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Joined: 10 April 2006
Joined: 01 January 2009
Niki , great update as usual ...
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Joined: 01 January 2009
The following 2 member(s) liked the above post:
Joined: 01 January 2009
The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:
Joined: 01 January 2009
REFLECTIONS AT DAWN
Time certainly does have wings. Good times fly away, and bad times persist on for as long as we can remember.
These were the thoughts which were going through Manav's mind as he stood in the line for the water the next morning. Despite all attempts by him to not think or ponder, he was still going through past memories. The only difference was that these memories were not harsh or dark, but rather pleasing and such that brought a smile on his lips.
It was still dark and quiet. The lazy sun had yet to get up from sleep. Manav looked around himself, as he waited for his turn to come up. He rubbed his hands. His attention was diverted to the central space of the chawl. Years ago, he used to play cricket there as a child..
***flashback- 22 years ago***
"Manav!" Atya called out.
Messy hair, a chequered blue shirt and black shorts- a 10 year old, intelligent looking, chubby face- playing cricket with his cousins in a rugged field. He frowned when he saw Atya looking for him.
"What happened, Atya?"
"What are you doing out there! Come inside, the ceremony is inside."
He wiped his dirty hands on his shorts. "Isn't it over as yet?"
"It is. That is why I want you back in. Come on!"
She led him to the tent built on the other side of the field. They were in a small village in the very outskirts of Mumbai- it was the first time he had come there. Thankfully, the whole family, his cousins- everyone had been there and so he hadn't felt so lonely. He was grateful for this short break. Ever since he had lost his Aai, he didn't like to stay in their chawl home. It reminded him of his Aai and made him feel sad.
He stopped at the door. His Baba, dressed in traditional clothes, was sitting on a paat with a garland of flowers around him and beads on his forehead. Next to him, sat someone else.
Atya led Manav forward. "Manav," she said softly. "This is your new Aai."
So it was true! His cousins had been telling him that his Baba was going to get married to someone else, but he hadn't believed it. Now he would have, what was it called- a step mother. He remembered the nasty stories his friends had told him about the conventional 'Sauteli Maa' as depicted in films. His heart beat hard.
"Manav," Atya said again. "Do namaskar to your Aai."
He looked around nervously. Finally, he edged forward and touched the feet of the woman sitting next to his father, not daring to look at her. He was still admiring the beauty of the floor, when he felt her hand on his head. He looked up. She was very young, not as fair as his own Aai, but her features were sharp. She had dark, intense eyes. He remembered all the nasty tales again, and shuddered inwardly. He was surprised when he felt her pulling his arm, indicating him to sit in between her and his Baba. Turned out that it was time for their first family photograph. The photograph came weirdly- his new Aai was looking down, his Baba was looking forward and he was looking sideways at his new Aai.
Today again, he was peeking at her from behind the curtain, as she worked by herself in the kitchen, opening the different containers to see what was kept in each. It had been about a week since she had come into the house, and now she was slowly getting the hang of the house.
He knew that her name was Savita- he had heard his Baba addressing her by that name, while Manav himself referred to her as 'new Aai' or Savita Aai. She did all the chores of the house which his Aai used to do before she fell ill and then went to heaven. This New Aai now made food, cleaned the house, fanned his Baba, counted the money, filled the water from the taps, did everything.
He hadn't talked to her till date, though Atya had asked him to. He had confided in her that he felt scared of his new Aai and Atya had laughed at him, asking him not to be scared of 'Savita' since she was a nice lady, and that his Baba had married her so that she could take care of Manav, and for no other reason. Atya said that the very purpose of the marriage would get defeated if he did not bond with Savita Aai.
And so after Atya went away, he was left to peek about, thinking of how to approach her. His late Aai had taught him to be respectful and friendly, and he was eager to show himself as someone nice.
He peeked some more. She was not there.
"HA!" Someone grabbed him from behind, making him jump. He shuddered in fear, and heaved as he saw it was his new Aai, bending down to reach to his level. When had she come out of the kitchen, he wondered.
"Why do you stare at me like that?" New Aai asked.
"Me? No.. I don't stare.."
"I have been noticing since the last few days.." New Aai said, frowning. "You never talk to me when we sit together, but you peek at me from behind curtains. Am I a cartoon?" she scrunched her face.
Her appearance brought a giggle to Manav's lips. He somehow controlled himself. "No, nothing like that, I just feel scared of you.. so.."
'New Aai' bent again. "Why?" she asked with a frown. "Why are you scared of me? Am I a witch or a ghost?"
"No.. but my friends told you are my stepmother and stepmothers are scary.. so that is why.." he trailed off.
She seemed to have understood. She straightened up, looking weirdly at him. He looked up at her. She was not very tall, he thought. In a few years, he would easily cross her height. His own Aai had been taller. She also had a very sweet voice. 'New Aai' also spoke softly, but could be loud sometimes, especially when she was excited or in the chawl line for water, when people pushed and pulled.
"What fat cheeks you've got!" New Aai remarked, tapping his cheeks. "You don't look like your Baba.."
"I've taken after my Aai." Manav explained, pointing at the framed picture of his Aai.
For a few moments, she kept looking at the picture, not saying anything. The next moment, she turned to him, and asked softly, "How did she..?"
"She was ill." Manav replied. "We got her into hospital and did everything, but she went to heaven. Baba says we couldn't do all that was required for her."
He could see her eyes soften and her frown disappeared. She ruffled his hair. "Do you like laddoos?" she asked him.
"Come in with me." She said, and led him to the kitchen, where there was a tin on the top of the cupboard. She took out one laddoo from the tin and gave it to him. "Don't drop crumbs all over the floor." She instructed sharply. "Hold the laddoo in one hand, and place the other hand under it like a plate, so that the crumbs don't fall on the floor.. yes.. that way."
He ate slowly, relishing it while she enjoyed herself watching him eat.
"Who teaches you?"
"Baba." Said Manav, the laddoo still in his mouth.
"Aey don't speak in that manner." she said irritatedly. "Your Baba is never at home, when does he teach you?" she asked. "He doesn't teach me much," Manav replied back. "Aai used to teach me earlier, after she went away Baba used to teach me. But he doesn't have much time since he is busy with theatre most days. And Atya is never at home for long durations- she keeps travelling and has a job in another city."
"Hmm.." pondered New Aai. "I want one more laddoo." demanded Manav.
"Not now." she said. "I will give you one laddoo everyday if you sit near me at teatime after you come home after playing, when I make dinner, and read out everything that your teacher taught at school that day."
Manav gasped. "Everything?"
"Yes." She said. "That is the way we will study."
"But my Aai never taught me in this manner.." he protested.
"Yes, but now I'm supposed to teach you, cos I don't think your Baba has a lot of time in hand for you, and I don't want your studies to suffer.." New Aai said firmly. "And I think this way will work." She could see he was not sure. "You want laddoos or not?" she asked finally.
He nodded. They were delicious.
"Then go and get your books. If you behave like a good boy, I will be good to you, if you behave badly, I will behave like a bad stepmother, just like your friends told you." She tried to sound menacing and scary. "What is a bad stepmother supposed to do?" she asked Manav with a weird funny expression.
Manav giggled. "Bad stepmother doesn't give food and locks children in the bathroom when they cry."
"That is stupid!" scoffed New Aai. "Then what would she do if she herself wanted to use the bathroom?"
Manav hadn't thought of that. He wondered at the possibility. Savita sighed. "Where are such things shown?"
"Actually I haven't seen many movies.." Savita admitted. "We didn't have many facilities in our little village. Stupid movies!"
"Anyhow, go and get your books." She said. "I will start making dinner in a few minutes. You sit near me and read aloud whatever your teacher taught you. I will listen and ask questions in the middle to check whether you are concentrating." He nodded and sped off to get his books, when a voice called out. "And wash your hands and mouth before sitting to study, else you'll ruin your teeth!"
Manav came out of his thoughts. His turn in the tap line had come. He placed the bucket carefully, waiting for it to fill. Remembering old days was so much better than dwelling on present circumstances, he thought. Unlike what people assumed, the past was not painful- it was healthy. His lips still broke into a smile as he remembered those initial days of getting used to 'New Aai' whose ways were so different from his own Aai. She was quick, short tempered, could get loud, and illiterate. She had a weird sense of humour and laughed aloud when she found something funny. She would laugh at everyone and everything, and she loved dancing to the songs that played in the chawl or on the radio occasionally. Her technique of 'teaching' was nothing other than making Manav revise whatever had been taught at school, since she was illiterate herself and could not help him with studies. At that time he had been a 10 year old child who didn't understand much around him, but today he understood that Savita Aai had tried to take him, a motherless child, under her mould, perhaps knowing even in those initial days, that his Baba would not be able to devote much time to him. In those constant reprimands, occasional strictness, dollops of pampering and lots of 'if-you-do-this-I- will-do-this', they had slowly grown closer.
How time flies.. he thought again. He picked up the bucket and walked upstairs to his home. As he kept the bucket carefully in a corner of the kitchen, he remembered old days again.
"How did your Aai do so much of work!" Savita Aai exclaimed, as she climbed up the stairs with a bucket full of water in her hand. She set it down on the floor, heaving. "I'm already out of breath!" she admitted.
Manav grinned, chewing his pencil. "Why don't you ask Baba to help you with it?" he suggested. "Baba used to do some of the household work when Aai fell ill.."
Savita Aai scoffed. She came close to him indicating her hand to him in the gesture of slapping. "Don't chew your pencil! And about your Baba, he has no time from theatre." She said. "I am the one who has to do all this work.. haye.. see.. you were saying that you are the Cinderella and I'm the step mother, but still it is me who is doing all the work.. all these fairytales are nonsense!"
He laughed at her. When she was irritated, she often spewed randomly and made everyone around her laugh by her antics. "I will help you in carrying the buckets from tomorrow." He said. "You always get so tired at the end of the day, and there is no one to help you."
"Aww.. how sweet, my dear you are just a little lamb, you will topple down the stairs if you carry such a big bucket," she said. "Grow up to become a big strong boy and then help me, or even better.." she came close to him with a mischievous smile on her face. "Become very rich! Then we can have a maid who will do all this work."
He grinned. "How will I become rich?" he asked.
"For that you have to study hard." She said. "So study every day, bcos if you don't study hard and become very rich.. then I.. then I.."
"Then will you punish me?" he asked in a small voice. Sha laughed loudly. "Oh no, why would I punish you, I will just ask your wife to do all this work.. ha!"
"Aww.. hatt.." said Manav, shying away.
"Hahahaa.. look who is shying!" she laughed, pointing a finger at him. "I will ask your wife to carry all these buckets and make Masala Bhindi for me every day, and if she doesn't do it I will fight with her. Fighting with the bahu is the timepass in old age."
"If she doesn't know how to make Masala Bhindi then?"
"Then I will taunt her!" saying this Savita Aai changed her tone to a grumbling one- "Kuch nahi sikhaya tere gharwalon ne, bas aise hi bhej diya!!" (Your parents haven't taught you anything and send you as it is to the husband's house)
Both of them laughed. The house echoed with their laughter.
More loud noises, this time at night. Manav woke up from sleep to see Aai getting his Baba inside.
"Who do they think they are!" his Baba was murmuring in drunken stupor. "How can they throw me out.. I am no. 1 actor.. all directors are after me.. let the show flop."
Savita Aai looked worried as she tried to ignore the people standing outside their home and looking at them. "Get in," she said to Manav's Baba and helped him lie down. Then she went to the door and closed it firmly. She sat with her back to the door and buried her face in her hands.
Manav got up and went to the living room. His Baba smelt bad, and was still murmuring something in his sleep. Savita, on the other hand, had her face in her hands and was shaking intermittently. Manav shook her arm. "Aai, what happened to Baba?"
She did not reply for a long time. He continued questioning her. Finally, she looked up. Her eyes were swollen and red.
"Manav, go and sleep."
"Will you not sleep."
She cast one look at Damodar lying on the couch. "I have to look after your Baba, he is not well."
"What happened to him?"
She could not answer. She started weeping again.
She looked at the bills in amazement. "All this?" she asked the man standing in front of her. The man nodded.
"Come tomorrow and collect the money." She said. The man went away. She walked slowly, one hand behind her back, trying to support her baby bump. She came and sat down next to the stove, thinking deeply. As per routine, Manav was sitting next to her and reciting something that he had memorized.
"I recited everything. Did I make a mistake?" Savita wasn't listening. "Aai, did I make a mistake anywhere?"
"Huh, no, you did not make any mistake beta." She was lost in her own thoughts. "Aai what happened?"
"Manav, do you have any money?" she asked him with pleading eyes. "During our wedding, when you touched the feet of elders, they must have given you some money na?"
He nodded. "I was saving it to buy a new cricket bat with the money." He said.
She tried to blink back her tears. "Manav, listen beta, please give me the money now, I will get a very nice bat for you later.. please.." Manav's face fell. "Take money from Baba.." Savita gave him an exasperated look. "Beta- your Baba doesn't have money. Please give me the money, it is very urgent."
He nodded and went to his room, took out the money from a small box and gave it to her. She accepted it very gratefully. "Thankyou Manav." She said, a tear dropping from her eye. She fondled his cheek affectionately. "What should I make for you today?"
She giggled softly, blinking her tears away. "Alright, I will make Aloo Gobi and then you can become like a big potato yourself." She said, patting him on the back. She pondered on something, then turned to Manav. "Manav, did you have money problems when your Aai was alive..?"
"What did she do?"
"She sold some of her jewellery.. and she used to do some odd jobs- stitching, embroidery etc."
"Hmm.." Savita said. "I guess I will have to take cue from your mother.. even in those days she knew your father wouldn't be able to run the house.."
They were on the terrace. While the rest of the boys were flying kites, Manav was shooing away the crows from pecking at the papads that were drying in the sun.
"I hope we can make some money out of this." Said Savita Aai pensively, kneading the mixture to make more papads. "Manav's Baba has been out of work recently. Things will get difficult for us if this doesn't work out."
Atya kept a hand on her shoulder, her other hand patting little Sachin who was sleeping on her lap. "Calm down Savita, things will work out. Damodar will get some work soon. Such bad spells are part of an actor's life. Just manage somehow for a short while. Do you want any help from me..?"
Savita hesitated, then said, "Manav's school uniform.."
"I will pay for it." Said Atya. "Thankyou." Said Savita gratefully. "I had never thought things would be so difficult after marriage- things were calm for some days till Manav's Baba had some work in some play, then the bad spells started.. then he got some more work, and then again out of work- income is not steady.. "
"I know Savita," said Atya regretfully. "You haven't got any happiness that a newly wed girl gets, you have only had responsibilities piled on you from day one, looking after Manav, the house and financial problems and now Damodar's alcoholism..
"Aai," Manav who had been standing in a corner, said, "Can I go play with the others?"
"No." said Aai. "I need help to keep the crows away from the papads while I am making some more."
"But all are playing.."
"I SAID NO!" she said angrily. He concentrated on shooing away the crows again.
"Calm down Savita." said Atya. "As it is, he takes care of little Sachu also, and helps you in household chores."
"I know," said Savita, a little subdued now. "He is a very sweet boy, always wanting to help me in any way he can. Never says no. It is for his sake that I'm doing all this, hoping that he and Sachu don't suffer due to the state of the house. If I'm taking his help and not letting him play for one evening, that is also for his own betterment- to earn money for the house. If we get through this difficult period without compromising on the needs of the children and Manav's schooling, then he will enjoy a lot tomorrow when he gets a good job and is financially stable and gets respect from all corners..."
"I understand.." Atya said quietly. "Don't worry, things will get better."
"Aai why do you create such tamashas everywhere? It doesn't look good!"
A 14 year old Manav with acne on his face, taller than before was grumbling at his Aai as they entered the house.
"What could I do?" she asked flatly. "That wretched vegetable vendor was selling veggies so bloody expensive- I had to bargain then and there to save our pennies!"
"You weren't bargaining, you were literally yelling at him. If I and others hadn't intervened, you would have got into a physical fight just like the other day." Said Manav with a frown, as he tickled 4 year old Sachin, who was playing on the diwan.
"These people understand this type of language only." Said Savita, shaking her head. "Talk softly and no one listens. I have toh got adjusted to this behavior only now. Only I know how much I have to go through to get ahead of everyone in the line for water every morning- lots of problems. I can give any wrestler competition now, I think."
Manav gave a small smile. Savita's face lit up. "Manav, who is that nice teacher who has been giving you tuitions?"
"Mrs. Fanny." Said Manav. "She's my Physics teacher and very understanding. She knows that unlike other children I cannot afford coachings, so she is devoting some extra time to me to help me out with the Scholarship examination and get through college later- since competition for the exam will be high."
"Can you explain the way she does?"
"I think so.."
"Great!" said Savita, rubbing her hands. "You can teach the other chawl children when you revise, this way you will also remember it forever, and we can make some money."
"Aai," said Manav, perturbed. "She teaches me for FREE cos she knows I can't afford it, it won't be right of me to charge other students who are equally poor. It would rather be better if I recommend them to Fanny Ma'am and all of them attend her classes for free, instead.
Savita groaned. "Manav you think too much, no one thinks this much about US- certainly not in this chawl here, everyone is selfish here, looking out for themselves, no one helps at the time of need and later they expect help from others." She rolled her eyes. "As it is, you are not letting me talk to Tarun's father for help regarding your education."
"Aai, please don't talk to Tarun's Dad." Said Manav solemnly. "Tarun's Dad is already wary of gold diggers and wants his son to be away from such people. Ever since he hit the jackpot in business, he is insisting that Tarun change schools. If you say something like this to him, he will think the worst about us too. It is just Tarun's insolency and his Grandmother's pampering that has prevented his parents from changing his school- not to forget the excellent teachers in my school."
Savita sighed. "Your Baba has made the family suffer so much.." she said, sitting down on the diwan, pulling little Sachin closer to herself. "I don't want it to have any negative impact on life ahead.. if bcos of him the future of my children comes to harm, I won't forgive him.."
Manav looked perturbed. He knew Aai-Baba argued a lot these days, especially when Baba came home drunk. Aai accused him of being a bad father and husband, and always pointed out how there was something or the other lacking in the house everytime and he was doing nothing about it.
He went and sat near his Aai. "Don't worry, Baba shall get some sort of work soon.. his credibility in the theatre world has gone down bcos of his drinking habits.. if he restrains then people will start trusting him again and give him more work.. he himself is trying his best to fulfill our requirements.. it's not as if he is sitting in a corner doing nothing.. he is really trying.."
"I don't know Manav," said Savita with a serious look. "I have sort of given up on your Baba.. he is unable to run the house even when he has work- his theatre roles do not guarantee a secure income.. it is me who has to supplement the house by fighting and saving every penny and selling papads and achaars and kanda poha- whatever I can.. its not like I hate him for it, he is a good person and certainly putting in his best- compromising by doing even small roles, but.. I don't know.. just don't know how long I can make it last.."
Suddenly it dawned on her that she was discussing all this with a 14 year old boy. "You go for your class." She said. "Study well." He nodded, pecked Sachin's plump cheeks lovingly and sped to his room to get his bag.
Yes, he had seen her changing. He had seen her changing from a spirited woman who came to live in the house, and who had got the responsibilities of a mother and a home maker even before she could perfect herself as a wife. He had seen her change into a hassled worried woman, who slowly realized that her marriage had heaped her with more than she could take and she had little or no help from anyone- even relatives and friends had turned away from them. He had seen her changing from a social woman to one who had started maintaining true relationships only with those who gave something in return- like Tarun, Atya or Girishji.. with the rest of the people, who could not help or did not help, she had more or less, an 'on your face' relationship. He had seen her changing to a loud woman who had to fight her way to survive the muck her marriage had placed her in- fighting at the chawl tap, with the vendors, with the money lenders, with the people who came to demand payment for bills. He had seen her changing from being cautious and carefree to becoming shrewd and worldly wise, since she knew that this was how you needed to be if you had to survive in this harsh world where everyone was trying to take advantage and everyone was fighting for survival.
And he also knew that he had changed in her influence. He had not become rough or shrewd like her, but he had definitely developed the fighting spirit from her. He did not believe in keeping relationships only if they gave you something in return, but he knew what to expect and what not to expect from people now. If his father was a dreamer, she was a survivor. And she had taught him to be a survivor and fighter as well. If he attributed his sensitivity, soft spoken and emotional behavior to his deceased Aai, he attributed the other part of his behavior- the zest to fight, the acceptance of reality and making life on it, the power to adjust and make do in any situation and stay happy in it- all from Savita Aai. He had changed, just the way she had wanted him to change so that he could learn to fight this life as there was little his Baba could ever do for them.
Presently, standing alone in the living room, Manav sighed. His head was aching again now. He needed to take his tablets, but before that he would have to eat something. He looked into the stored food to see what was left from the night. He then went into the room and started fumbling in his drawer for medicines. Instead, the doctor's letter came in his hand. He had an appointment that morning, he remembered.
Appointment with the doctor.. he thought. More memories came rushing by.
(continued in next post)
The following 11 member(s) liked the above post:
AditiD, shovanashrestha, Claire0206, Swati_, stefanandre, LuvSSever, Asther, --Hope--, moon_mine, suan, lunza,
Joined: 01 January 2009
At 15 years, he was with Sachin, convincing him that they would play more the next day, now it was time for them to study. He saw his Aai sitting alone in a corner of the kitchen, lost in thoughts. "Well, what did the doctor say?"
Savita mumbled something. He did not hear it at first, and asked her to repeat.
"Twins." She said.
"Oh wow!" he exclaimed. "Will they be identical twins?"
"I don't know." She said. "The doctor just said that they are doing well, and I need to be more careful and take more rest."
"Well.. that is true." He said, trying to sound adult like in his 15 year old voice. "You need to take more rest now and work less."
He noticed she looked down in the dumps. "What happened Aai?" he asked softly.
She shook her head. "Tell me Aai, why are you sad? Why aren't you happy when there is such a good news?"
She looked at him staring at her, genuinely confused. "Manav, how am I going to bring up 4 children?" she asked helplessly. "We were doing okay till here, I thought I could manage one more kid, but TWINS? Oh dear!"
"Aai.. we will manage somehow.. let my exams get over, I will start taking tuitions for younger children.. I will also help you.. maybe some part time job.."
"How much will you do beta?" she said emotionally. "As it is, I feel guilty that at the age of 15, I have to talk to you about stuff like financial matters, and make you think over all this, instead of your Baba, but then again I want you to get accustomed to fight all this and handle things on your own. Fact is, I have somewhere lost faith in him now."
"Aai please don't say this, he is trying his best for all of us.."
"Yes, he is trying his best, but not in the direction he should." Said Aai. "He is trying hard to fulfill the demands of the house, but still doesn't want to compromise with his dream and his love for theatre. Even at such a time he isn't quitting his struggle and still doing small roles in plays..we have no security.. it would be so much better if he quits all this and takes up some small job which can guarantee a fixed income.. instead of making me worry my adolescent child and make him mature beyond his years.."
She looked at him with sadness in her eyes. Manav was very much affected. "Aai, you do not burden me, you have never burdened me, I like it that you talk to me.. really.. I'm telling you, we have things together till here na, we will manage ahead also, somehow.. Bappa cannot cheat us.. he must have opened up some way for us too.. we should be happy to welcome two little ones in our family now.."
Savita tried to smile. Somehow the smile did not reach her eyes.
"What did you say?" asked Damodar angrily. "Repeat it again.."
16 year old Manav looked at his Baba nervously. His Baba's eyes were red and one could see fury writ on his face. Manav gulped.
"Baba, please try and understand.." he said. "This new garage opened up just two weeks back, and they need more hands. Girishji, the owner seems to be like a very nice man, he listened to me very patiently and inspite of the fact that I know nothing much about repairing vehicles, he has agreed to give me a chance to work and learn along.. he even gave me some extra money along with the day's earnings as advance cos I told him we are short of cash.."
"Yes, go, go and tell the world that your Baba is useless!" said Damodar angrily. "Bcos evidently that is what all of you think of me. All I ask from all of you is one chance to set things right.. repeatedly I keep telling that it is not an easy job to hold your position as a successful actor or even make a mark there, struggle is inevitable- for the sake of earning money for all of you I'm even doing small roles these days, but it's not just fate but even my family who doesn't support me.. why don't you all trust me a little, why do you have to consistently shove my incapability in my face."
"Baba it's not like that.. I'm just trying to support you in your difficult time.. we all are trying to do that.. please don't take us wrong.. the day you get a good role and make your mark and start getting plum roles again, I will leave this job.."
"What about your studies till then.. what about school?"
He gulped. Why did Baba have to scratch his wounds?
"I will try and balance both," he said, knowing very well it was next to impossible. "Please try and understand Baba.. it is a necessity for us right now.. I do not mean to hurt you, I'm simply trying to help you.. please take this money.. this is my first earning."
He extended some notes towards his Baba, who became furious on seeing the money. He snatched the notes from his hand and threw them on the floor. Manav was hurt.
"Nonsense this is!" he yelled. "You will not go to any garage to work, you will quietly go to your room and sleep and from tomorrow you will go back to school and prepare for your engineering entrance exam again. And if you think you are big enough to take such decisions, think again. I'm still alive. I'll throw you out of the house if you go to that garage and work as a mechanic. Keep this thing in your mind- you're not so grown up. Go inside now!"
Angrily he walked out of the house, as Manav looked at him with pleading, tearful eyes. Why could Baba not understand the situation the house was in? Could he not see the stack of bills that had to be paid? Could he not see the debtors who came to demand money every alternate day? Could he not see Savita Aai's plight, who was unable to work while handling two newborn children? Could he not see how she had to fold hands and beg and cry in front of everyone, asking them to give some more time to repay the money? Could he not see that Sachin was growing fast and had demands of his own to be fulfilled? Could he not see that two more children meant two more added expenses? How was all of it going to be handled if they continued to depend on whatever little money Baba brought into the house? Quitting studies and working was not a choice but an absolute necessity now. He had seen his Aai suffering and dying, now he did not want the poverty to engulf anyone else in his family- least of all his little siblings who were totally dependent on the elders. As an elder brother, as the eldest son, the responsibility to fend for his family at such a juncture was HIS. Right now, his dreams of being an engineer were petty in comparison to this harsh reality. So what if he had studied hard, so what if he deserved it- the truth remained the same- the condition of the house was bad. He could continue with his studies, but then if something happened to his siblings, if they got thrown out of the house in which they currently lived, if any mishap occurred due to their poverty, he would not be able to forgive himself. At this moment, those childhood dreams of being an engineer and working in a big office seemed very small in front of his guilt if anything bad happened.
Why could Baba not understand that sometimes one had to accept fate and not keep chasing impossible dreams? He himself had been chasing his dream of being an actor for so many years- what had it brought to the house? Nothing. Now he wanted Manav to not give up his dream of becoming an engineer. To hell with dreams!- Manav thought. At this moment his only dream was to pay all the loans somehow. A person lived in reality, not in dreams. Those who continued to live in dreams all their life only suffered.
He raised his eyes to look at Savita Aai. She was still standing where she had been standing a few minutes back- looking at the notes on the ground, but not moving forward to collect them. He could see she was hesitating, but also that she was thinking about it. She raised her eyes to look once at him.
In that one look they talked. In that one look she understood. In that one look she agreed. They simply didn't need to discuss anymore- struggling all these years together, having witnessed Baba's state and the condition of the house all these years, somehow they knew and understood what the other felt- that it was the best decision for the family.
He left the room while she bent down and started collecting the money on the floor.
He was lying on the swing in the balcony, rocking slowly, looking at the clear night sky. It looked like a very peaceful night. And he felt more at ease now that he knew that Savita Aai had used his hard earned money to get some ration for the house after paying previous bills. Baba as usual had come back home drunk, crying out loud about how he was a bad father that his children were suffering bcos of him. He wanted to stay away from his Baba's sight for a few days now. He had been extremely lucky to get the garage job without even having skills for it. He meant to focus on that now and learn as much as he could.
He could hear steps behind him. It was Savita, with a dinner plate in her hands. He sat up on the swing.
She sat next to him, extending the plate to him. He shook his head.
She broke a morsel and fed it to him. "If you are going to work so hard from tomorrow, you must eat well at least." She said, trying to hide tears. He swallowed quietly. For a few minutes both did not say anything.
"Sleeping." Said Savita.
They were silent again. Finally Savita broke the silence and started weeping. "Why are you weeping now Aai?" Manav asked.
"I'm sorry Manav." She wept. "Sorry for everything you had to do.. and I'm very thankful at the same time. Your Aai must be watching you from heaven and being proud of her son right now, because she instilled the right foundations in her son, she must be thinking what a fine, devoted person her son is. I, on the other hand, am sacrificing the future of one son for the other children.. I am such a sorry figure of a mother.."
"Aai please don't say that." Said Manav, getting tearful. "You are MY Aai, a very good Aai.. and I am actually grateful that you accepted my decision, that you could actually understood my reasons for taking such a big step.. that you SUPPORTED my decision at a time when I really needed someone to bolster my confidence and encourage me that yes, it is not the end of the world Manav.. we both know it was the best available route for everyone in the long run, Aai it's not like I wanted to do it, you also know how hard I had been working for the engineering entrance exam ever since class 11th started, but somehow it just wasn't possible. I might try to continue studies alongside garage work, but I assume it will be very difficult to manage."
"Do as much as you can." Aai fondled his head lovingly. "Don't stress yourself. As it is, you are doing too much for everyone.. and yes, it is definitely not the end of the world.."
He tried to smile. "You remember our jokes Aai?" he said. "You wanted me to study hard and become very rich so we could enjoy life.. else you would make my wife work in the kitchen.." he tried to laugh.. "You can make my wife work now.."
Savita slapped him playfully on the cheek, smiling through her tears. "I might not be able to graduate Aai, but I will educate my siblings well." He said with determination. "No one shall go through what both of us have gone through. You see one day Sachin will make us rich."
"No, YOU will make us rich." Said Savita firmly. "Manav, if there is any God in this world, and if there is any power in blessings, then Bappa will fulfill all your wishes one day- he shall give you everything you want- money, position, comforts, but most of all- respect and love from all those people for whom you have done so much."
Manav was choked. He couldn't say anything.
Savita seemed to be suddenly reminded of something. "You eat, I'm coming in one minute."
She got up and left him alone. He continued to eat slowly, reflecting on how life would change for him next day onwards. She came back a few minutes later with a pen and a note.
"What is this?" asked Manav.
It was a 10 rupee note.
She extended the pen and the note towards Manav. "Put your signature on this note." She said. "Why?" he asked, but she asked him to do it and not ask questions. He did as he was asked to do and wrote his name and date on one corner of the note. He handed it back to her.
She took it back and looked at it with satisfaction. "I shall never give this note to anyone now." she said with determination. "It is a reminder of the sacrifice you made at 16 for your family. Till today I used to be very scared about how I would manage everything, but today you have given me strength. Now each time we have some problem in the house, some more tension, I shall take this note out and look at it- it shall give me confidence that whatever happens, my Manav is there to take care of the house, he will handle everything. Till my Manav is there nothing can go wrong with us, no harm can come with us. He loves his family more than anything in the world, he can never desert us. He would do ANYTHING for us, bcos WE mean more to him than anything else." She looked to see he was smiling at her. "He is my only hope, my only security, my anchor. Right?"
He nodded, smiling at her. "Right."
His heart ached as he remembered those moments. Fact was, he and Aai had always had a connection, a bond, which, as Aai sometimes claimed, was even stronger than the bond between her and Damodar. That bond had arisen not only bcos of the laughter and tears of the relationship they shared, but also bcos both of them understood each other's pain, since there had been a time in their life when both of them had alone shared their difficulties and tried to overcome them together.
It was only Aai who had understood at that time how important it had been for him to take the step of throwing away his education, and it was only he who had understood how important it had been for Aai to accept this decision. Over days, many people had criticized their decision- many had called Savita Aai a bad mother, a step mother who had used her step son to save her own children, but he had turned a deaf ear to everything. Only he knew how much she had felt for him, and under what circumstances she had accepted his decision, and only he knew how much his one act had brought him closer to Aai. It was from this point that her constant use of 'MERA MANAV' had started. The pride and the right that emanated from the use of these words were too pellucid.
From that day onwards her behavior towards him had changed. She had started treating HIM as the sole earning member of the family, as an ELDER. She discussed not only financial but all important matters with him freely instead of pestering Baba, together they would discuss what to buy, how to manage the house, how much to spend in festivals, how to manage children's education etc. He controlled her from getting into fights, fighting away her apprehensions, acted as a bridge between Baba and her. She on the other hand, managed the house on whatever little he earned, fought with anyone who mocked Manav, and taught Sachin Vedant and Vandita to respect their brother always.
He hadn't even realized when they had become one team. She freely depended on him. If there was lack of anything in the house- she made provision for the children first, taking it for granted that she and Manav would compromise. She had started considering him a part of her- that together both could compromise to run the house. Slowly it grew on to exercising rights openly- making legible demands, no longer hesitating or feeling guilty, after all, he was HER MANAV, and she asked him for whatever was required of him openly. He was after all her son, and she was his mother- it was her right. She wanted Vedant Vandita in good schools, he did it. She felt they would require an air cooler for the summer, they saved money together and bought one. The family yearned for a TV, months of hard work and meticulous planning later, that was achieved, and thus together they had pulled the family from days of doom to what could be called a fairly comfortable living. She didn't work as much as she used to earlier, since he kept telling her he was there to handle all expenses, she stopped working eventually, but she still did all the housework herself, and saved every bit of his money. If he was the earner, she was the woman who gave life to that house.
He remembered his Aai's words when he had questioned her how she could break his marriage with Archana and manipulate Shravani and Sachin- "I am your mother and I have the right to decide who you live with."
It was as if he had been pulled back into the unpleasant present from the joyous past.
He could not help feeling that the present and past had no comparison. Somewhere the Aai of the past and the Aai in the present seemed like two completely different people. Or were all those tender moments, that affection over the years, that faith- all that false? Did she really not care about him or his wishes? Did she really not love him?
He controlled himself. They were the same people.
Maybe, he felt, he hadn't realized when his behavior had started giving her the idea that she had the authority to decide everything related to him and make any sort of demand. After all, for him, her wish had always been his command. Other people ridiculed his Aai and her weird ways, his Baba called her 'pagal' but he respected her. Even when Sachin Vedant and Vandita ganged up on Aai and teased her, he was the one to take her side. (previous parts). He tried hard to fulfill her little demands and make her happy- get her a sari when he could afford it or any other little gift. In return, she fiercely protected him from his adversaries, fought with people and saved his hard earned money, never complaining about his low salary or what he could not provide her. A fleeting memory crossed by of a time when Archana had come to the house as a newly wed, and Sachin had said something which relayed that he thought lowly of Manav's mechanic job. Savita Aai had scolded him, then and there.
As Manav thought over it, he couldn't help thinking that both of them had been close to each other, but maybe their close bond had started giving her the idea that her Manav would always support her and fulfill every wish no matter what, whereas he hadn't started assuming the same way. She had sort of taken it for granted that he was the sunshine, the anchor of the family- the one who was going to fulfill everything they required, the one who was their rock of Gibralter. That had not only made her take him for granted at times regarding his ability to shoulder responsibilities, but also made her more possessive of him. For starters, she had never really tried to get him married unless he himself fell in love with Archana at the age of 31. The reason?- fear, that his wife would take him under her wings or make him separate. Her other demands had started slowly- don't spend on the wedding, don't give gifts to Archana, don't go for honeymoon, arrange a loan for Sachin also if you are taking one for Archana's schooling, don't let Archana go to school and so on. She didn't scold Sachin for not working as she somewhere expected Manav to support them all while Sachin looked at his options, just as he had done all along- her expectations from Manav had always been higher as compared to his siblings. She had toughened with misfortunes and poverty and even in relationships, and expected him to support her views like always and get him the luxury she had longed for and waited patiently but had never got in life- she now expected him to marry a rich girl for money, take dowry, take help from all rich contacts and so on. Slowly they had extended to other things- her demand to divorce Archana and marry Shravani, take money from Ajit and end the fight and so on. She resorted to guilt trips, emotional blackmail.. and then finally she manipulated people and situations, cheated him behind his back to make him do what she wanted.
He sighed as he realized how far his Aai had gone this time in a bid to retain control over him and fulfill her own dreams which had never seen the light of the day. He could understand that she was tired and desperate of this kind of poverty stricken life and therefore desired to get rich through marriage liason- after all she had been compromising all these years and he had never been able to fulfill her demands properly, but post marriage to Archana, he had to take a stand against some of the unreasonable things she had asked him to do- there was no way he could have accepted to taking dowry and so on. He really couldn't help it if doing this had hurt her- didn't he after all have a right to do what he felt was correct, or did she expect him to do everything throughout life at his beck and call? He had a life of his own- he had made certain decisions and stuck to them, how could she justify the way she had manipulated and cheated him by saying she was his mother, so she had a right to decide for him? She could see it was her right, she wanted the riches and the life that she had always wanted, why she could she not see that her decisions weren't such that would have given him happiness, that she had sucked all joy from his life by separating him from his friends, family and the love of his life? How could she ever justify the fact that she had ruined Shravani's life too, and maybe ruined the brotherly love between Sachin and himself, forever.
Truly what was his place in her life, he wondered. He did not deny that there had been a time when maybe she had truly loved him, or so he felt, but today, her desire to be rich, her desire to control his life, her desire to not share him with anyone else seemed to be more important than a simple matter of what he wanted and what made him happy. Maybe today he was just a person who she looked upon as someone who would fulfill her wishes- what he wanted did not matter to her. This was such a far cry from the person he had known for so long.. the person who had cried when he had to quit his dreams, the person who had taken his signature on that note as a memory of that moment.
Had he pampered her to this extent, by making her think that his only purpose in life was the well being of his family, he wondered. Or was it her own wrong doing?
Whatever be the case, the way she had betrayed him was something he knew he could never forget. For him it was something which could never be justified. She had no right to play with his life in such a cruel way by rendering him to this state today where he had no family, no marriage and no friends. He understood she had seen poverty in life and wanted to get rich, but that did not give her the right to play havoc with so many relations in her quest to have a fulfilling life.
He heard a slight click. He went outside to see that his Aai had switched on the light in the living room. Both faced each other. She looked at the foodstuff on the kitchen counter.
"Why are you eating stale food?" she asked him. "Can't your wife make food for you?"
He gave her an angry look for sometime then walked closer to her and said, "Have you come to say this to me?"
She bent her head, took in a deep breath, then looked up again. "No, I want to have a proper talk with you. We cannot stay this way. We have to clear things between ourselves."
He crossed his arms. "I'm listening."
"Manav who told you everything? Archana?"
She gave an angry frown. "I knew it.. that girl.."
"Who told me doesn't matter.. speak about yourself right now."
She gave him a perturbed look. "Manav, why are you falling in the words of these Karanjkars? Haven't you learnt your lesson- these people are trouble! From day one they have been trouble to us! And now they have broken up me and you. Don't you realize this thing?"
"Forget them.. speak about yourself. Do you have any explanations for your act or not?"
"You stop being so rude first." Said Savita angrily. "You said some pretty nasty words to me last night.. saying I'm a crocodile devouring my eggs and what not."
"I know." He said. "I was very angry and hurt, and after all, you did give me a strong reason to be angry," he paused for a second, thinking. "Do you want to say something about yourself or should I go?"
Savita tried again. "Manav, I know you are a little angry with me, but such things keep happening.. stop blowing the matter out of proportion.."
"This is a small thing for you?" asked Manav, aghast, opening up his arms. "Poisoning Sachin against me, instigating Shravani and breaking my friendship with her, breaking my marriage, harassing Archana, speaking so badly about my character- these are small things???"
"I know you are angry.. but.." she tried to think.. "listen Manav, let's drop this matter here and move ahead."
"Why?" he shot back. "Have you ever dropped such matters, even if there were genuine reasons behind it? Do you remember how many guilt trips you've given me for even small things?"
"So now you will punish your Aai?"
He stared at her for a minute before speaking. "Aai." He repeated the word loudly. "Aai. I don't even know whether you really consider me your son now. I clearly seem to be an absolute nothing for you."
"Manav!" exclaimed Savita Aai. "What ridiculous nonsense are you speaking? You are doubting our relationship for so many years now?"
"Well you have yourself brought me to a position where I have to ask you, and myself, this question." Said Manav. "You have destroyed my world, today I have no family, no friends, and my marriage is in shambles- all bcos you wanted to be rich. And you have no remorse of anything, last night you continued to blame me the other way round, you STILL don't think about me- so what else should I think about you?"
Savita Aai looked apprehensive as she tried to speak. "Manav, I didn't want to separate you from anyone." She said in a small voice. "I just did all of it cos I knew it would benefit all of us- I told all that step-brotherly nonsense to Sachin so that he could force you to take money from Ajit and end the fight with him, not bcos I wanted both of you to fight or him to leave the house. I wanted to separate you and Archana cos I felt this marriage benefits us in no way, forget dowry, we didn't even get her jewellery, we had spent on her schooling, given her an expensive necklace, and she wasn't even living in this house.."
"There were reasons behind it.." piped in Manav.
"I don't care about reasons, I only care about result." Savita said flatly. "Marriage with Shravani would have been more advantageous."
"Chalo you admit that you think only of what you want- money."
"It isn't about just myself- it's about all of us." She persisted. "I didn't want money just for myself from Ajit, I wanted it for Sachin's business which would have made us all rich. And marriage to Shravani was not going to make ME rich as such, I only have few years in the world- ultimately you were the one going to get Girishji's garage and property. I wanted all of us to be prosperous, not just me."
"Well, the fact remains that you did everything at the cost of my life and my happiness, and still have no remorse for it. And you didn't even bother to ask everyone what they felt, what I felt. You simply cannot control everyone's lives by giving excuses that you did it for all of us. Do you have any idea how Sachin will feel when he comes to know tomorrow that you have been poisoning his mind for financial motives? Do you think the kids want these riches- no they'd rather want some peace in the house and their Dada to be happy. You cannot place me on the guillotine convincing me that there will be a better life after death."
Savita gulped. "Manav listen to me."
"I think there is nothing more to speak here."
"No, I have to speak." She said firmly. "Manav, relationships that give us nothing in life are best discarded- and those that give you an opportunity to move ahead should be picked up quickly. I have seen the world Manav- Love and all settles in with time, I knew very well you would forget Archana in a few days and live happily with Shravani. You have seen the hardships we have gone through- you know how important it is to be practical and not emotional."
He was silent for a while now. "Aai, does this approach of yours apply to me also?" he asked. "If I do not do things your way or give you what you demand, you will discard me also, right, or cheat me behind my back, or spoil my name in front of everyone?"
Savita was horrified. "Manav it is not like that.. I was not speaking about you, I was speaking with reference to Shravani, Archana and the great 'love' story.. Archana could have never given you as much as Shravani could have given you, I know you liked Archana, but come on, be practical for god's sake- she wasn't even living with you! Shravani could have made us all so rich, that is why I had to cheat you behind your back!"
"You do not have any respect for love, do you have any respect for the institution of marriage? Do you think marriage is a joke to be broken and played around with so easily?" asked Manav. "Do you think everything is always so frivilous? Do you know that a broken marriage can sometimes completely shatter a person?" Manav said incredulously. Savita had no answer. "And by the way, this Shravani had hurt me."
"Forgivable." Said Savita flatly.
"Okay, so Shravani's intentional deeds are 'forgivable', your 'mistake' of POISONING Sachin's mind and breaking the family is 'justifiable', but Archana's unintentional mistake of doubting me cos of proofs means that she should be thrown out.. may I know why?"
"Don't be Archana's lawyer!" Said Savita irritatedly. "You are under her influence right now, that is why you can't see my point.. I did nothing wrong.. I had reasons for everything.. you are stupidly in love, that is why you can't see my point.."
"I can't see your point? Rather, YOU can't see my point." Said Manav stoutly. "I'm not half as upset about my and Archana's relationship, as I'm about the fact that YOU betrayed me, you SEPARATED me from my brother, my friend for your personal wishes-for money. All this has got nothing to do with Archana at all in fact. It has everything to do with our relationship. I feel betrayed!"
"Sure, make excuses." Muttered Savita crossly. "I'm not regretful about anything. If this is the sort of influence that girl has on you that you have forgotten your Aai, then it means my manipulations behind your back to separate you from her were not wrong. You have changed- you always used to listen to me earlier."
He stood watching her for a minute. "Okay, so you still feel that calling me characterless in front of others was justified on your part. Then I think there is really nothing much to talk about all this." He finally said, shaking his head. "Everything is clear."
"What is clear..?" asked Savita in a small voice.
"That you think of me as a son, a real son, " Savita's face lit up. "A son who is meant to fulfill responsibilities only. A son whom you regard yours till he does everything the way you want him to. The day he protests, he is given guilt trips, accused, called selfish, called a bad son. People plot against him, manipulate him, snatch away his happiness so that they can get what they want. Who cares about what he wants? He is just a responsibility machine for god sake- not a real person with feelings. One can say any kind of disgusting nonsense about him and still expect him to be good.."
"No, you listen." He said, cutting her in between. "It is important to settle this matter now itself if we have to live together in this house. It is quite clear that you think that only the devoted son part of me is Manav- the one who threw away his education for the house, the one who listens to everything you say, other than that I have no desires, feelings or anything else and neither do I deserve to be angry, right? This is the Manav you consider your son, right? Fine, that is what you shall be getting from today. From today, I shall be the most dedicated and devoted son and brother, and fulfill all my responsibilities like earlier, but in return, just don't expect me to be the same as earlier now."
Savita's mouth fell open. "What.. what are you saying.."
"It's difficult for me to even talk with you now without hurting myself." Said Manav with a deep breath. "Everything shall be as it was earlier." He continued. "I shall carry out my duties in the same way. I shall earn, fulfill every need- you can come to me and demand anything you want just like you have done all these years, but don't expect me to come and chitchat with you, put my head in your lap, share my feelings with you, or joke around or dance with you in the chawl celebrations, or take your side when the others gang up against you. Don't expect all this from me. Apart from that, everything shall be as it was. You want money, gold anything else you can come to me. But nothing further than that. And before you jump to accusations, let me tell you- all this is not to punish you in any way or show my anger. Who am I to punish you? All this is just cos I don't think our relationship can be the same anymore now, and I don't want to raise expectations- I know I won't be able to be the same now. I can't pretend."
With this he turned round and left the hall.
She stood rooted on the spot for a while, trying to think. Was Manav serious, she wondered. How could he stay detached from her, HER? She was his Aai for Lord's sake! He wasn't used to staying away from her! But suddenly a creepy sensation came into her mind- what if he was serious?
In her heart she knew she had done terrible things, and she knew he was very very hurt. It must have been agonising for him to know some of the very bad things she had told Archana and Sachin about him. But he needed to understand- she had not done all of it to hurt him or separate him from Sachin- she hadn't intended it that way. She had just done all of it to break his marriage with Archana, to make him marry Shravani. That was one point for which she was ready to stand against the whole world alone. She knew most people would not understand her- they would call her greedy and all. So convenient of them to be judgemental- she thought bitterly. But if they went through all that she had gone through, they would understand. They would understand what a big part money played in life. Yes, she had married a good man, who was intelligent, well mannered, gentle, fair. But of what use was that goodness if it could not fulfill the needs of the house?
Similarily, of what use was Archana's goodness if it did not benefit them in anyway as such.. improve their conditions, thought Savita. Yes, she was docile, well mannered, family oriented, a complete cow as opposed to Shravani who was sharp, spoke her mind and did not bend in front of others, even had plans of separating Manav from the family- but at least she was rich! She would have made the lives of everyone so much better!- Savita thought.
When she had come to know that Manav wanted to marry Archana, she had agreed, thinking that if not Shravani, at least this girl would get something in the house- she worked and belonged to a well to do family. But all her hopes had been destroyed. The Deshmukh family had gone out of their way to make her feel special- giving her jewellery and gifts, hosting a function for her and so on. Manav too had refused dowry, sided with her, taken a loan for educating her. She had seen it in front of her eyes that Archana wasn't the ghar ki lakshmi she had imagined- even the jewels and little dowry had gone when Archana left the house.
She pumped her fists in frustration as she remembered. What was the use of maintaining this relationship which even in those 15 days had not benefitted Manav monetarily. People made their fortunes through marriage alliances. Why couldn't Manav do the same? What was so wrong in choosing Shravani over Archana? Hundreds of people did this everyday!
Oh yes- Manav 'loved' her. Bull****- thought Savita angrily. She hated it when people made a hoo haa of love. Yes, she had broken his first marriage and that had hurt him terribly, but truth was, if he had got married to Shravani, he would have slowly adapted and got used to her and settled down- she thought, trying to justify herself. Why couldn't Manav understand her reasoning had not been wrong? He had seen those days with her- hadn't he? Why couldn't he understand all this?
Oh yes- he was hurt- she told himself rather guiltily. She knew she had gone too far in trying to break Manav Archana apart and force him to marry Shravani, especially poisoning Sachin's mind and raising fingers on Manav's character. She had really hurt him by doing all this- it must have been awful for him to listen to all the nonsense she had told about him, not to forget the way she had cheated him behind his back- plotting to break a marriage he so badly wanted, and embarassing him in front of all. His words still rang in her ears- "I feel betrayed!" But still, did that mean it had hurt him so badly that he couldn't even talk to her anymore?
How could he be so angry with her so as to not even talk with her, she wondered. How could he say she loved money more than she loved him? Savita couldn't believe anything that was happening. Had she.. had she lost him?
She turned back slowly, in shock and encountered Archana who was coming out of the bedroom, tying her hair. She became more conscious as she saw Savita.
"Come come, you also come!" said Savita loudly. "Have you come to laugh at my plight now?"
"Aai.." mumbled Archana, not understanding anything.
"I know you have been feeding this venom in Manav's mind." Said Savita bitterly. "He would have never dared to speak up against me if you had not been there."
Archana understood, but felt it better not to speak and fan the fire.
"What.. don't you have any answers..!" said Savita, not in her control now, giving her a hateful look. "Bcos of you all this has happened- is this what your parents taught you, to break the house in which you go?"
"Aai.." said Archana agitatedly. "Please don't drag my parents in all this.. and you know that all this that happened between Manav and you is not related to them.. Manav is upset with you bcos of your own actions and nothing else.."
"Nonsense this is!" said Savita. "He is behaving so angry cos he is under your influence, if he had not been, then he would have silently tolerated it, not hated me so much.."
"Is this what you wanted from him.." asked Archana suddenly. "That Manav should.. tolerate it all and not say anything no matter how much it hurts him..?"
"Keep quiet!" said Savita angrily. "You can never understand mine and Manav's relationship, so shut up about him. I know, like him you also think I'm his enemy and so on and on.. you must have fed all this into him.. but I doubt if you can ever understand what he means to me.. he is my only anchor in life- emotional, financial and psychological. You have separated me from him Archana.. you have done it.."
"Aai you are blaming me for nothing.."
"Don't call me Aai.. I'm not your Aai!" rebuked Savita. "Bcos of you I have lost my son today.. you have done it."
And she started walking away from her. Archana shook her head. Would Savita Aai ever accept her mistake and make amends? OR would she keep shifting blames on other people all the time? As Archana saw it, if she chose the latter route, then no one knew what would happen to her relationship with Manav, who was already sick of her games.
She started walking towards the kitchen. On the dining table, she found a small piece of brown paper. Curious, she went and picked it up. It was not an ordinary paper but an old 10 rupee note which was torn at places. "Who could have left this here?" she wondered, turning it round and round in her hands. Aai had been here, maybe it belonged to her, she thought.
At precisely that moment, Savita Aai turned and saw the note in Archana's hands. Fury raced to her head. She stormed towards her. "MINE!!!" she shouted and snatched it violently from Archana's hands. She gave her a furious look and darted off into her room.
Archana couldn't help feeling disgusted. "For a ten rupee note also, she behaves so crass sometimes," she thought, looking down at her hands, where there was a scratch due to Savita Aai's nails.
What Archana did not know at that time, was the value of that ten rupee note.
That was subpart 1. Subpart 2 coming up in a little while.
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