The Ingrown Sapling
The Ingrown Sapling29 mins 25K 29 mins 25K
Sipping hot coffee from her cup, Mira was turning the pages of the album that contained photos from her childhood days. With each page her memories became fresh, she felt as if she was actually there in her past when she was just a little girl who was so dependent on her mother. She remembered how much she needed her mother for every small thing of her life and today she gives all the credit to her mother for what she is, a good homemaker and she herself being a ‘Mother’.
Looking at the old photographs of her mother the image became so fresh, Mira felt as if mother was actually standing there looking at her and smiling. Her mother’s young face came alive in her eyes, she remembered that mother used to be very beautiful in her youthful days; she wore simple saris with a neatly made braid that hung till her waist and a red Bindi on her forehead that made her look so graceful. Going down the memory lane and looking at the photographs of mother Mira felt good; there was warmth and love hidden in those photographs. She suddenly felt the room was filled with the fragrance of roses....the flower which mother grew in her small garden and every day she would wear one flower in her braid. Mira now strongly smelt the mystical scent of her mother and the same presence around her, not realizing when tears started rolling down her cheeks.
Some photographs made her smile whereas some of the photographs of mother made her feel sad as those golden days would never come back. Mira always admired her mother when she was alive and still missed her so much that often she wept alone feeling insecure and lonely for not having her mother by her side anymore. Mother, when alive, loved Mira the most out of her two offspring and even knowing the fact that her health was slowly but steadily getting dented she still kept herself lively, always with a smile on her face. Mother noticed that Mira often became sad and cried alone but still she kept her calm, because she wanted Mira to be strong and accept the things with time. Mira was also very close to her mother she remembers how she used to share everything with her, from boys following her home, to her first infatuation and they would talk for hours and laugh over the silly issues that Mira often brought from school. She was closer to mother, more than her elder brother Aarav, who was a young boy of 22 then, four years elder to Mira and busy with his post graduation, friends and zestful life. He had little time to look into the homely chores or even spend time with the family. Mira’s father was an engineer who stayed mostly outdoors for his projects and seldom visited home for 2-3 days and would go back again to where he was posted for his job. Mira was the one in the family who shared quality time with mother, and also Mira's was the only world where mother found her peace and solace.
Mother wasn’t much happy about her relationship with her husband; Mira saw many a times that her mother cried in her bedroom. Often she found mother writing something in her diary and whenever Mira suddenly entered the room, mother would quickly hide her diary. Mira often demanded to see the dairy, but mother used to say “NO” saying that it was not time yet. She would gently take it and keep it safely in her Almirah beneath the clothes and locked it with keys. Mira was a mature girl, she never tired to read her mother’s dairy in her absence....she respected her mother’s feelings and emotions. But still it was a mystery that her young mind was curious about and she wanted to read it, she wanted to know what her mother felt from inside, why she cried. But Mira never had the nerve to take the keys from beneath her mother's pillow....open the Almirah....take the diary and read it. She always wanted to know her mother behind the smiling face, why did she stand in the garden for long hours with her mind lost somewhere looking at the sky, and most of all why did she cry?
It was one day during the fall winter, the morning started with loud shrills in the Prabhakar household. Mira was crying and shouting, her brother Aarav stood beside her comforting her little sister. Father had just reached and entering the room; his face was filled with a shock. Mira and Aarav’s mother and his wife Ramya Prabhakar had passed away last night in her sleep. She had suffered a heart attack. It was a silent depart which no one ever expected. Mira went with the morning tea that both Mira and mother used to drink together every morning. Calling her again and again when Mira received no response she touched mother’s hands to shake her up but her skin was dead cold and sooner she realized that mother had left them and this earth forever. Mira was out of control, going berserk and when her mother’s body was being taken away from the house, she felt as if someone was tearing her soul apart from her own body. She cried loudly, but the hands that used to wipe her tears were now gone forever.
Time fled after that incident. Mira had finished her graduation already and was now looking for a job. Her father was not in agreement with her job. He could see Mira’s sadness and felt that she needed a new start and a new life to come out of the grief of losing mother. He, still being the head of the family decided to get Mira married, there was no asking for her approval as father’s decision was final. Mira got married in Indore to a very big businessman. Her brother Aarav was left alone in the house as father, with his job, continued to stay outdoors. Father was never much attached to the family; therefore mother’s presence or absence didn’t make any difference to him or perhaps somewhere it did. He had his own life which he shared with someone. Mira's mother strongly hated this gesture of her father which made them live with much struggle. Father chose his life with another woman, while mother was trapped in a relationship with two children and a marriage which was something that she never was able to escape from
After Mira’s marriage, her brother Aarav shifted too, to country way far from their small town of Kalewadi in Pune. He got his dream job in UK and didn’t give moving a second thought. And the home of the mother, the home where all the memories were still fresh for Mira was left behind hollow. Years passed and father, busy in his own life, never visited the house. Aarav too got settled with a European wife, a son and a beautiful life. Mira also got busy in homely chores and she herself being a mother now of two beautiful daughters and a son, was experiencing a lot more life was offering to her. She was happy with her husband. He loved her and she loved him. With so much love and happiness filled in her home Mira’s memories of grief and pain that connected with her mother had slowly faded away with time. Though she kept talking seldom through phone with her brother and they both became much closer and attached to each other after mother’s demise.
Still in this busy life, there were many occasions when Mira missed her mother dearly. Today was one of those days....from the morning she felt her absence more than ever. She took out the old album from her Almirah where she had kept some of her mother’s stuffs as these were her mother’s precious memories she shared only with herself. While going through the photographs she suddenly felt this urge of visiting her old house...her mother’s house which she hadn’t visited for long. She had last visited when her brother was there. After his job abroad, the house had remained locked and empty. Mira wanted to go there to that house and wanted to meet mother. Mother wasn’t present there physically but in Mira’s mind all the memories were fresh and she wanted to feel those moments again. After her marriage she didn’t have much opportunity to bring few more things of her mother especially her diary. The diary was so close to her mother and it was Mira’s respect for mother that she hadn’t touched it ever; neither had she brought it along. Now she desperately wanted to have that diary and find out all of mother’s thoughts and emotions locked in it.
Mira at once telephoned her husband and told him of her desire of visiting her mother’s home in Pune. He gave his approval and assured her that he himself will book the train tickets for tomorrow’s first train and will drop her to the station. It was 7:30 in the morning Mira took the first train and her husband assured her that she need not worry about the children as they will be taken care of. Mira’s in- laws were well to do and she never faced any problem in bringing up her children like her mother did. Mira’s mother had raised both her children all on her own with limited sources provided from their father.
The train Indore- Pune Express started running on the tracks to Pune....Kalewadi, Mira’s maternal home. It was an 18 hours journey from Indore to Pune. Mira was lost in the past so deeply that she didn’t realize when the station came; she hastily took her luggage and came down from the train. She took a taxi from the station and headed straight towards her mother’s home in Kalewadi. She knew no one was there but still her excitement to reach there was no less. She smelled the fresh air of her small town where she had spent 23 golden years of her life, it was still as beautiful as she had seen it last, surrounded with lush green trees, ponds and palm trees, and the town’s people all reminded her of the good old days.
People watched her with a strange gaze, some recognized her and waved their hands, she did the same. She was enjoying at the fullest the welcome the town, the people and the beautiful nature of Kalewadi gave her. Finally she was there, all through the way she had been anxious about what that diary had in store. What had mother written in it? And today she felt happy and excited both, that she would be able to read it all. She opened the front door and entered the house it was looking the same way she had last seen and kept it 12 years back, but dust and spiders were the inmates living there now. She slowly took her steps looking around feeling the house and the memories again, she was being delusional thinking that mother might come from one of the rooms and will hug her taking her into her loving and warm embrace. She entered mother’s room and stood in front of the Almirah. It wasn’t locked anymore she slowly opened it and saw few of her saris still kept there neatly folded. She put her hand on them, touching and feeling her mother’s warmth in them, then put her hands underneath those saris and felt something hard, she immediately took it out... it was mother’s diary…
Mira took out the diary from the Almirah; it was covered with a red cardboard covering. The outer surface bore marks of decay as well the pages had turned yellowish from white. 15 years had passed since mother left this earth on the night of August 12th 1988, and after that no one had touched mother’s stuffs from the Almirah except Mira, but she left the diary untouched as a mark of respect for her mother. The room was also kept and left the way mother liked to keep it when she was alive. Mira herself being a mother and a wife now could well understand that what a woman needed from a man was respect, comfort and most of all love but mother wasn’t fortunate enough to have any three. Mira always knew that mother didn’t share many things with her and a lot was in store to be known by her writing in that diary for so many years.
Spinning into the web of myriad thoughts Mira decided to read the diary and opened the red cover. The first page was blank. She turned to the next page and Mira saw that mother hadn’t put the writings according to the dates, she had actually written a story of her life. Mira wasn’t aware that mother knew such good English as she had never seen her speaking, but she remembered that mother used to read English newspapers and local magazines. Mira discovered that mother was quite talented but she had suppressed all her desires and potentials due to some reason. Mira started reading the second page from mother’s diary which read:
"….My life has gifted me so much still there is some hollowness that haunts me night and day. Inside the deepest core I am so lonely and afraid. My fears of living a life without a companion is killing me from inside. I really wished every second he could understand my love for him and come back to me, he would stay with me forever without having to leave me ever again. I have my children alongside me and they are growing fast. Time is already running and seeing them grow is what makes me more fearful about this truth that I haven’t shared with them yet. Will I ever be able to tell this truth or should I keep the things like they are now? Mira and Aarav are my treasure from this relationship and I don’t want them to abandon me one day just because I made a mistake in the past."
Mira felt confused, what mistake was mother talking about and why was she so fearful of telling us the truth? Mira was now anxious to know more and she kept on reading, she turned to the next page from the diary where she found some strange truths about mother’s life. The page read…..
"……I am at times ashamed of the fact that I am an unmarried woman with two children, still I have all the courage to raise them as a single mother. Time and again I feel guilty of having committed a sin which is irrevocable and don’t know how I ever will be able to express this to my children, that I was dejected from my family and friends for my sinful mistake. I was looked down by people because I fell in love with a man who was already married. I was young then and was exploring many new heights of life, but today I regret as I have no future I can be proud of and my life actually took me nowhere. 22 years back I went to Nagpur where my destiny awaited; I was there to complete my studies and stayed in a girl’s hostel. I never thought here in this new city I will meet this amazing man who would change my world forever."
Mira couldn’t stop reading now her curiosity was at its peak, she was shocked to know that mother wasn’t a married woman still she stayed her whole life like a married woman always with a Mangal Sutra around her neck and red Sindur on her forehead. She wondered whether Mother was talking about which man because Mira recognized the place that mother had mentioned in her diary but she thought it would be better to read on so she turned the page. The next page said…
"I was enjoying every moment; riding on the horses of youth and fantasy I was experiencing new horizons of my life. I started feeling something from inside. It was a strong feeling... I knew I had fallen in love with him, he loved me too. Nothing was stopping us from becoming one...night after night, the world, the people and not even his wife. But I was afraid that will he ever be able to reveal this secret love of ours in front of everyone and go ahead with this relationship we shared behind the closed doors? Will he ever marry me? I was at times fearful what if he abandons me in the middle of nowhere how would I be able to go back to Kalewadi now that I was carrying his child in me? I was ashamed to face his wife, and I thought that I would adjust with all the odds and live alongside with her as long as Vipin was with me. I wanted to marry Vipin Shinde my first love, he also wanted the same and had promised me that he will marry me soon….. "
Mira’s eyes were open wide, she couldn’t believe the man her mother was talking about was no one else but their father who still lived in Nagpur with his another family. She had understood by now that father had betrayed mother, he hadn’t married her which compelled her to live like a married woman throughout her life just to veil the mistake she had committed in her past. Mira was filled with anger and pity at the same time for Vipin Shinde who never understood what a wonderful woman mother was. Mira controlled her feelings and began to read again. Lost in the diary she didn’t realize when dusk approached. She looked outside the window the street lights were now beaming at the roads with mild light, crickets and bell rings were singing their orchestra filling the twilight with a mystical sound...people went by and there was a strange silence in the atmosphere amidst all the sounds. She was lost in the view for a while but soon she began to read again. Mira also understood that the child mother had mentioned in the diary was her elder brother Aarav. Now Mira was curious to know more. She read again.....
"……As promised by Vipin we decided a date of getting married and it was on 23rd of April 1966 the day we were to become one. I was the happiest person on the earth and reached to the court before time; some of my friends were there who came to witness our marriage. One hour passed, and then two and more hours passed, my friends who had come from their jobs already began to leave but Vipin didn’t come. I was standing alone outside the court, shocked and betrayed still I couldn’t acquire the courage to go to his house and ask why he had defied me. Eight months passed and I wasn’t alone anymore as I bore his child, hostel threw me out and I had no one by my side and no place to go...I had to come back to my home in Kalewadi. I came back eight months pregnant, my mother and father couldn’t take this disgrace which I had brought to the family so they went on to a pilgrimage and never came back. I was the only child of my mother and father and there I stood discarded by everyone, my love, my parents, friends, relatives the whole Kalewadi looked at me with loathsome eyes. All I was left with was my parent’s ancestral house and I had no other way left but to cling to it. I gave birth to a son after a month nad this time I was helped by God in the form of a friend who helped me in this difficult time. She was my childhood friend; she had the courage to go against the society and lend me a helping hand. She stood by my side in all the difficult times and taught me new things about life... motherhood. We became the soul friends of each other. Three years passed and Aarav became an adorable child. I was too busy with my life since I had no monetary issue till now as my parents had left me ample money and assets but I knew that soon they were going to finish so I started looking for some ways to earn money. This time again with the help of my friend I started making pickles and sauce at home and sold them in the local market."
Mira stopped for a while and felt very sad, she was crying reading her mother’s life story. She knew never that mother had faced so much, while Mira was fortunate to live such a gorgeous life. Mira wished if she could have known all this while mother was alive, if mother could have had the courage to tell her earlier, she would have given her a hug and said,” Maa I love you so much, I can’t see any fault of yours in any of the acts you did in the past or present, you are my mother and that’s all that matters.” Unfortunately it was too late to bring such thoughts in mind as all the pain and agony that mother went through went away buried in her chest .
Reading this far Mira had now understood that why didn’t they have any relatives to visit and why no one ever visited them? Mother would always say that, “I have no brothers and sisters, I am the only child and your grandparents are living in God’s house which leaves us with no relatives.” Both Aarav and Mira believed their mother, because she was the only world they knew and they were happy with her. Mira was now aware about her brother’s birth and a lot more of mother’s life story, but she was curious to know about her so she began to read again.
"….Destiny has again planned something else for me and this time it was more than I ever expected or ever asked for. It was an ordinary day and I was busy with my homely chores when suddenly my eyes felt on a shadow that stood there in the doorway. I saw a figure standing in the entrance my eyes couldn’t believe what they saw, it was him, Vipin was standing right in front of me and I was awestruck. I was much startled to see him.... I didn’t understand after all these years why had he come? My heart was pounding faster I felt happy as well as fearful with many thoughts rising in my mind altogether. There was never any malice that I held against him...my love was so pure for him, still my mind was floating in the ocean of mixed feelings; I didn’t know that whether I should throw him out of the house or should I give him a warm welcome? As ever I was late to make the decision... I was about to say something when he came inside and squeezed me tight against his chest. I couldn’t resist either, all my anger melted down; I cried like a baby in his warm embrace and my tears washed away all the soreness and pain locked inside me for four long years. Aarav came walking in his baby steps from behind and held both his hands around us. I could see in Vipin’s eyes the pleasure of seeing his son for the first time. It was from that day onwards my relationship with Vipin took another turn, Vipin came and visited me now and then and I also accepted our relationship like the way he wanted. We made a mutual agreement between us, he made it clear that he will never leave me but won’t leave his wife either. He never had any child from his wife, which made me the winner of this unnamed relationship we shared. His attachment to his son made him come over and over again to Kalewadi. We were flowing in the waves of the love ocean and it made us delve deeper and deeper into each other. And after three years I had a beautiful daughter born out of this relationship.... together we named her Mira."
Mira stopped for a moment; she couldn’t believe what she had read so far in the diary. All these years she had hated the woman in her father’s life whom she thought to be the other woman. She was the reason Mira always knew that father never lived with them and their mother. Mira was now shocked to know that their mother Ramya Prabhakar was the mistress of Vipin Shinde and Aarav and Mira were the illegitimate children born out of their parent’s unnamed relationship. Mira felt ashamed of herself she hid her head in her own lap and cried.
Mira was feeling atrocious and sad; slowly she gained her conscious back to the small world, for a moment she felt guilty as she had always hated her father and never respected him or talked with him nicely. During her teenage days she always thought about why he came to their house. Many a times she questioned her mother, “Maa why does this man come here and why do you allow him to come again and again? If he really cared for us he would have stayed with us and not with that mistress of his.” Mother would always shout ay this, saying, “Mira, do not forget that man is your father and one day you will understand how much he loves you and your brother.”
Mira’s eyes were closed; all the images of the past when her mother was alive and the time that they spent in this house started floating in front of her eyes. One such incident when her father wanted to talk to her and she responded to him in a negative gesture back then, suddenly became visible in front of her eyes. Her father took her to that little garden of their mother’s; he wanted to spend some father-daughter time with her. Mira still remembers her father’s words, when he said, “Mira your mother and I are so proud of you. You are growing into a beautiful woman like your mother and this makes my heart fill with worries for your future. Like any dutiful father I want you to live a happy life. For you I dream of a loving and caring husband who will love you more than us. When I will fulfil this duty a great responsibility of mine will be over and I will be at great peace”. Saying this he had put his hand on Mira’s head but Mira retreated back with a negative gesture saying, “If you really were so dutiful you wouldn’t have left us and mother here in Kalewadi, you could have taken us with you or stayed with us here. I don’t want your courtesy and keep your fake love to yourself; there is no need to suddenly shower it on me.”
Everything became alive in front of Mira’s eyes and she suddenly felt as if someone had put a huge amount of weight on her chest and she was not able to breathe. She took long deep breathes but this burden of guilt was now weighing more than her emotions. Mira’s heart was crying but she was a strong woman, her mother had taught her to be a woman who should always keep control on the inside emotions. She consoled herself and took the diary in her lap; she saw that very few pages were left, so she began to read again.
"……Something strange happened in my life after the birth of Mira, I suddenly became this demanding woman who wanted her marital rights to be fulfilled at any cost. I again and again started feeling that I needed to talk to Vipin about us. I wanted him to marry me because I felt very ashamed of the fact that I have two children from a relationship which still doesn’t have any name. I started becoming stubborn now and then and more often my discussion with Vipin on our marriage turned into heated arguments. He wasn’t at all willing to marry me and I could see the agitation on his face every time I raised the discussion. This caused our relationship to get more strained and there came the turn that made me realize that I wasn’t his love, never a wife, nor his soul mate, I was just a woman he kept for having children and grow his family who will pass on his name to his coming generation. On the other side I always knew his wife Sugandha Shinde hated me and perhaps it was the most painful fact of her life that her husband kept a mistress. I knew how she might have felt for sharing her husband with another woman, but I never hated her, rather I always found great respect for her because she never left Vipin even after knowing the bitter fact…."
Mira’s mind got more and more confused. Before now she had been burning in the feeling of guilt, now suddenly a spark of rage fired within her. With much curiosity to know more she didn’t stop and continued reading. The next page read....
"…… After my repeated efforts of moulding Vipin to make him agree for marrying me and his constantly saying “No” in answer, finally made me understand that I was never Vipin’s true love, but she was. Sugandha his wife was the true love of his life that he never left and she didn’t either. At times I felt like a used puppet that was used till it was required and when its role was over it was thrown into one corner. My life became a burden on me, I never expected it would be like this but there was no escape, seldom had I felt like ending my life but I couldn’t leave my children behind alone in this world. I am their pillar of strength, and I will persist till they have their own wings to fly away from this nest. I am seeing them grow and one day they will ask for answers that why my whole life I have lived alone. Why didn’t their father stay with them? I might not be able to answer them in words, but I have faith when they will know the truth perhaps they will be able to forgive me. I wasn’t a bad woman or a bad mother... but I made a mistake."
Mira was getting shocked with every page that opened a new truth in front of her. She was battling with mixed feelings going inside her.... at times pity, anger, sad, and mostly she felt pain after knowing the hidden story of her mother’s life. Everything now became so vividly clear, why her mother always cried and often got lost in a world of her own. Her mother’s heart was open all in front of her and she saw her mother’s face in the diary and tried to feel her lost tears by touching the pages with her hand, she tried to understand her deep sorrow which she had hidden for so many years and took away all along with her. Left behind were her words written in black ink on the white pages of her diary which Mira very well understood that mother had left purposefully. She turned the next page and saw that it was the last page of the dairy and it was addressed to Mira so she hastily began to read. The last page read...
"……I have seen many a time two curious eyes sneaking at me from behind the doorway of my room, my sweet darling daughter always wanted to know what I wrote in my red diary. Mira one day you will grow up into a beautiful woman and get married and will have beautiful children and I will be grandmother to them, but somewhere deep inside I strongly feel that I will not be around much long. I am keeping this diary as a souvenir for you. I know that there will be a day when you will feel guided from within to read my diary and that shall be the day then. I have faith that after reading the diary you will surely not hate your father, the way I have seen the hatred in both of you....you and your brother’s eyes. Your father was a good man at heart and he loves Aarav and you more than anything in this world. My fate was written in a different manner, but I accepted the things in my life as they were. When you will read all the pages of this diary and by the time you will reach this page here Mira, I am sure you would understand why I always disguised myself like a married woman. In my past I did what I did, but I was not a wrong woman with bad intentions, I always saw love in Vipin’s eyes for all of us and he supported me throughout. Sometimes people are tangled in relationships from which they are never able to come out, Vipin and I made such relationship and we both tried best to maintain it with dignity and respect. His presence around me and arrival often to this house saved me from many cunning eyes of Kalewadi, though with time he visited less but he never stopped coming. I was not his wife but he had always treated me well and never abandoned us. It was my expectations which made me more demanding and slowly I distanced myself from him and felt less attached to him. Though I have always loved your father, my world began with him and it will end loving him and both of you my precious children. I have written this diary for you to know everything that I could not have ever spoken from mouth and when I will be gone I shall not carry any baggage with me there.
"Mira I want you to understand that grown up people sometimes make mistakes that become irreversible and it becomes a compulsion to live with it. But I am thankful too as this realtionship gave me you and Aarav, and I love you both more than anything. I know by the time you will read this diary you would have grown into a mature woman and will have the heart to accept the truth and forgive me and your father. I only want you to love me forever like you always did…..
Mira quickly turned more pages, she wanted to read more but the pages were blank and the diary ended. Mira’s eyes were wet again, but this time she didn’t feel any anger, sadness, or burdensome. Her tears were flowing in full intensity taking away every feeling along that she went through while reading the diary....she felt lighter and relieved. She stood from the bed and went towards the photo of mother that hung in the room and looked at it for a while she cleaned it with her own Sari. She bowed her head and putting both her hands together against her chest she paid her homage.
Unknowingly the night ended and it was time for Mira to leave. She looked at the watch, it showed 7.00 a.m. in the morning, the whole night went away reading the diary. She had to catch her train at 12 o’ clock noon; quickly she changed and packed her small bag. She went to the mother’s garden to give it a last look, it was dead long ago along with mother....there was no trace of rose plants anymore. Mira came inside and looked all around the house like a child who was getting parted with her mother. It was time for her to leave, she took the mother’s diary, kept it inside her bag and came outside the doorway. She locked the main door and sat in her taxi which was already waiting for her outside the house, she sat in it. One more time Mira took a last glance at the mother’s house. Deep inside her she knew that it might be her last visit here in Kalewadi. She reached the station on time and boarded the Pune to Indore Express. At 4.00, the next day in the evening she reached Indore and she was delighted to see that her husband was already waiting for her; they came back to their house in their car.
On her way to home Mira’s mind was restless, there was something that was constantly bothering her, she wanted to do something and after thinking a lot, she took a decision. She decided to publish her mother’s life story and after three years of hardship and her continous visits to many publishing houses, the diary got published as a novel. Mira named it “The Ingrown Sapling”, it was published as a fiction based book and the author’s name was prominently visible on the cover of the book “Ramya Prabhakar”. Mira changed the names and never expressed that it was mother’s own life story. The book became the best seller and on the last page of the book Mira’s last note was there it read, “Her heart was of ocean, her soul was divine, she was our mother she was our Goddess”
Mira was now at great peace and thankful to her mother.... because of the diary she had been able to erase all the differences between her and her father. They have become more attached now sharing quality talk often on the telephone. Mira however kept the diary a secret from her husband and her brother Aarav. Perhaps it wasn’t required to reveal it anymore to anyone. Mira was at peace. Having read the diary she now loved her mother even more.