GRATITUDE IS RICHES

I am not your driver,” Gaurav slammed back to his wife Reena as she coaxed him to drop her and their daughter Palak to a friend’s party. His frustration was genuine as he had just reached from office after spending more than one hour in heavy traffic. Driving through the snail pace traffic was indeed tiring, physically and mentally as well.

Reena was flabbergasted by Gaurav’s reaction and wished she could drive. It’s not that she never tried driving, it was only the fear of driving alone on the busy roads. She instantly picked up her cell phone, booked a cab and went with her daughter to chill with her friends. Throughout the party, one thought kept haunting Reena that Gaurav wasn’t her driver. She HAD to learn to drive at any cost. 

The next day, Reena enrolled herself in one of the driving schools where the instructor was impressed by her previous learning and was very sure that she would be a perfect driver within two weeks as she only lacked confidence. 

The next month Gaurav had to go abroad for a business meeting. Reena had started driving already and used to make trips to the nearby grocery store. 

One fine evening, Reena was busy preparing dinner when the doorbell started ringing continuously. “Palak, stop doing that,” Reena shouted, thinking that must be her only. 

It was Palak’s neighbourhood friend Ashi. Before Reena could say anything, Ashi was panting “Aunty, aunty…Palak…”.

Ashi, what happened?” Reena asked in surprise.

Aunty, Palak fell down from her bicycle”, Ashi said, grasping her breath.

Reena turned off the gas stove and rushed downstairs. Palak was already surrounded by her friends and was crying loudly.

Reena could make out that her daughter was in deep pain. She mustered the courage to see her. Thankfully, there was no blood, but she was holding her elbow. The skin around had turned darker. “I am getting the car keys, just look after her,” Reena instructed the kids.

She picked up Palak and drove to the nearest hospital. The x-ray was done and it turned out to be a hairline fracture. They returned home after getting the temporary plaster.

Thank you Gaurav,” Reena said in her mind as she felt that it was only because of him that she could become a good driver. The sense of gratitude filled her with joy.

THE GRATMEET

It was one of the usual afternoons for Mrs. Mintington since the time her old man had left for his heavenly abode. Though she found her loneliness heart-wrenching at times, she kept herself pretty much occupied with anything that her hands could lay on.

“Grandma, not again!”

This is Sally. The bubbly teenaged granddaughter of Mrs. Mintington.

Ah! It seems the kind old lady had once again invaded her granddaughter’s privacy and had set her messy room in order.

“Ha Ha Ha, my dear princess, I will continue to intrude into that little storm-hit-of-a-kind room until you learn the art of keeping things tidy and organized. You remember the deal, right?”, quipped the wise old Granny even as Sally threw her hands up in the air and stomped into her room.

“Freshen up and come in here quick. I want you to lend me a hand with the dinner preparations. You know we are having guests over tonight, don’t you?”

“Yeah, coming”, shouted Sally from her room.

Meanwhile Mrs. Mintington took out her prized porcelain and silverware from the cupboard. It was one of the four times of the year that she took them out. Not many people take out time to visit others these days. Holidays provide the much needed break from work and are usually spent in catching up with household chores. Entertainment is available just at clicks, taps and swipes. Visiting family and friends, is thus, quite occasional.

With age slowly bringing out the aches and pains in her once agile frame, Mrs. Mintington found it quite a task to travel anywhere these days. But, she made it a point to have her loved ones over for a weekend four times a year. A get-together every three months! And, no one complained! They all made it a point to be there.

Her two daughters along with their husbands and children drove in one after the other and the otherwise calm house sprang into animated conversations, fun and laughter.

“Mama, you will never listen. Huhh! When we had told you we’ll be getting enough food to probably last us all a few days, why did you have to strain yourself to prepare all these,” said her younger daughter Queena with fake annoyance as she helped carry the food from the kitchen to the table.

“My girlies and boys and their cubs would come and I would be sitting on the rocking chair and keep rocking away all through the day, without shaking a finger! Can it ever be possible, my darling”, answered Mrs. Mintington with a faint smile curving her thin lips.

“And, how the children love her banana brownies and mint-flavoured ginger ales! It would be disservice to rob them of Mama’s delicacies”, said Sheena the elder one as she helped lay the table.

“Wait, wait, wait, do you guys think Grandma has made these all by herself? An absolute NO! Let me tell you . . .”, barged in Sally just at that moment.

“Ah! Yes, Sally of course has been of such help, you know”, said Mrs. Mintington with a wink of her left eye and they all burst into a thunderous laughter.

“This laughter is what keeps me going my dearies, else life had almost come to a stop that day when Roby and Ruth met their fateful end, leaving my little sleeping princess to my care.” (Roby was Mrs. Mintington’s son who had died in a car crash along with his wife, Ruth thirteen years back when Sally was a toddler.)

“How grateful I am to God for this precious gift of family – for each one of you! And so, I will continue celebrating for you all till there’s breath and strength enough to keep me going.”

“So, what’s the date for the next GRATMEET, my girlies and boys?”

LITTLE CONVERSATIONS – PART VII

Samarth and Disha were absolutely quiet in the car as he drove her to drop at her place. He knows very well how she behaves when she is confused, annoyed, and upset. So, he allowed that space where she can stay calm for some time before finding herself again and solve her own problem, walking out of her dilemma. He grew up with her and there’s no one apart from him who knows her so well. And it was so beautiful that they came back in touch with each other once again after they were detached for a few years.

Good Night, Dish…And take care…” He said as he stopped the car at her apartment gate.

Uhmm” She nodded, looking at him once with a grumpy face, and waved her hand with a wry smile on her face before disappearing through the gate of the apartment.

Samarth sighed as he drove back to his hotel. He really doesn’t want to return back to his own city, leaving his bestie all alone by herself especially in this state but he can’t help it. He came here for a week to visit her after they got in touch through the dating app. He was one year younger than her and was also unmarried. His parents had already found a match and he had given a green signal to proceed. He is a very different kind of person. He doesn’t believe in being so choosy in regards to judge the character of another human being and accept her in life. He knows that no one is perfect in this world and everyone can strive for perfection if they wish to by God’s strength. It doesn’t mean that he takes marriage lightly. He definitely wants to talk to the girl at a length before diving into an ocean from which he can’t come back afterward.

He was feeling bad that he could not share about himself much with his bestie, Disha, as she was so troubled. She was the priority this time, maybe next time when he visits her again, he will have enough to share about his life with her.

Before ordering his dinner, he messaged Disha, “Sweetheart, I will be leaving tomorrow in the afternoon. I would love it if you see me off at the airport.” He waited for some time before falling asleep after his dinner, but there was no reply from her. It didn’t surprise him as he was aware of her so very well.

There were numerous thoughts that literally choked Disha as she sat there on her couch wondering about things. When she is upset or in dilemma, she pulls herself into a closet where she never allows anyone inside it for some time, but it lasts only for a day maximum. Unfortunately, the timing was not right for her to be in her closet when she was supposed to make use of most of her time spending with her bestie, Samarth while he was about to leave the city.

She didn’t care about her dinner or phone but simply kept thinking about all those little conversations she had with Akash, her prospective life partner, and with Sam, who was the one who knows her inside out for years together. She had no sleep in her eyes that night but all those words of both the persons kept ringing in her ears, making her restless.

What a beautiful soul this guy has!” Samarth remarked as soon as she explained what Akash shared. ‘What made her bestie feel so good about Akash?’ She wondered.

…he TOLD you the truth, much before your marriage…Try to see and understand things from his perspective Disha.Samarth had tried to make her understand, she recalled.

I retreated into a shell. It took me more than 5 years to rebuild my confidence in myself. I felt rejected. I could never trust anyone anymore. That is the reason I didn’t tell you before. I was scared that you might not trust me… Or you may leave me.” Disha remembered how Akash was trying to express his worries, his emotions when he opened up revealing about the traumatic incident that he had to go through. Akash’s worried face flashed in front of Disha’s eyes. ‘He was scared that I may leave him? Poor thing.’ She felt pity for his condition for the first time.

She also remembered what he said last night over the phone when she insisted him to speak out, “I would have if I could have. This is something which I prefer to be shared with you in your physical presence…”. A smile appeared on her face as she thought, ‘so he had the guts to tell the truth, sitting in front of me. He was truthful and definitely has a clear conscience.

One of the factors that shatters marriages is that the partners know quite a bit ‘about’ each other . . . but don’t know each other well.” Disha murmured again to herself when she remembered these words of her darling bestie, Sam. How blessed she is to have him in her life… She thought. ‘He was right, I was worried knowing about Akash and about his past, but I was blind to know and understand the person he is… Sam understood so quickly even without meeting him.’ She thought again and for the first time, she felt a bit calm in her heart.

She tried to close her eyes again, praying in her heart, “Lord, counsel me tonight. Have a little conversation with me in my sleep, so that I can make the right decision about Akash. Amen!

Disha fell asleep really late that night, but she was at peace. All the little conversations that she had for the last two days will definitely help her to take the decision. She will definitely see a ray of hope when she will be awakened in the morning.

Will she go to the airport and share her decision with her bestie, Sam, hugging him tight? Will she try to call or meet Akash tomorrow and try to know him more in a better way and accept him to be united with him?

Well, no one knows about it except Disha herself…

THE END

LITTLE CONVERSATIONS – PART VI

Sam saw a disoriented look on Disha’s face. He let out a sigh and called the waiter, “Hey buddy would you mind if we help in increasing CCD’s business a bit more?” Sam tried to be funny, to lighten the dense atmosphere at that table.

The waiter was confused, “pardon sir! Didn’t get you“.

Can you get us two cold coffees with vanilla ice cream please?  And yes take your own sweet time. So we are not only buying cold coffee but time too. That shall be all for now, thank you.” Sam placed his order which was of course an excuse to sit there longer without being kicked out for table occupancy instead of ordering anything.

Look Disha we need to talk” Sam turned his attention towards his sweet, confused, fuming friend.

But Disha was not in a mood to listen as she found the entire scenario difficult and to worsen things, in her mind of course Sam had said a word upon hers. “Sam if it’s about Akash then excuse me, I don’t want to listen to anything, at least right now. I need time,” gruntled Disha.

Sam chuckled a bit, nudged his head, and continued, “Forget Akash for a minute. It’s about Chetan“.

What about Chetan” puzzled Disha asked.

Oh, that means you remember him, even to this day I feel you shouldn’t have done to him what you have done. He loved you ardently. Not only that you reciprocated, but got him in a legal soup. I feel for him.” Sam just ruffled pages from the past.

Chetan was one of the school friends, who with the passing time nursed feelings for Disha. They were just friends, that’s what Disha thought. As time passed he was obsessed with her. When finally one day he poured out his heart and consequently turned down by Disha he simply couldn’t take it. In the want of being accepted, persuasion followed by stalking happened. A sweet friend now turned into a psychopath scared Disha enormously. She informed her parents and the cops entered the scene to solve the issue.

Disha was furious now, “how on earth you can hold me responsible for that maniac? Suddenly you are sounding like my distant aunts who pinpointed my character and nature for his insanity. Where this is coming from? Tell me what’s my FAULT?” Her face was like amber on fire.

The silent Sam was now in action with his usual calm demeanor, “you spoke it yourself. First of all, I am sorry for my regressive remark. You are no where at fault when it’s about Chetan. And my point is so is Akash. Both the incidents are different when we look at the scenarios but the results are the sameyou and Akash are at the receiving ends, receiving flak and trauma for no Fault of yours. And I want you to think from that perspective. I could have easily said how does one’s past matters but we all know it does in some or other way. But in his case, I don’t even think that an accidental marriage or say charade even qualifies for the tag of Past. Still, he decided to let you know about it, he scored there for me. Now you have to think if he is worthy enough of your admiration or not. Just think“.

The matured Samarth left infuriated Disha lost in deep thoughts…

LITTLE CONVERSATIONS – PART V

It’s ok Disha. Take your time.” Akash comforted her. “My parents also asked me to hide this truth from you as they felt there was no need, but I feel that you must know everything about me if we are going to start our journey together.” 

But you should have told me this before.” Disha mustered her senses and said.

There’s still time for our marriage Disha. I am not afraid to face the consequence now. Whatever will be your decision, will be my luck. Thank you for coming.” Akash stood up to leave.

You want me to drop you? He asked.

No, thanks! I am going to meet a friend of mine from here. I will go on my own.” Disha replied bluntly.

Very well, bye then. I will wait for your reply.” Akash said and left the place.

Disha just nodded and sat there alone for some time. She ordered another coffee and dialed Sam from her mobile.

Hey Dish! What’s cooking?” Sam asked teasingly.

Shut up and just come here,” Disha ordered.

What? Where? What happened?” Sam asked.

How can he do this?” Disha was full of anger.

Dish, just send me your location, I am coming right away,” Samarth said as he grabbed his car keys and dashed outside his house.

Sam was clueless about what had happened. Akash seemed a nice guy, he thought, but who knows what’s going inside one’s mind. Following the GPS directions, Samarth reached CCD in half an hour. He spotted Disha from a distance, who looked worried and was fidgeting with her coffee straw.

As he went to her table, Disha jumped out of her chair and hugged Sam. 

Will you tell me now?” Sam said, holding her hands.

They sat down and Disha narrated everything to Sam.

What a beautiful soul this guy has!” Sam said smiling.

Are you kidding me? He hid such a big thing from me all this while and now just opening up prior a few months before marriage, do you think this is right?” Disha slammed.

At least he TOLD you the truth, much before your marriage. Cards haven’t been published yet; the world doesn’t know that you are getting married.” Sam tried to explain. “He could have never told this to you, but he opened up, against his parents’ wish. Try to see and understand things from his perspective Disha. Put yourself in his shoes and then take a call.”

Disha didn’t expect this reaction from Sam, as mostly he would agree to whatever she used to say. But this time it was different and she was not liking it.

LITTLE CONVERSATIONS – PART IV

No No No… Disha you are not allowed to do that. Don’t start this guessing game. I have really gathered a lot of courage to come face to face to you and share a very painful incident of my past” Said Akash with a grave face.

Disha was really worried. She wanted her little conversations with Akash to start but the look on Akash’s face told her that this was not the direction she was expecting the talks to move in… Anyways she kept silent and gave time to Akash to gather his thoughts.

I have been married before..” blurted out Akash.

What??” Disha started to speak… “Wait let me complete… then I will answer all your questions.” Akash stopped her mid-sentence. She kept mum but there were a lot of questions in her eyes. In our 36 months of relationship, he did not tell me such a big thing about himself.. 

Akash continued…

6 years ago, like any Indian household where the children are of marriageable age, my parents were also looking out for a match for me. Since I didn’t have any girlfriend, I was ok with the way things were moving. After meeting a few prospective matches, I finally met Archana. She was a simple docile girl from a traditional family. There was no reason to say no to her. She seemed like a girl who would fit in our house and my life. My family was going gaga over her. The family background was good and she was qualified. So this seemed like a perfect match.”

Within a month our marriage date was set. I met Archana a few times but always there were her siblings around. We actually didn’t talk much. Most of the time went in the teasing and fun that goes with a grand Indian wedding.”

After a whirlwind of shopping and multiple functions we finally got married. Archana was welcomed into our house with  an open heart. But she was a changed woman the moment she set step into our house.” 

On our first night together she told me that she was in love with another man from a different religion and she had been forced to marry me. She got into this marriage only to get away from her family.” 

She laughed on my face saying that she didn’t understand how I could be such a simpleton and not recognise the red flags during our marriage. Her bags were packed and she left to be with her boyfriend who was waiting for her. And I was left behind flabbergasted. To face my family and the world. I was completely broken after this. The marriage between us got annulled. But I was not the same again. More than my heart my trust was broken. And the world can be very cruel with their taunts.”

Akash continued “I retreated into a shell. It took me more than 5 years to rebuild my confidence in myself. I felt rejected. I could never trust anyone anymore. That is the reason I didn’t tell you before.  I was scared that you might not trust me.. Or you may leave me.” 

Akash was looking at Disha with so many emotions on his face. Disha opened her mouth to say something but the words didn’t come out…

LITTLE CONVERSATIONS – PART III

“Hi Akash, how are you? Was just thinking about you. Tell me, I am all ears” said Disha in a tone that indicated her willingness to dive into her (their) little conversations as suggested by Samarth and agreed by her.

Akash cleared his throat and continued “I am good, thank you. I was thinking if we can meet and talk this weekend” and before he could finish Disha interrupted.

“Meet? Weekend? How? Are you in the city or going to come?” There was a plethora of questions just shot by Disha.

“Hmmm” sighed Akash “yes I am in your city, so thought of meeting you. There’s something really important that I want to share with you and I wouldn’t have got any better chance than this. So would you mind meeting me this Saturday which is just two days away?

Disha tried to persuade him a bit to get a hint of what it could be. “Akash, I can meet you on Saturday but we can talk now as well, I’m good with it. What it is about, you can share with me” exclaimed a little bit intrigued Disha.

“I would have if I could have. This is something which I prefer to be shared with you in your physical presence and since I have the opportunity too I insist to maintain my silence for now, I request no more questions. Thank you for agreeing to meet me. Looking forward for our meeting” said an unfazed Akash.

“Ok, if you say so. See you on Saturday. Good night” Disha signed off after receiving a reciprocation .

For the next two days her mind was occupied by one question – what it could be with multiple answers though playing at the back of her mind. And when mind is in chaos heart yearns for the trusted ally and in Disha’s case it was Sam. She spoke to him at great length, basically listing out what her mind has been proposing to her – family, career – his or mine?, responsibilities – I must tell him that I am a pathetic cook so that his expectations don’t soar high, health – hmmm.. we will sort it out, PAST – and sought his opinion about “what it could be”. A calm Sam though suggested just one thing “let him open up, don’t try to pierce in. Take it as it comes”.

“Would you like to join me on Saturday? His call had made me all the more nervous” Disha asked Sam as she anyways wanted him to meet Akash.

Samarth declined to oblige. “You two are not even a party yet so the third me will not only be a crowd but nuisance. Don’t try to punctuate the conversation without even starting it. It’s not about my judgement of him but your confidence, rather I would say mutual confidence. Let it build. Don’t panic. Go ahead” Sam explained and calmed down somewhat nervous Disha.

Saturday finally here!!! Disha and Akash met at CCD. They exchanged pleasantries. Akash pulled the chair for Disha and acted very gentlemanly. Be it the way he addressed the waiter, or the way he sat, spoke to her without letting his gaze wander, enquired about her family – that was a perfect amalgamation of good ethics and confidence. Order was placed. So as they were waiting for their order to arrive Akash decided to answer the very much awaited question of Disha “what it could be”.

Seems Disha’s intuition was not completely wrong, it is his PAST!!!

“Disha, since we are on the verge of beginning our lives together I want you to know about me in and out” Akash commenced his conversation and was soon interrupted by curious Disha.

Drawing her eyes closer, she spoke out her guess “relationship?”