Next day Shiv’s fever didn’t come back. He was weak but he was better. Anandi came back to his suit after collecting his blood reports. As soon as she unlocked the door she got the shock of her life. Shiv was saying “Mom I am fine here u needn’t have come….”
He stopped seeing Anandi. A distinguished looking lady turned and looked curiously at her. It seemed she had walked right in the middle of a mother-son face off.
For minute no one spoke. Anandi wanted to disappear in thin air. This was embarrassing. Finally she said
“Ummm Sorry I just barged in…I will wait outside”
Shiv’s booming voice said “Anandi stay” Then he turned towards his mom “Mom this is Anandi”
Anandi had recognized his mom from the pictures she had seen earlier.
She stammered “H..Hello aunty”
To her surprise the lady smiled “So you are Anandi. It’s so good to meet you finally. I am Ira” She came hugged Anandi. Anandi looked at Shiv. His face was expressionless.
Ira said “Thank you so much for taking care of shiv. He didn’t even bother informing us. His secretary told us and I arrived as soon as I could”.
Anandi just looked dumbstruck how was she supposed to react to this?? What should she say? How should she introduce herself?? His friend? Girlfriend? Ex ?? Or confused status??
“No need to thank me aunty. I just did what a good friend is supposed to do”.
Shiv was simply staring at their intraction.
Anandi continued “It’s good that now you are here aunty. I will leave now I just came to give him his blood report. No need to worry it was just normal flu. I am leaving now. Glad to meet you aunty”.
Ira nodded and Shiv remained expressionless as ever. Anandi left for home after one of the most embarrassing moments of her life. She joined office next day and was relieved to see that Shiv was also back. He looked healthier but they didn’t interact much.
In evening when she was back there was a knock. She opened the door and her jaws fell open in surprise.Ira had come for a visit !!!
Anandi looked around to see if Shiv accompanied her. Sensing her discomfort Ira said “Shiv doesn’t know that I came to meet you. Actually I wanted to talk to you alone”.
Anandi’s throat had gone dry. She simply nodded. After making Ira comfortable on the sofa Anandi somehow said “What would you like to have aunty? Tea….coffee?”
Ira said “Nothing Anandi I just needed to meet you please sit down”.
Anandi sat down and uncomfortably.
Ira said “You are lovely Anandi. No wonder Shiv is smitten”
Anandi turned 3 shades redder and lowered her eyes.
Ira continued “You know Shiv is very different. He was different since childhood. Instead of comics and video games he preferred book and science. The kind of upbringing he got he could have easily turned into a spoilt brat but he didn’t. He was mature and calm right from beginning. He was compassionate and preferred the simplicity of life rather than luxury. It’s not that he was not naughty. Oh he was a nightmare with his pranks but they were all innocent kiddish gestures. He was serious when it was required”.
Anandi was all ears. She had no idea about Shiv’s childhood and upbringing.
“When he finished high school his dad wanted to send him to best college in USA. But he refused. He was adamant to study engineering and got into IIT. He was a brilliant student. His dad is how I say He sticks to some predefined ideas about everything. Shiv may or may not comply with them. He has his own set of principles and he holds on to them. Both are stubborn that way”.
Anandi couldn’t stop herself and giggled. Ira also smiled.
“Anyways He had told me about you when he was in Pune. At first I didn’t take it seriously I thought it might be one of his flings. But I could see the change in him. The way his face lit up while talking about you. How he used to wait for your calls and miss you while in Mumbai. I got shock of my life when he told me ……”
“Mom I think I am in love with Anandi”
“Are you sure shiv?”
“Yes Mom and I want to spend my whole life with her”
“Your dad will never agree Shiv you know how he is”
“I don’t care mom. I love Anandi. I will marry her with or without his consent”.
Anandi simply stared her eyes growing wide in disbelief she was not aware of these thing.
“Then the inevitable happened. There was problem in business. In spite of his differences he took charge of everything like an obedient son. Then Saatchi’s marriage was fixed and his dad wanted him to marry Amisha. As expected he protested. I must admit at that point I failed as a mother. I failed to support him. I took his love for you as a passing infatuation. I forced him to give up on you. I said many hurtful things to him.”
Ira’s eyes welled up with emotion and on impulse Anandi held her hands to show support.
“He had to comply after Saanchi attempted suicide. I failed to see his pain, his suffering. He failed you and I failed him. At some level we all failed isn’t it ?”
Anandi was thoughtful she failed to protect her child she failed in her marriage with Jagadish Ira was right at some level they all failed.
“ In last 4 years I have seen him suffer. He grew reclusive and distant from all of us specially me. He had always been a mamma’s boy but after that incident he stopped trusting me confiding in me. He was present physically but he was emotionally detached from all of us. He just worked and worked. Nobody understood him not even me. He used to be a chatterbox now he rarely speaks. Now I realize what he had lost. You know for some reason he has stopped celebrating his birthdays…Infact he hates that day like anything”
Anandi looked up shocked !! Just like her he suffered too.
“ We thought that by forcing him to give up on you we would have been back but the truth we actually lost him. I lost my only son. He doesn’t want to meet me anymore. He was furious yesterday by my arrival. Saatchi has been in India since 1 month he has not met her once. We all are missing him”
Anandi’s eyes grew misty. Shiv didn’t tell her anything.
Anandi said “what do you want me to do aunty?”
Ira said “Forgive him. I know he ditched you. Not just he my entire family wronged you. I am sorry about that. I am sorry for whatever pain you went through”
Anandi felt odd “No Aunty please don’t say like this and don’t apologize to me. It’s not proper. I am so much younger to you. I have forgiven Shiv aunty. Now he has to forgive himself”.
“Thanks Anandi. I don’t have right to ask you to take him back. But it’s only you who can take care of him. You are so selfless in spite of his mistakes you looked after him. Who else can be a better life partner for him”.
Anandi just shuffled uncomfortably.
“I should be going Anandi I have my flight in an hour. I just came to meet you and apologize for everything”.
Anandi nodded and went to see her off. Before leaving Ira said “I wish I had met you earlier Anandi. Things might have been different”.
Anandi watched her car disappear lost in her thoughts.
Next day Anandi walked into Shiv’s cabin. “Can have a minute with you?”
He looked bemused “yeah sure Anandi sit down”.
Anandi was quite for a moment then asked “When did you last visit your family?”
“What sort of question is that ?” he asked
“Just tell me Shiv…when? I didn’t see you visiting them ever since you arrived from New York. Apart from your official phone call I never saw you talking to anyone in your family. Why?”
He shifted uncomfortably “They don’t like to be bothered….they are busy with their own lives as long the company is running smoothly they won’t bother about me”.
“What about your mom Shiv?? I am sure she would be missing her son and Saanchi?? You were always so fond of her. Why have you blocked them from your lives ? I understand you have certain regrets but why take out your anger on them ?”
“Anandi you don’t know anything I am doing exactly what my family wants me to do run their company. Saanchi is married off well. She is happy. My dad is happy. Mom is happy what else would they want?”
“What about emotional support and family bonding? Doesn’t u feel like just being with them ? Just spend some time with them? You are a family?”
He started laughing….She looked annoyed and puzzled “what’s so funny ?”
“You so simple and innocent Anandi. My family doesn’t believe in these petty things. All they need is power, status, luxury and of course money. As long as I am giving them all of these everything is fine”.
She looked exasperated “Shiv life doesn’t run this way. I don’t know why you have this screwed up notion about your family. I am sure they r nice people who would be missing their only son and brother. If you would just let them reach out to you things would be fine. At least pay them a visit”.
“Did my mom pay you a visit?”
She stopped then stammered “You mom is very nice”
He gave a sarcastic smile “I knew it. They would resort to emotional blackmail”.
“Shiv this is rude. You should not talk about your mom like that”.
“I am just being realistic Anandi that’s how they want it trust me”.
“Shiv all she wants is to meet you. And you do look lonely. Visiting your family once in a while will be good for you”.
“Anandi you don’t know what you are wishing for”.
“Shiv I don’t know what equations you have with you family nor am I interested but your mom misses you terribly”
“I just met her yesterday what’s the point of going there again?”
“What about Saanchi. She is your sister after all. Don’t you miss her?”
“Anandi she is a brat used to getting her way forget her”
“God Shiv !! Why don’t you understand”. Anandi said exasperated.
“Are you trying to drive me away from here Anandi? If my presence irks you which is understandable I will go away”.
“Hell No Shiv !! Don’t ever say that. I just want to be normal and happy again which will happen only if you start bonding and socializing. If you want to be normal first behave like a normal person”.
“Anandi first of all I am quite normal. Secondly I will visit my home only because you want me to. Else I am least bothered”.
Anandi sighed with relief “Thanks. That’s all I want”.
“Btw Anandi would you like to join me for dinner tonight. I might leave tomorrow so…”
“Sure Shiv. I would love to” She answered.
That night he took her to a cozy simple restaurant they were mostly quite. Both knew this might be their last dinner and last moments together. He had to leave for New York also soon.
“Anandi I am leaving for Mumbai tomorrow. Then I will leave for New York. My work here is almost done”.
Anandi felt a lump in her throat. She could barely swallow her food.
“Shiv will you come back?”
“I am not running off Anandi. I am just a call away. Call me anytime and I will be by your side”.
Anandi was a nervous wreck of emotions and turmoil. Why was she sending him away?? She couldn’t understand this at all.
He dropped her home and before moving out of the car she said “I will miss you Shiv”.
He sighed “Missing you has become part of my life. I better get used to it”.
He drove off and Anandi looked on misty eyed. She came back in her home unable to stop her tear. She saw her phone beeping. Composing herself she took the call and spoke “Swati how r u?”
“Guess who is visiting India?” She chirped from the other side.
“You are coming to India?”
“I am already here Dumbo. I am in Delhi. I will visit you soon. So thought I shld inform you beforehand so that you don’t make other plans with Shiv”.
Anandi couldn’t stop her tears “I don’t have any plans Swati. Please do come down. I missed you”.
“Something’s wrong isn’t it ?? You both messed up again? God !! You know what u both need baby sitters or a chaperon”.
“No it’s nothing like that Swati”
“Then what the prob why are you upset?”
“You come down you will know. When are you coming?”
“This coming sat. I will stay the whole weekend with Sparsh”.
“Good Swati I am looking forward to your visit”.