Sudha Narasimhachar



Sudha Narasimhachar


That Moment

That Moment

10 mins

Chetan was excited today. He was turning 18, an important milestone in his life. His parents had planned a very grand party at Hotel Golden Gate, a five-star hotel, in the evening. Chetan had invited all his close friends to the party. 

Chetan was the only son of Varadarajan and Kamala. Vadarajan was a very famous cardiologist and Kamala was a leading advocate. They both belonged to upper-middle-class families and after they got into their professions, they took off and started earning a lot. They were pretty rich. They lived in their dream house in the posh locality of Palace Layout, where all the city’s ‘whose who’ reside. The house was designed by a very leading architect. It was a very ethnic design and used the natural light and air to the maximum extent possible and had a very beautiful garden around. Chetan loved his house and he had his own huge room, with a studio, home theatre, games room and a lovely roof garden. He often invited his friends and spent a good lot of time watching movies, playing games, chit-chatting and eating together. Savitha and Mahesh, who lived in the servant’s quarter took care of the cooking, cleaning and maintenance of the garden. Chetan was pampered thoroughly by his paternal grandparents, who lived with them, his parents, his maternal grandparents, who visited them once in a while, his uncles and aunts and even Savitha and Mahesh. 

Chetan studied in a prestigious school in the city and most of his classmates were from upper-middle-class or rich families. They all enjoyed a decent urban life like him. They had little knowledge of the struggles and travails of life that a majority of the people faced. 

The party began at 7 in the evening. All his family members, a few close friends of his parents, immediate neighbours and his friends were present. He and his friends were formally introduced to hard drinks by his parents, though they knew these youngsters would have tried drinking stealthily much before! 

“Your dad thinks we are tasting all this for the first time da!”, whispered Rajesh in Chetan’s ears. 

“Come on yar! He is not that innocent or ignorant! He does know we have tried all this much before, but is only pretending”, replied Chetan.

“Join us Mahi! Why are you acting so goodie-goodie? Are you scared?” Vijay called Mahi. 

“Scared? Scared of whom? I don’t care. But today I am not in a mood, guys. Please don’t force me”, said Mahi.

“What’s wrong? Any problem at home?” Sakshi asked with concern, with a wine glass in her hand.

“Let’s not discuss anything here Sakshi. Just enjoy the party. Don’t make a scene”, said Mahi.

Chetan observed Mahi and realised she was not her normal self today. He too tried talking to her but she avoided his questions and started pretending to be happy and normal.

“This party is also to announce that our son Chetan is proceeding to the United States of America to join MIT, where he has been offered an admission for his favourite stream – computer engineering”, said Dr Varadarajan. Of course, most of them already knew about it but for a few guests. All of them congratulated him and wished him good luck. He was to leave in a month. 

After a couple of days, Chetan and his friends were chit-chatting in Chetan’s room. “Your house is so lovely da. Will you not miss this and all of us when you go away?” asked Stephen.

“Of course, I will miss Stephen. But isn’t that the case with most of us? Except for Mahi, Suraj, Kala and Jabbar, all of us are flying away to foreign universities. Only Mahi has joined a local college. The others are going to Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. This is a very important stage of our lives. We are all getting separated. God knows when we will be meeting like this again, I mean all of us! Life was so full of fun all these years. I never thought it would take such a turn”, said Chetan with melancholy. 

“Why didn’t Mahi come yaar? She was not in a mood even on my birthday. What’s wrong with her?” asked Chetan.

“She evaded my questions on that day. We haven’t met her after that. I called her today but her phone was switched off. I think we better go to her house and check out”, said Sakshi. 

“In all these years, she has never been like this. It is strange that she never invited us to her house even once. She always evaded our parties and get-togethers and hosted us just a couple of parties in small hotels”, said Jabbar.

“I have visited her just once when she was down with a fracture. Her house is quite far away. It is in a congested locality. Her house is very small. Maybe she did not want her friends to know about her status”, said Sakshi.

Chetan decided to visit Mahi with Sakshi the next day. He asked his other friends not to go along because he did not want to embarrass Mahi. Chetan was shocked to see the congested, busy locality. Sakshi had forgotten the way and they had to go into narrower by-lanes. They got stuck in the traffic and finally after a half-hour search, they reached Mahi’s house. 

Mahi was sitting on the steps in front of her door and was surprised when she saw Chetan’s car in front of her gate. She opened the gate and welcomed Chetan and Sakshi inside.

“Mahi, why did you switch off your phone? We all met at Chetan’s house yesterday and we missed you”, said Sakshi.

Mahi was quiet. Her eyes showed that she was sad and had cried. 

“What’s wrong Mahi? Are we not your close friends? Can you not share your worries with us?” asked Chetan.

Mahi broke down and started weeping. They all sat quietly for some time. “Mahi, Mahi, can you come here for a few minutes? Has somebody come?” That was Mahi’s mother from inside. Mahi wiped her tears and ran into the inner room. Chetan looked at the small house. The living room had just four plastic chairs. In a corner, there was a small steel table on which Mahi’s books were piled up. It was dark and depressing. There was only a wall clock and a calendar on the wall. The windows had no curtains. 

Mahi returned after ten minutes. She said, “my mother is unwell. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has not gone to work for the last month. I had to be with her. That’s why I was not in a mood even on your birthday. I had requested my aunt to sit with her for some time and hence had to return soon. Chetan, I am very happy for you. You are going to one of the world’s best universities. You won’t believe that I too had got the offer from MIT.”

“What? Really? Why didn’t you tell any of us? Congrats Mahi dear”, said Sakshi with excitement.

“Have you made all the arrangements? When are you leaving?” asked Chetan happily.

“No friends! I am not going.”

“Why? Why Mahi?” both the friends were shocked.

“Okay, now I have to tell you my full story. My father worked in a bank as an officer. My mother works in a Bank too. I am their only daughter. My father met with an accident five years ago and died a month after that due to serious head injuries. This was when I was studying in my old school. We were then living in Mysore. We were living with my paternal grandparents and my uncle. After my father died, since he had nominated his mother for all his accounts, all the money went to my grandmother and they would not part with any of it. They started treating us with despise and my mother and I felt very bad to live there. So, my mother took a transfer and came here. I then joined our present school. Though the cost was really very high for my mother, she wanted me to go to that school for good education. She worked so hard and encouraged me to do well. When I wanted to go abroad for studies, my mother did say, ‘maybe after your graduation dear! It will be a very expensive move right now. However, when I told her about my friends who were applying, she said, ‘okay, go ahead and try. We can borrow from my Bank for education. Write your SAT exams.’ It was such a pleasant surprise when I got the offer from MIT. We were very happy. Just as we were working on the education loan and other procedures, fate played its game! My mother fell sick. Though she still feels I should go, I do not want to go because she will be all alone here during her treatment. I am her only company. My maternal grandfather died last year. My grandmother and my uncle’s family live close by but they have their own challenges, as my uncle does not earn much and has three children and my grandmother to take care of. My aunt too works for a private firm. Moreover, borrowing huge sums at this juncture is not a good idea, as we need a lot of funds for my mother’s treatment. I, therefore, decided to take up a job and study in the evening college. Though I am doing all this for my dear mother, I am disappointed.”

Chetan and Sakshi were stunned. Such a sad state. There was nothing much they could do, other than sympathising and supporting Mahi. Chetan, especially, was simply shocked that someone of his own age could be burdened with the family responsibilities and could talk with so much maturity. Was he living in a different world altogether? Not a single day had there been any discussion of financial burden or paucity in his house. He had been getting everything that he even just mentioned. He got most of his needs met automatically before he even made a demand. Of course, he was not a spoilt brat and wasted money. But he definitely had no occasion to feel sorry or miss anything in his life. Now, he suddenly saw the other side of the world!

After reaching home, Chetan kept thinking of Mahi and her decision. How disappointing it would be for her to miss such a great opportunity in her life! Of course, nobody could be blamed. It is right that she decided to stay back and take care of her mother. He could not sleep throughout the night.

The next morning, he shared all the information with his parents and expressed his concern for Mahi. “Chetan, this is really sad! What can you or I do? Maybe, I could help Mahi to get her mother treated by the best doctors in my hospital and work on some concessions in the cost. You ask her to meet me with her mother. You too keep in touch with her and give your moral support. Let’s hope for the best”, said Dr Varadarajan.

Chetan did leave for the US on the scheduled date but was a totally transformed person. He met Mahi many times before he left and his father had already taken charge of her mother’s treatment in his hospital. Mahi was very touched by this action. Chetan had also made another big decision mentally. He, who wanted to settle down in the US, had decided that he would come back after his studies and work in India. He also decided that he would be very consciously spending only the bare minimum required for his studies and saving as much as possible to help people like Mahi to meet their medical expenses or educational expenses. The biggest decision, of course, was to propose to Mahi, get married to her and help her realise her dreams. 

Mahi bid goodbye to Chetan with tears. “Time will fly Mahi. I will be back in a few years. Don’t worry. You have a lot of good things to wait for”. Mahi did not believe that Chetan would ever return, because she did not know of anyone who went to the US and returned after studies. She was happy to hear such a fantastical promise and just enjoyed it for a few days! 

Dr Varadarajan and Kamala were overjoyed when Chetan completed his post-graduation in MIT and got a plump job with a leading MNC. “One more good news Amma and Appa. My company is expanding in Bangalore and I have opted to come back to Bangalore and work there.” The parents were really surprised and were very happy, but could not believe it. 

Chetan was full of excitement. He was waiting eagerly for Mahi and her mother at that hotel. He had invited them for lunch. He was yet to tell Mahi about his return for good. He had told her that he was visiting Bangalore. Mahi had finished her M.Com and CA and was working in a leading MNC. Her mother was cured of cancer and had retired from her Bank. When they heard of Chetan’s decision to move to Bangalore, they were very happy. “Chetan, you had the option of working in California and why did you choose to return? I don’t think your parents would have minded had you settled down in the US”, asked Mahi.

“Mahi, I lived in a glass bubble until that day when I visited you before my departure to the US. I realised life is not all about materialistic growth and getting richer. There were so many other values that make a person stronger, useful and meaningful. I was touched by your decision to forgo something so big for your mother’s sake. I started loved you since then. Will you marry me? I want to work here so that I can spend more time with my parents, your mother, our friends and also do a lot for the underprivileged. Will you support me?”

Do I have to mention what Mahi would have replied?

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