Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The second chance-Part II

Ms Neharika Rajagopalan, a regular reader of my blog and a blogger herself suggested that I write a sequel to my story ‘The second chance’ 
At my request that she herself write the sequel as a guest post in my blog , she readily agreed. It is published as The second chance- part II. It has interesting and unexpected twists and turns for the reader to enjoy.

Ms Neharika, a post graduate in economics from UK, a professional in development sector is the founder of DESHA DHWANI, a mental wellness awareness initiative. She has a blog ‘Straight from the Heart’ 

With immense delight and happiness, Sadasivam rushed home to inform his wife about the developments. She, too, displayed unbound ecstasy at the turn of events, and immediately started preparing for Vedagiri's stay, setting up his bedroom, desk, and other amenities. She went shopping for clothes on the same day, and stocked his cupboard with new clothes of various styles. She cleaned the house over and over again, and prayed to God for having provided her with a fresh lease at life. Her depression seemed to vanish completely, and Sadasivam looked on with satisfaction at the smile on her face, which had been non-existent for years.
Meanwhile, Vedagiri's parents were getting ready to move to the outhouse in Sadasivam's house. Sundaresan was upbeat, dashing around the little tenement to pack whatever little they had. Sundaresan's wife, Kamala, however, was moving around slowly, doing the same things over and over again. Sundaresan, who had stepped out to bring a carton box, smelled something burning as he entered the house. He saw that Kamala had left some milk on the stove, which had boiled and spilled over. Sundaresan immediately switched off the stove and looked around for his wife, only to find her folding a piece of cloth, lost in thought. He walked over to her and reprimanded her for her act - when he noticed her troubled face. 
"What happened, Kamala? Why are you looking so lost? God has finally showed gratitude and given us this opportunity. What is there to be worried about?", he asked.
"Hmm? You're right. However, I am only wondering how this arrangement will turn out, and whether this will create a distance between us and our son", said Kamala.
"Nonsense. We are going to be right next to him, in immediate proximity. He is going to get a good life. What's there to brood about? Come, let's get ready quickly", Sundaresan said.
Reassured for the moment, Kamala went back to packing and soon enough, the family moved into the outhouse which Sadasivam's wife Kamakshi had graciously prepared for their arrival. Days passed, and a comfortable routine set in. Vedagiri stayed with Sadasivam and Kamakshi, who officially adopted him as their son. Vedagiri would leave for school with Sadasivam, who would drop him in his car. Sundaresan would also ride along with them to go to office each day, in order to mind the canteen. He received great praises for the quality and taste of his food. Kamakshi and Kamala worked together in the kitchen and did the household chores together, while Kamala regaled stories of Vedagiri's childhood to Kamakshi. The latter would revel in these stories, and be amazed at the similarity between them and her own son's Vedagiri's pranks. Sometimes, she would shed a few tears while thinking about him, at which Kamala would comfort her and make her a strong cup of coffee to revive her spirits. 
Evenings were the best times at the Sadasivam household. Once Vedagiri returned from school, Kamakshi would rush to take his bag and listen to his stories. She would pile him with tasty snacks prepared by her and Kamala each day, and then spend time with him to complete his homework and studies. For dinner, both families sat together and had breezy chat sessions, after which Sundaresan & Kamala would retire to their outhouse, and Vedagiri & his new parents, to their home. Life passed on peacefully in this manner, and years flew by. 
Vedagiri was now working as a manager in a reputed bank, and Sadasivam had slowly started reducing his responsibilities at his business. He had found a bright and enterprising young girl to take over his business, and she was gradually taking on the role with efficiency. Her name was Spandana, and she was beautiful, with big eyes, a sharp nose, and full lips. She had a humorous nature, and would be at Sadasivam's house almost every day. She would spend hours with Kamakshi, cracking jokes and helping her make evening snacks until Vedagiri returned. She would leave just as he entered, and Kamakshi did not miss the coy stares they shared. 
A month passed, and Spandana started lingering longer in the house, well after Vedagiri returned home. She stayed for dinner on most days, and Kamakshi noticed the budding romance between the two. One night, she decided to discuss this with Sadasivam.
"Our Vedagiri has grown up so fast. He's nearing 27. Isn't it time to think about marriage?", she said.
"Yes, I have been thinking about it as well. I have been reviewing a few offers that came my way", Sadasivam replied.
"Why look for something when we have someone ready?", Kamakshi asked.
"What do you mean?", Sadasivam said.
"Have you not noticed how Spandana and Vedagiri look at each other? They are definitely interested in each other. We, as loving parents, must make the match by understanding the children's feelings", she said.
"Oh, I never noticed! That's great news. Let's ask Vedagiri once tomorrow and then visit Spandana's parents for talks", Sadasivam said.
The next day, Spandana was out on some errand. Vedagiri had returned home early. Kamakshi and Sadasivam were with him, drinking their evening coffee. Sundaresan and Kamala were also there. Kamakshi, therefore, decided to broach the subject.
"Vedagiri? I have been observing you since a few days, and have noticed a tangible change in you. You have started smiling a lot, and are literally glowing. Is there anything that you want to tell me?", asked Kamakshi.
Vedagiri was flustered. "What? No, Amma, nothing like that. I am normal", he replied.
Sadasivam said, "We're your parents, my boy. We know what is on your mind. We like Spandana, too, and think she is a great match for you. Would you like us to talk to her parents?", he asked. 
Vedagiri was utterly amazed, and gaped like a goldfish. Slowly, a smile started spreading across his face and his face reddened. 
"Thank you, Amma, Appa. You're right, of course. I am in love with Spandana and I think she is, too. It might be a great idea to talk to her parents. Just let me talk to her once to confirm", he said.
Kamakshi and Sadasivam were elated. Vedagiri added, "Meanwhile, I also want to ask Sundaresan Appa and Kamala Amma about this. Amma, Appa, are you also okay with this?", he turned and asked. Sundaresan immediately agreed and blessed Vedagiri. 
"Amma? What about you?", Vedagiri asked Kamala.
"Oh, great, have you remembered me finally?", asked Kamala.
There was utter silence in the room. Everyone was looking at Kamala, and Vedagiri's smile slowly faded from his face.
"Amma, what do you mean? You are the mother who carried me and brought me to this world. How can I forget you?", Vedagiri said.
Kamala looked mutinous. "Really, son? Can you tell me when? Did you remember me when I lurked in the corner, and you ran straight into the arms of your real mother when you came back from school? Did you remember me when I stood and watched as she fed you snacks and food, yearning to be there instead? Did you remember me when you first graduated with distinction, and came and fed sweets in her mouth first instead of mine? Or when you got your first job and handed the offer letter to her first, instead of me? Tell me, son, did you even notice that your Spandana didn't even spare me a second glance whenever we spent time here? She treated me like a servant, and what do you expect me to say now? That I will happily bless you if you get married to her?", she asked, without a gap.
The silence became even more pronounced. Vedagiri's face was a mask of shock, and he couldn't move his lips. With great effort, he opened his mouth and said, "Amma, how much have you hidden from me all these years? You have harboured this much resentment, and didn't it ever occur to you that you could have spoken to me about this? I have been observing Spandana, as well, and never noticed her avoiding you. In fact, you stayed away from her - and at that time, I assumed that it was because you were busy. What brought all this on?"
Kamala said, "Really? You were too busy making your own life, having conveniently forgotten that we gave you life. When could I have told you?"
Sundaresan intervened: "Kamala! What are you saying? Didn't we agree that we came here for Vedagiri's own good, and that we would willingly accept Ayya and Amma caring for him? What's wrong with you now?"
"When did I ever agree? You forced this decision upon me and I came without choice, since I had already run away from home to get married to you and could not go anywhere else. Nobody ever looked twice at me after coming here!", she said.
Kamakshi, who had been sitting quietly until then, spoke. "Kamala", she said, and her voice cracked a little. "How can you make such accusations without considering our years of friendship? I treated you like my own sister, and took extra care to ensure your well-being. We spent so many days together, discussing life and other things, and grew so close to each other. How could you think I treated you like a servant?", she asked.
"That was until your greed overcame your affection for my son. Isn't it your intention to use his money, now that he is earning so much?", Kamala lashed out.
Kamakshi fell on the sofa as if she had been electrocuted, and Sadasivam watched her in horror, afraid of what this would do to her. They both looked at each other, and their eyes met. They never shifted their gaze for 5 minutes, and when they looked away, it was in silent understanding.
"Kamala, you are like a little sister to me. When we adopted Vedagiri and asked you to come home, we thought we had got good friends. Little did I know that we would find a family to live and nurture Vedagiri with. We still think of you the same way. However, it was never our intent to push you away from him. It is sad that you feel sidelined - but this is not good for his life. A mother must always feel happy when her son gets married, without any negative feeling. Therefore, Kamakshi and I have come to a decision. We both will go away from here, to a place where we have built a rest house. We will never contact Vedagiri, you, or Spandana again, until we die. You can approach Spandana's parents and finalise the marriage - we promise not to tell her about it until then. We had already spoken to a lawyer and written a will which makes sure all my property is transferred to Vedagiri's name as soon as this happens. We don't want his life to be affected, because not being able to stay with a person one loves is the greatest form of misery that can be inflicted upon a person. I am sure you know this, having come away from your home to stay with Sundaresan. All we want is for Vedagiri to be happy. I hope this is agreeable to you", Sadasivam said. 
The tension in the room was unbearable. Finally, after a full ten minutes, Kamala gave a slight nod and said, "Very well, I agree to the marriage if you keep your promise".
Sadasivam held himself together and said, "In that case, Kamakshi and I will leave by the train early in the morning tomorrow, after settling things here. I had already started putting others in charge since I am getting old, so there are only a few things to be done".
Kamakshi turned to Vedagiri and said, "You've grown into a wonderful young man. We are very proud of you. Make sure you lead a happy life with Spandana and your parents. Please don't worry about us as we have reached the twilight of our lives. Goodbye, and good luck to you". Without saying anything further, she rushed to her room and closed the door. Vedagiri stood like a statue, his eyes wide with shock, and went outside an hour later. He did not come back until it was very late in the night. 
Early the next day, Kamakshi and Sadasivam reached the station. Kamakshi laid her head on his shoulder and shed a few tears, grieved that she could not see the wedding of her beloved son, whom she had lost once again. Sadasivam patted her head, and both of them sat side by side, waiting for the train. Suddenly, he heard a voice call out, "Uncle!", and he turned around. He saw Spandana running towards him and his wife. 
The girl came to a stop, panting, and said "Did you think you could leave without telling me?". 
Sadasivam said, "But, I did tell you that I was leaving and that it is your responsibility to handle the business henceforth".
Spandana said, "But, Maama, you never told your daughter-in-law that you're leaving town! Did you not think that I need to know?", and smiled a cheeky smile. 
Kamakshi and Sadasivam raised their heads in shock. At the entrance of the station, another person appeared - Vedagiri. 
He walked towards his parents, and said, "Amma, Appa, how could you think that I can get married without you? You are the ones who nurtured me, cared for me, and helped me become what I am. It is true that Kamala Amma and Sundaresan Appa cared for me when I was young - but I have hid something from you all this while. Did you know that Amma always beat me if I did not pass? Appa would be understanding, but Amma never thought that better circumstances could maybe help me study well. She always had enough money to spend for superstitious beliefs & instances in which relatives questioned her - she even made Appa borrow money for it. But she always made my needs secondary. I never mentioned all of this to you because I still respected her as the woman who gave birth to me and fed me, no matter how she was. However, her hurtful words yesterday taught me that she had never changed. After all, that you have done for me, without even making me feel obligated, how can she suddenly expect you to get out of the picture? So, I visited Spandana's parents last night. I told them the full truth - because, as the parents of the girl I am going to marry, they need to know everything. They agreed to our marriage. I am willing to get married only if you both rightfully take your places as my parents in the wedding. I also took my dad, Sundaresan, aside and informed him of my decision. He is going to take Kamala Amma and move to a rented home, and will up a catering contract elsewhere. I will provide them an amount of money each month for their maintenance. 
I know that this rest house you refer to is in Bangalore. I have requested a transfer in my bank, and owing to my good performance, they have agreed to an immediate move - and have also arranged for my accommodation near your home since I am going to be newly married. We also know that you are reaching ripe old age and need some time for yourselves - and hence will live in proximity, but not with you. Spandana and her parents will join us in a month, to conduct our wedding amidst a close circle of family and friends. Her parents have agreed to this as well. I cannot imagine for a moment that I would give your affection up just to get what I want. Words are not enough to express my affection for you. I will always love you, forever, for showing me the true meaning of parenting. I got a second chance at life, and I will not cast aside those who gave me this. Let's go, Amma, Appa", he said.
Kamakshi and Sadasivam hugged him with tears flowing in their eyes, as the train's horn sounded. The three of them boarded the train, and Spandana waved happily, the excitement of her new life in front of her eyes. Vedagiri smiled back serenely, realising that he would have to learn to live with a bitter taste in his mouth. His childhood flashed before his eyes, and he remembered every day, when he would come back from school only to find the house empty because his mother had gone to satisfy some obligation or the other. He remembered waiting for her to talk to him, so that he could tell her that none of the concepts reached his head because he was hungry. He remembered her reacting to all the relatives' demands, shouting and swearing at Sundaresan appa whenever he had a slow day with less business. He remembered how she would hit him when she learnt that he had failed his examinations, and how she would never talk to him for days together after that. He also remembered how he, by himself, would then hug his mother as she slept, justifying to himself that she had her own problems. He also remembered how all of this was reversed by the pure affection Kamakshi and Sadasivam showered on him. He had regained his lost childhood, but would forever feel that a part of his life was missing - for his love for Kamala Amma had never changed. He would have to live with that yearning for the rest of his life, but would never chase that yearning again. 
Life is all about compromises. One can never gain true love without some sacrifices, but will definitely lose it if he falls for pretentious and material love.