That awkward silence was a killer. Rajat was regretting why he said this to them in such a way. Each second was passing like it’s a decade. Rajat was waiting for the response from his parents, but they were more in a shock than reacting. Nirmala still couldn’t believe what she heard. She was just thinking how Rajat could say like this, her own Rajat. Finally, silence broke, and Ranjan took the lead.
“Well, Rajat, it’s been a little surprise for us. Will you please explain what you actually mean by this?”
Rajat somehow gained the courage & said,
“I want to marry Shreya. I met her few years back in her campus. We both love each other very much; I know it’s looks disgraceful because I am advocating my marriage. Shreya is a delightful girl & she is doing research on chemistry. I thought I should say these things to both of you before it’s too late.”
Rajat took a pause. Even cyclone inside, he seemed to be very calm outside.
Ranjan looked very surprised. After a few minutes, he smiled & then said,
“So, what do you expect both of us to do?”
Rajat said in a very low tone.
“Daddy, please meet Shreya once and her family. I hope that both of you will like Shreya and her parents too.”
So far, Nirmala was just looking down, holding her forehead lightly. After Rajat’s last word, she said,
“Rajat, are you out of your mind? Are you becoming insane? What are you talking about? You know the rule of this family, it’s always a tradition that we bring daughter-in-law as par with the criteria set by our own ancestors. How could you think about such nonsense? We will never allow you to break our family tradition.”
Ranjan looked anxious and then said to Nirmala,
“Don’t take all the decisions right now, we should discuss it and then will let Rajat know.”
Nirmala looked with full of anger at Ranjan and then said,
“There is nothing to discuss, this is the final decision on this topic.”
Rajat was becoming restless inside. He desperately said,
“Mom, this is the twentieth century, I have full rights to choose my bride, I don’t have to obey those stupid rules which was maybe contextual back then.”
Nirmala said furiously,
“No, you have to, since I am alive. These are the rules, and these will be the rules. You look at yourself. That girl in last two years makes you so rogue that you are talking to your parents like this. Please stop this nonsense, enough is enough.”
Nirmala just stamped towards her bedroom.
Rajat looked at his father in such a way that he was sinking in the quicksand and Ranjan was the last man of hope.
Ranjan just looked down and slowly started walking towards the bedroom.
Standing alone in the hall, Rajat was just about to cry; he was feeling so helpless that he was cursing his own life. He didn’t know what would happen if Nirmala did not agree at all. At the same time, life without Shreya he just couldn’t imagine, maybe death would be a better option then.
He ambled to the study room and sat alone in the darkness. Sometimes darkness comforted better the wounded soul than lights. It was not a complete darkness, fainted moonlight creating a magical background. Even in a low moonlight, it was visible tears were rolling down through Rajat’s face. Rajat suddenly felt suffocation about this house. He felt it like that entire darkness took a solid form and was slowly placing its muscular hand over his neck. He just stood up and took his bike key. After a few minutes later, Rajat had been found in the middle of the eastern metropolitan bypass road, riding his Royal Enfield, but he didn’t have any destination in his mind. His mind was splitting up. He couldn’t choose between two precious ladies of his life, his mom & Shreya. That thought made his vision so blurred that he could not see. A fully loaded truck was turning from the left. When he actually realised it was too late, even he tried to minimise the impact till the last moment, but it was inevitable. A bright yellow light and a large cracking sound - this was the last memory of Rajat before losing his senses.
Shreya looked helplessly to Somnath. Somnath firmly said,
“Shreya, this is not the time for cry, they admitted him in which hospital?”
“It’s Apollo daddy.”
Shreya suddenly broke into a loud cry. She couldn’t take anymore. It broke her from inside. Shreya just clasped her father’s hand & said,
“Daddy, please save him. I can’t live without him.”
Somnath placed his hand over Shreya’s head and then said,
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen to him. I’m bringing the car; you just meet me in gate within five minutes, we need to move fast.”
It was already almost midnight, roads were absolutely empty, Somnath was driving the car at maximum permissible speed. Shreya was looking through the window, but actually nothing captured in her eyes. Her vision was completely blank; it looks like she was sitting in the car, but her mind was somewhere else. Somnath observed the same from the corner of his eyes. So, he started the conversation to divert her mind.
He asked Shreya,
“Did the hospital mention what kind of injury he had?”
“Okay, did they inform Rajat’s parents?”
“I don’t know.”
By the time Somnath asked another question, she asked one.
“How much time more left to reach the hospital?”
“hardly another ten minutes.”
Somnath started driving silently.
Last seventy-two hours were very difficult for everybody. No one able to move Shreya from hospital. Once she heard that coming three days were very critical for Rajat, it was practically impossible to remove her from in front of Rajat.
Even Rajat’s parents also requested Shreya to go home and take a rest. But she was stubborn. After seventy-two hours when the doctor said that Rajat was out of danger now, then only Shreya moved out from hospital. Those three days were strenuous for Somnath too. Meeting Rajat’s parents in such a condition was itself embarrassing. It was tougher when he realised that Rajat’s mother, Nirmala, did not like their presence at all. Somnath understood that her pinching subjective statements were actually for him and his daughter only. It looked like she held responsible Shreya & Somnath for this entire accident. Being an Indian daughter’s father, Somnath indulged all the insults. Somnath always heard that love is blind, but he practically seen it looking at his own daughter. But Shreya was in a different world altogether. She did not notice who was coming or going and whatever people commented about her. She was completely in the state of shock unless until Rajat coming into senses. By that time, bigger worry for Somnath was the future of his daughter in this family.
After almost twenty days, Rajat discharged from hospital. Shreya was still worried and keened to go with Rajat. Somnath somehow kept her with him.
Few days passed after Rajat returned to home. Ranjan & Nirmala was in their bedroom. Nirmala was sitting in front of the dressing table & combing hair, the day’s last touch to herself. Ranjan was Reading a book. Ranjan closed the book and kept in bedside table & then turned to Nirmala and said,
“So, what are you thinking about, Shreya?”
Nirmala responded coldly,
“Why I should think about Shreya, we closed that discussion, right?”
“No, we did not. Why don’t you understand they love each other very much? I observed her closely during these hospitalisation days. She is a really decent good girl. Her love for our son is very honest & genuine. She really cares about our son’s wellbeing. Such a scholar, still so down to the earth. I can’t find any reason for not accepting her as a daughter-in-law.”
“I think you have forgotten one big reason; she does not belong to any aristocrat family. It’s not enough reason to reject her. Remember, love does not stand in front of our family’s traditional customs. I never allow Shreya to be a daughter-in-law of this house.”
“Nirmala, what are you saying? Your son’s happiness means nothing to you? Some pseudo aristocracy is now bigger than your own blood? If something happened that night to Rajat, will you ever able to forgive yourself?”
“Nothing would happen to him; I have complete faith on blessings of Mother Laxmi. Nothing wrong can happen in our family.”
Ranjan got a little frustrated with her statement, but he calmed down and said,
“I know you always believe that your tough discipline and strictness make Rajat successful. I never interfere in his upbringing. Actually, I interfere none of your decisions. I always respect and accept your all decisions about our home, Rajat and our lives, but this time I cannot accept that. In the name of family customs and tradition, I can’t sacrifice my son’s lifelong happiness. I can’t let it happen.”
Nirmala close the night cream box which she was applying to her face, then said,
“Its already too late. Let’s go to sleep, Ranjan.”
Ranjan knew that this was the way Nirmala showed her adamant attitude towards the decision. She basically declared by the above statement that she would not change her decision, so no point in discussing the same. Since his marriage, Ranjan accepted Nirmala’s all decisions. But today something gone wrong, his old age or Rajat’s life less face which triggered Ranjan that may be only god knows. This time Ranjan did not stop here.
Ranjan took some pause and then said,
“Nirmala, we have not finished yet.”
Nirmala was setting her pillow; she looked strangely at Ranjan.
“Nirmala, it’s almost thirty years now, still my wounds on soul are not recovered. Still, I am bleeding inside. I can’t take any more such pain.”
It startled Nirmala, like she touched an open electric wire.
Nirmala said in a hissing tone.
“Ranjan, we mutually agreed that we will never discuss this topic ever, then why you are bringing this to me from the grave of time. Why?”
Ranjan held Nirmala’s hand softly and then said,
“Yes, we are, but situation force me to say that. Nirmala, in our entire long married life, I ask nothing from you. I never feel that anything missing in our life. But today I am begging you please return my son’s happiness. Please.”
“Ranjan, what are you doing? Why you are behaving like this.”
“No Nirmala, today I need your word that you accept Shreya as a daughter-in-law of this House.”
Nirmala wakes up from the bed and scream loudly,
“Okay, fine, but remember one thing, Ranjan, this is the last time I am agreeing to. Never ever, come back to me with any more requests to change in our family customs. Remember that clearly.”
After a few hours, when the room was completely dark & Nirmala was sleeping deeply, Ranjan was still awake. He was smiling silently. Today he fought not only for his son, also for himself. He knew no one in this world would believe that, but it was the truth. He saw the same eyes, the same smile in another person after thirty years, and that person was none other than Shreya.
As people say, good times fly in a blink of an eye. Rajat still can’t believe that their marriage past two years. It’s still feels like a dream. Rajat still remembers that day as like yesterday, when Ranjan came and confirmed that Nirmala agreed to their marriage. He was the happiest person in the world at that point in time. Well, entire marriage process was not frictionless but Ranjan & Somnath did their best to make it run, together. Shreya is still not accepted completely by Nirmala, but the relationship between them now at least amendable condition. However, she is now the most favorite person of Ranjan. Shreya also enjoys a lot, the love and affection of Ranjan, that helps her to relief some parting pain of her own father. Rajat thinks that his life is complete now, but destiny has a unique plan.
“I am pregnant,” Shreya just utters these words softly. Rajat was in just half laying against the bedrest and playing with his mobile. He just looks to his beloved wife with a broad smile and says,
“Thank you Jaan, I am so happy today.”
Shreya smiles and hugged Rajat tightly.
Ranjan is relaxing in his favorite armchair. Nowadays may be that is the only thing he likes the most. Presence of Shreya helps him to recover an ancient wound. Rajat comes and stands before Ranjan. Ranjan opens his eyes and then says,
“Do you want to tell me something?”
“Dad, you are going to be grandfather soon.”
Ranjan has mixed expression. It is mixed with happiness & despondency. Ranjan smiles faintly and then says,
“Great, man! Congratulations. By the way, have you told Shreya about the customs & tradition of our family?”
In own mind Ranjan was saying, “It’s not a tradition, it’s a curse.”
Rajat’s face is suddenly turns pale. He completely forgot that he is leaving under the legacy of great ancestors of kings. His happiness just evaporates by thinking of coming possibilities.
“No, I didn’t.”
Ranjan looks straight to his Son’s eyes. It is blank from both ends.