Posted: 01 January 2013 at 5:04pm
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Shiv's fingers hurt. He had not realised that he had clutched the steering wheel so tightly. He was still reeling from the shock of Anandi's appearance before him. And all that had passed on after that, well he didn't know what to make of it...He let his mind go blank for a few minutes. " Come on Shivraj Shekhar, you are made of stronger stuff", he chided himself and got our from his jeep and made his way to the hospital. The next few days were going to be trying and he was going to have to exert immense self control and have lots of patience. But he would do it, he would have to. There was no other way he could get through this.
"Good morning Sir", it was Bheem Singh . He was accompanied by a few other people. Some of whom seemed familiar. " Namaste Collectorsaab" they all began with smiles on their faces. It felt so good to see the joy on the faces of these simple people. They still respected and looked up to him. That must have been one of the reasons he, Shivraj Shekhar, former District Collector of Jaitser had been invited to inaugarate this new Special Pediatric wing at the Jaitser hospital.
As soon as Shiv had received this information about the invitation from Bheem Singh, his PA, he had immediately asked him to cancel all his other appointments. Jaitser, it had a unique place in his heart. And in going there he might get a chance to see her...Anandi, whom he dreamt of even now, inspite of everything that had passed between them. He would surely go there even if it meant coming face to face with his painful past.
He wanted to see her. Know how she was, what she was up to. Would she have married, gotten back with Jagdish? No, he wouldn't think such things. He would just meet her as a former acquaintance and that would be it. She had specifically made it clear she didn't want his favors, nor anything else from him. So that would be it.
Shiv greeted all those surrounding him with a warm smile and an even warmer "Khamma ghani". They all laughed and welcomed him. Dr. Lal Singh came upto him. Shiv shook his offered hand and nodded his head to the "Welcome Collectorsaab".There were many other dignitaries who had assembled there. Just then a group of school girls came ahead with thaals of aarti. Shiv immediately recognised Gulli who seemed all grown up in her Teacherji avatar with all her students crowding to get a glimpse of their favorite Collectorsaab. And standing behind all of them was the one person whom he most wanted to see.
Anandi stood looking on at her girls with pride and a smile which softened her features. He caught her eye and for a few moments it seemed as if everything had gone still. The blabbering from the girls, the chitchat all suddenly seemed to go quiet. It was as if they were the only two people there. They just kept gazing into each others eyes, and would have continued so for an eternity, when a girl shook Anandi and asked, "Aarti shuru karein?" They both came back to their senses and Anandi nodded and averted her gaze. The aarti was performed, which was followed by the ribbon cutting. Shiv decided to ignore his rising heartbeat and concentrate on the proceedings. The doctors then took him on a tour of the new and improved Pediatric wing of the hospital. Shiv was impressed with all that they had achieved and congratulated Dr. Lal Singh and all his staff.
A make shift podium was erected in the huge courtyard. The announcer asked the new sarpanch to garland Shiv and then to welcome him to his seat.
The function was well arranged. The dignitaries were seated. Shiv saw the entire Singh family seated in the first row, and smiled and waved at them. They seemed happy to see him and waved back.The announcer asked the teachers to come on stage, and give an introduction of the chief guest after a welcome song was performed. Gulli came up to the mike and gave a short simple but well researched speech. She thanked their beloved Collectorsaab for helping Jaitser to strive to be better during his tenure and always being a beacon of hope even when he was now, far away from them, and while doing so she touched upon his latest social initiatives. Shiv was touched by this and wondered how she got hold of all this information about him.
Then dr. Lal Singh was called upon the stage. He gave a brief introduction and explained all the new facilities that were now available for the children of Jaitser and neighboring villages. All the people present were elated and clapped heartily. The announcer then called upon the chief guest to say a few words. Shiv came up to the mike and warmly greeted all those present. He congratulated the doctors, and all the people behind this huge initiative. He also expressed his delight at the other welcome changes he was seeing in the village. He said that it had been his pleasure to have served the people of Jaitser. He ended with a big thank you, for having given him so much love and appreciation, And for continuing to do so. "Jeitsar will always hold a special place in my heart" , and of their own volition his eyes rested on those enigmatic eyes a bit far away. Everyone present was moved by his words and cheered heartily.
A few other songs were performed by the children and the function came to an end. A hearty lunch was to follow. As he was alighting from the stage Dadisa came up to him, followed by her family. Shiv smiled and immediately bent to seek her blessings. "Khus raho. Shiv beta aaj tumhein yahan dekh Karen bahut achcha laga." She had tears of joy in her eyes and suddenly Shiv thought how was it that they meant so much to each other. He always thought of her
as someone like his own daadi. And it was clear that she too liked him as someone of her own. All the others soon came up and they shared pleasantries. Anandi stood a little apart talking with her students who wanted to hear her appreciation of Their performance . Jagdish was nowhere to be seen, nor was the little girl he had seen with them in the morning.
With a steely resolve to keep his emotions under control Shiv went up to Anandi. She smiled sweetly and enquired about his new job. He answered her cordially. Just then daadisa came to them and said " Shiv beta, aabhi pata chala Bheem Singh se ki aap Jaitser mein aur do din ruknewale ho. To apko aaj shaam hamare yahan khaane pe bulana chaahti hoon."
The air suddenly seemed stiff with a slight tension. Shiv said, "Daadiji, aap takleef mat uthaiye. Mein bas Milne a jaunga." "Arre beta, takleef ki koi baat na hain. Vaise bhi ab phir kab aapse milna hove go." Finally Shiv had to relent, and he agreed to be there.
But he regretted his decision as soon as he made it. Just this one encounter with Anandi was requiring so much effort on his part. To be with her under the same roof, if only for a few hours, would require a superhuman effort. Really a Superhuman effort it would need to see her happy life, a life which he had no right to be a part of. He would be happy for her but how could he bear what would be a new heartbreak for him all over again.
Edited by pAL-pAL - 04 February 2013 at 2:25pm
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