“Ma, I’m coming home next week”, exclaimed Rohit
“Really!!” his mother rejoiced
“Yes Ma, my leave just got approved”
“That’s amazing beta, it’s been too long since I have seen you”, his mother sobs
“Have to go Ma, my platoon is leaving for drill”
“Okay beta, take care”
“See you soon Ma”
The 50-year old widow mother was delighted. She starts preparing a list of favorites for her son. She looks around in the house and asks her maid to get someone who can renovate the house within a week. The maid was surprised and inquired why to hurry when Diwali is next month. The old lady smiled at her maid’s astonishment and said that Diwali is in next month for others but for her, it’s in next week because her son is coming home.
The house was shining with the brightness of diya which enthralled the neighbors and everyone joined in to make the homecoming special. Fatima aunty made biryani while Banerjee uncle had a bowl of rasogulla. Rohit lost his father at a very young age but never felt his absence around the love of his extended family.
A jeep arrives at the society premises and a well-built man gets down. Everyone was thrilled and none could recognize the boy who once used to goof around. Rohit was in his uniform. He knocks on the door twice in rhythm like the earlier days. As his mother opens the door, Rohit salutes in loud voice “Captain Rohit Singh, reporting Ma’am”. An officer of the armed force was standing at the gate but for a mother, it was her little boy in his father’s uniform.
He touched her feet and the mother showered her blessings. Tears rolled down her eyes and she was overwhelmed with joy and pride. Even Rohit couldn’t hold his emotion as his eyes became moist. As he stepped inside the house he could see his whole childhood flashing in front. A lot had changed but still, he could relate himself with each and every inch of the house. He looked at his mother but he could not identify her from his memories. Her eyes were droopy now which once used to sparkle at his craziness and burn with anger when he disobeyed.
“How did you make this Rajma Ma?” He enquired and as she explained, he noticed her voice had lost the chirpiness. ”Now eat properly, I will write all the recipes for you and even ask Fatima for her biryani.” The sun had set when Rohit stepped out of the house. A wave of memories passed through as he saw kids playing and screaming in the garden and parents engaged in there talk. He froze for a moment to realize the time lapse, it was like yesterday when he used to play in this garden. His mother taps on the shoulder and says “time flies beta”.
Fatima aunty came over for dinner. Her biryani was scrumptious. Rohit had the plates ready on table with boxes of sweets from the neighbours. Dinner was followed by a long discussion between the three. Rohit shared stories of his close encounters with death at the border. Fatima was curious to know more but Rohit’s mother interfered. A martyr’s widow had heard enough.
Over the days he could see his mother being tired of correcting, explaining and scolding the kids who came to her tuition class. “Would you read one of the stories for me today?” Rohit asked her one evening. “Sure son, even I have not read one since ages. I will cancel the next class for today and we will cook and read together.”
Rohit got many tips and tricks of cooking which he would share with his colleagues in the camps. After the delicious meal, Rohit went to look for a book on the shelves. The books were all arranged but they were not used for long. There was no new addition since his father’s death. He picked up “The Imam and the Indian by Amitav Ghosh, a collection of essays comparing and conflicting two great civilizations of the world: Egyptian and Indian.” As she read and explained the chronicle, Rohit could feel the difference in her voice. It was lively and spirited as in his memory.
“Why don’t you think about opening the bookstore again, Ma?”
“I can’t. How will I teach the kids?” She said blandly. “You can teach them for this semester and meanwhile we can try setting up the bookstore.” Rohit insisted. “No no. We don’t have much for a bookstore.” She shrugged. “I have savings Ma,” Rohit added. “But all of them will be spent on the bookstore and people here don’t buy many books. We will go in loss.” She sighed. “Maybe, but you will start reading again and I can see it makes you very happy. I don’t want you to be here all tired, alone and unhappy.”
A mother-son duo expressed how important it is to live life.
Life is too short to regret and too big to live. Celebrate the festival of light with your family and do your bit to spread the smile because happiness is not for sale.
Happy Diwali !!