The signboard painted in yellow on a three-lane highway indicated- FREEWAY ENDS 1500 FT. The road turned slightly to the left and soon Somesh and Priya were on a narrow road running through an orchard. The Orchard was blooming with pinkish-white flowers. Hundreds of 8-10ft long trees were perfectly aligned. Each plant was 1.5–2 feet apart. Like always, Priya got excited to see nature’s beauty, she said, “It’s heavenly! These are peach trees Somu, please slow down; there must be a fresh-fruit stand near by. Please stop there, I feel like having one.” Somesh smiled and shook his head in agreement.
As Somesh’s head fell back, he woke up. He found Samir sitting beside him when he looked around. “When did you come back? And where did you get hold of these?” Somesh asked Samir looking at his hand.
“About five minutes back. You looked so peaceful that I didn’t feel like disturbing you. These peaches were in the cafeteria, I thought you haven’t eaten anything since morning, so, I brought’em for you.”
“Interesting!!!” Somesh said with a smile. “Samir do you know, peach and peach blossom are considered to be good omens in Chinese culture?” He didn’t wait for Samir’s answer and continued, “the blossom is a symbol of spring, marriage and immortality, while the peach is a sign of longevity.”
“Bade Papa, we should keep our fingers crossed. The pager, I got earlier, was from Dr. Karni. I called him, he told me that they are preparing to take badi Maa for CT Scan to find out the damage the injury has caused. After the scan, they will transfer her into a private room. We would be able to see her after that. I hope that it hasn’t caused much damage. May these peaches bring us some luck too.”
“Samir, Piu had been such a health freak. She had been exercising regularly for years now, just to avoid the hospitals. And she of all people has to go through this pain.” Somesh lamented.
“Please Papa, please tell me, who my real mom is? One who died two years back or one who is suffering right now?” Samir asked softly trying hard to hold back his tears .
“You are a grown, mature man and I hope you would understand Samir” He stopped and then spoke again, “Priya is not your mother. The woman whom you have been missing for last two years is your mom.” Somesh said.
Samir tilted his head backwards and rested it on the wall. Tears trickled from the corner of his eyes and fell on collar of his shirt. “So, my mother was cheating on my Dad?” just the thought made him shudder, “And that makes me a bastard.” He was struck with revulsion. He tried but failed to articulate his own words. He spoke incoherently, “How can you??? How can you guys? And you call this, a family? Why did you do that to Dad? He never ever asked for anything from anyone and …”
Somesh interrupted. In a controlled voice he said, “no one cheated on anyone. And yes, your dad never asked for anything but when he did, I was left speechless.”
Samir once again looked back in Somesh’s direction. “So, he knew?” Samir asked.
“Of course he knew. He was the one who started everything in the first place. He unearthed the love affair, I had before marriage and based on that he threatened me to do a vile act.”
“Why? Why would a husband do such a thing as to ask his brother to be intimate with his own wife?” You guys make me sick.” Samir snapped.
“He didn’t want anyone to find out that he was impotent and I was scared that he would ruin my relationship with my wife and my family.” Somesh tried to explain him.
“Scared??? That’s your excuse for getting in bed with your sister-in-law. That’s pathetic Mr. Somesh Sharma.” Samir was angry. His heart was pumping hard. His pulse began to shoot up and tiny beads of sweat began to appear on his forehead. He rushed out of the main entrance to get a wisp of air.
“Samir, it wasn’t easy for any of us.” Somesh tried to stop but he was gone.
Samir briskly walked for about fifteen minutes when he saw a convenient store at the corner of the street. He went in and bought a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He stood at the edge of the wall and smoked. His mind was running like the 12 inch gramophone records of eighteenth century. The needle stuck on his self composed song, “I am my mother’s son but my father is not my dad“. Samir was frustrated. He ridiculed the idea that his dad asked his brother to get cozy with mom to save his male ego and my uncle obeyed. My dad became the Rama and Somesh became the Lakshmana of the Sharma family. Samir gurgled and spat.
The young lady with stroller who was waiting to cross the street looked at him with disgust but Samir didn’t notice. He was too busy fighting his own thoughts. “Why wasn’t their any guilt in anyone’s behavior or words? How was badi maa involved? Can anyone be so insecure or scared that he would agree to such an odious deed?” He turned back and started walking towards the hospital.
When Samir returned, he saw Somesh talking on the phone. He was telling his elder son Sanjeev about his Mom’s condition. Samir couldn’t see any other expression on Somesh’s face and tone but ‘concern’ for his wife. He waited for him to finish the phone conversation.
“I don’t know how to react to such circumstances. I realize that even though I don’t like hearing it but still I need to know. You are the only one who is in the condition to make me aware of my past. So, please tell me- how was your wife involved as you had said earlier I was born because of her?” Samir asked.
Somesh rested his hand on the arm of the chair and slowly began to narrate one of the most difficult chapters of his life. “I was not the bad guy at that time but I suffered. After twenty-eight years it still isn’t easy for me to tell you what happened. It was not a mistake and I don’t regret that I am your Papa. Your Badi Maa is a great woman. She did what no other woman can easily do. So, please stop judging us.”
Samir sat next to Somesh as he started, “Geetesh Bhaiya, invited Sanjeev, Shobhit and me to celebrate my parents 40th Anniversary. He explicitly said not to bring Priya along. I didn’t want to go without her but she forced me to. She always carried an olive branch and wanted to have peace with my pre-marital family. She thought that it would be good idea that my parents meet their grandchildren. They might accept Priya for their sake. So, we all travelled to India but Priya went to her parents in Chennai and I came to Haldwani.”
“My parents were happy to see us. I thought Priya was right and hoped that everything would return to normal but the needle turned. After the party Geetesh bhaiya unveiled his preposterous demand. I tried to talk him out but he was adamant. When I refused, he threatened that I should not share this idea with anyone else. Nobody should know that my brother was not manly enough and he was unfit to give a child to his wife or he would ruin my life as well,” Somesh said.
He stopped and took a deep breath and then added, “I didn’t know what to do, whom to turn to? I wanted to save my family. Priya and my two sons were more important to me than anything else. But I couldn’t muster the courage to share my past with my wife nor I could imagine the truth being revealed to her by anyone else. I couldn’t sleep for days. I was a mess.”
Somesh felt uncomfortable reviewing the events he experienced decades back. He was anxious but he went on, “Seeing no way out I went to my parents. I knew that they did not approve my marriage but I saw a glimmer of hope that they would help me and talk Geetesh Bhaiya out of it. My mother was a strong-minded person and if she was willing she could force anyone to change his or her mind. And I have seen that work many times in my favor when I was growing up. She used to change my father’s ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ within no time.” Somesh gave a little smile thinking about the good times he had with his mother.
Somesh was surprised to find out that the mastermind behind this horrifying plan was his mother. She had suggested Geetesh and his wife to have one night stand with Somesh so that the matter Geetesh’s impotency would remain within the family. According to her, Somesh was her son and he owed that much of loyalty to the family. She tried Somesh to agree on her plan through love and emotional pressure but when she failed she blasted, “Your wife is a wicked witch of south who stole my son from me. We used to be such good friends and now you don’t want to look at me. She is heartless; she is a baby stealer. She would not let you do this as she would never understand the pain of a childless woman. She is a never-ending eclipse on our family. Just because Sanjeev and Shobhit look like you, they are fine otherwise they would have been a disaster like the witch herself. I don’t know what you saw in her …” And she continued
Somesh couldn’t stand the filth anymore. He dashed out of the house. He didn’t know where to go and whom to talk to. It had been years since he left his hometown. He hardly knew anyone there. He wandered around like a stray dog. After walking for sometime he stopped at a street café and ordered some tea. Half way through his tea, he felt somebody touching his shoulder. He looked up.
The man asked Somesh, “Are you Somesh, Maharishi Vidya Mandir School, 65 batch?” Somesh looked carefully and behind a slightly wrinkled face and receding hairline he saw some resemblance. That was his school friend Uday. Somesh’s heart jumped with joy; he forgot his pain and hugged him.
Uday took Somesh to his house. It was not far from cafe where they were. It was a nice and cozy house decorated with his wedding pictures. Uday informed that his wife was out of town. They spent hours talking about their lives after leaving the school. Uday was a businessman. His shop of ladies suits and garments was in Ranibagh.
As the evening turned, the two of them raised a toast to old days. Under the influence of whisky, Uday started telling Somesh about his wife and their marriage. They had been married for three years now but something had been missing. She was a good wife but Uday couldn’t give her the attention she deserved. Actually Uday didn’t want to get married to her but only because of the family pressure he agreed. Uday was madly in love with some other girl and even though she married someone else, he was unable to forget her and get on with his life. Uday’s wife tried to gain her husband’s attention but whatever she did had a negative impact. After sometime she stopped trying. Uday was relieved as she stopped bothering him but then one day she left him. It had been two months since she went to her parents’ house in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
Somesh felt as if all marriages were falling apart. He hoped that he wouldn’t have to ride the same boat as his friend. He wanted to help him therefore he spoke, “I am sorry to hear about what’s going on but I don’t blame your wife. Your pre-marital affair was your past but once you agreed to get married, your wife is your present and as Alice Morse Earle has said- The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
“I just can’t forget my true love” Uday replied. “My wife is nothing compared to what she was. She understood me so much better.”
“But, did you ever give your wife the time that you gave to your girlfriend? It’s easy to play the blame game. Uday, somebody recently told me that marriages are built on four T’s – Time, Trust, Truth and Touch. Did you tell her about your past? You are complaining but did you ever try trusting her with your true feelings? Why are so scared? It still isn’t too late …contact her and tell her the truth. Truth has some amazing powers. You might be surprised with what may happen in the end. You will not loose anything just give it a try.”
Somesh didn’t realize that Uday had left the room to get some ice for the drinks and he was talking to himself. “…just talk to her, tell her the truth- the past, the present; everything. Don’t hide anything from her. She might be your savior…she is the only one who could help you get out of this mess.” Talking out loud helped Somesh to understand the importance of Truth and Trust. They are not just any five-letter words but are the founding pillars of a marriage.
As somebody has said, the darkest hour is just before dawn; The light had dawned on Somesh. That darkness was about to end. Solutions to his problems were inside him. He had overcome his fears and insecurities. He was a winner; and was ready to take up the challenge. He thanked Uday a million times and happily walked back to his parent’s house.
Somesh was walking ahead of Samir. Even though Samir was thinking about what Somesh did after departing from his friend but he couldn’t help noticing the bounce in Somesh’s steps. He was excited at the prospect of being with his wife. The nurse had just informed them the CT Scan was complete. Priya had been transferred to a room number 117 and they were allowed to see her.
TO BE CONT…