SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XIV

Scene – I

Major Saraansh reporting Sir!” he said in a crisp voice. “Ah! There you are. Congratulations Major” replied Brigadier Varun with a radiant face. “You did it, my boy,” he patted Major Saraansh. “Thank you, sir. Credit goes to the boys, they fought very bravely,” replied Major Saraansh delightfully. “Well Major, why don’t you take a few days off?” asked Brigadier. There was an abrupt silence from Major Saraansh. He didn’t want to answer it. But he suddenly remembered his father’s phone call. “Sir you haven’t taken any leave over the years. Would you mind joining me? I’m sure my parents will be glad to see you.” Major Saraansh said in a casual tone. Brigadier Varun gave a pensive look, but he agreed eventually.

Scene – II

What are you looking at my dear?” asked Mohan lovingly. “You look so Wizened and shrunken like a fading rose,” Sudha replied in a muffled voice. “I’m fit as a fiddle my love,” Mohan said in a funny tone. Sudha didn’t reply but she quietly kept the photo aside. They had clicked it last summer. “Will they come? I still doubt it! What do you think?” Sudha asked in a peculiar tone. Mohan didn’t reply. He got up to leave. Sudha held back his hand. “Mohan! I have never seen you this reserved! Mohan please talk to me. I can’t handle this silence. Whom do I talk to? There is no one except for you.” Sudha broke down to loud sobs. Mohan sat down holding her hand. “What can I say? Now I don’t have to think of new stories for innocent curious souls. Now I don’t have run after chirpy little begins. Now I don’t have to cuddle a crying toddler. Now I don’t have to save awfully mischievous brats from your wrath! Now I,…I… have absolutely no work! I feel doomed. All that I can offer now is silence! What can I say Sudha?” His breath stuttered as he tried to take a deep breath.

Scene – III

Hello, can I speak to Mr. Prateek?

I’m sorry he is busy at the moment,” said the voice at the other end.

Hello,.. hello… please, it’s urgent I need to talk to him. It’s about his mother.


Okay let me try,” said a reluctant voice.


Excuse me, sir, “there is a call for you.

Not now!” Prateek replied rudely.

Sir he has some information about your mother.” Prateek snatched the receiver immediately. “Hello who is it?” he asked in a crisp voice.

Your mother just survived a heart attack. All your siblings are coming, you…”

Who are you and how come you know my mother? Why should I trust you?” Prateek thundered over the phone. “Well, all your siblings are coming. It’s her last wish to meet all her children. Instead of inquiring over phone come and see for yourself.” Raman hung up smiling to himself. He knew he has belled the cat. It was his endeavour and gift for the beloved old couple.

Prateek was resting in his vanity after the shoot was over. He was waiting for his car. “What if it is true? Heart-attack! My goodness! Should I go?” He sat there lost in thoughts.

Happy Birthday to you. Happyyyy Biirrtthhhddaayy ttoooo yooooouuuuu.

Yeeeee!! Cheers!

Thank you so much, guys!

Hey mom, thank you so much, I’ll talk to you later.

Hi bhaiya, thannkkk you, where is my gift?”

Heeyyyy, thank you, my little sis! Mmuuaahhh!!” The sweet birthday melody coming from somewhere outside his vanity was distinctly audible to Prateek. It was his co-actor Khushboo’s birthday. The mellifluous celebration quietly tiptoed into Prateek’s ears. “Lucky people!” He sighed. His eyes drip with tears. Salty drops fell from his chin, drenching his shirt. It was Prateek’s Birthday as well! He was startled by the sudden honking of his car and got up to leave. But he straight away headed towards the airport.

Scene – IV

Honey! You must be hungry let’s have lunch,” Mohan said in a casual tone.

Without us!” said a bubbly voice. They turned leisurely and standing before them was a beautiful young girl. She wore a peach coloured dress with a white belt. Her hair was long and wavy. They could easily make out it was Dhara! She ran towards the old couple and hugged them tightly. Mohan and Sudha hugged her back. But Dhara could make out Mohan’s eyes were frantically searching for someone else. “Yes Pallu didi is here,” said Dhara delightfully.

As Palak stepped in, Mohan hid behind a wall. “Pallluuuu…” Sudha called out loud. Palak handed the baby to Dhara and hugged her mother. She was shaken seeing her maa weak and fragile. “Where is Alex? I,… I want to see my grandchild,” Sudha said in a single breath. Palak handed over the baby to Sudha. “Maa she is Pari,” Palak said softly. “She looks like an angel, Pallu…” She paused and looked intently at Palak and enquired, “Is everything alright between you and Alex?” Sudha asked inquiringly. “Maa, everything is fine between us… It’s just that we have shifted to India recently and he is settling his business in the new set up so he could not… He is very excited to meet you both and will be joining us soon!” Palak replied in an assuring tone. “That’s alright beta…” Sudha was relieved. Mohan too gave a similar reaction at the other end but he looked away when Palak looked at him. “Papa… Are you still angry with me?” Palak walked towards him and hugged him from behind and wept. And it was not so easy for Mohan to be hard anymore. His heart for his favourite child melted. He turned back to look at her. “Paa I am extremely sorry…” Palak said again and rested her head on his shoulder and hugged him as they both wept bringing smiles to both Sudha and Dhara’s faces.

Paa and Maa, you know…” Palak said smiling… “There’s a story behind Pari... One evening while returning from office I found her in a garbage bin near my apartment. I couldn’t help myself and picked her up. And Alex also was happy and agreed. because I have problems with my pregnancy… we were in utter sadness thinking God has closed my womb for hurting you both… But He didn’t… Pari is a blessing in our lives… since then she is a part of our life” Palak replied and they all had a very pleasant feeling about all.

Scene – V 

Two days have gone by in the presence of the little Pari. On the third day morning, there was a sharp loud knock at the door. Palak opened the door and before her stood an army officer. She came closer and clearly saw “Major Saraansh Lal” written on the badge to his left. “Maaa, Paaaa…” Palak shrieked. Mohan rushed towards the main gate. He saw a confident soldier in his uniform and a handsome young lad in his arms. “Paaaa, he is Saraansh,” said Palak with trembling lips. Mohan and Saraansh greeted each other with teary eyes. “Who is he?” asked Palak curiously. “May I come in, please?” Saraansh asked in a sharp tone. “Yes please,” Palak made way for them.

Mohan helped Saraansh as they laid the young man on the sofa. “Who is he?” Mohan questioned. Saraansh handed him a paper. It was an airport gateway pass with the name “Prateek Lal” written in it. “Prateek bhaiya!” Dhara gasped. It was a jaw-dropping moment for all except Saraansh.

Who is it, Mohan?” Sudha inquired. Everyone stared at Saraansh and he went inside to meet Sudha. “Maa it’s me,” said Saraansh softly. Sudha instantly recognized from the tone that it was her Saraansh, although he was almost unrecognizable in army uniform. They both hugged each other and broke down to loud sobs. “Maa, Prateek has also come,” Saraansh managed to speak in a choking voice. Saraansh helped Sudha to the adjacent room. Sudha sat beside him and caressed him with trembling hands. “How did you meet him? What has happened to him?” Sudha asked in one breath. “Maa, Prateek dashed with me unmindfully and was hit by a car as he turned to leave. Nothing serious no severe injury he will come back to senses soon,” Saraansh reassured.

After an hour, Prateek regained his senses. As he opened his eyes, he was greeted by this whole family. Prateek gathered himself, he didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. “How are you feeling, my beta?” Sudha asked Prateek in a soft tone. He just nodded.

Mohan got up from his seat and walked towards Sudha. “Well now that you have seen all of them. We shouldn’t disturb them. They are very busy people. I think they will leave in some time, let’s go inside,” Mohan said in a sarcastic tone.

Mohan please, it’s not their fault, the situation was complicated, we were also at fault, I mean it was a mess, but now we ca,…

Fault!!” Mohan abruptly stopped Sudha. “Yes, Sudha! we are at fault for spending every single penny on them to fulfil their demands! We are at fault for spending sleepless nights when they were sick! We are at fault for holding their feeble tiny hands. We are at fault for giving them the best of all that we ever had! We are at fault for loving them more than anything else! And because of this, we were sentenced with tears and loneliness. True! we are only at fault. They think they are brave and capable enough to run away from home whenever they like. How dare they? Who gave them this right? If we can nurture for babies when either they could move or express themselves, we can very well take care of ourselves. Moreover, I’m blessed with a wonderful wife who never left my side. I don’t need anything else. I’ve had enough.

All the four children were speechless. They had never seen this side of Mohan. They were struggling with their tears. Mohan turned to leave. “Paa,..” All four children called out to him at the same time. “We are sorry!” “Please Mohan!,” Sudha urged him. “What please Sudha? They are forgetting today we are old; tomorrow they will also be old. The question that we are asking they will also ask one day. Maybe then they might understand what it feels to be deserted! What it feels to be greeted by old cold walls of the house every moment,” Mohan poured his heart out.

We should have been more conscious Mohan. They have also felt dejected by our words and actions sometimes. They were young and immature Mohan. Let bygones be bygones. We have got a second chance as a family. Why should we waste it? Please forgive them, Mohan, release that burden. In the autumn of our lives, we are once again surrounded by our children. Let’s not shy away from this fortunate moment Mohan,” before Sudha could finish, all the four children hugged her and wept bitterly. Each one was apologizing in his/her own way. Sudha kissed each one of them; she held them in one hand and stretched the other towards Mohan. Mohan didn’t deny, he too came and hugged all his children tight, they hugged him back.

Scene – VI

Young man,” a sharp tone startled Raman. He turned to see it was Brigadier Varun and his wife; his parents. “Dad, I,…I was jus,…” Raman fumbled.

We’ve missed you son. I have heard everything from Saraansh. Whatever had happened was not your mistake. Let’s go home!” Raman hugged his parents tight. They kissed him back.

Concluding Scene 

Later that day, Sudha and Mohan were having tea in their balcony. “Thank you for the loving family Mohan,” Sudha said resting her head on his shoulders. “Ah! There you are. That is what I call ‘sunbeams at sunset,’ my love.” They smiled at each other. Seeing them smile, all the four children smiled at each other as the old couple happily sipped their coffee.


THE BEGINNING

Moral of the Story:
The whole dramatisation of this story is absolutely fictional and quite filmy. But behind it, we, “The Candles Online Family” have a message to convey to the whole world and that is – as children we should never bring dark shadow in the lives of our old parents instead we should always be the Sunbeams at their Sunset periods.    

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SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XIII

He was always a tough act to follow. Everyone knew me as younger bro of the superhero. He could move mountains and fly in the air. I had no special qualities. I had no value of my own. People wanted to make me their friend only get close to him. No one loved me… Even Ma and Pa… He was the apple of their eye. I was there only as the audience to applaud when he scored. The sidekick, the extra man. I just hated him… I really HATED him” shouted Prateek, he crumbled down on to his knees and cried piteously. There was pin drop silence all around everyone was stunned. Suddenly the director came to his senses and cried “Cut”. Everyone applauded. The shot was taken but Prateek was still crying. Khushboo patted on his back. And Prateek realized where he was. He got up and moved to his vanity van. 

What a shot Sirji. It was so real. Even the director forgot to call out Cut. This movie is going to be a super duper hit” the assistant director was going gaga over his acting. Khushboo was also sitting in there looking intently at Prateek’s face there was a riot of emotions on his face which he was trying to suppress. She could gauge that the scene had hit a raw nerve within. And made a mental note of talking to him later about it. 

Prateek had always been a difficult person to talk to. He had a dark brooding air about him. Even though he was only a few films old in this industry he was considered a very promising actor. Especially for the serious kind of roles. Khushboo wondered if anyone knew anything about his personal life.

Oblivious to all the hullabaloo around him Prateek got up to leave. His thoughts went back to the fateful day when their happy family turned upside down. Saransh was just one and a half years elder to him. All his life Prateek had tried to come out of the shadow of the perfect elder bro Saransh. Where ever he went Saaransh had been there before. They went to the same school. All his teachers remembered him as the younger brother of Saransh and unknowingly kept comparing him to his elder brother. Saransh was better at studies, he played tennis better. He was more popular with friends. Heck, he even danced better than Prateek. “I was good at nothing and he was good at everything.” This feeling of unworthiness was brewing inside Prateek and made him extra competitive with Saransh.

On that fateful day, Saransh was so happy. Looking at him smiling and so eager to get the pat on the back from mom and dad. A fierce anger began to rise inside Prateek. He wanted to wipe off that smug look from his face. He wanted to hurt him. And he did.

Rest as they say is history. After Saransh disappeared his parents were so distraught and spent all their waking hours searching for him, worrying about him. Palak took over the complete responsibility of the household. Dhara was still a child and Prateek was ignored by everyone. He knew that everyone blamed him for what had happened even though they didn’t say much. After a year of staying in this oppressive atmosphere, he took the first available opportunity out and came to Mumbai with a friend.

Yes, he was full of anger then. The guilt came later. After living on his own he realised the value of his family. He missed there love and concern. After his fair share of struggle, he got little recognition as an actor. For the first time he felt that he was good at something, he too had talent… And when he won a small award for his role in a short film he wanted to share his happiness with someone. Show his small trophy. Oh, how he yearned for a pat on his back by Ma. It was then he realised what Saransh wanted that day. Just a smile and a pat on his back. He was just wanting to share his happiness with his family. Prateek realised then how he had single-handedly destroyed his happy family.

Prateek wanted to say sorry to Saransh and make things better again but he could never muster the courage to face his parents or Saransh again. “What will I Say? How will I apologise for the huge blunder I have committed. My words won’t be enough to heal the hurt I have caused. It’s better that I stay away from them. Hope they just forget about me.

Next day morning when Raman came to Dr Lal’s home, he was pleasantly surprised. Dr Lal had a smile on his face. And Mrs Lal was talking excitedly. There was a festive air in the home that morning. As soon as he entered Sudha told him everything. Raman was happy and relieved. Palak and Dhara were coming home. Finally…

There was no news from Major Saransh’s unit. He called almost every day. “God! Please keep him safe. This family has found happiness after a very long time.” Raman’s thought wandered to his own parents. “Will they ever be so happy to see me?

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XII

I know that you hate Prateek for what he did and felt towards Saaransh. I have been angry with him too. But Mohan, please realize that it was us who were wrong. All throughout his childhood, poor Prateek lived in an insecurity that we loved Saaransh much more than any of them. He always thought that we favoured Saaransh. Imagine living in a hell like that. It is not easy for a child to deal with this level of sibling rivalry. It is not healthy. It must be gnawing him from inside every moment of each day. He was always trying so hard to impress us but always fell short of trophies when compared to Saaransh. Mohan, we as parents should have seen that and we should have helped him deal with this insecurity. I know you think that he failed us as a son, but I truly believe that we failed him as parents!” said Sudha crying bitterly now.

Stop blaming yourself, Sudha. It wasn’t our fault. Kids fight when they are young. It is normal. How could we ever know that there is this level of hatred growing inside his heart for his own brother?” Mohan was clutching Sudha’s hand tightly now.

Can’t we again search for Prateek and where he is? I am craving for Prateek. I know Saaransh will not come. I know, he was always a stubborn child. If he decided to leave us so that we could be happy with the rest of our children – he will not come back. He is a man of his words. I wish he knew how this family broke down after he left us.” Sudha was talking more to herself now.

Can’t we look for my boy, Mohan!” shouted Sudha.

Calm down dear… Calm down… We will… we will search for him again…” Mohan had no option but to just agree with her at that moment to calm her down. He was thinking when would be the right time to tell her that he just spoke to Saaransh three hours ago. How would he tell her that her son is at the border fighting the enemies? Would it make her feel proud? Or maybe she would get all the more anxious now thinking that he is a war-like situation at the border.

Can’t we talk to Palak? Where she can be? Can’t you forgive her and accept her back? Maybe Dhara, our youngest one can find out where her Didi is now…” She said in a pleading tone. 

Mohan’s heart broke looking at her desperation to talk to one of them. To be near them. ‘What sort of a life is this where at this age we have to beg our children to come and see us? How can these kids be so cruel? What Sudha said about us being more responsible towards Prateek – is that true? Could I do something differently to shape Prateek as a better person? I really don’t know. But… Palak…?‘ Mohan came back to his senses and called out her name, Sudha!” as he gently caressed her hairs off her face. He has another mystery hidden in his chest which he thinks to reveal for her happiness.

Sudha shook him with her both hands impatiently, “What? Where did you get lost?”

Dhara called a few minutes ago…” He replied.

What’s the big deal about it? She always calls every week when she gets time from her studies? Is she doing fine? Did you tell her about my heart attack? She had her exams. I had told you not to tell her anything, Mohan!” Sudha looked intently at her husband.

Dhara already knew about it much before I could tell her… She had called in my number which was with Raman… Now, leave that part… She is fine… What I want to tell you is, she told me that she was in constant touch with Palak and Alex for quite some time… And she revealed it to me today… She gave Palak’s number as well… When Dhara went for her higher studies to Pune, she met Palak and Alex there once in a mall… They are settled in Mumbai now… Moreover, Dhara is with them today actually in Mumbai…” Mohan could not hold that piece of information back anymore but spilt it all.

Sudha’s face glowed and she smiled in joy listening to that. “Palak…? Can I talk to my Pallu?” She gripped tightly at Mohan’s hands with excitement.

Mohan nodded and dialled the number with a smile in his face as well and when it started to ring he handed the phone to Sudha.

It was a heart-wrenching moment when Palak decided to marry a boy she loved against their wishes. Alex is from a different country and different culture. She eloped with him and left her parents with just a letter. Palak tried calling later and tried to get back to her parents, but Mohan was so heartbroken by her decision that he decided to never talk to her again.

Mohan was deep in his thoughts as he went back to the hurtful pages of their past but he came back to their present when Sudha’s voice interrupted him.

Hello, hello – Can I talk to Palak?” said Sudha excitedly as some male voice had answered the phone. Must be her husband Alex. 

Palak is busy preparing for the ceremony. May I know who is speaking, Ma’am?” said the male voice again politely.

It is me Sudha – her mother!” said Sudha already thinking over the word “ceremony” Oh ok, let me just pass the word to Palak. Just hold on.” It was Alex but he could not let her know about his identity as he was aware of the whole thing. He left the receiver. There was quite a lot of music and background noise which Sudha could able to hear from this end. What was happening? Was this man the one Palak left them for? Did she just speak to her husband? Sudha kept thinking as she heard someone speaking…

Mom – is that you?” It was Palak.

Yes, it is me.” Sudha choked and heard Palak sobbing bitterly.

There was a pause for some time as both the mother and daughter were weeping vehemently. Mohan was apprehensive about Sudha’s health. He pressed her hands in his and rested her head on his chest to comfort her.

Palak gathered herself thinking about her mother’s health as well and spoke again. “Mom, how are you mom? How I wished to get a call from you all these years? Are you still angry with, mom? I heard you had an attack…” said Palak in a single breath.

No beta. I am not angry anymore. I just want to meet you. I want to hold my Pallu once again tight to my bosom. I want to hear her wise words once more… Can you come back with Alex and see me, please?” said Sudha as she continued to weep bitterly.

Mom, Mom… Please don’t cry… You are not well… Dhara told me everything… And we will be coming soon at once…” Palak tried to calm her mother down.

Yes, I am fine. Please come and meet me. I do not know how long I will be alive. I just want to meet all of you once before that.” Said Sudha.

Mom, stop it… Nothing will happen… I will come straight away. If I take the early morning flight – I will be there by tomorrow early afternoon. Mom, I am coming.” Palak assured her Mom.

In the background, she could hear a baby’s crying voice. “Pallu, who’s crying in the background?” Sudha asked curiously to which Palak revealed that it was her baby. Sudha was ecstatic and looking at Mohan she said, “Mohan, our Pallu got a baby… she is a mother now…” Mohan was joyous too.

Pallu, don’t you want to talk to your Papa…?” Sudha asked her and she agreed but before Sudha could hand over the receiver to Mohan he went away from that room saying he can’t just now…

“Pallu, you can talk to him when you come here… He is on his cell phone…talking to his patient now…” Sudha had to lie to her daughter which Palak could easily make out. But both of them were overjoyed to talk to each other after many years.

Sudha disconnected the call as her face now was so bright with joy. She could not control her smile and her tears at the same time. She felt like dancing. Her Pallu is coming home with her family tomorrow. She now wanted to decorate the whole house, cook all their favourite dishes and do everything possible to make it up for the lost time.

Will this family re-unite again? Thought Sudha. “Oh God, please fulfil my last one request – let this family have at least one dinner together in this house. Then I can die peacefully. There is nothing else that I would ever ask for” said Sudha in her prayers silently.

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – XI

Dr Lal hung up the receiver after making a series of calls. He had finally located his Saransh. He only needed that one clue. All these years he kept wondering, where his son might be, lying to people that he is in the US to avoid pesky questions. If only Palak had shown them the letter, he left. But how could she? He had asked her not to. His family was never the same after Saransh left.

He sighed as he sat in an upholstered chair and thought maybe it was gods plan. Or why would he decide to look for old albums a fortnight ago and hunt for them in Palak’s old room? He had found Saransh’s last letter to his sister in her cupboard, stuffed between the pages of a worn out album. That was the first time he came to know that Saransh had left for NDA. He had Googled NDA’s number and noted it on the last page of a diary but never called it. Why should he call? Why should he call first when the boy wanted nothing to do with them? He left them bereft and in pain. He never once looked back. But today, Sudha’s pining for her children made his resolve crumble, and he called one after another number till he got the number to the base where Saransh was. He was in Kashmir. He looked at the number scribbled on his palm in urgency and with shaking hands, he dialled.

Major Saransh Lal was supposed to lead a battalion of 30 army officers to PoK across the line of control. He was ready and prepped his men. The helicopter that was to fly them was waiting. He was sure this surgical strike would be a success, there was no chance of going wrong. He wore his gear and was heading out when a lieutenant came running to him.

“Major, there’s a call for you.” He said.

“Who is it, lieutenant? Don’t you know this is a matter of covert operation and we can’t be late?” Saransh replied a bit irritated.

The lieutenant looked down shamefully at being rebuffed and said in a loud and clear voice, “Major, the man on the call claims to be your father.” He went quiet.

Saransh could not believe his ears. He gave the lieutenant a sceptical look as if to make sure he wasn’t kidding and sprinted towards the office. He has walked headlong into situations of mortal peril and never did his resolve shake, but today he was hyperventilating as he held the receiver to his ear and whispered a soft “Hello”.

There was a long silence from the other end, he waited with bated breath, and once again he spoke “Hello Dad, is it you?” His voice was much louder.

“Saransh….you sound so different.” Came the reply. He could tell his father was crying; the broken voice was trembling.

He closed his eyes shut to keep himself from crying too; he was a soldier, he wasn’t allowed this luxury. “Dad, it’s you, after so many years, it’s you.” He said with a choked voice.

“Saransh, I need to talk to you, son”, he said with desperation.

Saransh wished he could have spoken for hours on end, but his helicopter was waiting. He looked at the officers inside and whispered, “Dad, I need to talk too, I am so glad you called. There are ten years between us, and they won’t sum up in ten minutes. Right now duty is calling me.” Saransh said, and Dr Lal couldn’t help but smile through tears.

“Son, no calls, come back home after you win your mission.” Saransh couldn’t tell his father on what mission he was going; it was classified information. He took a deep breath, “Dad I promised never to come back alive.”

Dr Lal could no more talk discreetly and poured his heart out. “It’s not for me Saransh, not even for your siblings. It’s for your mother. She suffered a mild heart attack and is missing you badly. She won’t say it openly, but we all know she loved you the best. She needs you. Please come to see her once and give her some happiness to carry on. I agree with you son, first motherland, but then mother.” He said almost pleading.

Saransh felt his heart stop for a minute. His mother, his lovely, beautiful mother. She needs him; he will not let any promise withhold him from seeing her. Overcome with emotions he asked, “What took you so much time? It would have been better if you told me sooner that Ma is unwell!” He paused as he was again summoned to leave by the same lieutenant. He nodded in his direction and covered one ear as the chopper started, deafening him.

He shouted over the top of his voice, “Tell Ma that I am coming. Tell her that I am coming real soon. Bye, Dad. Wish us luck!!!” He bellowed, and without waiting for a reply, he ran towards the waiting chopper and sat in the front, next to the pilot and belted himself in. In no time the helicopter was airborne, and Saransh was lost in memories.

After leaving home, he went to NDA, Khadakwasla and was trained there to be a soldier for three years and then it was IMA, Dehradun for another one year. After that, he became a lieutenant and was commissioned in Kashmir. Three years later he was made a Captain, and just two weeks ago he became a Major. In between were many instances he faced death, saw it up close, gazed into its eyes and every time the only regret with the life he had was never talking to his parents again. He wanted to be a good son, a dutiful son. But the whole time he consoled himself by thinking, that Prateek is there, he must be taking good care of Ma and Dad. He told himself it was better this way.

There were a million letters he wrote and tore away without sending. But when he became a Major, he mustered the courage to call in a favour. He had once saved a man right from under the nose of a ruthless terrorist. He was a Captain that time and was hunting down militants with his men when he came to know about a man who was abducted by the terrorists. Saransh risked his life to get into the bunker and free the man who was held hostage there. The militants opened fire, and he returned it bravely.

In the process, he took a bullet in the arm, a shot that was aimed for the hostage and ended up riddling the militant with his rifle. The man he saved was Raman Murthy, and he worked for Geriatric care. Raman was forever indebted to Saransh for saving his life, and they became thick friends.

When Saransh was promoted to the rank of Major, he came to know that Raman was permanently leaving for Delhi, to start over there anew. Saransh couldn’t help but ask him to meet his parents on some pretext and inform him about their welfare. Raman left for Delhi, kept an eye on the old couple for almost ten days. It was then that Saransh came to know through Raman that his parents were living alone, none of his siblings was with them. He requested Raman Murthy to take up residence near his home in Delhi and be the son for them he could not be. Raman didn’t need much pressing as he already was in some guilt of his own and wanted some vindication.

It was only for last three days that Raman personally met the Lals and was starting to get close to them, and every night he called up Saransh and updated him about his parents. Saransh was jerked to the present from his thoughts as it was time to airdrop in the enemy zone. He wiped his mind clear, looked down, closed his eyes and prayed for success, saw his parents face in his mind’s eye and jumped.

The last words that rang in his ears were TELL MOM I AM COMING!!!

 

(Featured Picture Credit: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/yes-us-military-loves-shotguns-27897)

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – X

Hey guys, look what I got!” Palak, Prateek and Dhara were strolling in their backyard, and Sudha and Mohan were out of station. Dhara ran towards Saransh in excitement. “Saransh bhaiya what-is it? Show! Show!”, Squealed Dhara encircling Saransh. By that time, Palak had already noticed a big frown on Prateek’s face. Saransh rushed towards Palak. “Pallu Didi sees, I won the Student of the Year Award.” Prateek’s frown widened on hearing this. Palak tried to pacify things and said, “That’s great congratulations bro. Okay now, come-on in and freshen up.” “No! No! Where is Maa?? I want to show-her,” hooted Saransh. “Saransh, Maa and Paa are not at home”, said Palak casually.

Ohh nooo!!! Such a special day for me and Maa and Paa are not there,” Saransh said in a dejected tone.

Idea! Let’s capture this moment and preserve it for Maa and Paa, what say?,” chirped in Dhara. “Ohh that’s a fabulous idea!,” Saransh’s face lit up.

Before Palak could stop him, Saransh rushed towards Prateek. “Hey bro come-on let’s take a pic,” said Saransh in a casual tone. Prateek didn’t Respond. Neither did he turn towards Saransh. “Hey bro,” Saransh patted on Prateek’s shoulder.

How dare you touch me?,” Prateek thundered on top of his voice. His eyes were red in a fury. The other three were left shell-shocked. “Stop your drama and don’t try to come near me,” yelled Prateek. “Prateek stop it!” Palak said with a sense of urgency in her tone. “No, you stop it!! All of you!!” Prateek howled. “Prateek relax, what’s the matter? I just…” “I told you to stay away from me, you don’t understand.” Prateek gave a sudden push to Saransh, and his Trophy fell down. “Prateek! What’s wrong?,” Saransh shrieked.

You are wrong! What do you think of yourself? Who do you think you are?? You fool Maa and get extra love and attention. You are not a genius, you are trained for everything! If I am trained, I can win trophies too. What’s the big deal? What is this show-off for?,” roared Prateek his voice cold and crisp. “Prateek stop it, please. He is elder to you. Don’t create a mess,” Palak was on the verge of crying.  “Really didi, I create a mess? We already have a readymade mess standing before us!”Prateeeeek! Mind your tongue,” Saransh had raised his hand towards Prateek. “Yes beat me, kill me rather! It’s better to die than living this suffocating life,” shrieked Prateek. “Are you out of your mind Prateek? I was jus…” Saransh tried to talk.

Yes yes go runnn, start your Drama of falling sick and all will gather around you,” Prateek mimicked satirically. “Prateek I am warning you, stop it,” said Palak firmly. “No! Why will I keep shut? Why…” Palak slapped Prateek hard. “I said stop it.” She got hold of Dhara who was already crying and signalled Saransh to get inside. Palak gave Prateek a stern look and turned to leave. “Yes! You also, you also go didi.” Prateek wept badly. Saransh stopped and turned. See I got slapped for you, go celebrate”, said Prateek in a choking tone. “You are not my brother. Don’t come near me. I wish I had no brother, I wish you were,… ” Before he could complete, Palak dragged Saransh and Dhara inside. Prateek’s words were ringing in Saransh’s ears. He was not at peace. Except for Dhara, no one ate that night.

Next morning when Palak woke up, she saw Prateek was fast asleep on the old backyard bench. She looked for Saransh, but he was nowhere. Terror gripped Palak. She searched the entire house frantically.  But all in vain. There was no sight of Saransh. Palak was Extremely tensed. As she reached out for a glass of water, she saw a white paper folded and kept underneath. Palak impulsively opened the letter.

Hi Pallu Didi. I know only you will find this letter. I never knew I was the stumbling block. I am extremely sorry. You all are not trash as Prateek said. When he calms down do tell him that I love him. He is the best brother. I love you and Dhara too.

I am going to apply for NDA. I will join the Army. I will never come in any of your ways, rather will fight for your security until my last breath. I won’t come back on my feet. But I will definitely come back wrapped in the tricolour flag.

Bye. Love you all.

PS: Please do not tell Ma and Dad about my whereabouts. I don’t want them to look for me and bring me back.”

Yes, I won’t come back. I will never come back. I will nev,…”  Major saab! Major saab! Wake up! Subedar Manoj frantically Shook up Saransh. Saransh opened his eyes and saw a terrified face. “Major saab are you alright?” Manoj asked Saransh. Saransh gathered himself and nodded. “Major saab, here, have some water. Please don’t say you won’t come back. You are a brave soldier. Victory will be ours. We will definitely succeed in the surgical strike.” Saransh just patted him and nodded. He asked Manoj to leave.

Saransh got up and freshened. The dream was still afresh. Every time-he had to go on a tough mission, he had that same dream.

That incident danced before his eyes. He sat with his face buried in his hands. He got up and reached for the landline. “I don’t know whether I will see them ever again. How much I miss them!! He could feel he was on the verge of breaking down. He held his nerves and picked up the receiver, but he could see his fingers trembling. “I wish you were not my brother!,”  Prateek’s Words rang in his ears. He kept the receiver.

“I shouldn’t disturb them.  Moreover, they must have forgotten me. Or do they remember me? Do they,..

Suddenly the door opened, and Brigadier Varun walked in. “Major, you have to report at 16:00 hrs. Get the troops ready,” there was a sense of urgency in his tone. Without a second thought, Major Saransh marched towards his troops.

Mohan dialled the Number finally. “Hel . . . Hello, can I speak to Saransh Lal?” “There is no one named Saransh here,” said the voice on the other end. “Bu.. but he had joined NDA,” butted in Mohan. “Ohh! Then he must be an ex-cadet. By now he must have been posted in some regiment,” said the person at the other end and hung up. Disappointment loomed over Mohan.

I still wonder why Saransh joined the Army when he had always dreamt of becoming a bureaucrat!,” Mohan murmured to himself.

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – IX

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. 

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – VIII

Sudha was struggling to get back to sleep. She glanced at Dr. Lal, he was asleep. There was a kind of nervousness which she had never experienced before. The memories of her kids are coming back again and again. She always wondered if she would ever see them again before leaving this world, at the same time if something happens to her, what about Dr. Lal, who would take care of him?

Two blocks down the lane, Raman was also lost in similar thoughts. Would his parents ever accept him back? He is their only son, there is no one else who could take care of his parents. All his attempts to get back in touch with them have failed. “What if they never allow me to express what I feel? This guilt isn’t letting me live peacefully. What did I do with my life?“, he slowly walked into the garden. It was almost 4’O clock in the morning. 

Suddenly Sudha felt too sick, her body was completely sweating. She shook Dr.Lal to wake him up as she pointed at the water jug on the table. Dr. Lal served her water. Sudha was breathing heavily unable to keep her eyes open. “Sudha, Sudha, please look at me. What happened? Should I call for an ambulance? Please talk to me, please“, Dr.Lal was scared as hell. He grabbed his phone to call Raman. Raman’s phone was ringing but he isn’t answering the calls. After two vain attempts, Dr.Lal gave-up on him and called for an ambulance. 

Raman was shaken out of his thoughts when he heard the siren of the ambulance. The ambulance entered Dr. Lal’s house. Involuntarily Raman ran towards their house. The paramedics have checked Sudha and recommended to shift her to the hospital as her heartbeats were abnormal. Dr.Lal accompanied Sudha in the ambulance holding her hand tight. “Raman, please bring Sudha’s medicines which are kept on the bedside table, also the bag kept in the cupboard to hospital. Please come as fast as you can“.

Raman went inside the house, collected the bag and her medicines, locked their house. He went to his house and started searching for the car keys. He took some money, water, glucose and his wallet. He opened the bag he brought from Dr.Lal’s house to keep the items he thought would be useful. Opening the bag gave him a shocker. The bag contained Sudha’s clothes, money, some papers and glucose too. Dr.Lal was very much prepared for the emergency situation, a doctor he is by profession, no wonder thought Raman. 

He grabbed his phone, rushed out of the door towards his car. He started driving and wanted to make a phone call. That is when he noticed missed calls from Dr.Lal. He cursed himself to have been negligent and not keeping his phone along with him. “God, please forgive me for making another mistake. I could not have been available to Dr. Lal in time of need. Please save Sudha mam.” 

Sudha is admitted to the emergency ward, nurses were running around her arranging the oxygen mask and preparing for IV fluids. The duty doctor came in, checked the vitals and injected a couple of medicines into the saline water. Dr. Lal felt helpless standing outside the emergency ward.

Dr.Lal, is this the first time or has she ever had similar problems ?” asked the doctor.

“No Doctor, this is the first time. She has arthritis and is also suffering from depression. I gave her a double dose of anxiety reliever today. Raman must be coming any time, he has the list of medicines Sudha takes” Dr.Lal responded.

OK. Please don’t worry, she would be fine. I suspect it could be a mild attack or just stress. I would get the tests done so that we know what caused it. Be strong Sir” said the doctor. 

A couple of hours later, the doctor returned to Dr.Lal, “Sir, she is very weak. It was a very mild attack. I will give some medicines for a few days which would help her. Keep her happy and away from stress. You could take her home…”

Raman and Dr.Lal looked at each other feeling relieved. All three of them reached home. Dr. Lal helped Sudha lay comfortably on the bed. He sat beside her caressing her hair till she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, Dr. Lal joined Raman who was waiting in the living room. “Ah, you made tea. Thanks a lot, Raman, you have been a lot of help today. Otherwise, how much can this old man do? I thought I am going to lose her. I know such thoughts are stupid, but I couldn’t help” said Dr. Lal.

Raman could sense the pain in his words, “I am extremely sorry Sir. I could not attend your call when I should have. I would have unknowingly done the same mistake I did with my granny. As they say, life repeats itself until we learn the lesson”, he broke into tears, uncontrollably sobering.

Raman, you should not be guilty about your granny. Even today, it wasn’t your mistake. Things just happen. We should take them as they come. See us, have we ever thought our kids would leave us? Today, they don’t have time for us. When Sudha was in an emergency also, I have not thought about them. I don’t know if they would come if I call them, but I am not too sure if I would reach out to them for help. I have got an insurance done for me and Sudha, that should suffice if need be. The documents are in the bag you brought to the hospital today. Are you wondering why am I telling you that? If I forget some other time, please remember to use them in time of need“, Dr.Lal gave a faint smile. 

Raman came back home, he felt too tired. Was it lack of sleep or the burden of missing Dr. Lal’s calls, he wasn’t really sure. On one side are his parents who refuse to forgive him for the mistake he made as a teenager, on the other side, there are Mr. and Mrs. Lal who love their kids so much. Maybe if their kids take a step forward, that family can reunite together to be a happy family, just like the pictures on the walls. He picked up his phone to make an important call he has been waiting to make.