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It is been a year since Shobha maa passed away. But it only feels like yesterday that I had had her hand-made rajma chawal that she had made especially for me. The taste still lingers in on my tongue...just like her presence lingers in my mind and in my heart every moment of the day.
I cannot think of anyone else who has done more for me than Maa and Bauji. An orphan like me could not have hoped for better parents than them. Right from the start they were always there for me. But God could not bear, me having both my parents together so he took her away.
Maa I miss you. I miss you so much.
She had never raised any objections when Prashanth had taken me to meet them as his future wife; never questioned my origins neither made me feel unwelcome. The first time I met her I knew I had made a relationship that would last a lifetime. Unfortunately I did not know at that time that our time together had an end date already decided by God.
She did not flinch in disowning her own son, when Prashanth had left me. Her steadfast beliefs in doing the right never failed to amaze me. She did not even think twice in taking me under her wing when I most needed care and attention while I was pregnant. I would have totally broken down had it not been for her. She was the one who kept me afloat from losing myself in misery. She was the one who had made me realize that life was not just about me anymore, that I had Ansh to think about. She was the one who held my hand and made me cross the bridge leaving behind the feeling of hopelessness and desolation.
When Ansh was born...I was absolutely terrified about how I would manage. But again I was made to realize that I was not alone. She was the one who taught me to trust my instincts as a mother. When I was clueless regarding even the most basic things about being a mother...about looking after a baby she was the one who had patiently seen to it that I coped...that I learnt and then finally get a grip over things. Bauji helped build back my confidence by involving me in his business and slowly the tide turned for me.
Maa was such a selfless person that she never asked anything in return. It must have been terrible for her to see that her son did not live up her expectations and let her down in such a way, and a double blow to have a same son die with so much bad blood in between them. She never did get a closure where Prashanth was concerned. Yet she never complained and faced life boldly and ensured Bauji and I also did the same.
Then she started her "get Aarti married" campaign all of a sudden. I could not understand her urgency. I was so focused and involved in my own world that I could not catch on her unsaid desperation. Earlier she had given me my space and let me have my way. She was praying that one day I would heal and come out of my hiding to try and make room for another person in my heart. But I never gave her the satisfaction of that happening...refusing to heal. For 6 long years I did not budge...too scared to come out of the cocoon I had made around myself as a defence mechanism to prevent any future heart ache.
It was then she ultimately had to resort to emotionally blackmailing me into getting married for Ansh's sake. I had hated it at that time. I even thought that they were finally resenting having us with them. Oh! I had insulted the very person who kept me alive by thinking the worst about her.
I had bowed down to her wishes however, reluctantly, but had refused to speak to her so some time out of anger. I could not understand how she could be happy sending us away. I knew she considered me her daughter and Ansh was her life. So saying goodbye to us would not have been easy for her. Both she and Bauji were brave and did not fear the pain of separation. They had a bigger picture in mind and also had some hidden reason for seeing me well settled in a hurry.
It was only after I got married did I get to know that Shobha maa had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And then the scales fell from my eyes.
I was so angry at her for not disclosing it to me. I was furious that even Bauji had listened to Maa and had been her co-conspirator in keeping the secret. How could they send me away when they needed me the most? How could they have done this to me?
It took me some time to grasp that Maa had intended to see me adjusted in my new life before she closed her eyes. It was Yashji who took me to see her in the hospital that first time. He was the one who made me realize how selfless they had been in their love and how immature I was at not recognizing their love for me and for Ansh. I can never thank Yashji for what he did for my parents back then. He took care of all the medical expenses so that Bauji had one less thing to worry about.
The cancer was very ferocious. Within no time in spite of some chemotherapy Maa's health deteriorated. She had only a few good days with us after that. I spent whatever time I could get with her. I was trying to make things stretch, to hold on to the one person whom I held the dearest to myself. It was then Shobha maa made her last request and closed her eyes for ever.
Now the time had come. I have got my indication for it and I will make sure that I fulfil that wish. It is the least that I could do. I have held on the secret for as long as I could. And I am going to disclose it to Yashji soon. I hope he will help me fulfil Maa's last wish.
If you are listening somewhere Maa I will make sure your wish is realized...I love you and I miss you...so very much.
I know saying thank you is very-very inadequate but I thank you none the less for giving me my new family and all my happiness.
Just as Aarti shut her diary her mobile phone rang. It was her bauji. She found it very strange to have received a call from him just when she was thinking about him. It was still very early morning the rest of the house had not woken up as yet.
"Pranam bauji...trust your tirth yatra is going on well?" Aarti asked answering the call.
"Beta...this trip was long overdue, as you know...today is shobha's shradh.. I intend to finally immerse her ashes in Ganga river. I think it was unfair of me to hold on to her remains for as long as I did. But you know...I had this belief that if could keep it with me maybe Shobha too would be somewhere near me for some more time"
"Bauji..." Aarti did not know how to lessen her Bauji's grief.
"I know ...I know foolish of me. But I needed the time with her. More than half my life was spent with her. It's not easy to let go. She was taken away so abruptly...I could not say goodbye properly. But I have now...I finally have" Dubeyji said with a hitch in his voice. Aarti knew that he was close to tears.
"When are you returning to Bhopal bauji?" Aarti questioned trying to distance her Bauji from his thoughts and sadness.
"Soon beta. From Kashi I plan to go to Gaya and then maybe from there I would return back to the house"
"You are not planning on staying all alone there again, are you not? Why are you refusing to move in with us Bauji? You know even Yashji himself has time and again insisted that you do shift over to Scindia Mansion."
"Beta it is not acceptable for a father to stay in his daughter's sasural. You know how it is"
"That's all rubbish, old outdated notions. Please...please consider our request once again" Aarti pleaded.
"Aarti...the house is where she breathed her last. I cannot leave that place even if I tried. Please understand" Dubeyji said.
"Hmm...we will discuss this once you are back" she did not have a way around that point so she postponed any further discussion on it.
"And please take of your health and just ...nothing...just take care of yourself..." she added suddenly feeling emotional again.
"Alright beta you take care too. Convey my regards to your in-laws and the rest of the family, say hello to Yash beta and give my love to the children"
"Ok Aarti...will talk to you later" and with that he ended the call.
Aarti decided then that she needed to do some groundwork before revealing her secret to Yash.
Mere bhagwan ki kasam...I have tried everything...just about everything...done everything that was needed to be done...but this family is flourishing in spite of my best efforts.
I tried to separate the brothers... since their childhood by trying to make them compete against one another and divide them in the process, I had tried to ridicule them, I tried to break them with my taunts...but no..they turned out to be alright when they grew up and managed to form an unbreakable bond despite my best efforts to the contrary. I lost steam for sometime after that. Felt disappointed that nothing I did was working out...but then when the boys got married I knew the time had come to resume my old ways again to wreck havoc in the family.
I tried to break up Pankaj and Vidhi. Pankaj almost had an affair...his reputation was almost going to be in tatters...yet that Yash and Aarti saved him from ruins.
Those two then made sure that Pankaj and Vidhi had another shot at their marriage. Now Vidhi and Pankaj have become inseparable. Oh! my eyes hurt when I look at them, can't tolerate their happiness. The years of careful planning and saying the wrong thing at the right time had created such a wedge between Pankaj and Vidhi and now there was no trace of it. Such a waste of my energy.
And then what about Pratik and Pari? That was turning out so beautifully, or so I thought. When Pari left the house I was jubilant that I had at last succeeded in breaking up at least one of the couples. But my happiness was short lived.
Who comes to mess with my well laid plans...who else...those two meddlers...Yash and Aarti. Mere bhagwan ki kasam I could just kill the two of them.
Yes...that's it...that is what I should do. My plan to ruin their relationship did not work either. So now I have to take matters firmly in my hand. Before matters worsen I need to do something drastic. I can no longer rely on my tongue to do the damage on its own. I need to do something in such a way that will forever rid me of Aarti and Yash. With those two out of the way others will not stand a chance before me.
The wheels in Maya's mind turned as she thought of a plot to eliminate her enemies.
Gayatri noted that Aarti had not had anything the whole day. She figured that Aarti might be fasting but did not understand the reason for it. Just then Yash came to the dining area where all were having dinner while Aarti was serving.
"Aarti come sit down now...we will serve ourselves now. Yash you too join us. You must be very tired and hungry after the day's work" Gayatri said to both Aarti and Yash.
"I am fasting" both Yash and Aarti said together refusing to have dinner as Aarti looked at Yash all surprised.
"It's Shobha maa's Shardh today Mummyji" Vidhi informed everyone.
"Oh! Of course...how could I forget" said Gayatri who had actually forgotten it.
"Let us all remember her on this day. She was an exceptional lady" SP said.
Aarti was touched when all prayed for Shobha maa.
"Aartiji...Aartiji" Yash woke Aarti up just after mid-night.
"Is everything alright" Aarti asked coming to her senses in a rush.
"I have got you something...something to eat" Yash said as an explanation.
"What? But I am fasting today Yashji...I do not know why you are fasting so if you want you can eat it" Aarti said.
"I am also fasting because a wonderful woman passed away today. I consider Shobha maa as my mother too, Aartiji" Yash confessed.
Aarti could only stare at Yash. She was so moved by what he said that she did not have any words to tell him so.
"It's after 12 mid-night now...so officially the fast is over. I got some rajma chawal for you. I had specially requested Vidhi bhabhi to make some for us" Yash said and handed a bowl to her.
Aarti could only hold on to the bowl blankly.
"It will not be the same as what Shobha maa used to make. But I seem to remember you mentioning how you loved eating this when she made it for you" Yash said.
Aarti gulped the overwhelming emotions that were threatening to burst out in the form of tears. She silently made herself eat from the bowl, this time thanking Shobha maa for finding her such a gem of a husband.
"Tomorrow I have the day off...so I was thinking we could go to the old-age home and donate clothes. Just as a remembrance for Shobha maa. Let us take the kids along too. Ansh was particularly dull today remembering his badi-maa. I spoke to him about it. Told him that she is looking upon us from the stars, he was happy after that. Our champ behaves like a grown up sometimes which surprises me" Yash said quietly.
"I had thought to wait till Bauji returns from tirth-yatra but the organization has some urgent need for the clothing so...I thought..I thought"
"Tomorrow is fine Yashji...tomorrow is fine" Aarti made herself talk in order to stop the tears from flowing but failing in her efforts as they came pouring out.
"Ah! Aartiji...please don't. I did not wish to make you cry. Please...please don't cry" Yash kept his bowl aside and hugged Aarti, trying to ease her pain away.
It was long time after when her sobs died down that Yash finally put her to sleep.
TO BE CONTINUED...
PS: Please excuse the typos and mistakes I was half asleep while typing this and I am too lazy to proof read
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