As Naresh took the car slowly out of the gate of his complex, a small boy signalled with his hand to stop the vehicle.Naresh lowered the window glass and looked at the boy with a surprise.The ten year old boy dressed in much worn dress came near the car and said softly.”Ma wants you to talk to her today.”Naresh replied hurriedly with certain impatience in his voice “OK,I will do.”
As the car drove towards the mall, his wife Nirmala who was sitting by his side bombarded him with a spate of questions “Who is that boy? He seems from poor back ground.Why does he want you to talk to his Ma? Do you know her?”
“Yes, they are known to my family even before marriage.Possibly she needs some help.Let me find out.” replied Naresh.
She was not satisfied but kept quiet.The evening lost its charm. Even when she reached home after a few hours the question, who she was, kept haunting in her mind.The next day she happened to see her husband’s passbook on his table by chance and was intrigued to notice that he had drawn without fail Rs. 5000 each month during the first week.Her mind was riddled with all sorts of doubts and imaginary fears.
After dinner when they were watching the TV, she casually asked him “Did you meet the woman, the boy’s mom?”
Startled Naresh turned towards her and nodded his head in affirmative.
“Don’t you feel the need to take me into confidence on these secretive meetings?” she asked.” I see you draw some money from your bank each month.I don’t know what for”she added
“I understand your concern. The monthly withdrawals are towards meeting a liability. Any amount of my explanation will not satisfy you easily.I will take you tomorrow to her house when things would become clear for you.Till such time, let us not discuss this.” Naresh replied
“Why should I meet your mistress and humiliate myself further.Either you make a clean breast of all your surreptitious dealings or be prepared for losing me” she exploded
“Don’t talk crap and indulge in unfair accusaations.I am not willing to talk any further.If you wish to know more, you can come with me tomorrow” he said with finality and left for bedroom. She stayed behind seething in anger and did not follow him.She fell asleep after a long time on the sofa.
The next day they walked down the dimly lit narrow lane with cheap tenements on both sides.The lane was dirty with garbage littered all round, children defecating and the dogs running around.The boy saw them and ran to his house to alert his mom.When they entered, a woman in her forties greeted them with a namasthe and said “Welcome, young brother, we are honoured by your visit along with your wife.”
She gave a big smile to Nirmala and said “Welcome.I have no proper chair to offer you..Please sit on this stool.I am so happy to see you.You are very beautiful and make an ideal match to my bhaiyya (younger brother)” Meawnwhile one little girl of around twelve brought cool water in stainless steel tumblers.The boy was standing at the door watching them with interest.
Nirmala turned around to see an old woman lying obviously very sick on the floor with her legs folded.The house showed signs of poverty every where except in the smiles of the woman and her children.
It was then Naresh broke the silence and said”Nirmala,This lady is like my elder sister.She was happily living with her husband and children till one day I shattered their lives by my reckless act.Her husband who was on his way home was killed on the spot when my car hit him.It was no fault of his.I decided then that I would adopt this lady as my elder sister and help her bring up her family.It was a penance for me and a duty that I owed her and her children.The monthly withdrawals you noticed are the payments made to her. She called me yesterday seeking advice whether to admit her motherinlaw in a hospital.I arranged for a doctor to see her and she is better now.”
Nirmala looked at him with some confusion still writ on her face.”You could have explained all this to me instead of keeping me in the dark about what seems a laudable work.Why the secrecy,I don’t follow?” she said
“I will explain on our way back home..Let us talk to them meanwhile.” he replied
After spending some time with them exchanging pleasantries they left for home.
“Nirmala,I should have told you on my own.I was ashamed of admitting to a grievous wrong done by me lest you think poor of me.It was before our marriage.I was returning from a late night party.This man was cycling after his shift at the edge away from the main road.I was careless and talking on my mobile till the accident occurred.My dad being a senior police official ensured that I was not held responsible.But my mind was restless when I came to know about his wife ,two young children and his aged mom.I could not sleep for days with the burden of guilt sitting heavily on me..It was a conscious decision to make amends and this help is a retribution and a duty.’ he said
“What is there to be ashamed about? I am actually proud of you.”she repliied
“No,I must confess that when I drove the car I was fully drunk and unfit to drive.It was a grievous wrong.I stopped drinking from that night.It was this fact that deterred me from taking you into confidence.The weight of burden on my heart has today been lifted.I feel lighter today.”
As he stopped the car in front of his gate,she moved closer to him and kissed him softly with pride in her eyes..