I have my next update here. i am sorry about the delay. I had a minor, unexpected crisis at work which demanded most of my time on Friday and today morning. As usual, it turned out to be a stupid mistake which was spiralling out. Now that it is taken care of, I am coming back with this update. R&R as usual.
BTW, I do not exactly remember what Anita told Aham about his marriage in SNS. So here, I am asserting my infinite rights as the creator of this story.
Aham saw the photo in the diary. "Oh God! Anita! What should I do about her? I had to sacrifice her for Mom's sake. Anita refused to understand my situation then. She called me a coward. She was not even ready to understand my obligations. How could I hurt my Mom who sacrificed so much for me? She could have waited for sometime. I would have somehow sorted everything and may be, may be, we could have married. Now, Umang spoiled everything for them. Why did Umang have to do all these things? He destroyed my life and Kinjal's life in revenge for his sister. I would have killed him for what he did to Kinjal." Just at that moment, he felt the unfairness of his thoughts. 'Umang was a better brother than I. He avenged for his sister. Even if he didn't, could I have actually married Anita? Mom was against her and wanted me to marry Gopi. Now even Mom is not happy with me. Why does she not see that I have sacrificed my love for her sake? Why did she even think that I will be happy with an illiterate girl? Why am I having these problems? Do I not have a right to happiness? Why is that nobody cares about me? Anita could not wait to run away from me. But what could she have done? Stay back to see somebody else take her place? Did I do right by her? What could I have done then? Did I even say sorry to her? Now, everything is lost! After the Kinjal-Umang drama, I cant go back to Anita. Should I apologise to her now? Will it bring me some closure? But, if she is with somebody else now, will it not disturb that relationship? I need to first find out about her discretely and then decide what to do. I hope I get a chance to apologise to her. What is this? I, Aham Modi, want to apologise to somebody? When and how did this happen? Whatever, I should not allow such depressing thoughts to spoil my mood. I had a good time with Jigar and I hope we go back to what we had." He made a note to find about both Anita and Gopi the next day and smiled at the irony of worrying about the future of his past and the past of his future.
The next morning, Aham could focus better on his work and finished early by skipping his lunch break. He had talked to a private detective to find about Anita. Before leaving, he told Jigar that he will help him the night after dinner and took the car to talk to the littel girl in her ashram*. He could easily meet with the principal of the school and smoothened his way by giving a fat cheque to them. He then told his connection with Panna through the Shahs and asked for permission to take her for an ice cream. The principal gave a weird look at him and hesitated. But then, she could not say no to somebody who didn't even flinch writing such a big cheque. Aham took Panna in his car and drove her to an ice cream parlor. She was extremely excited and words were flowing out of her mouth non-stop. Aham tried to follow her initially but then realised the futility of it. He just let her talk and was getting mildly annoyed. All her non-stop chattering abruptly stopped when she entered the ice cream shop and saw the ice cream boxes in a variety of colors. She could not even breathe. She made a cute picture and Aham felt that her eyes were going to bulge out. He just smiled and asked her about her favorites. She gave him a confused look and said that she has only eaten ice cream once and she just loved it. Then, she told him confidently, "Jiju, as you are buying, why don't you choose?". Aham could not suppress his chuckle and thought "I need to give it to her! she is cheeky!" and ordered a sundae with small scoops of five flavors for her and took his favourite kulfi. While he was carrying the ice cream to the table, he thought, "If anybody told me that I would be carrying ice creams for a little girl from the ashram, I would have thought that person is mad." He realised that he could not even get angry at this girl. While eating, the girl, suddenly looked up and said "Jiju! can this ice cream be carried with us?" Aham nodded and wondered why she was asking so. Does she want to take some back? Where will she keep it? She interrupted his thoughts and and told him "Could you buy this for Gopi Didi and take it? We both had the ice cream together and she loved it. I am sorry that I forgot about her. You can buy the same thing like this with all colors. Please tell her that you bought for me and I enjoyed it."
Aham felt very small in front of that girl. 'This small girl, who does not even have a home or family could think about somebody else's happiness. How does Gopi manage this loyalty? At least, when it comes to my family, I can justify that she serves them. but this girl? I need to know. This is a good opening and I can talk about Gopi now'. He asked her, "So Panna, how long are you in the hostel? I remember seeing you during our engagement and wedding. After that you never visited us. Were you in the hostel before our wedding too?" That girl became suddenly sad and told, "Until Gopi was there, I could stay with them because Gopi was doing all the work. Then, there was nobody to cook for me and so Mami sent me to this ashram. Mamaji told me that I can study here and will have lots of friends. I also did not like there because Mami was always scolding Gopi." 'Oh! Does your Mami always scold Gopi?" "Yes Jiju! she will always scold her and never allowed her to read. She made Gopi do all the cooking and cleaning and all the work. She would also beat her many times. When Gopi got engaged to you instead of Rashi, she was so angry that she scrubbed Gopi's face with ashes and burnt the book I got for Gopi to learn. She is a bad Mami, like, like ... yes! Rakshasi*! Our teacher told us stories of Rakshasis. Mami is like that. Very bad! I dont like her. She always calledHe had guessed that the Mami did not like her but never thought that she would beat Gopi. She calls Gopi names and gives everything to Rashi. Jiju what is Panauti*? She always calls and Gopi so. That day, when Gopi came back to Mama's house I went to see her. She gave me paneer teple and Mami scolded Gopi and told her not to spend so much money on paneer. She told her that Gopi is now a burden to her. Why Jiju? Is she coming back to Mami's house? It will be nice to have her there. I can meet her and talk to her like earlier. But, no! Mami will hit her. How can I meet her? Idea! Could you bring her also next time? Then, I can tell her about my favourite flavours." Aham was flabbergasted by all that Panna told. He was just speechless. To get some time, he asked her to eat the ice cream before it melted. He then asked, "Does Mamaji also scold you?". "No No! Jiju! Mamaji is very nice. He only bought me and Gopi ice cream. He always buys us sweets without Mami's knowledge. He also tells me some nice stories. He likes Gopi and me very much. We both like it when he is at home and talks to us." Aham could fill in the gaps and know the Shah family dynamics. She continued, "You are so nice and you are my favorite Jiju now. You are so beautiful! All my friends are going to be jealous of me. You know, Gopi didi calls you her Rajkumar (Prince!). Please dont forget to take ice cream for Gopi Didi and dont give to Rashi ben." Aham was touched by that girl's sincerity. He just realised that he was being appreciated as just Aham Jiju, and not Aham Modi and this almost never happened outside his family. He bought some kulfi ice cream for everybody at home and dropped her back at her ashram with promises to return later. He felt that he was going to keep his promise to this girl.
While driving back, Aham was feeling terrible trying to process all the information he received that day. He could get an idea of what kind of life Gopi must have had - depravation. She was depraved of almost everything at her Mama's place. Is this the reason she got married to him? Does she think his home as an escape from her life with her Mami? But then why did she go back? She could not have known that he would bring her back. She told everybody that she is leaving because of her promise. Is that the truth or did she leave because Mom told her to? What did Panna tell now? When Gopi got engaged to him, the Mami scrubbed her face with ash? Does such things even happen? He did not doubt Panna but could not imagine such a life. It all sounded surreal to him. It is not that he had not heard of such stuff before but he never thought that it could happen so close to him. What will Gopi do when she leaves again? Panna did not tell him much. But from Rashi and Mami's conversation that night and Panna's revelations he could put the pieces together. What will be Gopi's life if she goes back to her Mama's place? Will she have the same lousy fate? Can he in good conscience allow it to happen? Can he not do something about it? But where will she go? Does she any place to go? Can he arrange for a job for her? But what job can she do? Cooking and cleaning? "Oh! No! I am callous like that woman. After knowing about her life how could still think like this? Good God! What should I do now? Why should she have such a past? Just to make me feel guilty? I cant even get angry with her now. I cannot think anything else about her but her Mami's treatment. No wonder she put up with all my shoutings - I was a lightweight compared to her Mami. Ha! This is great Aham! you are better than that vicious lady! Is that your new standard? My goodness! What is going on? I need some advice. I will talk to mom tonight or tomorrow. But will Mom help him? She has already picked her side. But may be she already knew what kind of life awaited Gopi and so she didnt want her leave. So if I tell Mom that I will arrange something better for Gopi, may be she will accept. But then I should have a good plan. What should I do first? What would Gopi need? I know! I will ask Mom to arrange for a tutor for her and get her some formal training in something. Then she can get a job and live on her own. this might take a long time. Easier would be settle some money on her. Mom might have some ideas." While thinking all this, he mind went back repeatedly to something Panna said - that Gopi thought him as her Rajkumar. It oddly pleased him and his ego. He had to everytime put some effort to get back on the topic.
Having made up his mind thus, Aham went back home and saw that Gopi was talking to Mani and smiling at something she said. He was surprised at that. What makes her smile so? She has never had anything and has nothing to look forward to. Where does she get the drive to get up every morning and keep doing work for others? Is it because she thinks that she needs to earn her keep? But what is wrong with that? Is it not good that she wants to work for her living? What would anybody else have done in her place? What would Kinjal have done? With all her privileges Kinjal did not have the guts to face her own family. She not only put her life in misery but brought shame to the entire family But Gopi? She practically has nothing or nobody for her. But she still faces everyday with patience and courage, most importantly. He remembered how she managed the theif or how she stood up to him for Kinjal. How does she do it?
He thought at that moment he felt something like respect for Gopi for having the courage to get up everyday and do her work even when faced with such hopelessness.
What will Aham do with Anita? Will he really have the guts to apologize to her? Will Aham realise that he still loves Anita and try to get back with her? Can anyone stop loving? And then, what will happen to Gopi? Or will Aham;s respect change into trust and love? I too am eager to know these answers. I will post my next update Sunday evening.
*Ashram - A Sanskrit word meaning a religious hermitage. comes from the word srama - toil/penance. It is also a term commonly used for orphanages and other shelters for people with no other social support.
*Rakshasi - Demoness,
*Panauti - I guess it is unlucky or something or someone that brings bad luck. If this is wrong, correct me.