An engrossing fiction about changing values and relationships, by Sandeep, exclusively for Different Truths.
“Aryan, beta hurry up or we will miss the beginning of the movie.”
“I am almost ready Ma,” Aryan shouted back from his room.
The Saturday matinee movie had become a bonding ritual for the mother and son. Aryan was just 11 years old when his father Mr. Joshi had passed away. Since that day, the young boy had accompanied his mother almost everywhere. The despondent widow had grabbed on to the solitary hope for resuscitating her broken heart. In an instant, the young boy had become the antidote for numbing his mother’s unbearable pain of separation.
Aryan had woken up with excitement on that fateful morning. It was the day before Diwali. Papa had promised to take him to the bazaar and buy fireworks. He got up from his bed and ran all over the house looking for his father. Papa wasn’t at his favorite spot in the living room. The empty coffee mug, glasses and the book he had been reading were on top of the coffee table. Aryan could not find him in the house so he ran to the backyard. Papa’s motionless body lay face down on the grass. He had collapsed in front of his favorite rose bush. Papa adored his flowers and had paid them a visit every morning. His right hand was still clutching on to the secateurs.
Spiritual pain cannot be measured. Certain personal traumas create eternal pain of emptiness, which never leaves our mind and soul. The void created by the departure of someone we have loved infinitely stays with us forever. The devastated mother and son felt as if they were the last two entities left alive in the entire Cosmos. The common bond of suffering evolved them into being pillars of support for each other. For years, their spare time was spent in reminiscing about their dearly departed. For a few moments, they would resurrect Mr. Joshi back to life. The verbal simulation of past events perhaps made them feel as if he was still there, somewhere around them. A recreation of pleasant memories and joyful situations suppressed their pain momentarily. The grieving for the good husband and a loving father seemed perpetual.
The Saturday ritual of healing was inevitable. The mother and son watched a movie in the multiplex and then drove up to Cannaught Place. They would sit on a bench in the inner circle and watch the world fly by. The people in front of them provided a window into a live theatrical world. They nudged each other and giggled at the anomalies presented before their eyes.
“Look at them Ma. The European tourists dressed in Indian clothes. They are trying to blend in. Their intentions are good but they end up looking like participants in a fancy dress parade.”
A lot of female tourists from the West wore saris and salwar kameez. The men walking beside them were donned in kurta pajamas. It was an unusual spectacle. Some of them walked around with saffron and tilaks on their foreheads. Others had ‘OM’ printed on their shirts. Most seemed content as the extraordinary culture had revived their lives.
The comments of the mother and son were more out of amusement than derision towards the foreigners. They did not consider ‘White’ people all that different. They were also aware that most Westerners thought they were somehow, “superior”. The two basic variations for the mother and son were of culture and skin color. Both agreed that either way these people were indeed sadhus and sadhvis from the West.
The mother shared her perspective, “They have wandered into India looking for a higher purpose. Perhaps they wanted to understand the meaning of their lives or maybe discover how their individual entities and souls relate to the entire Universe?”
Once the curtain on the act of human analysis closed they would walk over to the centre of the circular bazaar. A few idle moments were spent ogling at the booths and shoppers in the underground Pallika Bazaar before the retreat to the park above.
“Look Aryan this park is being taken over by a bunch of strange individuals!”
“There are a lot’s of addicts here, Ma. Just look at their loopy eyes. Everyone here is stoned and making attempts to avoid their real pain. Don’t they know that reality will still be right there waiting, once they regain consciousness?”
After the window shopping and rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi they ended up at the South Indian Coffee house. Slowly devouring their favorite dosas and vadas in silence and thinking about the happy moments they had shared right there with the late Mr. Joshi.
She picked the letter from the table and handed it to Aryan.
“Beta, the London School of Architecture has approved your scholarship.”
A more traditional Indian middle-class mother would have guided her brilliant son to become a doctor, engineer, IAS or IPS officer or to follow any other conventional career path. Aryan’s parents had noticed in early years that he had a penchant for drawing facades of buildings. His eyes lit up whenever they visited Taj Mahal or Jantar Mantar. Once, some rich relatives had invited them to a reception at the Centaur Hotel. Aryan had walked away from the crowd unnoticed. Mr. Joshi had found him wandering around in the main lobby admiring the marvel of high ceilings, marble floors, spectacular walls and captivating fountains in the middle of the foyer.
“This boy seems to be fascinated with exceptional building structures, Aanchal, he is destined to become an architect!”
Without analysing the Janam Patri Mr. Joshi had happily predicted and sealed his little boy’s future.
They had been inseparable for seven years. The mother had taken good care of her child. The son in return had been a companion for a lonely soul who was abandoned by the loss of her beloved husband. However, Aanchal had been preparing herself for the lingering eventuality and knew that one day her son will move on. After separating from the sun planet Earth had eventually found a new home, close by. It circles its creator and keeps an eye on it from a distance. The demons of disengagement the mother and son had been fighting for many years were now waiting at the door to overpower their lives.
“Beta the scenery is simply gorgeous. It’s like a stairway to the front door of paradise. The sight of these green rolling hills and the valley is breathtaking from up here”
Mother and son had spent the last 13 days in and around Shimla. It was also Mr. Joshi’s favorite hill station. They were admiring their surroundings and sipping tea on the terrace of the Wildflower Hall. It was an expensive hotel but the tea was always affordable. The view from the terrace was stunning. The high mountains were covered with pine trees. The rapids of the Sutlej river flowing through the valley below added to the overall mystique.
“Aryan, this place must have been built by the hands of Gods and Goddesses.”
Neither one wanted to exit the paradise on earth in a hurry.
“Ma, come let’s walk around the garden. We still have a few more minutes before the sunset.”
Mother and son walked on the lush green grass which was surrounded by numerous beds of colorful flowers. The aroma of pine filled the air. The music created by the breeze flowing through the branches of the tall trees sounded like a symphony orchestrated by angels.
They returned to the terrace and watched the orange sun sliding behind the Himalayas.
“The Pandavas had come to these mountains attempting to reach heaven. Perhaps they had completed their journey here. This is obviously an earthly extension of heaven.”
“Look Mrs. Joshi is smiling again.”
“Seems like a very kind soul. Her son is a rich man who lives in London. She has been like this for a few months now. What kind of a son would rather stay overseas and not yearn to look after his sick mother?”
The two nurses on duty observed that the unconscious Mrs. Joshi looked unusually content. It was a strange phenomenon for someone in a coma. She did not look sick or distressed. It was as if someone was enjoying their deep sleep. A smile would adorn Aanchal’s face, occasionally, whenever a blissful memory emerged in a deep corner of her mind.
It had been eight years since Aryan left for London. For the first three years, he had visited his mother every summer. In the fourth and fifth the communication between mother and son had been limited to weekend phone calls. Then he was introduced to Sophie at a party. She was in her final year at the Kings School of Medicine. Their friendship soon blossomed into love. Gradually, the weekend calls to Ma disappeared. Mrs. Joshi would wait for her son’s phone call every day. She yearned to hear his voice. Slowly, the separation and loneliness began destroying her spirit from within. The son’s silence destroyed the solid pillar and it slowly crumbled to the ground. The maid had found Aanchal lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. She was admitted to the hospital with a severe trauma to the head. The lonely broken spirit inside had refused to fight the intracranial injury and she never regained consciousness.
Aryan was hired by the architect firm of Billington and Associates as soon as he graduated. The firm was busy and inundated with a steady stream of projects from South America and the Middle East. The spirit of creativity and competitiveness quickly sucked Aryan completely into his busy career. The driven and ambitious architect began working on weekends as well. “Ma” was relegated to a distant memory. When the fateful call came Aryan was inundated in the start-up of a crucial project. The success of that project could ensure his partnership within the firm. He knew that he could not abandon the project even for half a day. Sudhir had assisted Aryan in looking after Ma during all of her conscious years of remoteness. The cousin had also ensured that she was in a safe environment and in a good hospital after her fall. Aryan was distraught but decided not to leave his project unattended and be with “Ma”. He found ways to look for balance and comfort himself.
“Ma is comatose for now. She wouldn’t even know if I was there or not. I will visit her as soon as this project is completed.”
“Look, Aanchal, our baby boy is so beautiful.”
The proud Mr. Joshi was cradling the little baby in his arms.
“Ji, do you ever think about what he will become when he grows up?
That was the final recollection before the end. Aryan’s “Ma” left the world with a fading picture of a past happy memory. She was lying on the bed in the maternity ward. Her handsome husband was staring at the little bundle of joy in his arms. There was a massive flash of white light, then grey and quickly everything turned to dark.
The phone in the London flat rang just after 3 A.M. Aryan and Sophie had just returned from a Christmas Eve party couple of hour ago.
“Hi Aryan. Sudhir here.”
It was his cousin from Delhi.
“Is everything all right?”
“Aryan I am really sorry to wake you up, aunty has left us forever.”
“What?” The mind became conscious of a dreadful reality.
“Oh okay Sudhir, it is Christmas tomorrow. I will come, the day after, and be with her for the last time.”
Sophie had woken up and knew that something wasn’t quite right.
“Ma left to join Papa.”
Sophie looked at the shattered man in front of her eyes. He looked helpless like an abandoned child. Aryan was hunched over staring at the floor while holding his head in his hands. Sometimes we forget that people we love are mere mortals. One can not take their existence for granted. Only the stars and planets of the Universe have the power to orbit around each other for a few million years. The loud forceful waves of remorse and guilt were stabbing at Aryan’s soul. It started with convulsions then the loud sobbing and finally the wailing. The water falling out of his eyes looked like the surge of a broken dam. The blazing sun had turned cold and the earth had become an orphan without the warmth.
Sophie had returned with the syringe. Aryan felt the prick in his arm. Within minutes, he stopped sobbing and his eyes became loopy. A sense of immediate reality became a secondary issue. He passed out and opened the door leading into a surreal world which was inundated with soothing blissful memories. The mother he loved so much had left him forever. The existent reality and unbearable pain of the departure had been constrained for just a few fragile moments.
“Look at those snow-capped Himalayas Ma. They look so majestic. What a magnificent sight.”
“Han Aryan. It’s as if the summits of these peaks are reaching up to touch heaven. Your Papa and I used to devour this sight when you were a baby. All three of us would sit here for hours until the sun slid behind the mountains and darkness fell. I miss him so much. I wish he was still here with us, right now”
© Roger Sandeep Virk
Photos from the internet.
#ShortStory #Fiction #Relationship #ChangingValues #DifferentTruths
Roger Sandeep Virk resides in Canada. He has written several stories and articles. He also maintains 3 blogs for his stories, articles, and general opinions. He translated stories of the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Kulwant Singh Virk (his father) from Punjabi into English which was printed in a book published by Panjab University.