This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 33; the thirty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is ‘Celebrations’
Leaning against the glass-walled on the sixth floor of his corporate office, Mr. Aakash Kapoor was sensing brightness, kindness, happiness, prosperity, excitement and inspiration emanating from the milieu below. He put his middle-aged cheek on one of the glass-wall and witnessed the beauty of the town bedecked with colourful clay lamps everywhere. The coolness of the glass-wall on his cheek felt heavenly and the view outside was akin to the heaven if he ever imagined one. The reflection of his stressed contoured face on the wall began to relax.
“Sir, can we leave now. Family’s waiting at home for Lakshmi puja. Please sir”, begged his chauffeur who was witnessing his boss leaning against the glass-wall of his office hitherto and ruminating.
This broke Aakash’s reverie and anger swept through his lean and aching body. He turned to look at his chauffeur and met his mocking eyes which were reflecting Aakash’s emptiness. Aakash was stung by the jealousy looking at the chauffeur’s magnanimous status of having a family and the urge to spend time with his family on such a special occasion. He felt dwarf in front of his chauffeur in spite of his net worth of $237 million. Suddenly his transitory anger evaporated and kept his hand on his chauffeur’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Shridhar. It’s an auspicious day and I shouldn’t be keeping you away from your family. Why don’t you go home and celebrate the day with your family? Take the car. I can manage by myself”, Aakash answered apologetically and forced a smile.
“But sir, I didn’t mean to sound it the way I did. I’ll wait. Sir”, Shridhar said meekly.
“Shridhar, you should leave now. Take the car. Hang on”, asserted Aakash and took three thousand rupee notes and handed over to Shridhar “your son wanted a bicycle for this Diwali, right?”
Shridhar never witnessed such an act of kindness in his last 12 years of his service in this organisation and that’s too coming from someone whom he least expected from. First an apology, then kind words, hand on his shoulder and then remembering what he told him once about his son’s demand for this Diwali and to top it all, he forcefully put three thousand rupees in his hand. Shreedhar was in awe and it was too much for him. His eyes were moist as he was celebrating this shower of kindness. He thanked him silently as he was choked with emotions and left his office in hurry lest his boss might see him in tears.
Aakash felt a strange calmness engulfed him leaving him in whirlpool of peace and serenity. He hasn’t felt this way in a long time. The thought that he managed to make a connection and touch someone’s life has more worth than his net worth of $237 million, considering the fact that he’d been a recluse for a long time. This novelty has proved to be his panacea for the loneliness he’s been trying to avoid for last 11 months.
He left his office and decided to take staircase instead of elevator. As he was climbing down the spiral staircase, he was spiralling down his memory lane too. Ever since the tragic death of his son in a car accident, the chasm in the marital relationship began to widen. Instead of consoling each other, they started holding each other responsible for the death of their son. Aakash would accuse Madhuri for letting their son go to party on that fateful night while Madhuri would accuse Aakash for buying him a new car on his 17th birthday. It appeared to Aakash that their son was the only common element in their relationship which held them together and with the death of their son, they started drifting apart. The constant bickering and negativity forced Madhuri to leave their house and stayed with her parents in New Delhi. Aakash couldn’t bear the trauma of dissolving a 20 years old bond with Madhuri and sought asylum in his work. Aakash’s mom was heartbroken after the death of her only grandson and couldn’t get over. She complained that the house was the constant reminder of her grandson and she left for her village to spend her last few years with her surviving relatives. He never called back to check how they were doing nor did they call up.
Aakash reached the main entrance of the building and decided to walk to his house which was just few blocks away from the office. Aakash sniffed the smell of firecrackers in the air and his lifted spirits began to sag.
“This will be my first Diwali without Madhuri, mom and my son”, he muttered under his breath and deep melancholy embraced him. Suddenly he was missing his mom and Madhuri more than ever. He put his hands in his pocket and felt for his phone. He took his phone out but dispel the thought which was about to cross his mind. He replaced his phone and started looking around the road. He had been on this road innumerous time but never observed this road closely. Houses on either side of the road were well lit and decorated with rangoli. People were happy and exchanging sweets with one another. Kids were excited about the firecrackers.
As he was passing by the road, his eyes caught attention of one row house which was not lit and there were no clay lamps outside.
“May be no one lives here“, he told himself. As he crossed the road and walked close to the house, he observed a faint light coming from the house. Misery loves company. Overwhelmed by his own sense of loss, he found an unusual connection with the house and got attracted to the house like a moth to flame. As he walked towards the ajar-door, faint light was filtering through it. He rang the bell twice but there was no answer. Curiosity got better of him and he stepped into the dark room. Amazed at the idea how darkness promoted pseudo courage, he slowly traversed towards the room which had a low-wattage lamp glowing and knocked on the door.
“Hello, is anybody there?” he asked in sotto voce. He heard a faint cough of a lady.
“Are you ok there?” He asked again in emotion-laden voice and stepped into the room where he found a frail old lady lying on the bed with her back to him. She reminded him of his mom whom he had not seen or called up for last 11 months.
“w-h-o is it?” the old lady whispered.
“I was passing by and saw no clay lamps outside — so got curious. I’m wondering if everything is okay. Is there anything I can do?” he ask in his choked voice encapsulate in guilt of trespassing in someone’s house.
“C-a-n you get me a g-l-a-s-s of water, please? Kitchen is on your r-I-g-h-t”, she pleaded weakly.
He turned to his right and walked towards the kitchen. He flicked the light-switch and suddenly entire kitchen bathed in the brightness. The wall on the left is full of photo-frames of God and Goddess. The pattern of arrangement of utensils reminded him of his mom’s kitchen in village where he used to steal jaggery. While filling the glass, he thought he had seen his son’s pic in one of the photo-frame out of the corner of his eyes but he had discarded the thought thinking his mind might be playing tricks on him.
He brought a glass of water into the room and offered to the old lady. She was too weak to get up, so he helped her to sit up and made her drink the water. Suddenly a passerby truck on the street flooded the room with light and he couldn’t believe his eyes. He hugged the old lady tightly as he wouldn’t let her go and started sobbing like a kid. The dam of ego was crumpled in last 11 months and opened the floodgates of tears which washed away his anguish. Old lady was confused as she didn’t know how to react. When his sobbing stopped, he searched for the words to express his deep triumph.
“Mom, it’s me. Your Aakash. Your Aakash, mom. I never thought in my wildest dream that I would find you here in this situation.” he uttered everything in one breath and got up and turned on the lights. She grew older in last eleven months than the last 11 years. She was frail and sick.
“I’m sorry mom, please forgive me. I thought you would be in village and I don’t know how you landed here.”
“ A-a-k-a-s-h, I’m okay. Just little w-e-a-k. How are y-o-u doing my s-o-n?” she asked in her weak voice.
He hugged her again and wished her happy Diwali. The hell of last 11 months was slowly releasing its clutches on him. He made her lie down again and stepped out of the room. He punched the number of his family physician and left the voice message. While the phone was still in his hand, he couldn’t fight the urge of dialing Madhuri’s number. The phone rang and his heart was racing like a runaway train.
“ Hello, papaji. It’s Aakash. Happy Diwali. How’re you all doing?” Aakash enquired.
“We are alive, son”, his father-in-law replied very coldly.
“Can I speak to Madhuri, please?” Aakash asked nervously.
“Are you drunk, Aakash? Why would she be here?” his father-in-law answered rudely.
“Well she came to you people, didn’t she?” Aakash was perplexed and edgy.
“Well, she never came here.” came a cold reply.
“Hello, hello”, Aakash shouted but the phone was hung up on the other side.
He sat down on the floor with his head in his hands; trying to restore equilibrium after this turmoil of news that Madhuri never went to Delhi. He felt his head would explode with millions of shards piercing his head from each direction.
“If she’s not with her parents, where would she be?”
“Has she got married to someone?”
“Is she alive?
Aakash’s mind was racing with all kind of questions. Fear of unknown was weighing him down. He felt he just dug his grave and came out after the 11 months of slumber and his world had changed. He always took comfort in the thought that Madhuri was staying with her parents and his mom was staying with her relatives which were their better alternatives than staying with him. Now, in a flash his reality crumpled under his feet. The fear of losing Madhuri had eroded the enthusiasm of being with his mom. He was sure that the ordeal of 11 months of hell would be extended forever without Madhuri. He should have never let her go in the first place. The mixed feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety and loss converged into tears and it started trickling down his cheeks.
She pulled up her car in the front of the house and pulled out the grocery bags. As she was walking towards the front door, she heard someone’s sobbing. She slowed down and pushed the door wide open. Her shadow was falling on the man who was sitting on the floor with his head in his hands. The man lifted his head but she couldn’t see the face properly. She wanted to scream but got a grip on herself.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
Aakash lifted his head and saw a silhouette at the doorway demanding who he was. The silhouette and voice matched many of patterns in his memory but he was not sure. Was his mind playing tricks on him? He was disconcerted with the hiatuses of thoughts.
“Madhuri………………………….”he mustered up courage.
“Aakash………Aakash…….I don’t believe it. What are you doing here? Who told you about this place? Who told you about us?” she asked million questions in one breath not sure what to expect. She turned on the lights in the room.
Aakash quickly got up and wiped his tears in sleeve of his shirt. He stared at her momentarily and observed that age sat lightly on her. He didn’t know what to do. He was euphoric and at the same time confused. Like a zombie, he hugged her and started sobbing again.
“Forgive me, Madhuri. Please forgive me. I can’t live without you. Don’t leave me and go” he was bawling hysterically. His gossamer of ego soaked in his tears and snapped— freeing him from its clutches. Like a child, he poured his heart out to her.
Madhuri dropped the grocery bags on the floor and slowly circled her arms around him. His child-like vulnerability melted her resistance. She ran her fingers through his salt and pepper hairs and she broke into tears herself. Last 11 months were not easy for her too. Every morning at 8:29 am, she would stand near the window to catch glimpse of Aakash on the road; but much to her chagrin, she would only see Shridhar in the front seat and Aakash would be secluded behind the black tinted glass of his Audi.
“I’m sorry too. Forgive me. I shouldn’t have left you alone.” She cried and hugged him tightly. Madhuri’s shoulder was drenched with Aakash’s tears while Aakash’s shirt was soaked with Madhuri’s tears. Both took bath in each other’s tears of repentance and reached an oblivious space where nothing was left to say or prove. This was their celebrations. They held each other in timeless celebrations which were only interrupted by the whooping cough of his mom.
Madhuri told Aakash that she was not in the favour of putting burden on her retired parents; besides she had her own job in Mumbai. She bought this house with her savings and was comforted with the thought of its proximity to their house and his office. She was in touch with her mother-in-law in village but she was not keeping very well, so she brought her here to stay with her few months back. She was used to going to her old temple here. She had viral since yesterday and their family physician had advised her to take rest for a couple of days. Aakash listened to her passionately while observing her expressions minutely. Suddenly he got up and ready to leave.
“What’s up? Everything’s ok?” enquired Madhuri
“I’ll be back in a minute. Can you get some jaggery from the kitchen, please?” smiled Aakash and went out, leaving Madhuri perplexed behind.
He came back after a few minutes with two clay lamps in his each palm which he picked up from their neighbour and beckoned Madhuri to come out in front porch. He kept two clay-lamps on each side of concrete stairs in their front porch. He then sat on one of the concrete stairs and pulled Madhuri down to sit next to him. Madhuri put the piece of jaggery in his mouth which he bit half and put the other half in Madhuri’s mouth.
“Happy Diwali!!” he wished her and kissed lightly on her lips. Madhuri closed her eyes and kissed him back. This was their celebrations after the 11 months of exile.
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