Friday, March 15, 2013

Back.. part 2

read  part 1 here

On the dot of 11, the doorbell rang and Mai was the first to jump up and run to the door.

 ‘So typical of Shyam to be on time’, thought baba, but did not say that aloud. Shyam was always known to be a stickler for time. 

As she opened the door, she saw a boy about 14 or 15 years of age, looking exactly like how her son looked at that age. The boy smiled, tears running down his cheeks, and bent down in reverence to touch Mai’s feet.

“Mai, how are you? You look so frail, haven’t you been eating well? I hope you are not still continuing your upaas and vrats.”

Mai hugged him lovingly, and something inside her told her it was her son who had come back to fill the emptiness in her life. 

“How can I be well when you had left us all? But god is great; he knows how a mother’s heart weeps for her son every day, so he has sent you back. Har Har Mahadeva”, she said eyes rolled upwards in thanksgiving.

She needed no proof that he was indeed her son, reborn and back. She just knew it. She held his hands and led him into the house and he put a warm arm across her shoulder as if she she would fall down if he didn't hold her.

The boy walked in and saw baba studying him curiously. He fell at baba’s feet and hugged him crying copiously. “Baba, how I missed you! How are you?”

Baba’s eyes that had dried up after he lost his favourite son when he was barely 25, seemed to well up again. The face, the voice, the walk, the hug, was undeniably like his son. But how he could come to a conclusion so soon? He could not afford to be emotional like his wife, though he secretly wished that he could throw all the rationality in the air and just accept that the boy was indeed Shyam.

As the boy hugged his brothers, he felt the coldness in their gesture, Alok being more indifferent than his elder sibling.

As everyone cleared their throats and shifted uneasily in their chairs, not knowing what or how to question the boy, the boy decided to break the calm.

“I know there are a thousand questions you want to ask me. Let me take the load off your head. My name in this life is Gopal. I stay with my mother in Pune. A few months ago, I started getting dreams about all of you , this house and a lot of incidents of my childhood. I found that I could remember everything vividly the next morning, unlike in a dream. I started making notes in my diary…” he passed a diary to Alok turning the page to August 20 2012. 

“Your birthday…” said Mai.

“Yes Mai that was the day it all started.  I saw my 25th birthday being celebrated, there were a lot of guests in the house and you were feeding me puranpoli with love…” he stopped to wipe a tear.

August 20 2012
‘Mai fed me puranpoli, it was delicious. Alok Dada and Vahini gifted me a watch and Shyam dada and Vahini gave me a gold ring. Baba gave me a new bike.’

 “It scared me. ‘How did I even know these names?’ I thought. I had never heard about you all until then. I dismissed it as a one off incident. But the next night the dreams came back…”

“The cursed bike! I shouldn’t have given you one, my mistake entirely” rued baba.

Alok read on.

August 21 2012
I am riding on the highway with my friend, Vinod, in the new bike that baba gifted me. I picked up a new saree for mai with the money I got on my birthday. It was a blue kolhapuri saree with golden flowers. Mai saw it and had tears in her eyes. I could feel her happiness.

Baalaa,” said Mai affectionately moving her hand on ‘Shyam’s’ head, “I still haven’t worn that saree. I had planned to wear it for Ganesh pujan the following week, but….” She broke down.

“Mai…” the boy comforted her.

August22 2012
I am driving to the market. Mai wants me to buy a few things for her. A big truck is speeding uncontrollably towards my bike. I can see it in the rear view mirror. Is it following me or am I imagining things? It has crashed into my bike. I am on the road bleeding all over. I can feel my body starting to numb, and everything is a blur.

“Stop reading any further Alok,” ordered Baba choking with emotion.

He hugged the boy, “Shyam, my son, you are back, I cannot describe how happy I am. I have been living in guilt for the past 15 years, for buying you that bike which took your life. Forgive me Shyam, forgive your baba.”

“Don’t blame yourself baba, no one can change what is destined.”

“What happened then?” Raman wanted to know.

“As things began to get clearer, I could recall every single detail of my previous birth. I wanted to tell my mother, but I knew she would not believe me. And even if she were convinced, she would not let me come here. So I decided not to tell her anything and instead contacted you by mail. Surprisingly, I knew my mail id and still had access to it. And here I am. My mother doesn’t know I have come here to meet you, I have told her we are going out of station for a school project.”

Everyone except Alok seemed convinced about the boy being Shyam.  He shifted uneasily in his chair, cracking his knuckles. 'Re-birth? ha! who believes in re-birth? those are things that happen only in movies! These guys are being taken for a royal ride by this imposter,' he thought,'any one who knows our family, would know how Shyam died. How can they just trust some random jottings in a diary? I must find out who is behind all this.'

“How do you find the changes in the house, Shyam?” asked Alok, he had to find some way to trap this boy.

Shyam looked around and surveyed the place. “Dada, where’s the big swing in the middle of our courtyard? Mai loved to sit on it every afternoon after lunch and sing bhajans. And looks like our two bedroom house, has become a two storied house.”

“We had to remove the swing and put it on the terrace, and use the place to expand the house, we are a big family now, we need the space”, replied Raman, looking fondly at this boy, who he had started believing was indeed his brother.

 Something still bothered Alok. 'Must be an insider', he thought again, ' someone who knows that our house has been re-modeled, someone who has knows us for the past 20 years at least. Who could it be?' he tapped his fingers furiously on the armrest of the chair, his eyes shut, his mind sifting out various possibilities.' He wondered who it was.

read part 3 here.
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