsh on me?

Why can’t I have a peaceful enjoyable life, like many others? Why?

After being known as an orphan for so many years, when I finally thought that I have a family to call my own and to belong to, gradually it is falling apart. Isn’t there a God somewhere? Isn’t there justice?

Oh God, if you are there, please intervene! I have no one else to turn to, for help.

As Naina’s sweet innocent face flashed before her, it seemed as if a huge amount of energy gushed into Sapna. She no longer allowed her thoughts to deter her determination. She was determined to save Naina from the clutches of death!

Sapna walked inside, got into the lift and with trembling voice, told the lift operator – “Seventh Floor”. It seemed to take ages from the ground floor to the seventh. The twirl of thoughts within her mind were taking their toll on her. She dreaded meeting Harsh’s colleagues. What would she say, about her being there?

“I have come to see Mr. Parmar. Is he in?”, Sapna told the receptionist on reaching the seventh floor.

“May I know your identity, Ma’am”, asked the soft-spoken lady. She was not the same receptionist who was around when Sapna had come a few times some years back, to collect her husband’s dues. “Good, one person less to know”, she thought within her.

“You could tell him that an old acquaintance is here to meet him”, replied Sapna feigning a smile.

“Sure, I’ll do that. Please have a seat Ma’am. Sir is in a meeting and it may be some time before you could meet him”, said the receptionist.

“Ok”, said Sapna with a sigh and took a seat.

She was assured by the presence of the nurses around little Naina in the hospital, so that she would not be left alone and unattended. But, her condition demanded immediate medical attention. Every minute counted. Sapna felt her heart beat within the walls of her chest. The man whom she was looking up to as her saviour now, would end up being her devourer! “Oh, Harsh! Only if you were here”, she whispered without her knowledge even as a tear flowed down from her right eye.

“Umm…excuse me Ma’am, I have informed Sir that you are waiting. The meeting should be over in a couple of minutes.” That was the receptionist, cutting through Sapna’s line of thoughts.

“Hmm..alright. Thanks!”, said Sapna.

In about ten minutes, Sapna saw people coming out in groups from the Board Room and assumed that the meeting was over. She had never met her husband’s colleagues before. But many of them had come to offer their condolences to her when she had last visited the office. Some of them may recognize her now. So thinking, she thought it wise to step into the restroom for a while, till everyone passed by the reception area.

Inside the Restroom, Sapna stared at herself in the mirror. And out came a flood of tears as if they were impatiently waiting to break out. Amidst the muffled sobs, her heart was shattering into pieces within her. How she wished that she had parents to fall back on! Harsh’s family had been very clear that they had nothing to with either Sapna or Naina soon after his demise.

Once again, Sapna gathered herself and stepped out of the restroom. She was informed by the receptionist that she could go in to meet Mr. Parmar.

Sapna tapped twice before entering Mr. Parmar’s office. She stopped short to see someone else in Mr. Parmar’s seat. The man bore a striking resemblance to Mr. Parmar, but looked much younger.

“I am here to meet Mr. Parmar. Isn’t he around? I was told that he is in here”, said Sapna, her tongue drying within her mouth.

“Yes, how may I help you?”, said the man without much emotion in his voice.

“Er… I don’t know you, Sir”. Mr. Parmar knows me well”, she said with a sudden air of confidence.

“You must be talking about my father. I’m his son, Rohit Parmar. My father is into a new venture in another part of the country. And, I’m the Manager of the office here. Now, how may I help you? Please be quick because I need to rush out”, said Rohit Parmar.

Sapna felt her hopes for help crash to the ground. She couldn’t obviously tell Rohit of his father’s offer. She decided to try winning Rohit’s favour just as she had unsuccessfully tried with many others before.

“Oh! I am the widow of Mr. Harsh Gupta, who used to work here few years back. I lost my husband to an unfortunate accident. Life has been difficult, but my daughter and I have been able to manage ourselves well. At least until now. But now, I am desperately in need of help”. By now, Sapna had started weeping. “My daughter is struggling between life and death in the hospital. The doctors need a huge sum of money to be deposited before they start the treatment. I have exhausted all my savings. My friends and acquaintances are not in a position to help me.”

“Unless I deposit the money soon, I’ll lose my daughter – my life – forever. I had thought to seek help from Mr. Parmar. Now that he is not around, I don’t know what to do”.

“Will you help me, please? All I am asking for, is a loan. I have a job. And I will repay the entire amount gradually, since my salary is not that high. Please have mercy on me. Please help me,” sobbed Sapna.

Continue reading the next part: HERE

MOM – I

She counted the money. She counted it twice, then thrice. With a sigh, she sat on her bed, while all her purses and money boxes lay scattered around her. Even after collecting every last penny of her savings the money wasn’t enough to pay for the injections needed to save her daughter’s life. Her heart sank at the perspective. What would happen now?

Her five-year-old girl was terribly ill. She was admitted to a government hospital. Her father had died in a road accident leaving the mother and child alone in this cruel world. Sapna sat crying, she saw no way to save her Naina. Naina, who was her only reason to live. Naina who loved to eat pastries and patties. Naina, who was fighting for each breath as she lay in that hospital ward. Her tiny hands, her little feet, unmoving and lifeless. Sapna tried hard not to give in to panic and depression.

There must be a way, there has to be one. Life can’t treat her so harshly. She can’t lose the last ray of light in her dark life. She won’t let Naina die. One by one she called each and every one person she knew, all from whom she expected some help, all who were financially well-off. One wasn’t in town, other had just bought a new TV, another had all her money into lock-in period investments. Sapna gazed at the yellow walls of her small home.

Was life so cheap? Were 40,000 Rs more than a child’s life? Has greed and selfishness turned man’s heart so cold and dead to human misery and suffering? She was a woman of 32, who had seen life’s darkest of shades in such a young age. An orphan of 25 who fell in love with a machine man named Harsh and married him and dreamed of a home she never had. He had been everything she desired from her life partner and she left no stone unturned in becoming a perfect wife to him. Two years later they were blessed with a baby girl. Their happiness was complete. For four years she lived in a paradise that wasn’t made of riches and extravaganza but rather love and happiness and hope.

And then one night, the gods decided it was just enough. Her ordeal began with the news that her husband died in a road accident. She was left with nothing. No family, no one to love, no money, no one to wipe her tears that flowed unabashedly. That night Naina had wiped her mother’s tears. Sapna couldn’t bear Naina’s innocence. The poor girl had no idea what she had just lost.

But the mother and daughter picked each other up. They made a small haven for themselves in the one-room apartment and Sapna took up the job of a teacher in Naina’s school. She earned just enough to make ends meet, saving each penny she could to secure a future for Naina, to send her to a good college. Naina was such an understanding child. Sapna never saw her throwing tantrums or asking for toys or chocolates like other kids. Naina’s maturity made Sapna’s heartache.

And now that one fairy doll, that one angel of heaven would be lost too. Sapna cried long and hard, her eyes got misty and she dozed off. In her dream, she saw her husband holding Naina in his lap and kissing her in a land that was made of clouds. Harsh was spinning around with Naina in his arms and Sapna wanted to shout “Look out Harsh, she will fall” but she had no voice. And then she saw Harsh and Naina bidding her goodbye and they went into a thick mist, all she could see was their receding backs as she screamed, but her scream was stuck in her throat. No sound was coming from her. Sapna sat up, drenched in sweat. Her heart was beating like a steam engine. She wiped her sweaty brow and sat there trying to hold on to the dream, to see Naina and Harsh, but the vision was soon fading from the back of her eyelids. She took a few deep breaths and calmed down her heart. No, she can’t let that happen. She needed Naina more than Harsh needed her.

She got up, collected the money and ran to the hospital. Nothing had changed. Naina was lying in her hospital bed. Her frame was bony and lanky as she had lost so much weight in just one week. She sat on a pedestal stool by her daughter’s side and caressed her forehead. Naina opened her eyes. She gave a weak smile to her mother. Sapna gave her a teary smile and showered her with kisses as the mother-daughter hugged each other, clinging together. Holding Naina made Sapna’s insides twist into a knot. She has gone so thin and frail.

“When are we going back home, Maa?” Naina asked in a shaky voice.

“Soon, very soon I will take you with me, my sweetheart” Sapna assured her not knowing exactly how she would do that.

The monitors attached to Naina beeped, like counting her numbered breaths, the IV pouring medicines and glucose in her dripped like life was draining from her. Sapna closed her eyes as she embraced Naina tightly. She felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up. It was the hospital nurse.

“These medicines are needed immediately. Please get them ASAP.” The nurse told her curtly.

Naina looked at the paper and then at the nurse. “How much would they cost sister?” She enquired.

The nurse gave an exasperated sigh “At least 3,000”, she told and left after taking Naina’s pulse.

Sapna went down to the chemist and bought the medicines. Her very last penny was spent. All was lost. Until………

Sapna gave the medicines to the nurse and kissed Naina as she left the hospital and took the bus to Mr Parmar’s office. He was the owner of the factory in which her husband worked. She had met him only once before after Harsh died. She had gone to him to ask for Harsh’s last salary. After clearing her dues the man had placed a hand on Sapna’s shoulder. Sapna had taken it as a gesture of condolence until Mr Parmar said, “You are young and have a whole life ahead of you. A woman needs many things to survive. Love, money and a man in her life. If ever you decide that you are too tired to go on alone, just knock on my door. And I will make sure there is nothing you lack after that.” With these words, he had caressed Sapna’s shoulder and left her alone.

Sapna had run from his office and cried hard after coming home that day. She had sworn to herself that she will never succumb to life’s challenges and would bring Naina up on her own, keeping her dignity and pride intact. But today, that woman had lost that battle and a mother had surrendered herself to her fate. Nothing was more precious than her Naina’s life, not even her sanctity. She took a deep breath and looked at Mr Parmar’s office building and steeled her heart and braced her mind.

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