With a steely determination Anu set forth in her task to run the business. Raju was now a year and a half old. Her mother was taking care of the kid. It wasn’t that Anu didn’t love her son. Just that she felt that it will be a greater service to her son, if she was both a father and a mother to him. And for that she has to be earning too. Day in and day out, she slogged. During this process, she realized why Karthik couldn’t slow down. Such was the passion for running the business. Their company consolidated. She ventured into the export markets. It was a hard task no doubt. From being the wife of the owner to being the sole owner. It required a paradigm shift in the attitude of the employees and the customers. Coupled to the fact that generally the industry doesn’t view women as credible source of information when it comes to anything mechanical related, it took all the patience that Anu could muster to establish herself.
Meanwhile Ashok reconnected with Lisa. He didn’t have to explain anything. She understood his predicament. He was trying his best to be more than an uncle to his nephew. He didn’t want him to feel neglected. Lisa came to Ashok’s home more often nowadays. And his mother didn’t mind too. In fact she welcomed it. Their life slowly moved forward. He still maintained his vigour when it came to teaching. Nothing would ruffle him from his passion to teach. One day while Lisa and Ashok were returning home, she asked him if he ever thought of their life together. Ashok replied that yes he had thought, but then had dropped the idea. She asked him to stop the bike. ‘May I know why?’, she asked. ‘Hmm…see Lisa, I am not ready to marry. Not just you. Anyone. In fact I may not marry anyone at all. I can’t make myself to come to that.’ ‘Insecurity eh?’ jeered Lisa in both sarcastic and hurt filled voice. ‘I don’t have an answer. Let us not speak on this further. Please’. She took a bus for the remaining distance. And he rode back in silence. That night he couldn’t sleep. ‘Have I let go of the chance of my life? She was the perfect match for
Raju grew up to be quite a lad. However, he was strangely distant to his mother. He held a grudge against her. All his friends came school with their parents. And he was accompanied by his grandmother. Yes, his uncle spent a lot of time with him. he loved his uncle more than anyone else. But something was missing. And he was not able to place his finger on that pulse. Anu did make lots of effort to connect to her son. But she couldn’t. She had lost a part of herself after Karthik’s death. She loved her son a lot. And hoped he would understand in due course of time. After all she was doing all this for him.
‘And while you were entering your 10th std, your mom had her first cardiac arrest. The work was taking its toll on her. But she carried on relentlessly. She always used to tell me, that even if Raju hates me he will atleast see in me how to carry on despite difficulties. I seriously have no regret on the path my life has taken. Maybe I should have connected with Raju more. But he is my son. He will understand and come up in life too. My parents passed away one after the other. Fortunately in their sleep. They lived a happy life. They took care of all our needs. Your grandma held you in high regards. She had a regret though! That your uncle wouldn’t get married J But it was one of those things no one could do anything about. Last year Lisa got married to a guy from her native place. He was a violinist in the church. She was happy with him. We used to share the occasional professional chat. But that thing was lost between us. She is now gonna have a baby. Why am I telling you all this? You might think. Fact is I want you to know all that transpired in our lives. The various factors which shaped our decisions. So that you wont hold grudge against anybody. Not even your mother.
She used to tell me that I was holding myself back. Maybe I was. But I couldn’t have been any different. If I turn back the clock now, I would have acted precisely in the same way in which I have acted so far. Such is life. One’s gotto live the way one’s gotto live.
I should have probably taken more interest in you. I knew for sure, you were slightly straying off the path. I had seen some cig stubs in your shirt. I didn’t mention it directly to you till today. I thought you will grow out of it. After all, we all are entitled to our adolescent follies. And I thank God, you came out of it. Your father was a great guy. We never spoke much. But we shared a good rapport. He loved your mother a lot. He instilled in her the passion to follow one’s dreams and carry it forward. You have seen him only in photos. But I tell you, he was the greatest man I have seen in my life. Anyone who knew him will vouch for it.
My sister’s health took a very bad turn. She had to be hospitalized for a week. She was advised complete bed rest. But she is of the type who would feed herself to the starving lions rather than stay at home. And thus, she signed her own death warrant. We could have stopped her. But there was no point in doing it. One must never violate the innermost self of a person, even if they run against all threads of rationality. It is their self. And they are entitled to their own self esteem.
So well here we are. You having finished your studies and hopefully ready to take care of your parents business. My teaching career is going on just fine. It was my duty to tell you all this, since I had promised my sister that I will tell you this. None of us live or lived a life of regret. Remember that. Always follow your heart. And when it comes to your family and your loved ones.. it doesn’t require them to be wearing their emotions on their sleeves. They love you through out your life..and even after their death.’
Together Raju and his uncle sat in their terrace. Watching the horizon, sniffing the Brittania smell and sipping their cup of tea. Just last week Anu had died from exhaustion and internal haemorrhage. Raju was at home. He cried for the first time in his life. And he didn’t know why. Ashok steadied him, took him through the rituals. And today they spoke. Two men, one just about to enter the cauldron of life and the other; ready to be there by his side. Ashok ruffled Raju’s hair and gave his shoulders a tight squeeze. Raju got up, smiled and said ‘Now is the melodrama over?’. They laughed together and went down to their house.