The Morning Shows the Day:
Sitting at my table with the knitting in hand, I look out the window. The creeper of the mistletoe, with some of its leaves and buds, both inside the room and outside, rustles and sways in the gentle autumn breeze. I look at the giant-sized, cylindrical wall clock from behind my table. It is 5.30 in the evening. Another thirty minutes or so before my only child, my dream, my hope, my life gets back home from college. She is a final year student, pursuing a degree in Computer Application. As the strips of the setting sunlight creeps into my room and catch its reflection in my outspread glasses on the table, my mind goes back to the day, when Neha, my daughter, flatly refused to opt for the MBBS, inspite of having qualified in the entrance test. She was also placed among the first thirty thousand top-ranking students out of some 1.3 million examinees.
I met a wall in her when I asked her the reason why she was so adamant, why she was letting go of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She took me off guard with her remark:
“I know Mom, you are upset. I also know how angry you may be seething from inside perhaps. But Mom, there is no point going for a course that may secure me a job after donkey's years. Try to put yourself in my shie first. If I've to go for MBBS, that'll take not less than four years. Next I've to go for specialization. Without MD, tgere is not much hope these days,meaning another two to three years. What's the point, Mom? There is no guarantee whether I'll be alive till then. And even if I am, I ain't sure if both of you will be alive till then.
That's why I want to go for a course which will let me stand on my feet in the next three years. By the end of the fourth semester, there will be campassing, hopefully I'll land up with something. I don't want to be another Kajoldi in the family.. “
She was talking about her first cousin, Kajol, whose father died a few months before the result of her Master's was to be out. Pronoi, my husband's brotger-in-law, had both his kidneys damaged and died the very day he was to undergo the transplantation. Kajol wailed like an expectant mother giving birth to a stillborn. I was there in their house, trying to console her. She just wrung herself free from my arms and cried out: All my friends have made plans for things to do, things to buy for their parents once the result is out. I'll be the unfortunate one amongst them, never ever to be able to do anything for Baba. The man who never expected anything from me, who always had my best interest in his mind, who didn't even let me nurse him on the days there was no exam, asking me to prepare for the next paper...Oh, God! Why? Why did you single me out for the punishment? Why didn't you let me know that he'd be gone so soon…?
I was dumbfounded. There was so much pain, so much hurt in her voice that I'd tears streaming down my cheeks as well.
A swallow alighting on the bare branch of the jackfruit tree growing in the garden, catches my eye. It chirps for a while before leaping up on to the branch obove. From there it takes to flight. The world is its oyster. My mind goes back to my husband. The nature of his job doesn't let him stay him stay with us for more than a month in total in a year. Nikhil had big dreams about Neha too.
“You'll see, Rekha, one day this Neha of ours, will be the talk of the town. It doesn't natter if she turns out to be a doctor or professor or dnfineer. As long as she is happy doing what she enjoys doing most..”
He'd always talk in that manner. But both Neha and I knew that he wanted his only child to be a doctor.
“The day she joined a private college for her degree course, she took me aback by saying:
“ I know Baba won't mind scraping the family barrel down to his last penny for the MBBS, but Mom, he is not getting any younger. The very thought of him being the only bread-earner of our family has scared me no end. I know I could have saved some money had I got admitted for the general stream in a government college but I tried my best, Mom, I tried like no one would believe,” she said in a choked voice before continuing, “ This is the best option left to me. I'll be working hard and, God willing, land up with a job by the end of the fifth semester, Mom..”
I put my glasses back on and start daydreaming about Neha in a job. She is employed in one of those computer companies like WIPRO, MICRISOFT as a software engineer. She doesn't need one of her parents to reach her there to her office like my mother used to do. My late mother was so worried of my good looks and the image of the gang of the local boys making life hell for me that not only would she accompany me there but also, on most of the days, wait outside the college gate to keep me away from any evil eyes!
Neha is too mature for anything like that. She started going to school all by herself, despite my vehement protests by the end of class nine. I respected her views and let her attend college all by herself. She has grown up to be one heck of an independent girl.
I also hope that she would work in an environment of love, friendship, mutual respect and fulfilment. That she will not hesitate to further her career prospects, restricted by the thoughts of her aging parents. She will love and respect her parents for who they are, her upbringing and the freedom that she has been given over decision-makinlll.
There is a knock on the front door downstairs. Neha is back. I go down and open the door. She gets in, closes the door before putting her arms around me.
“How’s your day been so far,” I ask her. She looks spent yet decent. Her college gets over by 4.30. She goes to a nearby place to give tuition, earning 1,500/- per month. She refused to take her pocket money after graduating from high school. She even volunteered to contribute to the family fund. “Let me grow up, my dear parents,” she told us one lethargic Sunday afternoon when Nikhil was home on a holiday.” Let me face Life on my own terms for you two can't be here forever, even if I want you to.”
Then looking down at her father’s feet, she blurted out,”Baba, what's that on your foot? A blister? Didn't I ask you not to use your new shoes for sonetime?” She walks across the room to the mirror and takes out the boroline tube from the drawer. She slithly gets back to her father, removing the sandal softly and kneels down by the chair. The kindness with which she applies it on the raw, reddish wound, is so heartwarming. But then she is known for her kindness and compassion by all in our locality. When Arunadi, our next door neighbour fell down nconscious in her bathroom and lost a lot of blood due to the cut on her forehead, it was Neha who volunteered to donate her blood first at the hospital for the widow. I felt very proud of her. I always have.
All mothers gloat about their daughters. Nothing remarkable about that and I am very fond of my daughter too. She is down to earth, understanding, sympathetic, lovable and generous. She will grow up to be a good human being in the years ahead, just like her father. I am sure that in this age of Science and Technology, I don't have to worry about the minor glitches in the electronic goods, if something goes wrong, as now there is an expert. Neha has become the family mechanic of late.
“Mom, do you have ginger at home. I'm going to cook chicken for dinner tonight as tomorrow is Saturday,” she calls out from the kitchen. I slowly put my knitting down, get up from the chair and look at the idol of Lord Krishna, the Hindu God of Creation, and silently bow down to Him as a mark of respect and gratitude. I couldn't have asked or prayed for a better daughter.