Drishti had turned 26 last month. Her parents – Nayan and Netra had organized a grand celebration as in all means- it was going to be one of the last birthdays before she gets married. Drishti was engaged with her childhood love – Aarsh.
Today was the day that both the families were meeting to fix a date for the marriage. Everyone was sitting in the living room and waiting for the Pandit to reveal an auspicious date and time for the wedding.
With every moment passing by, people were getting more eager.
“Panditji, please try to find a date in winter. This summer heat is killing already.”, Aarsh’s Dad broke the silence.
“Yes Dad. It will be extremely exhausting to dance in baarat during my brother’s wedding.”, said Aarsh’s sister.
“Well, no matter what- we need a time which is the purest of all. After all it’s the wedding of my one and only daughter.”, Nayan spoke. His heart was already beating fast thinking of the future when he will have to let his daughter go away from him.
Eventually, Panditji wrote down some numbers and raised his head from the books and faced everyone and waited for attention. Well, not to his surprise, everyone was looking eagerly at him.
“Well, there are two dates”, he spoke, “that I have found for the occasion of marriage of Aarsh and Drishti. One is right after one month- 16th June and other is after seven months- 21st December. On both the days, an advisable time for the wedding is in the morning. The purity of such a date and time doesn’t come easily. And both the children are extremely lucky to have gotten these options.”
The discussion around the two dates started and considering the time needed for the preparation and the weather, everyone was tilting towards 21st December.
All were putting forward their points while only two people were silent. In fact, they were shocked with what they heard just now. The moment Panditji spoke the dates- Nayan’s head had turned right towards Netra. And he hadn’t been surprised seeing her already looking at him.
Before they could speak anything, both Aarsh and Drishti stood up and declared that they liked 21st December more and they will get married on that morning. All were in smiles but her parents were in a completely different world. Drishti realized this when she came to her mother to offer her a sweet.
Seeing her daughter, Netra held herself together and smiled; Or at least pretended to smile.
21/12 a palindrome date that was enough to explain that the beginning is the same as the end. And none could understand this better than N and N.
It was 1 AM that night and Drishti had just finished the call with Aarsh. She had come to kitchen to get some water and while returning to her room- she saw that their parents’ bedroom light was on.
She went closer to their room and heard weeping sounds coming from inside. She went close to the door to hear what her parents were talking about. Though not clearly but she could hear the voice and understand what her parents were talking about.
“Why did we get specifically this date, Nayan? What is God trying to do with us?”
“Exactly. I mean why does he want to remind us of that day again when we still haven’t been able to forgive ourselves for the act that we did in 1993.”
“Yes, the act that we almost did on 21st December, 1993.”
“That night still haunts me and whenever I think about it, my whole body starts shivering with the possibility of what would have happened had you not left the office that afternoon and reached me on time.”
“Yes, Netra. You did a very brave thing that day which no other woman could have done in your position.”
“But that was only possible because of the thing you said before I was going in the operation theatre.”
Drishti was confused. She didn’t know what had happened on that night and she wasn’t able to wait more. After all- patience was not her forte. She barged in the room to encounter teary faces of her parents and screamed with all the strength she had in her throat: “What happened that night, Pa? What did you do 27 years ago that you still can’t forget? Tell me. TELL ME.”
It took a minute for them to realize that the nightmare of their daughter finding out about that night was actually happening in reality now. They didn’t know what to say, what to respond to that haunting question.
“WERE YOU TRYING TO DO EXACTLY WHAT I AM THINKING NOW?”, with every word leaving her lips- her eyes were becoming wetter. Who says tears are not contagious! Now not only those two, all three of them were filled with tears.
If one person is crying and other is not, the consoling words can help. But what if all are crying? What if none has courage to hold others? What if none can cheer others up?
“IS IT TRUE WHAT I AM THINKING? IS IT TRUE, DAD?”
He tried to open his mouth but found his throat blocked completely and words couldn’t come out. So he replied differently. He replied in a way that didn’t require much courage. He gave a nod.
Yes. Drishti was right in guessing what had happened that night.
Well, if you find something you were looking for, you feel happy. Right? It is not the same in the case of truth. Every revelation of truth just breaks you down in more pieces.
A few more minutes passed in silence. Well, not exactly. The tears have sound too. A heart-wrenching sound it is. Drishti was looking for an explanation and her parents were unable to give her one. But as all stories do, this story had to end. And it better ends now than in future creating more chaos.
“Well, we were 24, Drish.”, he begins. Netra raises her hand with a jerk pleading not to say anything. But they knew it had to come out. They both knew. After all, till when will they carry the guilt of that time on their shoulders!
“We had just gotten married and were just starting our jobs. We didn’t have any savings and we were staying on rent too. Not that she complained but I didn’t have money even to buy a new dress for your mother. In that time, we found out the news. We got to know that your mother was pregnant.
For a week, we both were in shock and lacked the courage to talk anything about it. But deep down- we both knew that it was not a right time for us to welcome a kid in our lives. We wanted to raise you, my superstar, my Drish, with all the luxuries and happiness. But the situation was so bad that we were unable provide either.
We both knew what we had to do. But none wanted to say. I had not opened this topic to her for last whole week. I hadn’t said anything to her about what we should do. I was afraid. But eventually, on the night of 20th, your mother told me that she had booked an appointment for the next afternoon at 2 PM. And she will go through the abortion. I still couldn’t speak anything. I was a coward. I just couldn’t open my mouth. Hats off to your mom that she didn’t complain.”
Netra had come close to Nayan and was holding him tightly in her hands. Drishti was standing there in front of them. Had the wall not been there, she would have fallen down already. Nayan was not able to look into his daughter’s eyes. Nor was Netra.
He would have smilingly given up on his whole wealth to erase that day from his life.
Nayan wiped tears off his eyes and continued:
“When your mother told about the appointment, I blatantly replied that I had an important meeting and I would not be able to come with you to the clinic. We both just lied there in bed for whole night without uttering a single word.
Next morning, I left for the office early. But deep down, I knew that what I was doing was wrong. Obviously, I was not strong enough to speak up. But it was lunch time that it happened.
I opened my lunchbox cover and found a WET note that said: I don’t mind eating Khichdi my whole life if that helps us save more for our child. Do you?
And I just sat there screaming in silence. I hid my face in that note and let my eyes shoot the tears down. I tried to stand but my knees had given up. I tried to use my hands to push myself up but those had given up too. It took me a minute to realize that maybe every part of my body had given up but…
But, I still had not.
With jerk, I stood up and ran to the stairs, to the parking and to the clinic. I punched the door open at the clinic to see Netra being taken into the operation theater. Your mother saw me there trying to hold my breath when I ran towards her and screamed in something called JOY: Screw it. Let’s not do it. Listening to this, I had expected her tears to stop flowing down. But I was wrong. The tears had doubled. Not only for her, but for me too. We were there holding each other in arms and not letting each other end that timeless hug. Your mother spoke only five words during that whole thing: What took you so long!
That night also we didn’t sleep, Drish. We were feeling guilty of trying to cut you out of our lives. Even though we did not go through it, but we were not able to forgive ourselves because of the thought we had had.
You might have learnt in Science class that 21st December has the longest night in the whole year. But we learnt it differently. We learnt it experiencing that night. That horrible exhausting night.
My dear Drishti, I know you will hate us for that but the circumstances were not in our hands.
That day- it took an extreme courage for both of us to not letting you go away from our lives and you know what?
We won’t be able to bear another 21st December when we have to let you go away from us. I am not that strong, Drishti. And I know that Netra is not too. We are not.”
A painful silence. A shameful silence. Maybe, a hopeful silence.
Drishti came close to them, opened her arms and waited.
A few moments passed by and they saw their daughter standing there with open arms. They looked at each other and for the first time that day something happened that was totally unexpected. A smile appeared on their faces.
“Aren’t you angry?”, a shaky voice spoke up.
“Of course not. Why will I be angry! I am proud of you two. Not everyone can be as strong as you two are. Till now, I might have not been sure of having the best parents, but after what you just said- I am sure that I am the most fortunate child to have gotten a roof built with love by you two.
Now will you just sit like this and keep looking it me or will you stand up and hug me like you hugged each other 27 years ago.”
And they did as they were asked.
“Well, umm, Drishu, that day too, you were there in the hug.”, Netra said.
And she laughed. Seeing her, they laughed too.
Think that you had a bag of 30kg grain that you had to hold on your head your whole life. Think how exhausting it would be! Well, it was the same for Nayan and Netra. Now think how it will feel when you empty that bag into the container. Think how relaxing that feeling will be! They were feeling it now. Maybe ten times more relaxing and peaceful feeling.
“Well, Dad. Can I say one thing?”
“Yes, my love. You don’t have to ask. Please say.”
“Dad, nobody can take Drishti away from either Nayan or Netra. Drishti‘s existence itself is because Nayan and Netra exist. Even after my marriage, you just open your eyes and your Drishti will be there.”
“And without Drishti, there is no purpose for Nayan or Netra.”, her mother said in a proud voice.
“In short, we are inseparable.”, Dad spoke smilingly. “Now move away and let me get my favorite sweets from kitchen. I haven’t had had even a single piece yet. My daughter is getting married.”
Till next time, ciao!
-Arjuna@War (Parth Shah)