In The Pursuit Of Happiness
In The Pursuit Of Happiness
Anika ducked down to protect herself from Vinay's knife, who was chasing her madly and rushed into the kitchen with Ishaan. She took hold of a frying pan thinking it would keep Vinay from them for some time, but seeing Vinay approaching, she hurled the pan on his head. Even after falling down on the floor with his bleeding head, he caught hold of Anika's right leg and leaped on her. In the scuffle, nobody knows how the knife pierced Vinay's stomach and within a few minutes, he gave way. Anika was horror-stricken, "Oh! I never wanted that! Vinay! O, God! What shall I do?" The next moment, she grabbed Ishaan and ran out. Fighting the crowd at the gate, she somehow managed to alight the bus going to Varanasi, when Ishaan cried for milk. Before she could feed him, the police traced her.
Kanpur Chowk Police Station was stuffed with all kinds of criminals. Never in her nightmare did Anika think she would see a jail, but that day she was there as a murderer. Even her Ishaan for whom she did all this was taken away from her. How she yearned for some happiness in life! Staring at the half- baked chapattis having dal spilled on them, which were kept on the twisted aluminum plate, she went to flashback.
There was not even an inch of place in the verandah, people from around five villages had come to attend the funeral. Dada Ram Bahadur, Sarpanch of the village and Anika's grandfather, was a well known and respected man of Muana. Anika had been staying with Dada since her parent's death when she was five. Dada was her whole world and imagining a life without him seemed to be impossible. She was sitting in a corner of the room with a statue still face grappling with her grief.
Sridhar and Maya, her Chacha and Chachi had also come, and now she had to stay with them, as after Dada she had nobody in the village. She had heard a lot about cities and all her life dreamt of seeing one. On the bus, she kept on imagining how the city would look. "They say there are tall buildings over there, people have cars that are so different from our ghoda gadis. There are big schools and colleges and hospitals. If dada were in the city, he would be alive." Having been so busy fantasizing, she didn't even realize when she reached Varanasi. The bus stop was very crowded; there were vendors of fruits, peanuts, popcorns, bangles, trinkets, and whatnot. Anika was delighted to see all that. In her village, she could see all this only once a year when they had Dusshera Fair.
"Maa, how's the trip? Did all go well?" Saumya spluttered. She was Sridhar's only daughter. With her ivory complexion and tall slender figure, she looked like a barbie doll. Her voice was a treat to ears. Getting her first glance made Anika dizzy. So far, she had only heard of such kind of beauty. "Hi! I am Saumya. Sit here and have some tea." Anika juggled for words, she was too fascinated to speak. Anika had to share Saumya's room, having entered the room, she involuntarily glanced at her reflection in the mirror that filled her with disgust for herself. How awful was she looking in her tanned complexion, coarse hair, and plain, ill-fitted clothes! A complex seeped in her instantly.
Ravi, Saumya's college friend, and a well-turned-out boy would often come to their house. All three would have a fun time together. Anika fell in love with him at first sight, and his presence would send tremors in her body. Her dismantled life got a reason to be happy. Ravi would occupy the most part of her dreams and she would usually stay awake weaving dreams of her life with him. Many a times she tried to confide in Saumya, but some unknown fear kept her from expressing. She was shattered and felt cheated when Saumaya announced her affair with Ravi and both of them decided to marry. There's an air of merriment in the family unaware of Anika's agony.
Lying on the terrace, she was gazing at the jet black sky having very few stars. Once, Dada had told her, "Your parents haven't gone anywhere. They are here as stars, watching you every day." She murmured, "Dada, are you there? I want to come up and stay with you all. I don't have anybody here." And her throat choked. She felt a deep hatred for Saumya and resolved that she would never forgive her.
Anika decided not to attend their marriage and a week before shifted to a hostel. Everybody was puzzled seeing her behavior, Chacha tried a lot to stop her, but she didn't budge. Anika couldn't bear her parting with Ravi and was wasting away. She tried to focus on studies to keep Ravi's memories at bay, but no help. Life was crawling by when Vinay appeared in her life like a cool breeze in the scorching heat. They became good friends, Anika loved the time spent with him, and though only for some time, she would forget her grief. After around three months Vinay proposed to her. She was stunned, "You're my good friend. I can't even think of marrying you." Seeing Vinay's thwarted face her heart melted and she told him about Ravi. But he was resolute, "I love you, and I promise to keep you always happy. I'll die without you." Anika spoke steelily, "Nobody dies without anybody." At night, she could not sleep and kept tossing on the bed, "I can't marry Vinay. I don't love him. If I marry him, it would be cheating? I can't love anybody now. I will never marry."
The next few days Vinay didn't show up. Anika's heart filled with the fear of something unknown. She decided to call him, and though she never wanted to, her lips moved to a yes. Chacha and Chachi were not happy with her decision as Vinay's status was not up to their level, but on Anika's insistence they gave up. Vinay was a loving husband and Anika was happy about her decision to marry him. One early morning, while Anika was lying resting her head on Vinay's chest, Vinay said caressing her hair, "I heard your grandfather left a big house for you in Muana." "Yes, but Chacha sold that for my education and marriage," Anika answered carelessly and pressed her lips on his forehead.
After a few days, Vinay decided to move to Kanpur, Anika tried to explain to him that she wanted to complete her MBA, but he wasn't ready to listen. "My mom is alone and sick, she wants her children to stay with her." Having reached Kanpur, she realized that there's no mom. It was his pretext to bring Anika there. Even in Varanasi, whenever she would try to talk about mom, he changed the topic instantly. The loving and caring Vinay turned out to be a devil, who would drink daily and come late at night and sometimes won't even show up for many days. If Anika would try to stop him, she was beaten black and blue. Her life was no less than hell. Birth of Ishaan brought a ray of hope that Vinay would change for the sake of his child. But futile!
It was Karwa Chauth, and Anika was looking fabulous in her red banarasi saree. She was waiting for Vinay to break her fast when he rushed in, without even looking at her he grabbed Ishaan and started to move. Bewildered, Anika interrupted, "Where're you taking Ishaan?" Vinay ignored her and lunged towards the door. Panic overcast Anika and she stretched her arms out to block his path, "He won't go anywhere!"I'm his father, I don't need your permission to take him out," Vinay said brusquely. "Samarth Chauhan is paying five lakhs for this small lump. We can have more children but money. It's an opportunity!" Vinay muttered and made a start. Anika's blood froze, it took her a few seconds to let in what Vinay had just said. She pounced on him like a hungry tigress to get her child back, "I won't let you take my child. He's the only one I've in this world. I can't lose him." Grappling with her, Vinay howled furiously and blood reflected through his eyes, "You, stay out of it! Today, nobody can stop me. I married you so that I could be rich, but you turned me to a pauper. He'll go with me even if I'll have to kill you" Vinay pulled a knife out of his pocket.
"Somebody has come to meet you," a hoarse voice interrupted her parade of thoughts. She wondered who that could be. Saumya and Ravi were sitting in the visitor's room with Ishaan. Seeing Ishaan, her happiness knew no bounds, she wrapped her arms around him and planted numerous kisses on his face. Saumya tried to comfort her and said that they had taken Ishaan's custody until she was in jail. While Ishaan was leaving, Anika felt a prick of parting with him, but on the other hand, she was relieved that her child was safe. After probing into the circumstances in which she murdered Vinay, she was sentenced five years of imprisonment. "What's my fault? Am I really a murderer? I was just trying to save my Ishaan, my baby? O, God! What did I ask for? Some moments of happiness! Is this your justice?" Once again, Anika was alone. This aloofness had become an inevitable part of her life, the only thing that she wanted now was the happiness of Ishaan. But in her heart, she was scared if Ishaan would also have the same destiny as she. "No!" She got up panting and beads of sweat appeared on her mantle, "My Ishaan will be alright!"
Craving to embrace Ishaan, she spent the entire night imagining the ecstasy of the moment when she would hold her baby in her hand. Having stepped out of Naini Jail, she ran frantically to meet Ishaan, but the sight at Ravi's house made her stomach lurch. At the gate, Chacha was talking to the doctor and beside him was Ravi sobbing, his face was as pale as death. Imagining Ishaan in some trouble, panic seeped in her heart and she rushed inside. In the room, Saumya's emaciated body was lying on the bed, and next to her was Ishaan playing with his toys. Anika heaved a sigh of relief seeing her Ishaan alright. It shamed her to admit it, but Ishaan was all that mattered to her at that moment. She ran towards Ishaan and cuddled him tightly and her eyes welled up.
Saumya clutched Anika's wrist with her scrawny and feeble hand, her lower lip was trembling. Anika looked in her eyes and stroked her forehead lightly. Though Saumya stole Ravi, her love, from her, she never wanted her to suffer. Gathering up courage, Saumya murmured "I always knew you love Ravi. Today, destiny has offered him to you. Now, you've to take care of both Ishaan and Ravi," Anika wanted to speak but her throat choked. A few days later, Saumya succumbed to cancer. Ishaan and Ravi refused to accept the fact of her death when Chacha took over and convinced Ravi that they had a long life ahead, and Ishaan was a link between Ravi and Anika, so they should marry.
Now, they are married, though late, Anika gets everything she longed for, her love, her child, and a good life. But there is a burden in her heart, "Could Ravi forget Saumya whom he loved madly? Could I replace Saumya in their lives? Could I forgive Vinay whom I thought was an escape from Ravi's memories? Could my seven years be compensated? Have I really gotten happiness?" All her life she craved for happiness, but today, when she has got it, a medley of fear, loss, pain, and remorse also accompanies it. Today, this happiness seems to be meaningless. In this pursuit, she lost too much. She opens the window and lets the mild morning sun caress her face expecting the time will answer all her questions.