Sudha opened the door, not only to the unwelcoming summer afternoon heat but also something quite unexpected. Her eyes blazed, feet got cold.
“Ma!” Arup spoke slowly, just a hair louder than murmur and that bi-lettered word was enough to make her throat dry and memories to run back home. Sweet memories, followed by bitter ones.
Arup stood outside carrying his three year old son, Armaan. Armaan hung to his neck like some scared little monkey. At that moment Arup might have cried, either out of pleasure of seeing his mother after long five years or out of pity towards this motherless child who was clinging to him furiously. But they have been through so much that somehow even tears had deserted them, somewhere in middle.
Sudha couldn’t comprehend what was going. She had no clue what his son and grandson were doing outside all of sudden. She didn’t call them. Not even once in last five years. Then why now? Now that she has settled down on her and gradually mastered the skill of sharing her feelings with these old, empty walls of house. Why now? She left the door open in bewilderment and came inside, letting them follow.
Arup came inside, and whispered to his son, “Armaan, look. She is Daadi. You wanted to meet her naa? Go beta. Go to her.” But the child refused to let the clasp around Arun’s neck loose. His big eyes stared innocently at this gnarled emaciated unknown face next to her.
A small sob escaped Sudha.
Arup stepped nearer to his mother, and stood there patting the child. “Go beta. Don’t be scared.”
Sudha’s trembling hand moved forward in summoning the child. Tears cradling on her eyes broke loose in small rivulets as Armaan left Arup’s neck to climb onto her. She held the little boy close to her chest as if she could confine him in there. But realization tore through the emotion as she felt his body was terribly heating up.
“He is running with temperature.” It was more of a statement than a question.
Arup nodded, rubbing his face with hands. “Since Kavya left us, five days back he has barely eaten anything. He was asking for his mother only.”
“Kavya left?? Where? That stupid irresponsible girl. Shameless.”
Arup stared at his mother’s oblivious face. He didn’t how to tell her everything. How to tell her that Kavya didn’t deserve all these bitter words. Never once.
“Kavya is no more, Ma. She is no more.”
Sudha felt as if the ground was shaking violently and any moment it would be ripped open and gulp her down. When? How? She was too young for any such thing.
She clearly remembered, the first time she had seen Kavya. She was a little chirrupy girl when her family had moved to their neighborhood. Both the families had bonded instantly. Arup and Kavya were of same age, had attended same school and college. All of sudden one day Arup had come, confessing that they loved each other. It was shocking for both of the families. Since that day everything went rigid between them. In no way they could accept this relationship. Arup’s family was of higher caste. What would the relatives say? What would the society say?
As Arup and Kavya both had got jobs and they left. Two months later Arup called home asking them if they could come down to attend their marriage. And in return there was a firm denial from both of the families. And that was also last communication between them and their families. Both of them tried to contact to their families, cooing them, begging them, in every occasion they got. Yet their calls were always unanswered. Time fled by, Armaan was born and they thought that life finally brought them the happiness they deserved. Now their family is complete. But…
“What are you saying Arup? Are you mad? What happened to Kavya? Where is she? Tell me Arup, tell me.” A shell-shocked Sudha held Arup’s shoulder, demanding for futile answers.
Arup fell to his knees weakly, unable to form any word. How will he tell her the last six months, their battle with cancer, uncountable trips of chemo, the suffering and wailing of Kavya. How he held Kavya’s withering body while she breathed her last. How he had to finally sell their house to pay the medical bill.
He need not to, he decided. There is no need of that. He controlled himself and stood again.
“She just died, Ma.” He fisted all other details, refusing to let out anything.
Sudha nodded to him, even though she wanted to ask him more. She knew he didn’t have strength right now to tell her anything. Whatever happened was too much for them. It’s better not to dig the fresh grave again. She was a mother, at least this much she could tell about her son.
Arup held his hands out to Armaan, gesturing to come back to him. But the boy didn’t. He put his head in Sudha’s nape in refusal.
“I just thought if I bring Armaan to you at least he will eat something. From a long time he was asking for you. Anyway we will leave now.”
Arup dragged Armaan from Sudha and turned back to leave but stopped as Sudha spoke.
“Where are going Arup. Come inside. Can’t you see hot it is outside and you are roaming around with a fevered child? Get in and get freshened. And leave the boy to me. He needs care. Not you. You can’t even take care of yourself. How will take care of a small boy? Leave him to me.”
Arup turned back, staring blankly at his mother. Finally the acceptance had come. The acceptance which they had craved everyday, had held themselves guilty. Only if Kavya was there, only if, he thought. But she was not. Was she the price of the acceptance that came too late?
He stood there, mulling over that thought, unable to rationalize as the summer sun waned like the hatred in Sudha and but the night rose as bewilderment in Arup.
Linking this post to the A to Z challenge.