Joined: 01 January 2009
Subpart two : Advice galore
Archana waited for a long time, looking here and there for Manav. She wondered how much more time he would take. Her family was insisting on the engagement ceremony to begin, but Manav hadn't come as yet. Tarun, meanwhile had straightaway refused to start until Manav came back.
"What?!?" he said. "If you have your priorities, even I have them! We WILL wait for Manav."
Archana looked at him worriedly as he said so. Time was running out for the function. Her parents were getting worried about why Tarun was throwing tantrums at the last moment. People had started gossiping that maybe there was some last moment tension.
"Tarun please.. people will start talking if the engagement doesn't start soon.. it is getting late.. they also have to go home.."
"You are always concerned about this only," said Tarun in an icy voice. 'what will people say'- not for a moment do you ever think- ' what will Tarun think, right'? Your family chose not to respect my friends, but I chose to, so I will wait for them, come what may!"
"Tarun.. it will get late.. there are so many guests.."
"Tell them that one special guest is yet to come.."
"Tarun.. please cooperate.."
"Did you cooperate with me? Haan? No na? Then why are you begging cooperation from me?
"Enough Tarun!!!" whispered Vaishali loudly. She looked at him in anger. "If you have already decided to make a mess of my special day by fighting like wildcats and delaying the engagement and making people talk then go ahead, cancel the engagement! No need to have this tamasha here!"
Tarun was stunned. "Vaishu I.."
"Aai is asthamatic, she is already getting nervous.. what do you want her to have a panic attack right now? All cos you are not happy with the way the engagement went, so you chose to hold up against my family by hitting them where it hurts the most- making mockery of relations in public? Why don't you cancel the engagement if you are so hurt? No, you will not do that- you will simply use your powers of being the guys side to hit back. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind and that is what you are doing now."
"Don't speak to me Tarun!" said Vaishali, evidently very upset. "Please don't speak to me. You seem to care about your own ego more than my happiness ."
Archana felt uncomfortable. She called Manav on his cell phone, he asked her to give the cell to Tarun.
"DON'T YOU HAVE BRAINS OR WHAT!!!" Manav fired him angrily. "Why are you making a mess at the last moment?"
"I was just waiting for you.." Tarun said in a small voice, all his spunk deflated. "As it is these people didn't treat you well, I thought at least I should give you basic respect.."
"Cut the crap! Tarun, stop acting immature! What you are doing doesn't show respect rather it shows anger and insolence on your part. No need to hold the function cos of one person. Do you have any idea how much you must have hurt Vaishali by this tug of war between Karanjkars and you? If you had problems you should have sorted them beforehand rather than playing such tricks! Are the guests fools that they are waiting for one person?!? They are also hungry, they have come to wish you, bless you! At least treat them well na, don't take them for granted."
Tarun was silent now. "I'm going." He said, cutting the phone. "He looked at Archana and Vaishali. "Chalo," he said in a small voice.
The rituals for Sakharpuda had half-finished by the time Manav reached. He stood in a corner where Archana was standing. "Did Tarun act difficult?" he asked.
Archana was taken aback. "A little." She whispered. "I think he is very upset with all of us.. and that somehow got reflected in his actions.. I don't think he meant to be mean to us.." she said, upset at the way things had turned out.
"I will talk to him, don't worry." Manav said, gravely. "He needs to pull his socks up and start behaving in a more balanced manner than just like a rich man's kid who can have things his own way everytime."
Archana looked at him with respect. She knew that now that Manav had taken charge of this matter, she did not have to worry any more. She could see people pointing towards the two of them- "They look so good together,"- they muttered. "Do you want something?" she asked. "It was very hot outside.."
Manav looked around. "Just water, nothing else." He said and walked over to the counter. His head seemed to be in a pretty bad state today, well what was new in that, he thought sarcastically to himself. As he was trying to take out a pill from the strip, it fell down from his jittery hands. He bent down to pick it up, but someone had put a foot on it. The 'someone' picked up the strip.
"What medicine is this?" asked Ajit in a quizzical manner, trying to read the name. "Very unfamiliar.."
"Give it back."
"Sure!" said Ajit, playing with it, quite enjoying himself. "I hope you are enjoying the function- you see, since these people are related to me, so technically I'm amongst the hosts- and you are amongst the guests, so I hope you are comfortable."
"I'll be very comfortable once you give that back to me," Manav tried to snatch it from his hands. Ajit dodged and laughed evilly. "I saw you coochie-cooing with Archu," he teased. "Make sure the Karanjkars don't see you, or Satish. They might throw you out."
"F*** off!." Said Manav irritatedly. He had no wish to spoil his mood owing to Ajit. Ajit cackled like a goose.
"Actually I wanted to share a good news with you." He continued. "I'm getting married soon."
Manav raised an eyebrow. "Really?" he said. "Who's the unfortunate girl?"
Ajit cackled even more loudly at this one. "Unfortunate is right!" he said, punching Manav lightly on his arm. "Have you heard of Mehta industries?- big business house it is- they have a number of malls, and only one daughter!"
Manav understood. "Good for you!" he said, looking around irritatedly. He decided to walk away.
"Hey Manav," said Ajit, tossing the medicine strip towards him. "Don't worry yaar, I won't hurt you. I have always maintained that I had no enmity with you. My ire was only against Archu. Anyone who meddles in my line of fire ends up getting burnt. Stay out of her life, and you'll be fine. Anyway, she has found someone else now.." he said, looking at Satish. Now that Satish and Archana were probably getting married, they were his next targets.
Manav felt scared. It was the grin that is seen on the face of a hunter when he knows the prey has nowhere to run. He had always felt scared of Ajit's almost psychotic, behavior, which bordered on the extreme and sometimes was self-destructive as well. He didn't know what to expect from him now. He looked at Archana as he walked back- she was smiling looking at Vaishali and Tarun. He thought of going and standing next to her again, but then wondered about what Satish and others would think. He quietly went and stood in a different corner, eyeing Archana, thinking about how beautiful she was looking today, and what a pity it was, that they weren't together, as man and wife, in the function.
The ceremony was almost over. Tarun and Vaishali exchanged the rings and everyone clapped and cheered for them. They took the blessings of their parents, and then Tarun led Vaishali to Manav, while the guests followed them with their eyes.
"He is like my brother." He said softly. "He was the one who made this match possible in the first place, and I know that in future also, if I ever behave badly to you, he will be the one who will give me the first slap. When he took responsibility of this match, he took it in full sense. He can do anything but run away from his responsibility. I know for a fact that I don't listen to anyone's advice as much as I listen to him." There was a gulp in his voice. "I don't favour him for nothing- not for ego, not for prestige. I favour him bcos I know he cares for me truly."
There are some moments in life when indirect conversations leave more effect. This was one of them. Vaishali understood the reason for Tarun's obstinate behavior- yes, it had been unjustified and stubborn, but she could see the pinch behind the loud wails now- he must have been hurt to watch someone close be so upset. She smiled and bent down to touch Manav's feet. Manav blessed her and hugged Tarun, as Archana watched moist-eyed.
"Tell now." said Archana, sitting next to Manav, as he was eating his food, sitting all alone outside the hall. Manav looked surprised. "Tell what?"
"You told me that you wanted to say something." She lied.
"Before you went to get water." She said, hoping that this would give her some time.
He sat wondering what he was about to tell her. A little later, he gave up. "Lots of things miss my attention these days." He admitted.
Archana nodded. "Shravani..??"
"She went away."
A nod of the head. "Why?"
"She finally understood that she needed to move on."
Another nod of the head. "How is everyone taking it- your decision of not marrying her and so on.." she tried to prod.
Manav looked at her irritatedly. "Why do you want to know?" he said, almost getting up. Archana felt sheepish and downcast. Almost instantaneously, however, he sat back again. She was surprised.
"They didn't take it well." He said. "They're all angry with me. Aai gives me guilt trips all day, the twins are upset and don't talk. Sachin's anger on me has doubled and his accusations that I'm a hypocrite who doesn't think about family have intensified. Baba is the only one who is very happy, but that doesn't really help me. He is celebrating with alcohol. His support is as good as no support."
Archana felt bad. "It seems everyone wanted you to get married to Shravani," she said. Manav nodded. "It was a straight ticket to a settled family life with no differences, a great financial future, and Shravani is basically a good girl, inspite of whatever bad we had between us. So it's understandable.." Archana nodded. She couldn't hold it any longer. "Why did you refuse?" she blurted out.
Manav raised an eyebrow. Archana bit her lip.
"I don't believe in marriages anymore and I didn't want to get married to Shravani anyway. That's it." He said- giving out no reason in particular. Archana looked disappointed.
"The truth of life is that we come alone and we go alone." Said Manav philosophically. "Our parents, our families, everyone- our best friends- no matter how close everyone is to us- yet there comes a time when we stand alone with the decisions we make in life. After all I'd done for my family, I had expected them to support me through my difficult phase, but it clearly doesn't happen all the time. Today I'm facing guilt trips, jabs, anger everything. Not to forget the fact that my situation today is truly difficult- from my lack of education to financial problems, and then facing taunts due to the financial problems and wrong decisions I made. Today I can't even take on a different job to earn more money for the garage simply cos I'm not qualified. I'm working as hard as I can, doing overtime to support home and bank instalments- and my garage reopening is a distant dream now- cos I have no money to fund it. Even if I want, it is difficult for me to change my life now, simply cos apart from my family- I have no other support system- no financial security, no education. The minute I lose the security of my family members, I get crippled and lonely. This is what my state is. I threw away my education for my family and couldn't have a financially stable future cos everything always went into expenses- but today the same family is not supporting me at the time when I expected them to stand for me. Today I have nothing."
Archana felt very bad to hear Manav talk in this manner.
"Did you understand why I told you all this?" Manav asked her.
Archana nodded. "You wanted to share your feelings and disappointment with someone." She said. "I understand.."
Manav shrugged. "Nonsense." He said, matter of factly. "I'm telling you all this so that you don't repeat my mistakes in life." He brought his chair a little closer to her. "I threw away everything for my family and never cared about my INDIVIDUAL GROWTH. Yes, my intentions were good, and if I get a choice tomorrow, I would STILL choose my family. I have no regrets that I sacrificed for their sake. However, I also understand that I have lost A LOT by not working on myself. If I was educated- then I could have taken some other job and would not have to listen their taunts of how I'm going to manage the house. I wouldn't have to listen to Sachin scolding me for mistakes made in business. If I was financially okay, then people couldn't have forced and arm-twisted me to accept their decisions and marry Shravani for money. Education and financial stability give you support and the luxury to make your own decisions even when your family members go against you for some reason. When you are lonely, then you will need it. At least you can think of starting life afresh and trying to move on. Look how Shravani, though completely broken down and depressed, shifted to a different city (so that she wouldn't have to face me) without thinking of anything else- cos she has the confidence that she can survive anywhere and pick life from a new page- education and money, her contacts, her position- they give her that confidence. I can't do that- I know I have to slog it off here itself in Mumbai and pay my bank loans through that same mechanic job. I want to get away from this atmosphere that suffocates me, where no one understands me, but I CAN'T do that. I don't have options AT ALL. Are you getting my point?"
"And the reason I felt like telling you all this is because I know you are like me only." He said gravely. "You give up everything for your family- EVERYTHING. When you came to my home after marriage, you were prepared to give up job, later when Aai asked you to quit school, you had agreed for that also, just to keep her happy. That is how you are, and I know it. It's a good thing to think about family, but self-growth is something which is equally important." He remembered Ajit talking about how Satish and Archana were his next targets. It was obvious he would break them up next. In fact, it was obvious that Ajit would never let Archana stay happily with anyone. He almost choked as he said the next few lines. "If you focus on your own growth, then it won't be so difficult whether you are married, unmarried, whatever. You won't have to be dependent on anyone, and that makes life better. It leaves you open with choices at the end of the day. It also helps you pick on faster in life when you fall once." He noticed Archana was looking at him without blinking. "Did you understand what I wanted to say? I might not be giving you much alimony, but trust me this advice will help you much more than that after the divorce takes place tomorrow."
The mention of the divorce brought Archana to the present- oh yes!- just one day more! Tomorrow they would be getting separated, she thought, and the thought made her extremely uneasy.
"I was just wondering.. how will you manage everything alone.. you have so many problems.. bank loans and.."
Manav shrugged it. "I didn't tell you all this to get your sympathy. I just wanted to drive the point that you must focus on your growth along with other things in life. Don't worry about me- life's struggles have made me tough- I will wriggle out of this myself."
"And your family?"
"Disappointed with them, but I love them just the same." He said shortly. "They are misunderstanding me now and are upset. Hopefully, things will be better soon. The good thing is that I don't keep expectations from people who disappoint me once and it's the same now. Less expectations means less heartbreak." He hesitated a little. "There is something in which I need your help though.."
Archana couldn't believe her ears. "Yes?" she said frantically. "Yes?"
"Do you remember Fanny Ma'am?"
Yes, she did. She was Manav's old school teacher whom they had visited on Manav's b'day. A smile came on Archana's face as she remembered how much both of them had enjoyed that day.
"What about her?"
"Do you remember what she had told me about her orphanage on my last meeting..?"
They had a most wonderful dinner together. Fanny Ma'am had even made a cake. The children chattered and she grumbled at them. They had a lot of fun playing Dumb Charades with the children later. As it got close to 10, Manav and Archana decided to take their leave. Before they left, Fanny Ma'am pulled them aside.
"Manav," she said somewhat anxiously. "I have some property issues with this place. Although we are looking at things and hopefully they will settle down, yet I'm nervous. Next fortnight I have to go to London to Robert. My helpers are good with the children, they will take care of them, but if anything goes wrong, can you manage a little? At least till I come back? I don't want to come back to see my children's home vacant and all the children on the streets.."
"You don't worry Ma'am," Manav said, very much moved. "I'm there na? I'll handle it all.. I.."
"No need to 'handle it all'." She said firmly. "You have too many issues to think off right now. Just keep in touch with my lawyer, that's it, and intimidate me if anything serious happens. I really can't trust anyone else over these things."
"Sure, Ma'am." Fanny Ma'am gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Happy b'day once again my boy, may the Lord give you everything you wish for, and more.."
Archana pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "So what happened?' she asked.
"Fanny Ma'am never returned to Mumbai after that London trip she made." Said Manav gravely. "She fell ill in London, and though she is better now, her family doesn't want her to come back to India and live alone. So in all probability she won't be coming back now. And the legal matters of the orphanage haven't been sorted out as well."
Archana felt nervous. "So..??"
"The lease for the place ends in 2-3 months.. I'm looking into the matter along with Fanny Ma'am's helpers, but in case things do not work out, can you.. can you please look for a place for the children.. like.. a good orphanage or something.. where they will be well looked after? Since you work in an NGO, I think you can find out.."
"Yes I will." Said Archana at once. "I will find out whatever I can."
Manav nodded. "Thankyou." He said, and turned back to his plate, as Archana looked at him. She felt happy and satisfied from within.
A number of thoughts went through her mind. Manav still cared for her. Manav still thought about her. He had tried hard to show his detachment in the past two weeks, but had failed at the most critical two instances when it was required of him to prove it- he had not said yes to Shravani inspite of all the pressure unleashed on him, and he had shown it to her today, inspite of all his impeccable control, that he cared about her future and her well being. He hadn't talked to her in days trying to stay detached, but when he felt he needed to give her some well meaning advice, he had himself talked it out with her. He didn't care whether she was with him or not- he just wanted her to be happy. Her heart 'aww..ed' at the thought of how Manav had tried to hide his feelings every time, but had failed miserably. He did not accept it, and he would never accept it, but somewhere she KNEW that Manav had refused Shravani cos he still loved HER, there was no other reason. She knew he would not accept it and would say that he no longer thought of her, that he had taken the decision cos he was burnt of marriage, but somewhere, she just KNEW it- it was a woman's instinct which told her that Manav had chosen to be true to his true love- and that was HER.
She blushed as she thought about it, looking at Manav lovingly. Suddenly her gaze fell on a pair of angry eyes and she stood up at once. Manav was surprised, and followed her gaze.
He stood up too, as Savita Aai entered with the twins. The twins looked annoyed to see him with Archana. "Where's Baba?" he asked them.
"Must be lying drunk in a corner." Said Savita Aai in an annoyed voice. "He is still in depression about the divorce tomorrow, whereas ideally we are the ones who should be in depression owing to your stupid acts which have ruined our life."
Manav sighed. He gestured towards Archana. "Not here please Aai," he whispered.
"Why not here?" shot back Savita Aai. "She should also come to know na how she has destroyed my family and our happiness." Archana felt weird. "Please come in," she said, trying to smile.
"Aye.. don't do this natak!" said Savita angrily. "I have come cos of Tarun and his family, otherwise none of us are interested in keeping relations with you. Chalo!" she signaled Vedant and Vandita, who followed her quietly. Archana tried to smile at Vandita but she looked coldly at her and then turned her face away. Archana felt very bad.
"I'll go in." she said to Manav, who nodded. He sat again and continued eating when someone else came near him. He lifted his head. It was Satish.
"Hello Manav." Satish smiled at him. "How are you?"
Manav was about to stand but Satish gestured him to stop and instead sat next to him. "I'm fine", Manav said, gulping nervously. Satish always made him uneasy.
"So how are you handling your financial matters?" asked Satish.
Manav gave a nervous laugh. "Managing somehow. I've got the amount of monthly instalment reduced to Rs. 10,000 from Rs. 25,000. I'm trying to manage the money through my job. Girishji had made me Supervisor, but now.." he trailed off. "I'm making up the instalment money through overtime." He said.
"hmm.. nice." Said Satish thoughtfully. "But what about your own garage? If you spend all your money on instalment and household expenses, then from where will you save money to get the garage repaired?"
"I'm looking for other sources of income right now. Plus I have some savings.. let's see.. as of now.. I'm saving money on labour.. clearing and repairing whatever I can on my own."
"Good." Said Satish thoughfully. Manav wondered why Satish was talking so much to him and was so interested in his life. He wished Satish would go away. He wasn't comfortable talking to him.
"So tomorrow is the divorce." Said Satish after a while.
"Umm.. yeah." Said Manav. He freaked out everytime someone reminded him of the fact.
"So after that what?" asked Satish.
"Umm.. nothing.." said Manav, wondering why the hell was Satish, the person who had sanctioned his bank loan asking him such questions. He wondered if he should ask Satish to shut up.
"Do you know in all probability I'm getting married to Archana?"
Manav was stunned. He looked at Satish, who was absolutely calm. He did not say anything and hung his head sadly.
"Manav," Satish said in a grave voice. "Earlier when I came to know that you and Archana are getting divorced then I had asked Sulochana Kaku whether Archana would be able to forget everything or not cos she is emotional.. but after today's function I feel I should be doubting you and not Archana.."
"What do you mean?"
"Will you be able to live upto this divorce?" asked Satish firmly. "I don't want you to divorce now and then keep hovering around Archana all the time later simply cos you are not able to forget her.. that will mess up her and my life too.. You have spoilt her life enough- not any more please!"
"You need not worry on that account." Said Manav firmly. "Today is the last day you have seen me and Archana together, and that too I came only bcos of Tarun. Tomorrow, when we get divorced, after that, I won't even show her my face. Complete detachment. No meeting, no talking, nothing."
Satish looked doubtful. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." Said Manav confidently. "I'm as firm in my detachments as I am in my commitments. Don't worry, I shall never intrude in Archana's life now. I had asked her for some help, but now I will tell someone else to look into the matter. Don't worry- I won't mess up your married life."
Satish nodded. He got up and went away. Manav watched him go with a sad look on his face.
The traditional ceremony had taken a somewhat fun-filled mood by the time Archana went back inside the main hall. The groom's side had put on some fun filled Punjabi songs and the whole ambience had become cheerful as people danced to the music. Everyone joined in, and Tarun and Vaishali were ultimately pulled in too. The Kapoors and the Karanjkars smiled at the successful culmination and were thoroughly pleased.
Archana too smiled at the people dancing and enjoying themselves. Still thinking about Manav, she didn't notice when she bumped into Savita Aai.
"I'm sorry," she said, horrified on seeing the cold-drink spilt on her sari.
Savita Aai was mad with rage. "Who will pay for this?" she shouted. (Thankgod for the loud music!-Archana thought). "I'm sorry Aai, I'll help you clean it up.." she offered.
"Aye.. don't call me Aai.." said Savita, showing her a finger. "And don't try and be sweet to me okay.. you stay away from me and my family.." she said. "If I catch you talking to Manav or trying to be sweet to Vandu again na.. then I shall set you right.."
Beads of perspiration ran across Archana's forehead. "I was just.." she stammered.
"No need to meet them. Quit all dreams of coming back to that house again- characterless girl!! ." Said Savita angrily. "Bcos of you, my happy family got broken and shall never be the same again. Bcos of you I have suffered so many losses. Bcos of you my son is upset and disappointed. Such a bad omen you are to that house! Enough wrecking you have done.. now if you try to come close again.. think about it.. you know how nasty I can get.. hai na Archu beta?" she said in a wicked tone. Archana panicked. She hoped Aai would not make a dirty scene there, as she had done in the past. "I'll leave." She murmured and ran away, very scared. The function would be getting some time later, she didn't want any more trouble. It was best to avoid the family till the function ended.
She went and stood quietly near her Aai, thinking of everything that had happened that evening. The words chanted by everyone rang in her ears- "Only one day more!"
Yes, she thought. Only one night left to make the decision of a lifetime.
It was late by the time Manav came back home. The house was in darkness. He entered and almost tripped over his Baba, who was lying on the floor.
"Baba! Baba! Oh God!" Manav knelt near him. He was smelling of alcohol. It seemed he had passed out again. "Maaanaav.." he murmured. "Maaanav.."
Manav helped his father up and made him lie down on the diwan. He switched on the lights. Savita Aai and the children, who had come back home before him, were sleeping. He brought a jug of water and splashed it on his Baba's face.
"Aaahhh!!" said Damodar, getting back to his senses. "Manav, where were you? Why are you so late?"
Manav helped him drink some water. "I wanted to be by myself for sometime." He said.
Damodar started crying. "What sort of fate has god written for you! Your marriage is breaking and I can't do anything for you."
Manav did not reply. He removed Damodar's shoes instead.
Damodar pulled him by the arm. "Come." He said suddenly. "Let's go to Archana's house. I will beg her to understand, and accept you again and.."
"Baba please!" said Manav irritatedly. "No use making a tamasha anywhere now. She will not come and you know that too. Please, ab jo hona hai.. shanti se ho.."
"I cannot bear it.." wept Damodar. "Such a good daughter in law God gave us.. and now.. how will she live Manav.. you may divorce her.. but that will not mean the end of troubles for her.. Ajit will destroy her life anyway.. you also know that."
A pang of sadness hit his heart. "Why do you remind me this again and again?" he said softly. "You know there is nothing I can do anymore.."
"You can do." Said Damodar assertively. "If you really cared about this marriage, you would have done it.. you wouldn't have given up.. you would have searched for more proofs.. Archana knows very little about you.. only that much which she came to know from close relatives.. so her falling prey to misunderstandings and not trusting you and believing her relatives is understandable.. but it is YOUR duty to provide proofs to her and help her out of this situation.. your duty to save this marriage.. but you.."
Manav looked tired. "Baba, for sometime, can you please think ABOUT ME and not just about your daughter in law or this marriage?" He said in a small voice. "I have too many problems on my head and I'm trying to manage things.. matters which are far more important than a marriage.." (there was a crack in his voice).. "..please.. please try and understand your son for once.. at least YOU don't give me guilt trips.. whole house is doing it anyway."
Damodar softened. "Manav I know beta, I know you have been through difficult times now, but I know you won't be happy without Archana na, that is why I'm saying, DO SOMETHING about it.."
"I can't do it." Said Manav ultimately, utterly frustrated. "I don't have time, patience, energy, resources and support. I am standing at crossroads where BIGGER problems are facing me, issues MUCH bigger than a marriage of just 15 days and I have to lay greater emphasis on those problems right now if I have to survive and give a future to my family as well. I don't have time or motivation to go about hunting for proofs. It is said that if things don't go the way you want them too, it means God's will is at work. Maybe this is what God wants for me. I accept his will. I'm done with everything else now." He walked off into the kitchen.
He returned a little later, a glass of lime juice in his hand for his Baba. His Baba, however, was nowhere to be seen. He kept the glass on a table and went inside. "Baba," he called out softly, "Where are you?"
"In here!" called out his Baba cheerfully. He went into the bedroom. His Baba was rummaging in a trunk and finally found a small copper plate. "Chal!" he said.
Manav followed his Baba into the kitchen. "What did you make here?" asked his Baba, seeing the cut lemons.
"Uh-yeah!" Manav went into the living room and got the glass of lime juice that he had left there. When he entered the kitchen again, he was shocked.
His Baba had filled the copper plate with water, and was now introducing a small idol of Ganpati into it.
"Baba no.." said Manav, rushing in. He looked at the plate. The idol of Ganpati was in the centre of the plate filled with water.
Damodar looked at him confidently. "You were right Manav, you've done everything you could.. now God HAS TO do something for you.
Manav looked uneasy. He knew this was a traditional ritual of asking, demanding and in some cases- CHALLENGING God to solve problems when they went completely out of hand and out of control- it was a way of saying- you help me out then I'll take you out. How would God help him now, he thought. Situations had gone totally haywire.. he was himself surviving on hope.. now if nothing positive happened even after this, wouldn't his faith in god lessen?
"You shouldn't have done this." He said quietly. "There are some instances when even God becomes helpless. This is one of them. It isn't fair to put God through tests at such a moment. This is not a fairytale. We cannot expect sudden, unrealistic miracles and pray for God to solve our problems at the snap of a finger. You shouldn't have done this."
And he switched off the lights and walked away, leaving Damodar utterly confused. He didn't know it was due to alcohol or something else, but somehow Manav's words made no sense to him- as if there was something he could not relate to at all. He looked at the idol in the plate and started talking to it- "I don't know what this boy is babbling," he said. "But whatever it is, you've got to help him out of his troubles now. He has frankly done ENOUGH! God helps those who help themselves, right? So now you really have to help him- cos now its not just a matter of saving a marriage- no! It is a question of FAITH. It is a time for you to answer now- whether you reward people for their good deeds, their honesty, or not. If Manav had not stopped to help Varsha that night, then he would have been happy with Archana today, but then Varsha's life would have got ruined. He chose to think about her first- from an ethical point of view he was completely justified. The whole world punished him for it. But I want to see if at least you will reward him for his thoughtfulness or not."
"Else," said Damodar Baba gruffly, "else.. it will prove that morals, ethics and teachings are but a waste of words- there is no point in being good, cos vice wins anyway."
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