I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Aastha

When the task came-up, I was not really into it. I thought our Charlie (Chiradeep) would choose whose questions I would be answering and vice versa. No, he brought his mark into the activity, by asking us to choose a number not knowing to whom that number belongs to and accordingly I get the questionnaire. When he asked me to choose a number, I was heartfully wishing to get Rajnandini’s questionnaire to answer. Woah!! I got hers.

Firstly, thank you Rajnandini. I loved your questions. They are quite thoughtful. Now, I think it’s time for me to start penning down my answers.

Rajnandini’s Questionnaire:

  • Apart from brushing your teeth, what is that one other thing which is a ‘must-do-without-fail’ for you every day?

OMG, is brushing must?? Oh-no, am I missing something important that I should be doing every day? Just kidding. Well, this was an easy question to answer. The entire world can flip upside down but I would never stay without talking to my father. Only network connectivity can come in between our communication. It could be only a few seconds in a day, but that gives me ultimate satisfaction.

  • What is the most valuable treasure in your life?

I believe that the most valuable treasures are within us (human beings). No one can steal them or destroy them. Memories, those are what I treasure the most. Memories make me feel hopeful and alive. It is those memories that really help me feel good about my life today and every day…

  • What is the purpose of your life? Ever given it a thought?

I don’t know if there is some enlightenment that happens to some people so that they know what that purpose is. I have no idea what mine might be …

  • How do you respond to criticism and ridicule?

Honestly, it depends on the critic :-). If the critic is knowledgeable enough then I consider it quite seriously, otherwise I take it on the lighter side. It infuriates me when idiots criticize. I usually think over what might have made them say/feel so, those might be my weak points. Hence, I work on getting better.

  • How do you unwind/de-stress yourself?

Work-related stress isn’t a problem at all, but if there is stress on the personal front, I feel very unsettling. I go on a walk to the nearest park, listen to good music or watch some sci-fi movies… If it takes more than these to feel better, I cry. It does help me get over it.

  • Given an opportunity to meet a great personality of your choice, whom would you like to meet? And, what would you tell him/her?

I would love to meet Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, our very own Mother Teresa. I may actually be speechless after I see her. I would love to spend a day with her only to observe and learn… I know she is no more, can I time travel ??

  • Relationships world over are getting brittle by the day. What in your opinion could be the problem at large (apart from specifics)?

The answer is something we all know. We only concentrate on whom we love ignoring those who are showering us with love. Virtual connections and texting are only making it worse. Physical presence, caring touch, a delightful hug has become a rarity. There are very small things in life we stopped appreciating.

  • There are different belief systems and different philosophies as to what happens after death. What do you want to happen to you after you die?

Death is the ultimate truth. It could come through the door one day to knock us out of our life without prior notice. My thought stops at death, beyond death whatever happens or can happen is of no value to me.

  • Science teaches us the theory of evolution. I’m sure you would have studied it in school and maybe even in college. However, evolution and creation are complete contrasts. Leaving academics aside, what do you personally believe in – evolution or creation and why?

I believe in nature and so evolution… I don’t think human beings can match the universe’s creativity no matter how hard we try. We do not even know about it completely.

  • What is the one thing you desire to do during your lifetime?

There is a strong craving in me to be loved and be understood at a deeper level. It would take another person who really wants to look into me, which is not in my hands. So, meanwhile what is that I can do??? One day, I aspire to be a torchbearer for a change, a positive change that would make this world a better place. I am working on it.

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I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Chiradeep

1. Rajnandini: In the little more than four decades of your life, do you have any regrets? If so, what are they? If not, why?

Ans: Rajnandini, I know you hit the button which literally got me stuck and still at a point where I have to think well about what to and how to answer this question. 

Regrets are many, truly, but sharing them all might be fatal because we rarely know the end result of everything. Being human our decisions and responses are always premature ones so I won’t call them regrets though sometimes I regret about a few things. 

Now to answer your question I can say, I hate the time that I wasted away for unproductive and addictive actions and works undertaken by me to satiate my earthly needs. I have deep regrets for all those times that I had lost and will never get back ever again. However, regretting those actions are not fatal. 

2. Aditi Ranade: What is the toughest lesson life has taught you?

Ans: Tough lessons are many but one that I struggled with the most was allowing too many distractions and interruptions in my most vital relationships. I learnt instead of giving attention to many relationships/friendships it is better to groom the fewer ones. Thanks a lot for this question dost, Aditi.

3. Deepa Kartik: Do you like to be in the spotlight?

Ans: Yo yo Deepa, Bingo. Yeah, I love being in the Spotlight, love attention and being the centre of attraction. But truly speaking, it never drives me or controls me or motivates me to stay tuned or be focussed to what I love to do always – ‘listen & talk to people’.

4. Prerna Aditi: What does ‘a day spent well’ means to you?

Ans: I loved this question. I would say it is a very intelligent and interesting question, Prerna. 

A day spent well for me will be when I get to listen and talk to people those who need it desperately. Knowing and understanding a heart, a mind is my greatest hobby and passion. And I simply love and enjoy doing it. So when I get to do that and feel that someone is benefitted from and in my presence I feel very satisfied.

5. Prabhjot: How long do you think you can survive without your smart
phone and laptop???

Ans: Hahaha! If you can survive, then I can… forever. But if people around me have those extra chunks in their mouths then can I be with an empty mouth?

Now, ‘refraining from my smart things‘, if that’s what you are asking then I would say, I can survive only two days maximum. 

6. Geetmalini: When was the last time you tried something new?

Ans: Decades ago, Geet. I have become extremely dull and boring. Yeah, finding new writers and bringing them to us almost every month, but something new has not happened in my life for a long time. 

It is a very thought-provoking question and it makes me ponder about trying out something fresh. 

7. Saakshi: What three desires would you fulfil if you have infinite wealth at your disposal?

Ans: “Infinite wealth” is a flawed thought. Wealth itself is earthly and thus finite. 

Anyway, let me answer your question…

First, I would have bought the best house in the world for me and my loved ones. 

Secondly, I would have travelled all over the world.

Thirdly, I would have set up the best counselling centre of the world where the people in need would have come, enjoyed the stay, played, prayed together, interacted, got counselled by the best of counsellors and would have gone home healed and comforted. 

8. Kalpana: What do you do for recreation, for relaxing, for calming down yourself, apart from praying that I know well?

Ans: I knew you might ask that, Kalpana. For recreation and relaxing I watch T.V. or surf interesting websites for ideas. And for calming myself down I prefer to Talk to my favourite people, Divert my focus from ME to OTHERS and sleep.

9. Preeta: What’s the best thing you cherished from your childhood?

Ans: A cosy family, adorable siblings and cousins and a host of angelic friends at every stage of my life. 

Yeah, Crowd . . . People are what I cherished and cherishing from my childhood till now, Preeta.

10. Aastha: What is your definition of happiness?

Ans: Why does my sister always ask me difficult questions??? I can only try what I know and feel.

Amid all kinds of pain, suffering, problems and sorrows it is very difficult to say that I am happy or I am capable of defining happiness… As it is not just an English word but a condition of a human.

Yet, I would say I still managed to be happy most of the time despite my ailments, my problems and my sorrows… Because I stay content with what I have, I love and believe in the act of giving than receiving, I don’t compare myself with others and most importantly I depend on and trust in God for everything. 

So answering the question I would define happiness as “a state of being contented without comparing or living with self-pity but leading a generous life, trusting in the God Almighty in every situation“.   

Hope, I have answered all the questions satisfactorily. I would love to hear from all of my examiners and know how much I scored in the exam. 😛

Thanks to all of you who asked me these beautiful questions. I thoroughly enjoyed answering them.

Stay blessed!

AVOID DEPENDENCY TO HANDLE PRESSURE WELL

I am worst at handling pressures. Yeah, you might think how I can say that being a leader. But it is a truth about me that I shout a lot, get bogged down a lot and get stressed out easily when I am under a pressure situation.

Yet, in certain occasions I am very strong and handle the pressures much better than how other can handle in the same situation. So my behaviours vary from different pressure situations. In some cases I struggle and in some other I show the real character.

Negative life situations always have negative or positive effects on a person. It will either make you or break you. And it is different than daily pressures of life. I am good at handling long term pressure situation but not well at managing a daily one. The reason could be that I am accustomed to doing things slowly and when a pressure situation demands to do things or accomplish something quickly I tend to get worried or stressed out. When I am asked to do things or decide things right away or quickly it’s very difficult for me to come to a conclusion or manage it. And it is more pathetic when your decision is dependent on people. I love to do things at my own pace and deciding on my own. I hate pressure cooker situations. So I take precautions. Let me give an example…

It was last Sunday in the afternoon when I received the news of my granny’s death. And there are very few tickets available next morning on Monday and if we had to travel in the same night we had to catch a bus as there were no train tickets available. Now I was depending on three persons around me to take a decision.

First one was my wife who was confused whether to go with me or not.

Second one was my brother who was confused when to go considering his hospital duties.

Third one was my uncle who actually was ready to help me out but wants to go according to his schedules.

My wife knows how irritated I was that evening. I was scolding and was frustrated and the whole evening I kept discussing and struggling to take a decision till I decided I will go on my own and bought the ticket by-passing everyone else. I travelled to Cuttack comfortably and alone at the end.

I learnt one lesson from the whole pressure situation – “Never to be dependent on others when I can accomplish something very important on my own.”

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.    

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)