That evening was the first time in 15 days that Jayanthi and Anisha were at home – alone. All the funeral rites had been completed. All the relatives had returned.
Anisha, resting her head on her mother’s lap, was crying softly.
“Come now. Don’t cry.” cajoled Jayanthi.
“I miss daddy, mom.”
“I know you do… It’ll be alright. You’ll see.”
“That’s what everyone keeps saying. It’s not alright. Daddy is no more. It shivers just to utter that mom.”
“Sshhh…. It’s ok dear. Calm down.”
“Life seems so meaningless without him… To top it all, now I have to run the company too! What will I do without him, mom? I am terrified.”
“Don’t be dear. You have been running the company for a few years now; your father was just guiding you from here. You understand the business more than anybody else. Your father was always so confident in you. Besides, you will not be alone. There are so many trusted people in the company who will help you. You know that.”
“Oh… I don’t know. I wish he was here.”
Anisha spoke again after a few moments silence.
“Mom. Will you be ok? If I go back? You know the business needs me in Delhi… Why don’t you come with me?”
“I… This is all just so sudden. I … don’t know… Can we discuss this some other time?”
That time arrived a few days later when Anisha realized she would have to leave shortly.
“Mom… Did you, by any chance, think about what we discussed?”
Jayanthi visibly tensed.
“Mom. I know this is hard. I get it. Just talk to me.”
“Anisha dear. What I am going to say might shock you. But…”
Anisha’s heart clenched – what was life throwing at her now?
“What is it?” she asked cautiously.
“I… I will not be coming with you to Delhi. I will not be staying here either. I will be going back to my village.”
“Village?” Anisha was shocked. “What village? I thought you were from here.”
“I spent my entire married life here. That’s true. But I am not from here.”
“Mom. I don’t understand.”
Jayanthi took a deep breath, recollecting the talk she had rehearsed a hundred times. She was not prepared.
“What do you know about my parents?” She asked slowly.
“Your parents? Only what you have told me – that they died when you were about 20, before you got married.”
“They are probably dead. I wouldn’t know” Jayanthi drew a long breath. “I ran away from home, from my village when I was little… I don’t even remember why.”
“What?” Anisha lost her words.
“Yes, I did… A young girl on the streets experiences unspeakable terrors… I can only call it God’s kindness that I somehow landed up in a children’s home. I found a new life and became a nurse… You have probably figured out the rest of the story. I came to this house as a nurse – for your grandfather who was very sick at the time. I don’t know if he really liked me or felt that he was running out of time. But one day, he called your father by his side, pointed to me and said ‘She will be your wife’… Your grandfather had a heart of gold. But then without realizing, he had done his son a grave injustice.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your father didn’t like me. Never did throughout his life.”
“What?” Anisha was shocked.
“It’s true. He never told me if he liked someone else. But for sure, he didn’t want me.”
“He lived with me only to protect the family’s honor… I believe he was truly happy only after you were born. You were the only happiness in his life. In mine too.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier mom?”
“I couldn’t. Your father had prohibited me. Nobody could know that I had run away.”
“Then why are you telling this to me now?”
“So that you can understand when I tell you why I need to go back… Even though my parents may not be alive, perhaps their way of life is. Maybe the house I was born in is still there… God has been very kind to me. Now, it is time for me to give back. I want to go to my village and do everything in my capacity to make myself useful. I owe it to myself. I owe it to my parents.”