Captain Satish could not sleep the whole night and lay tossing restlessly in the bed by the side of his young wife. He looked at her beautiful face made more charming as she was expecting their child in a few months. They were a very loving couple with each one trying to please the other in every way. It was more than two years since he was posted at Chandigarh cantonment.
Life was all bliss till he got his orders a couple of days back posting him to the front in a border area where there were regular skirmishes. He was to leave in a week and didn’t know how to break the news to his wife. She was bearing her second child and he wanted to be very much near her when she needed him most. Gradually he dozed off to sleep only to wake up a long time later when the aroma of alu paratha wafted from the next room. Slowly walking behind her, he embraced her and covered her eyes gently with his hands. Fresh after her bath with the lingering smell of sandalwood-soap, she quickly turned and hugged him tightly for long till the smell of over-burnt paratha assailed their noses. Satish’s mind was torn between the unsavoury impending departure and the ecstasy of Sushma’s proximity. He did not disclose the bad news. “I am sure it will be a boy this time and will grow to be like you, tall and handsome” said Sushma. ”Why, don’t you want one more girl like our sweet Anisha, looking as beautiful and charming as her mom?” exclaimed Satish. Handing over a plate with paratha and dahi she replied with a mischievous smile “Let this be a boy. You can have as many daughters as you wish later.”
It was then his colleague Capt. Sharma barged into the house, blurting out loudly, ” Satish, all packed up for your departure? Poor Bhabi (sister-in-law), she would want you here especially now.” When Sushma looked questioningly at her husband, he put his arm around her and said, “I have wanted to tell you this but didn’t have the mind to break the news. I know how upset you will be. The order came three days ago asking me to report in the fighting area immediately. I will be leaving in two days. I know, born in a family of soldiers, you will not be afraid of my going to the front but would be upset that I am leaving at this juncture. But you know how helpless I am.”
She hugged him again and asked him in a sobbing tone “When will you be back? Can you come for a short period at least after the child is born?” He said “I am not sure whether I can come but I will try my level best. Be a good girl and smile now.”
Satish left as planned, after leaving Sushma and little Anisha at Sushma’s parents’ place, not far off. Back in her familiar and warm surroundings with girlhood friends visiting her frequently, she felt somewhat relaxed though Satish occupied her mind all the time. Months rolled by before a baby boy was born to Sushma. Satish’s reply to her letter came after three months of the birth of the boy. He had expressed his boundless joy at her having got what she desired and said it was now his turn to get from her a daughter. He had said that he could not say when he would be back and that she should keep praying for his early return. She knew he was somewhere at the border, but not exactly where. The news of fierce fighting scared her intensifying her prayers for his well-being. There was no communication for the past few months, making her worried and tense. Her parents were also concerned but never exhibited it in front of her.
One Monday afternoon, Sushma’s dad brought a telegram that gave a terse intimation that the whereabouts of Captain Satish were not known, despite the best search possible. His body had not been found and there was also no indication that he had been captured by the enemy. His personal things came after a few days along with a note expressing their sympathy and nice words about the valiant Captain who had fought for the country. It did not say whether the HQ had concluded he was dead or their attempts to trace him were given up. It contained a cheque for the payments due to her. The whole house was suddenly enveloped in gloom and sorrow. No amount of consolation by her mom and dad could stop her from wailing. Anisha too joined in the crying. Sushma sat dazed all the time and her mom had to prompt her to feed the baby. Months passed by and it was soon a year since the calamity had struck. She had joined an elementary school as a teacher to take her mind off the grief. However, she still nursed the hope that Satish might not have died after all, and was always praying to God for a miracle.
The baby boy had taken after Satish in looks with his big brown eyes and sharp nose. His curly hair and the dimple on the right cheek brought before his mother’s mind’s eye the picture of Satish. The boy had now completed two years. As Diwali was approaching the town wore festive colours. But Sushma was in no mood to celebrate though she had bought new dresses and crackers for the children. Her parents were also not participating in the festivities around. It was around 8 at night and she was sitting in the porch with the children, watching them burn the sparklers. Suddenly the boy let out a shriek of fear at a figure with blanket wrapped around, and in crutches, approaching them from the darkness. She could not make out who it was. Her dad got up from the chair and shouted ”Hey, who are you? What do you want?”The figure continued to amble towards Sushma and her children with protruded hands. She got up in fear and huddled near her dad. It was then the figure, even as he removed the blanket and the crutches, limped towards her shouting ”Don’t be afraid Sushma. It is me, your Satish.” For a moment she could not believe her eyes or ears. The voice was unmistakably his, though the man opposite her in the darkness appeared emaciated with sunken eyes, long beard and unkempt hair. ”It is me Sushma, your husband, and Anisha’s dad. The army had given me up as dead. I lost my leg in the fight and was left unattended and unconscious for days till some villagers took pity on me and nursed me back to health .I could not move and could not communicate with you. To make the long story short I am back after being discharged from the army.”
Could the miracle have really happened, she wondered. Amidst the noise of bursting crackers and the dazzling light of fireworks, she rushed to him to hold him before his falling. She forgot her parents and the neighbours around her as she hugged him and showered him with kisses. The little boy stopped crying, looking at the strange man in fear and awe. Anisha stood close to her grandma, realizing that it was a happy moment for her mom.