REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – THE END

“Is there anyone in your life?”

She mulled over the loaded question while her mother looked at her searchingly, and in typical motherly fashion, where only mothers can guess what their child is going through, she prodded cautiously, “Why do I see regret on your face?”

She was jolted out of her reverie by Maa’s astute observation. Am I so transparent to her? But aching as she was to shed the deluge from her eyes, she gulped it down. Maa shouldn’t see me break down. It won’t be good for her.

“Regret, yes Maa, because I can’t find a prince charming yet. Maybe I’ll die a spinster with a few hundred cats,” she joked while faking a laugh.

“If that is meant to amuse me, it doesn’t. I’d like you to find someone like Diana did. Find a good man. I know why you hesitate to marry. Beta, not every marriage turns out like my own. Look at Diana….” the twin exertion of talking and worrying produced a fit of coughing in Maa and she immediately curled up in pain on the bed.

“Maa please don’t exert yourself for me. I know what you’re saying is right. I know you’re concerned about me but please, don’t worry. I’ve managed just fine till now and I will even in the future. Maybe when the time is right, I’ll find my Mr Right. Besides I have you now,” she smiled while she handed Maa a glass of water, plumped up her pillow and made her lie back down. “Just rest for me, please. Before I leave, I’d like to see you back in your own home and standing on your own two feet.”

A frail smile graced her mother’s face and Nina felt satisfied, no, content in the knowledge that her broken home was repaired at last. She didn’t care if she spent the rest of her life as a spinster, she had prepared for that eventuality for the past many years. But now she knew she won’t die lonely with her regrets. She had the love of a family, the love of a parent. And love does not have to limit itself to a love between a man and a woman. Love came in such varied forms. She knew she’d be just as happy with that kind of love because up until now she had nothing and no one.

Her mother looked like she was dozing off, so she kissed her forehead and tiptoed out of the room, where the doctor found her and gave her the welcome news that Maa was recovering well and would be discharged from the hospital soon.

A week went by when Maa was eventually discharged and in the midst of family and in the comfort of her home, she got better in no time. Meanwhile, Diana and her husband never once let Nina feel that she was an outsider. Her nieces were always vying for her attention, but what made Nina most happy was that her mother, it seemed, wanted to spend all of her waking hours with her, like she wanted to make up for all the lost time. So did Nina. So they happily indulged each other in small excesses of family life that are born out of love and affection for those we care for.

While at the same time she and Nisha had become more than mere acquaintances. Their frequent phone calls and Whatsapp chit-chats from time to time revealed to Nina how warm-hearted Nisha was. She had come to care for Nisha a lot in a short span of time and it was all owing to how open and kind Nisha was.

“You have to come to Bangalore first and have dinner with my family before you leave for Kolkata, or else I won’t talk to you ever again!” Nisha had commanded Nina and though it came as a surprise to her how quickly Nisha had begun to exert herself in their friendship, this was the most endearing quality of Nisha’s – that she was so trusting and trustworthy. Nina promised her she would come.

The day of her departure from Mysore was a teary-eyed one. Maa kissed her cheeks profusely, there were never-ending hugs and solemn promises that Nina would try to shift her place of work to either Bangalore or somewhere closer to Mysore so she could come and visit Maa and Diana as often as possible. Throughout the drive back from Mysore to Bangalore, she only thought of how bright the future with her family looked. It seemed she had found peace and love at last.

When she arrived at Nisha’s plush apartment, after checking into her hotel room for the day, she received a warm welcome from Nisha and her daughter, Myra. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Myra resembled someone but she couldn’t remember who, that is till ‘her’ Ankit walked in and she realized that Ankit was Myra’s father!

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Time froze as they stood looking at each other. A part of her told her that she shouldn’t stare at him like so because he wasn’t ‘her‘ Ankit anymore, but it was as if her eyes had a mind of their own. They would not stop staring with open longing, regret and sorrow at him.

His own eyes spoke volumes about how he still felt. It seemed the passing years had taken their youth from their faces but the effect they had on each other had not faded.

Nisha was bewildered, offended as well, as a married woman should  be who finds her husband openly gaping at another woman. She cleared her throat and addressed her husband, “Ankit, this is…”

“Nina! Nisha this is the Nina I told you about.” He looked at his wife guiltily, while Nisha clapped a hand over her face in horror.

Nisha’s reaction to this information made Nina realize just what her presence must be doing to this otherwise happy family. Regaining her senses, she stammered, “I… I’m so sorry. I… had no idea she… she was your… I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t be here at all. I’ll leave right away…” and she began to retrace her steps to the elevator, but a hand stalled her.

It was Nisha’s.

“No please, stay. This wasn’t your fault. This isn’t anyone’s fault. You had no way of knowing. And besides, what does it change? You liked him and he liked you but that’s in the past. The future is that you and I are friends and I don’t see any reason why the past should have any effect on that.”

Oh god, why is she so sweet and simple minded? Nina wished Nisha would rebuke her, tell her to leave, tell her that she wasn’t welcome in their cosy lives, but instead Nisha wanted to be friends. What kind of woman is she?

“No please I can’t. I won’t…”

“You will.” Ankit’s voice boomed out from behind them, “Because otherwise, you’ll break Nisha’s heart. And because you owe me an explanation.” His voice may have been gruff, but there was a hint of hurt in it. Nisha tugged at Nina’s hand and after much cajoling, Nina came back to their apartment.

There was an awkward moment when neither knew what to say or where to look but then Ankit turned to Nisha and asked, “Can I have a moment alone with her, if you don’t mind?”

“Why would I? I trust you and her unconditionally.” Nisha smiled up at her husband and then, without a word, without a glance back, went away to another room, shutting the door behind her, leaving them alone in the spacious living room that felt too small because of the suffocating silence that inundated it.

Ankit began, “How have you been?”

She smirked and shrugged, “As you can see, I’ve been good, I guess. And… you?”

“I think you can see too.” His lips smiled but his eyes didn’t.

Nina sighed. Yes, she could see he was very happy and led a blessed life. Till she came around with her sorry self, dredging up memories of a sad past. She felt like a useless piece of furniture that needed to be discarded.

“You’re very lucky you have her. She’s a great lady – warm, loving and accepting. She trusts you so much,” she looked down just then because she couldn’t stand being stared at by his searching eyes.

“I know. But you never did,” he accused and her head shot back up to his eyes. But he wasn’t done with his assault, “You never gave me a chance. You never told me why? And today I want you to tell me because I don’t think I’ll ever have closure unless you tell me why.”

A tear rolled down her cheek and she swiped at it with an irritated hand. She didn’t need any more embarrassment, but God, it seemed today her body was not under her own control. “Why?! Why indeed! Maybe because I didn’t want a marriage like my parents had. Because I didn’t want a broken home. Because I wasn’t sure if I could survive after suffering another heartbreak…”

“You thought I would walk away from you just like that? Nina, you never trusted me or my love to give yourself up to me…”

Yes!! Yes, I couldn’t trust you Ankit, because I didn’t trust myself! I didn’t want you going through what my father did. I didn’t want to be a mother to a child who grew up in the fear of being rebuked, beaten and abandoned. I didn’t want to turn into my mother!” She was crying openly now, uncaring whether her mascara and kohl ruined her face or not, or whether his neighbours heard.

“So this was why you rejected me? Because you couldn’t trust yourself to be better than your mother? Bad families do not run in the genes, Nina! Love, togetherness, effort, sacrifice…trust, that’s what makes a happy family.”

“Yes, I know that… now. My sister has a wonderful family of her own and I know now that broken homes can be mended as well. And you… look at your own family. It’s beautiful, just what you deserve! But it’s too late for all that now,” she looked past Ankit to his home, his happy abode, his life, and then with the solemn understanding of someone who has come to terms with their loss, she said, “I love your wife. She’s the perfect partner for you that you deserve. I think it was destined for you to marry someone like her who had no issues with trust. I wish you two all the luck in the world and I want you to know that I’ll never, never, never bother either of you again.”

Alarmed, Ankit said, “But why can’t we be friends? Nisha is not the sort to bear grudges, Nina. She likes you immensely…”

“And so do I but I can’t live with my regret staring me in the face everytime I see you or her. And neither of you deserves that kind of burden. We can’t be friends!”

She started backing away from him and he opened his mouth again to say something but Nina cut him off with a staying hand, “No Ankit, there’s nothing you or Nisha can say to convince me that staying friends with you will be of any good. I’ll only cause problems if I stayed. I was the past, she’s your present and your future, and the past has no place in the future, Ankit. So please don’t stop me. I won’t be stopped. I’m so happy that you’re happy, believe me, I am and I’ll always pray that you stay this way with your family. Farewell.”

Clutching her handbag to her heart like it was her lifeline, she hurtled down the stairs. Ankit called out to her, but she didn’t answer. Then Nisha called out to her, but she didn’t turn back. She knew what she had to do. She knew her place and it wasn’t as anything or anyone in their lives. She knew what she had found back in Mysore. She knew there would be no happiness for her unless she let go of the past. Her past had only regrets and regrets had no value. She had vowed she won’t lead a life of regrets anymore and she knew letting go of this regret was the right step into the future.

Onward she went and never looked back.

 

THE END

 

Image Source: CC0 Creative Commons at Pixabay.

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REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – XIII

Nina got up, silenced the alarm. There was something unusual about this day, it was not the month end targets or lined-up meetings that were driving Nina like she was driven throughout all these years. Nina was not her usual self…she was happy.  Without wasting a second she got up and got ready.  Her packing was done.  She was sitting on the edge of the bed, rocking to and fro.  She could feel butterflies in her stomach as she was waiting for the call from the Reception to inform her about the arrival of the cab.

That period of 10-15 minutes seemed to be ages to her.  And finally her wait was over as phone rang, “Ma’am, your cab has arrived”, the receptionist informed her.

And within five minutes Nina had checked out and was in the cab.  The trip started and her journey too for she was finally taking a step forward, a step little closer – driven by her emotions which had been hibernating within her for so long.  Throughout her journey her past rallied in front of her eyes but surprisingly only the beautiful images from the past – fond memories were marching.  It was nothing less than an amusement for Nina herself because she was habituated to recall only the dark days which unfortunately outnumbered the joyous moments.

She was lost and a sudden brake brought her back to the present. “We have reached Madam”, said the driver looking at Nina through rear view mirror.  “Oh! Thank you”, said Nina with a jerk as if she was completely unaware and someone was physically trying to bring her back to her senses. She got down and the driver helped her with the luggage that was resting in the rear of the car. She thanked him again with a gentle smile, made the payment and turned towards her home.

She rang the doorbell and Sathya opened the door. “Diana Di… Nina Di has come”, she loudly informed the family while taking her luggage in with a smile. “Everyone is at the dining table”, Sathya guided Nina towards the dining room.

It was lunch time. Riya and Kiara like any other kid, were throwing tantrums to finish their meals and on seeing Maasi entering the room they got charged up as usual.

“Maasi, Maasi” they were erupting with joy and were about to get off the table,  but were suddenly stalled by a booming voice – “No! Don’t you girls get off from the chairs before finishing your lunch. Even Maasi won’t entertain that”, said a stern Diana.  Nina was enjoying this scene – the cute faces were hell-bent on making her laugh, a hearty one but she controlled because she didn’t want her sister to lose control over her kids as a mother.  That was important.  She went to them, sat on her knees between chairs with her hands rested on chair arms. “My little angels, you must listen to your mom because she is the best and a best mom will always want her angels to be the best and to be the best you have to finish this yummy lunch prepared by your mom. What say?”, Nina waited for their response.  “But Maasi we like capsicum only on pizza not in the curry, it’s not so good”, they replied with frowns.

“Hmmmmm, ok finish your lunch – then we will go to the amusement park this weekend and there we will have capsicum….”, she paused to catch the reaction on their faces.  They were staring at each other as if asking each other, “what is she trying to say?” then she concluded “….on pizza as you like!”

“Yay”, giggles and cheers followed, and the girls did resume this important task called eating 😀.  Diana thanked Nina with a nod.

“I shall leave now and see Ma”, Nina seemed to be in a hurry.

“Yes Di, but please have lunch first, she is sleeping anyways”, replied Diana.  Nina refused and said that she would have it later.

“Seems Maasi also doesn’t like capsicum, see mom”, giggled Riya. She was instantly hushed by Diana whereas it left Nina smiling more brightly as she made her way to see her mom.  Her sister’s family was a replica of a family she always dreamt of.

She reached the hospital.  She went to her mother’s room and slowly opened the door and saw from the gap. Her mother was lying with closed eyes.  She carefully entered the room so as not to disturb her and sat on the chair beside her.  She was carefully looking at her mother. Her face once very beautiful, had gone through the test of time and now lay parched and wrinkled. Staring at her mother, in no time she was engulfed in a tide of emotions which found its exit through her eyes and a drop landed on her mother’s hand.  Nina quickly wiped her tears and was about to wipe it from her mother’s hand too.

The moment she touched her, her mother woke up. “Nina” and before she could say something else “sorry Ma, sorry to wake you up” there was some kind of restlessness in Nina’s voice, pretty much the same she had in her childhood.

“It’s okay beta, I was anyways about to wake up”, mother said calmly trying to get up.  Nina lent her support and adjusted her bed in an angle comfortable for her and asked “Ma, shall I bring some tea for you?”

“No, I don’t want anything, please sit with me.  It’s been really long since I saw my doll. In fact had lost hope of seeing you in this lifetime for all the bitterness I had shown”, her voice nearly choked.

“Ma, it’s okay, please calm down. In fact I am sorry for being so rude and not being there when you needed me”, she clasped her hands and was trying to calm her mother.

“See Nina, perhaps I shall be the one who should be seeking your forgiveness because you only gave what you got, how could that be your fault my child?”, said her mother as if absolving Nina for whatever she did.

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“Ok Ma, let’s stop this here because whatever we say now we won’t be able to change our past. So we should better look forward for a new beginning together.” So saying, she laid her head in her mother’s lap.  She felt the warmth of her lap and when her mother’s hand caressed her hair she almost broke down.  Had it been on the day when she was injured, things would have been so different but nonetheless no regret from either side would change anything.

After gathering her composure, her mother asked her many things.  Where she had been all these years, what she had been doing, who took care of her and so on. Nina answered everything as if she had met a long-lost friend.

“Is there anyone in your life?”, her Mom asked softly.

But this one question made Nina pause and literally took her into a trance.

 

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – XII

Hospital chores kept both Nina and Diana busy. Nina took a month’s leave from her work. It was quite evident, as she had reconciled with her mother after years of separation since she left their home at Mysore and went to Kolkata in search of a living of her own.

Itwas not easy for Nina to handle the surge of emotions that engulfed when she forgave and reconciled with her Mom. But Kiara and Riya’s innocence, their beautiful relationships with their own mother and Diana’s encouragement made it easy for Nina. She and her Mom rarely spoke to each other or asked forgiveness from each other… they both simply kept looking at each other and holding each other’s hands to let the loving communication flow between them. Nina was aware that her Mom was sick and she should not be made too much emotional. Thus, she kept herself away from her mother, locking herself inside the washroom to breakdown and weep vehemently. Diana was wise and let Nina weep as much as possible without interruption but she kept a close watch on her sister all the time.

A week passed by… Diana’s husband Shekhar came back from his tour. Nina had never met him before. She found him to be quite an amicable man and she was happy for her sister’s beautiful family. It was a family time in the hospital that day as all were there together in their Mom’s room before they were scolded by the doctor for making the patient hyper. They apologized and came out of the room but their Mom started to recover by leaps and bounds in the midst of her family, especially in the presence of her long lost daughter, Nina.

It was a Saturday morning. Diana came from home with her family and asked her sister to go home with Shekhar and the children as she wanted to stay with Mom during the day time. Nina was also tired as she was with her mother the whole night. She agreed and went back with Shekhar and the children after lunch in the hospital canteen around 12 P.M.

That day after visiting her home and then meeting Mom the next morning, Nina didn’t book any hotel room for herself anymore. She decided she will stay in her parents’ house, her ‘Home’. She was pleased with the fact that Shekhar had agreed to stay at his in laws and take care of Mom. Diana had literally taken care of everything which she would have done if she were there with her Mom. Moreover, it was only because of her, Diana came to Bangalore to meet her from Mysore leaving Mom alone with Sathya. Diana stayed back for a night in a different hotel along with her children only to spend some more time with her, and that was the time Mom got sick. Only she knew how she had driven that day from Bangalore hotel to reach the hospital in Mysore. A three-hour journey seemed a day!

She thanked God in her heart, closing her eyes thinking about all that had happened a week before, sitting in the backseat of the car.

“We are home Di…” Nina heard Shekhar saying and nodded at him. She smiled looking at two sleeping beauties sitting beside her. She pinched their bums to wake them up and they got up giggling, pinching back at their Massi. Nina went inside and rested for some time. In the afternoon around 2 P.M., she informed Shekhar that she needed to go to Bangalore for a night to bring her belongings from the hotel and would be back the next day. Shekhar booked a private car for her so that she could keep it till she returned from Bangalore.

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Nina reached Bangalore around 5 P.M. and got down at a mall on the way to her office asking the driver to park the car. She went straight to the ladies section in the mall to buy few clothes and other things as she hadn’t brought enough clothes with her when she came from Kolkata. 

While shopping, a soft pink and white frilled frock hanging inside the glass showcase of another shop caught her attention. She quickly walked inside that shop and asked for that frock. She was thrilled to see that beautiful frock imagining Riya and Kiara in it. Without any delay she asked for another piece of the same frock but unfortunately the salesman denied her saying, “Ma’am, I am really sorry… We had only two pieces of the same design and…”

Before he finished saying Nina interrupted saying, “Then give the other one too… I want to buy for two girls… they will look so beautiful in them.” She excitedly gave a delightful glee to the man.

“No… Ma’am, I am afraid I can’t do that… The other one is already booked by another lady here…” And he said showing towards a lady standing a little ahead of her in the same counter.

“Oh! Then I should drop this one as well… Do you have similar kind of frocks so that I can take two of them?” She asked feeling disappointed.

“Yes… we have…” The man said and displayed many such frocks in front of Nina but only to her utter dissatisfaction. She didn’t like any one of them. She sighed and started to walk off the shop when she heard someone calling from behind… “Hello…  Ma’am… Listen…”

Nina turned her head and looked back to find a beautiful lady smiling at her holding the same frock in her hand. She looked at her intently as her face seemed very familiar to her… But she could not recall anything about the lady.

“Please take this one Ma’am… I have only one daughter and I can take some other frock.” The woman replied.

Nina’s face glowed in gratitude towards the woman as she walked back smiling, “Thank you so much… I know I troubled you… But I really want to take these two for my two fairies…”

“I thought so as you pleaded for two such frocks…and I am sure your daughters will look very pretty in those dresses.” She replied as she handed over the frock in the counter to be packed for Nina.

Nina stretched her hands and clasped the woman’s hands in hers and continued to thank her for the kindness… “No… No… They are my nieces, not my daughters… I am not married… But I really don’t know how I can thank you for what you did…” Nina paused a bit and asked again,  “But do we know each other… have we met each other before?” Nina asked with thoughtful eye brows.

“No… I’m Sorry… I’m afraid I don’t know you Ma’am… Probably you must have seen someone like me.” The pretty woman replied to her.

And as they kept talking to each other, they walked out of that store towards the cafeteria. Both of their amicable attitudes established a new bond between them. To seal it they sat down for a cup of coffee talking about each other casually. Nina came to know that her husband is on a US tour and will be back only after two weeks and she came to know that Nina’s Mom was in the hospital. And she promised that she would visit Mysore to see Nina’s mom when her husband came back.

Before saying goodbye to each other they shared their phone numbers and names…

“Nishhhhaaa…?” Nina thought about the name as her driver drove the car towards her hotel. She had gone through so many emotional upheavals that she could not really recall anything significant, but she was extremely happy that evening meeting that wonderful lady whoever she was… She had her dinner after reaching her hotel room and went into a peaceful slumber till the alarm screeched piercing her ears the next morning.

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – XI

Nina and Diana returned from the cafeteria. They were seated outside their mother’s room in the hospital. Suddenly Nina got up from her seat and opened the window to take a glimpse. She was greeted by the soft cool breeze. The busy streets, whimpering kids, the local market and funny haggling moments caught her attention. 

Meanwhile, silence reigned between the two sisters. Nina was so lost watching her hometown from that window that she didn’t realize it was past 7 pm. “Di, I’ll stay back tonight with mother. You must be tired, you should take rest and freshen up”, said Diana breaking the silence. Nearly startled, Nina couldn’t make sense of what Diana had just said. “Sorry, I didn’t get you. I’ll what? Ca..Can you please repeat,” Nina fumbled. “Its ok… I was just saying I’ll stay back tonight, you should go and take rest,” said Diana, secretly smiling to herself. “No. Kids need you, take them and go home, I’ll be here,” Nina replied in one breath. 

Diana and the kids left shortly. Nina felt deserted! She thought of sneaking into the room to take a glimpse of mother. But she hesitated. After a vigorous tussle inside her, she finally opened the door and went in. She saw her mother was taking deep breaths, she was clearly uncomfortable while breathing. But she felt blank inside. “Why can’t I feel anything? Have I turned into a stone?” Nina whispered to herself. Nina extended her hand and touched her mother’s forehead. “Excuse me Ma’am, visiting hours are over. Please wait outside; don’t disturb the patient.” Nina got startled when the nurse chipped in. “Yea..yeah sure. I’ll wait outside”, Nina replied to the nurse. 

Nina got seated outside and she was observing other patients, nurses, doctors, ward boys, their way of talking, their psyche… all seemed busy and were walking hurriedly. As night progressed, Nina felt her consciousness ebbing away, and a warm blanket covering her. Her eyes felt heavier and she leaned against the wall and drifted off. 

Diana, on the other hand was tensed. She couldn’t sleep… she kept tossing left and right on bed. She had called Nina twice, but it went unanswered. She thought of going out but then who would look after her kids. Unending thoughts stormed her head. “I think she must have dozed off,” Diana concluded finally. That was the longest and hardest night for Diana.

Next morning, light breeze and soft golden sun rays filled the corridor and along with it sneaked in a bumble bee. As Nina was sitting near the window, the bee happily buzzed near Nina’s ear then went to nose, and then from nose to ear and it continued. As a result of the continuous buzz, Nina woke up. She angrily waved her hand trying to shove the bee away. She checked her phone, “ten missed calls!”, Nina shrieked! She immediately called Diana. “I…I don’t know how I had dozed off, I couldn’t take your calls, everything okay at your end?” , said Nina. “Yes, things are fine here. I wanted to know how things were at your end?”, replied Diana. “I’ll reach in an hour”, said Diana and hung up. 

Nina grabbed a cup of coffee as she waited for Diana. As she was strolling down the corridor she heard Kiara and Riya scream, “Good morning maasi”. “Good morning, my honey buns”, replied Nina hugging and cuddling them. “I think you should go and get refreshed”, Diana interrupted them. “No, not now, after doctor examines her”, said Nina firmly. “Doctor will be late, so you go and get refreshed”, chipped in Diana. 

Nina left hesitatingly. She drove hurriedly in search of a small hotel that she thought to book for few days but came to a bumping stop at the signal as the signal changed from green to red. She took a deep sigh of relief. As she glanced to her right, she saw a scantily clad child whimpering and asking her mother to take her home. The word “HOME” rung deep into her ears. As the signal turned green she drove homewards. Part of her was hesitant but the other part was longing to have a glance at her home. With mixed feelings she rang the doorbell. Sathya gasped! “Didi,..yu..you have come home” Sathya couldn’t believe her eyes. Nina just smiled and went in. “Breakfast is ready, you freshen up, I’ll….” Sathya turned to Nina and saw that she went inside the house, room to room, hurriedly, touching the walls, windows, doors, taking a keen look at the interior décor. Nina was amazed to see the interior décor was exactly the way she liked. She was clean bowled by the symmetrical alignment of things as per her choice. At last she entered her parents’ room. She gave a quick glance and turned to leave, just when her eyes caught notice of a tin box which was covered with dust from all sides except the top part. It seemed strange to her. Still, she turned to leave but she changed her mind and turned towards the box. With much difficulty she grabbed the box and opened it. To her surprise, the box was full of Nina’s childhood dresses, toys, and… several gifts neatly wrapped along with a letter. When Nina saw all this she didn’t know how to react. From the handwriting she knew it was her mother. Those gifts and letters were for her birthday. She opened and read the letters. Nina noticed all the letters had a similar conclusion which read as, “I am very sorry dear Nina. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I never did. I love you a lot, but I have failed to express my love for you. If possible forgive me.”  Nina was dumbfounded. She didn’t know how to react. She got alert by Sathya’s presence and immediately told her, “I’m coming, you go.” Sathya left. 

Nina rushed to freshen up, gobbled up the breakfast and left for the hospital. Puffing and panting she reached the third floor and nearly dashed against Diana. “Ouch!” cried Diana. “Sorry, I didn’t see. What did the doctor say?”, inquired Nina. “Di, calm down, reports are good and mother is recovering, but she is still weak so we cant proceed with the chest scan now. Doctor has advised to follow a strict timing of her meals”, Diana said assuring Nina. After a while when the nurse came with breakfast, Nina volunteered, took the food and went inside. Nina saw mother’s eyes were still closed. She began caressing her head softly and after a while she opened her eyes. Mother saw Nina sitting in front of her. She didn’t believe it and closed her eyes. Again after sometime she opened her eyes and again she found herself looking at Nina! “I think I have started hallucinating!”, mother thought. Third time when she opened her eyes and found Nina still sitting beside her, she was about to close her eyes and turn away her face, just then, Nina said, “I am very much sitting here”. Her mother didn’t blink her eyes; she was just looking at Nina. She just gazed at Nina. Nina gazed back. Not a word was exchanged, but still everything was understood. After a while her mother pointed towards water. Nina gave her the glass but she was unable to drink from it. So Nina gave her water in spoon. It seemed each spoon of water that Nina offered, bridged each of those distances that had distanced them. Silent and heavy tears flowed down from their eyes. Neither of them turned their face away, neither of them blinked. But silence spoke louder than words that day. Nina could feel, her mother wanted to sleep. So she patted her mother and she fell asleep in no time.

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Nina went out of the room. She felt nauseated as a dense cloud of mixed feelings engulfed her. With several thoughts, Nina absent mindedly sat on the edge of the seat, as a result of which Nina had a great fall and found herself kissing the floor. Squeals of laughter greeted her. “Maasi fell down, maasi fell down”, yelled Riya. Kiara joined her. Kiara and Riya threw themselves on Nina and all had a hearty laugh. 

First time after years, Nina caught herself laughing from the bottom of her heart. Nina recalled the words of Victor Hugo, “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – X

“Sorry ladies! I understand that you are worried about your mother but hospital has rules. Ok? I cannot let you enter for another couple of hours. It is the ICU – too many visitor disturb the patients.” Said the Nurse.

“At least let us know how she is doing?” demanded Diana angrily

“Let me just get her reports and notes and I will update you in a minute.” Nurse walked away in a hurry. As she promised, nurse came back with a few papers in her hand.

“So, let me start. Your mother was brought in by the maid named Sathya who found her struggling to breathe in her bedroom. She had her inhaler but that only gave solace for a while and after that too she kept taking long puffs as if she is choking. She has a history of asthma which was diagnosed 15 years back. As per her, she always had it in control with her inhaler but this time it did not work. We have done a thorough checkup. Her vitals are stable now although blood pressure was higher when she arrived here. We wanted her breathing to become normal so we have given her nebulization and constant supply of oxygen. Once she feels better, we need to do chest scan to look for some congestion which could be a probable reason for this episode.” Narrated the nurse as if this was a small everyday incident.

Diana shuddered “What if mom was alone at home? What if Sathya hadn’t noticed her struggling in the bedroom? What if.. ? Oh my God, we could have lost mother forever today.”

Nina was gazing at an empty wall. She did not really feel anything. No fear, no sadness, no remorse – nothing at all. She was blank.

“Ma’am, you need to visit finance department for the payments. We do not have her insurance details as well. Please if you could make the payments urgently – we could proceed with the further diagnosis.” Said nurse interrupting the sisters’ thoughts.

“Who would be taking care of the payments?” asked the nurse looking at both of them turn-wise…

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

“I will take care of it. Where is the finance department?” Nina said with surety. She looked at Diana who was still very scared at the thought of losing their mother. Diana nodded while Nina turned away to walk with the nurse. Diana returned her attention to her daughters who were both busy playing games on her mobile phone. She stared at them with wet eyes.

Her mind went back to the day when mother had locked Nina away in a room for more than a day. How could mother be so cruel? What was running in her mind? I have my daughters who are the most lovable human beings for me. Can I really ever lock them up without food or water in a room for 28 hours? Can I ever hit them with ladle so hard that they would have to be hospitalized? What was wrong with mom? Why couldn’t she ever love me and Nina?

Nina has been a protector to me. I cannot even count the number of times she has saved me from mom’s rage instead she took all the punishments that were meant for me. That ladle was supposed to hit me but Nina stepped in just in time to get injured. It was me who had spilled that breakfast that Nina had prepared so lovingly. But Nina got the punishment. Nina had always been there for me. I can imagine why she is so negative towards mom. She always got the brunt even for my mistakes. As for Dad, he was not really there for us. He loved us but he was always busy with work which apparently was more important than us.

Diana looked up and Nina was standing right there signing some papers for the man in black coat – probably from the finance department.

Nina then came and sat next to Diana. “We still have an hour before we can visit mother and they need to keep her in observation for longer before they can take her for scan. Do you want to go and get something to eat? Kids must be hungry.” Said Nina holding Diana’s hand.

“Yes massi, I am starving. Can we have some sandwiches?” shouted Kiara

“Ok, let us go. There is cafeteria on the top floor. We will come back in an hour.” Said Diana

I have to tell Nina what happened after she left home to study in the boarding school. I also have to tell her what happened when father died. I don’t know how will she take it but she needs to know.

After they ordered food for kids and coffee for themselves, they sat on a corner table. “Nina, you need to know some things that happened at home in your absence.” Said Diana with a lot determination.

“What? I don’t want to talk about it, Diana. I told you in the past as well. I have got nothing to do with mother.” Snapped Nina

“It is not about mother. It is about your life. Till you forgive mother and move on from what happened in your childhood – you will not be happy. You don’t have to tell me but I know how miserable and lonely you are in your life. Don’t you want to be happy and content?” explained Diana

Nina smirked. “Happy and content! That only happens in fairy tales, Diana.”

“Listen ok? Just listen.” Said Diana

“After father sent you to boarding school in class 9th – I pleaded with him to send me too. I could not imagine living in that house without you. I was always scared of mom. But I just knew one thing that I should never reply back to her or try to reason with her when she was angry. That saved me from being a victim to her anger. Dad refused to send me to boarding then – he said I need to be class 9th to join the boarding.” Said Diana

“I remember that mom and dad were fighting all the time. I never ever saw them smiling at each other or even looking at each other lovingly. Dad was always working late hours – he was mostly not there for either mom or me. But whenever he came – he always took me in his lap and told me that I should not worry about them. These are grown up problems and kids shouldn’t concern themselves with this. And that mom loved both of us but just that she was short tempered.” Diana continued looking into Nina’s eyes now…

“I never understood why she was so short tempered. What was troubling her so much? I could not even figure out what triggered the fits of rage in her. After dad died of heart attack, I saw that mom softened a lot. She has been living with us since then and I don’t see the same mother anymore. Once I saw her crying looking at her wedding pictures and I asked her what made her so angry when they were kids.” Diana’s look softened remembering her father’s death…

“She mentioned that their marriage was not working. She and Dad were not compatible at emotional level at all. She also suspected dad of an illicit relationship with another woman. In fact she said that she is very sure that father was cheating on her. All those frequent tours and work was not really work but was a woman” said Diana…

“I never asked mother any more details about their relationship. But Nina, just for a minute look at mom and dad not as your parents but as a couple who had their own problems. Maybe you will just see …” Diana continued but Nina interrupted in between…

“Wait, do you have any evidence of this allegation on dad?” asked Nina, her eyes wide open

“Errr… yes. But why is that important? Whatever was there, was there. I hacked into his Gmail after he died and I found a few emails that proved that he was involved with somebody else. I just read a couple of them to know for sure – but did not probe any further. I did not want to lose respect for my dad.” Said Diana lowering her eyes

“Nina, whatever wrong Dad did and I did – it all came out on you. Mom could not handle her emotions appropriately. As a 12 year old child – it was obvious for you to hate your mother. But now as a 40 year old woman – do you think you can forgive her? She had to give up her career to take care of us and almost after you were born, Dad started to lose interest in the marriage. Of course, all this took a toll on mother and she couldn’t handle it.”

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

Tears were rolling down Nina’s cheeks now. She did not know what to believe and what to think. “So, dad was involved with another woman! And mom was angry on him all these years. But why punish me for all that? It wasn’t my fault. How was I supposed to know and understand all this as a child? Now I do understand, at least I think I do.” Said Nina talking loudly to herself

This piece of information was transformative for Nina. All these years, she blamed her mother without understanding or even thinking why her mom was the way she was. Now she had an opportunity to look at the world from her mom’s point of view and that could be an opportunity to forgive her also.

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – IX

She continually honked to get ahead in her hurried frenzy, overtaking a few cars a bit rashly. Diana was sitting by her side in the passenger seat with her daughters in the back. She placed a hand on her elder sister’s hand on the steering wheel. It was cold and was trembling.

Diana looked a long minute at Nina and Nina was acutely aware of her younger sister’s unwavering gaze. She looked in the rearview mirror and wiped her sweaty brow with a tissue she extracted from a box on the dashboard.

“Di, what is up? I have never seen you worried about Mum before today. I had called you many times, requested you to talk to her, come and meet her as she was longing to see you, but you never budged. Then what happened today?”

Nina gave her younger sister a haughty look and opened her mouth to retort back when she closed it. Diana wasn’t wrong. She had never cared, she had given her mother back what she got from her, bitterness and uncaring indifference. Then why today? Nina’s eyes were on the road, but she was back in time, lying in her bunk bed in her bedroom that she shared with Diana back in her childhood home when she was 12, and above her on the bunk was Diana. She had cried herself to sleep when she saw her father let her mother off the hook.

At midnight she got up and went to the kitchen to get water as she was feeling parched and saw the kitchen lights on. She hid behind the door and peered inside through a slit in the door. Her mother was sitting on the kitchen floor and crying holding something close to her chest. Upon looking closely, she saw it was her dress. The one she was wearing when her mother hit her. The dress had her blood stains on it. Her mother hugged the dress and rocked back and forth crying as she chanted only one thing “I am sorry. I am sorry, baby. I am sorry Nina. Forgive me, baby. My darling, I am so sorry” – saying this, her mother kissed her dress over and over.

Nina drew in a sharp breath, and her sigh was heard by her mother who hid the dress in a kitchen closet and came outside. She saw Nina and looked at her with her red-rimmed eyes. She held Nina firmly by her arm and dragged her back to her room. “Why were you outside your bed? Hasn’t the doctor told you to rest ?”, her mother yelled at her.

Nina looked at her mother with compassion and forgiveness which seemed to have agitated her mother even more as she let go of Nina’s hand and said, “Never pry into me again girl. It won’t do you any good.”

“Mom….” Nina said holding her mother’s dress from the back as she turned to leave.

She stopped. Nina could tell she was working hard to control the barrage of tears in her eyes. “Mom…..I need you. Sleep with me tonight.” Nina had asked in a pleading voice. Her mother was taken aback by her innocent request and was about to scold when her features softened and she sat on Nina’s bed. She lay on the bed and made Nina lie by her side. Nina placed one arm over mother’s arm and felt her mother’s warmth fill her with unsaid words and hidden love. Nina dozed off soon but not before she felt a tear fall on her shoulder and wet her dress from her mother’s eyes. She felt a soft kiss on her forehead and a loving caress on her head as she heard, “I Love You both. I am sorry for everything. But I know you have forgiven me already.” Saying this she slept by Nina’s side, and that was the only night when Nina felt loved and cherished.

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

The next morning Nina had woken up with a hope in her heart that from that day things will get better. That ‘today’ was the dawn of a new life in which she was loved by her mother like all her friends. She went to the kitchen and made a beautiful breakfast of Cheese Toasts and Milkshakes as a pleasant surprise for her mother, and went to take a bath wishing she would see it all and feel happy and would shower Nina with her love. She was waiting for her mother to wake up expectantly, the air seemed to be filled with her palpable positivity. Her mother came outside and went into her bedroom. Her father was already gone on a tour by the morning flight without informing them, leaving a note behind for her mother. Without a word, her mother stormed into the kitchen muttering something to herself. With bated breath, Nina waited for her to emerge with a smile, but all she heard was a scream. She ran to the kitchen and saw her mother standing there in a fit of rage as Nina felt her breath caught in her throat.

“W…wh….what happened Mum ?” She asked her mother tentatively trying to figure out what wrong she did as she saw the breakfast she made lying on the floor amongst broken dishes.

“Who told you to make breakfast?”, her Mum asked with gritted teeth.

“I made this to please you.” Nina managed to say with tears in her eyes, trying to figure out how it was on the floor when she saw Diana hiding under the couch and crying with her hands covering her mouth. She understood that Diana must have felt hungry and attempted to take breakfast on her own and spilt it all.

“You have succeeded in pleasing me beyond my imagination. Let me reward you now”, saying this her mother grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her into her bedroom shoving her in and locking her from outside.

She cried and hammered the door “Mum what wrong have I done!” But no reply came, no one opened the door. Nina was locked in that room for 28 hours before her father came back and opened the door for her. No, she was locked there for last 28 years, she never left that room it seemed.

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

Today the 40 year old woman was going to return that one gesture of love, to the woman she knew to be her mother. Today her mother needed her, just like that Nina who had needed her mother.

She looked at Diana and told, “I have always given Mum what she gave me. I was not like you. You were much more kind and forgiving. You let her back in your home and heart after father died. But I never let her back in my heart”, Nina said as she was passing the Mysore Palace. “But today I am going to return her the one night of love she gave me.”

The sisters pulled into the Hospital in which their mother was admitted and unbelted themselves. Diana was sliding out her seat when Nina held her hand, “Diana, I always feared that I would be a mother to my child like my mother was to me. So, I never started a family. But I am happy to see you. A great mom you are!” Nina looked at the sleeping Kiara and Riya in the back seat and smiled. “I am glad that these two angels have a mother like we never had.” Saying this she hugged her, and both sisters had a tearful rendezvous in the real sense.

“Come, let’s go inside,” said Diana and Nina nodded taking a deep breath.

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – VIII

Nina woke up and grabbed her mobile phone. She was in Bangalore- the city where her love of life lived. “Just a glimpse”, she said to herself.  She just wanted to see him once. She opened the Facebook app on her phone and searched for ‘Ankit Kumar’. She scrolled through all the Ankit Kumars, she scrolled down and down, he wasn’t there. 

She typed in ‘Ankit Kumar’, location ‘Kolkata’, still her Ankit wasn’t reflecting in the list. Frantically, she typed in the name of the organisation where they worked together. Yes! He was there. She quickly clicked on his profile. He was just the same. She was smiling at his profile picture, but something else caught her attention- “married to Nisha Sharma”.

Nina couldn’t believe her eyes. She wanted to check again, she was swiping her fingers on her phone screen. There were  many pictures of Ankit and Nisha, but she was confirmed after seeing them together in the attire of groom & bride. Nina had lost Ankit’s love forever. There was nothing left.

Nina broke down, wailing like a little baby. She was full of regret. If only she could have talked her worries to him… if only she could have shared her views on marriage with him… if only she could have agreed to her sister Diana… if only…

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

“Nina massi, Nina massi”, Kiara barged into the room crying. “Massi, Mom is crying over the phone, something has happened to Nani”, she yelled. “Wa…watt?” Demanded Nina and rushed outside.

She quickly snatched the car keys from Diana and instructed her to guide the way.

“But di…”, Diana tried to stop her.

“I can’t lose her”, Nina said and got into the driver seat. Diana hugged her daughters and sat inside the car with them.

“Mom was having difficulty in breathing lately, but it got worse in the morning and she’s being admitted to the ICU now.” Diana told Nina on the way, crying. 

Nina was trying to stay calm but tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was driving as fast as she could but she felt that the traffic had come to a standstill.