The Award Still Awaits Her
The Award Still Awaits Her
*From the point of view of a husband*
Business could be better. It was difficult to earn a living by selling handicrafts. And it was this factor that did not let me retire, ever. My children told me “We aren’t interested in your old fashioned business”. Yes, they lacked some manners, but they also lacked a Mother – my Medha.
Tricolours adorned the city. The shops flooding with people. I set up my business in a corner. Preparations here, start a week back. Ridiculous as it may seem, it was a letter that brought me here. Through the screeching silences of the valleys and the beautiful gorges, came a letter addressed to me. The perfectly written address of my house in Faridabad, an invite to attend a function. “The independence day celebrations”. But…were shopkeepers like me invited to set up shops? Was it an effort to raise my shop? I wouldn’t know. Oh! A customer, he passes’ my shop silently. And yes, lost in my thoughts, I remember suddenly. The sender’s address of the letter was the same as the monthly money order I would receive.
The absence of Medha still haunted me. The last word spoken was twelve years back. But the last tear shed for this very reason, was moments back. My children still hated the mother they didn’t meet. The one that had left them alone. But I knew she was there. Alive in the shining stars and twinkling moon light. But they didn’t trust me. Do you?
I had finally managed to sell two handicrafts in a week. The celebrations were today. From day after, my life would be the same. As I toured the city on foot, I notice flags held up proudly everywhere. Kinder garden students with tricolours in their cheek and clothes and some others with tattered clothes, selling those tricolours. I buy them all. A faint memory rushes back to me, when I sold flags to buy a gift for Medha and now I stared at here during cultural programmes. When all eyes were fixed on the stage I shook my head vigourously. No. These thoughts won’t haunt me again. I won’t let them. But then I realised. Wasn’t all this about money and business? Won’t the flags lay abandoned a week later? Patriotism was short lived. Celebrated twice a year or when in a foreign country.
My clock struck eleven. I had to go to the venue. But I wanted just once, to visit the school me and Medha studied. Just to relieve the memory of six years in six minutes. I didn’t know why I did this. But could I help it. The smell of fresh varnish on those scribbed desks. Sunlight peeking through cracks in the roof of the school. Our names etched on the walls. It was an abandoned school. As tears welled up, gunshots were heard. The celebrations began.
The host on stage continues,
“The martyrs lay silent,
Family waiting at their feet.
Wrapped in a tricolor,
A gift from a land I call my mother.
As the crowd cleared away,
The desolate and silent wind sways.
Nature salutes these jawans
And the mother land weeps for her lost sons.”
Shortly after this, a faint sound of Medha pierced my ears. I ran leaving the gates of the school open. Eyes hazy and vision blurry. My cheeks wet and dust following me. I reach the venue, right on there to listen to her name nominated for the bravery award. But what had she done to receive this award?
As the speaker continues blaring. With staggering steps and numb feet, I ascend the stage with my children. It was all a haze, handshake. Appreciation. Award received and descended the stage not so gracefully. My mind still lost in thoughts of her last word, “I need to fulfill my other duties. I need to go. Take care of my kids”. A tight hug and with a last kiss on my forehead, off she was gone.
The National anthem shook me awake from my thoughts. I stood in attention. Goosebumps adoring my skin. Hair at my neck, erect. Nails bearing into my skin. I sang the National Anthem patriotically after years. As the event concluded, people in crowds cleared. Venue falls silent. Chairs dragged away, and I sat there clutching my Medha’s prize money. My store would be names Medha store. The award she awaited held in my hand. The money didn’t matter anymore. As my heart thumped against my ribcage, wanting to escape. This Independence Day was the day, my hatred for her flew far away. I would rejoice the memories again. I would star gaze again. I was proud of my wife. She was as independent woman of Independent India.
I remember a poem we once hummed together,
It’s in this soil that our ancestors are buried,
It’s this soil which has borne the blood and sweat of our fighters.
We bear the flag pole into this soil,
And it’s this soil that holds the whole India together.
At the border, it stays company for the jawans at the freezing night,
And I am lucky to share this soil with them.
My tribute to this soil which feeds me, hold my steps,
And in which I’ll be buried someday.
The stadium filled with Medha’s perfume. Her voice rang in my ears. She was alive.