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The Similarity

The Similarity

18 mins 18.5K 18 mins 18.5K

Maria waited anxiously at the coffee shop. As an old habit she continuously fidgeted with the ring on her middle finger. She had this strange habit of taking off the ring from her left hand and put it into the right hand and take it off again and keep repeating. Oh! Mom used to scold her so much for this. "Maria, you will end up losing the ring one day. I have worked day and night to get you this diamond ring. Remember, if you lose it,I will not fulfill any of your demands in future." Maria just gave her mom a tight hug and said, "Mamma, you are the best. Don't worry, I will not lose it. I know you work hard for me and I promise, once I start earning, we will be the most lavish duo!"

Maria stood up to her words. She graduated from the best Science University in the state and was placed in one of her dream organizations. She was proud to be a trainee lab assistant with Z Pharmaceuticals. All set to have a life that she and her mother Sarah had dreamed for - a life that Sarah had always aspired her to have - a life that Sarah could not live when she was young.

Sarah had a very sorrowful youth.She belonged to a good family - the only daughter of doting parents.Both her parents were Professors in the Banaras Hindu University. She did her schooling in one of the convents in the city and got admission as a Science Undergraduate in BHU. She was a bright student and a diligent daughter. She fell in love with Ranjan during the second year of her college. On the convocation day, she was elated to receive the Honors Degree with distinction marks. She hugged the love of her life. He congratulated her with a peck and she whispered into his ears "Let's get married" and softly placed his hands on her belly. Ranjan pulled back his hands in utter shock and stared at Sarah. Sarah blushed and lowered her eyes. She nodded a yes, but unfortunately could not see the disapproval in Ranjan's eyes. Shy Sarah ran back home where her parents were waiting for their scholar daughter. They declared a small party that night. Sarah decided to tell them the truth and introduce them to Ranjan - not that they did not know Ranjan, but Sarah wanted to declare Ranjan as their son in law. She knew that her parents would agree for a simple marriage and so would Ranjan's parents. Sarah was glowing.She looked beautiful in the first time draped saree for the convocation ceremony. She bolted her room and dialled the boy's hostel number from her landline phone. The telephone operator recognized her voice very well and called for Ranjan over the hostel's mike "Ranjan Diwan, there's a phone call for you". Usually after this announcement, it never took more than five seconds for Ranjan to answer the phone in his grave voice and say "Sarah... I was waiting for your call" and Sarah used to tease her "Ranjan, do you keep hovering around the phone all the time?" and sweet tinkling laughter bells traversed from the Boys Hostel to the BHU Staff Quarters through this old telephone. But, today for the first time in the last two years, Ranjan answered the phone after a long wait of five minutes.Sarah was anxious. When Ranjan answered, Sarah was so excited,she told him about the party and about her plans to break the news to her parents and seek blessings for their marriage. She also proposed to Ranjan that she could convince her parents to travel to Kanpur during the weekend and talk to his parents. When Sarah was done, Ranjan just replied "Sarah, get it aborted. My parents will never agree for an inter caste marriage." Sarah broke down.

And that was the last day when Sarah's skin glowed. That was the last day when the tinkles of laughter passed the telephone wired. That was the last day when Sarah heard Ranjan and that was the last day when she saw her parents.

When Sarah was done crying her heart out in her room, she came out to see her mother decorating the home for the party. Her father was busy inviting colleagues and friends. They turned back to see a devastated Sarah and everything came to a hault with a jerk. Sarah broke the news to them. Her parents stood still without an expression on their face. Oh! how Sarah wished that her dad slapped her hard. There was remorse in the quarter that was being decorated for a party after a few hours. Sarah could not take the agony. She ran out of the house and headed straight towards the temple. The temple where she and Ranjan used to spend hours of solace. On her way to the temple she learnt that Ranjan had left for his hometown. He had left no letter , no message for her. Sarah knew that he belonged to Kanpur, but knowingly or unknowingly had never asked him for his address. Where would she find him in Kanpur? Will he stay back in Kanpur or go to Mumbai to join his cousin to look for a job? What would happen to the little life that was growing within her? There were so many questions that haunted her and scholar Sarah did not have an answer to any of these.

The sun had set - it was dark. The chills of the wind told her that she had to return home. She had to face her parents. She had to face the world. With a heavy heart, she walked back home. The home which was supposed to be bustling with guests, with music and with fun today - was a dark gloomy place now. She could open the front door when she just tapped on it to knock. The door flung open and she could see her parents hanging. This was more than she could take in one go. She howled, she cried, she shouted for help and she fainted.

When Sarah gained conscious in the hospital after two days, she was ashamed to face the doctors. She knew almost the entire BHU hospital staff since childhood. She was feeling like killing herself - she understood that the doctors knew about her pregnancy which was the most obvious reason for her parent's suicide. With a lowered head and heart full of guilt she somehow completed the hospital formalities and left - left never to come back again.

Rest is history. Sarah of course had a tough time. She gave birth to Maria eight months later in a nursing home in Lucknow. Sarah was working as a Science teacher in one of the private schools in Lucknow. Being a single woman is tough in India - being a single mother was far worse. She managed to raise Maria to the best of her abilities and Maria turned out to be a daughter anyone would wish for.

With great difficulties, Maria could get admission in one of the prestigious schools of the city. She was an all rounder - a scholar, state level basket ball champion and a national level Odissi dancer. Sarah was proud of Maria and Maria was proud of the strong woman who gave birth to her, who gave her this beautiful life - she owed a lot to her. Maria always wanted to be a Pharmacist and make medicines that would relive people from pain. She knew from her mother that a painful soul can never be soothed, but science had developed to kill all the physical pains one could think of.

Maria got admission in one of the best colleges of the nation. She had the benefits of Sports quota and scholarship as well. Sarah could see the fruits of the seeds she had once reaped and she was proud to see Maria. Sarah was glowing again.Maria and Sarah were the best friends and looked like sisters. Society always had a mixed feeling for them.Some of the orthodox families still avoided Sarah while some loved them for the courage and strength they demonstrated.

History repeats itself! With heart full of love for Sarah who was the only person Maria had clinged to all her life, the latter developed feelings for a fellow student Ajay. Ajay was a decent boy and visited Maria's home quite often. Ajay loved to spend time with Sarah and relish the delicacies made by her. Though Sarah also liked Ajay, there was always a fear in her heart that her darling daughter should not go through the trauma that she had been through.

Ajay and Maria would make Sarah sit in between them on the couch, hold her hands and say "Trust us Maa!". Ajay was a decent boy, a good student and just like Maria, he was the son any parents would wish for - obedient, responsible and loving. Somewhere in her heart Sarah knew that there could not be a better match. Ajay's parents stayed in a town about three hundred kilometers from Lucknow and he had introduced Maria to his parents as a very good friend. He was waiting for the right time to talk about marriage at home.

The time had come. Twenty years later, it was the convocation day once again. Memories were flashing in front of Sarah's eyes and she was turning pale. She had been crying since morning. Maria understood, whereas Ajay thought, those were tears of happiness. While Maria selected a saree for herself and her mother from the closet for the Big Day, Ajay went to the station to receive his parents. He had all the plans set. He would first introduce them face to face with Maria and tell them his feelings about her and then to Sarah the next day and get engaged. He was all set to take care of his parents, of Sarah and the love of her life. He had already been placed with an Investment Bank in Delhi.

Draped in a saree, looking drop dead gorgeous, Maria went to Ajay's flat to meet his parents before the Convocation Ceremony. She touched their feet and their heart melted to see such a lovely doll. They immediately understood that Ajay and Maria are more than "just friends". Ajay blushed and introduced Maria to his parents. Though the young couple did not notice, there was a frown on Ajay's father's face the moment he came to know about Sarah - he disapproved of his future daughter in law to be the child of a single mother. Once Maria left for the convocation ceremony, blushing and building her dream castles in her sub conscious mind, Ajay's father gave his judgement, "Ajay, you can not marry Maria. We are not sure of her caste, of her clan and above all her blood.". Ajay's mother added in unison "What kind of a woman is her mother? What values she must have imbibed in her daughter. Tch tch.. no... never...this Maria can never be our bahu."

Ajay was in dismay. The kind of obedient son he was became his major weakness now. He could not oppose his parents. He could not stand for his love. He could not stand upto Sarah's expectations and had made her biggest fear come true. What would happen to Maria now? How would she react? With these thoughts in mind, he left for the college. His parents accompanied him, but there was silence in the ambiance and so many unanswered questions within.

On the other hand, chirpy Maria went home and was going head over heels narrating to her mother about the rendezvous with Ajay's parents. Her mother was listening happily to her and was relaxed to hear that Maria will not face any sorrow and things would go fine. The mother daughter duo left for the college. Sarah bought a box of sweets for Ajay's parents.

At the convocation ceremony, Maria located Ajay's parents, introduced Sarah to them and made them sit together. She ran backstage to look for Ajay. Sarah waited with Ajay's parents in the auditorium. She could sense the uneasiness. She could not relate Ajay's parents behavior with her to the story that Maria had narrated few hours back. She could not even gather to present the sweets to them. They did not exchange a single word.

Maria went and hugged Ajay from the back. He quietly freed himself from her arms and faced her with teary eyes. Maria was shocked. Ajay held her hands and whispered "Sorry Maria. My parents did not approve. My parents do not agree to have the daughter of a single mother to be their daughter in law. I can not go against my family Maria. Please forgive me."

Maria could not believe what she just heard. With the degrees, certificates and trophies in hand, Maria and Ajay walked past each other in different directions along with their families. They were not destined to meet.

Maria came home and cried her heart out. She hugged Sarah tight and kept crying for hours together. Sarah was very sad. She had not expected fate to take this unexpected turn. She kept cursing herself. She blamed herself to be the reason for her daughter's gloom - of her ill fate. Maria loved Sarah as much as she loved Ajay. She could not let Sarah go into depression blaming herself day and night. She was a brave daughter of a courageous mother. Very soon, she put on a mask of smile and tried showing to Sarah that she was okay. She started to lead a normal life. She pursued her mother to come out of the house and start living a normal life as they used to before Ajay came into their life.Maria, who was broken from within was trying to live her life once again for her mother. Memories of Ajay used to haunt her all the time. She cried whenever she was alone and immediately wore her brightest smile when her mother was around. She cried when she met her friends, she cried when she met Ajay's friends. Everyone was sorry for her loss. Everyone was of opinion that Ajay should have been brave and should have stood up for his love. However, Maria understood - Ajay could not go against his parents. His parents mattered a lot to him, just like Sarah mattered to Maria.

After around an year, when things were getting stable, one fine day when Maria visited an old college friend, she saw Ajay's wedding card on his study table. It was an old card. Ajay was married two months back.The tears which had dried in the last few months started flowing again. It was harder than hardest for Maria to imagine her Ajay with someone else. Destiny!!

Maria hugged her mother hard and broke the news to her. Sarah was sad, but she soothed Maria by explaining that this was inevitable. Life had to go on and it was time for her to move on too. Sarah gave her the freedom to take her own time and look out for a suitable match for herself. Maria was busy in office. She was progressing well in her career. She believed that time would be the best healer and if someone is destined to come into her life, it will happen - Destiny had decided to snatch Ajay from her and it did.

Upon request from Sarah and some friends Maria created a matrimony profile. Whenever some suitable prospect came along, she always tried comparing the person with Ajay and rejected the proposal. She was afraid if someone would accept her but not her mother. Another year went by. She blindly rejected some proposals, she approached some where height, complexion, caste or profession did not match. Sarah was worried now. One night over dinner, Sarah told Maria, "Maria, move on my child. I want you to get married now. I want to play with my grand children. I am burdened with guilt. It is because of me that Ajay's family rejected you. If you want to free me of this guilt, please settle down my child. You have a good career, I want you to have a cozy family too."

The words hit Maria - "I need to free my mother from guilt." "Anything for you mamma"- she said to herself and that night after dinner, she seriously sat down with her laptop. She logged into the matrimony site, truly speaking for the first time with an intention to get married and not reject proposals. She kept scrolling down, brushing through profiles and playing with her ring, when she came through a profile. Her heart skipped a beat. Was this Ajay's profile? The same looks, the same smile. She went through the profile. This guy's name was Anand. He was brought up in an orphanage. He seemed to be a meritorious student. He had graduated from IIT and was now doing some research on Bio technology while working as a faculty in IIT Kanpur.

The profile seemed good, in fact quite appealing to Maria, but unlike her nature, she was mesmerized by the looks. Anand, who looked like a carbon copy of Ajay was not the best looking man Maria had ever seen, but the similarity left her awestruck.

She slept. The first thing she did in the morning was to show the profile to her mother. Even her mother was astounded to see such similarity in looks. Maria dialled the contact number given in the profile and handed over the phone to Sarah. Sarah spoke to Anand and asked him to come over to Lucknow next day - which happened to be a Sunday. Sarah and Anand spoke for a good fifteen minutes and Sarah seemed to like him. Anand obliged by agreeing to come over the next day.

Maria got ready with so many questions in her mind. Was she going in for looks? No, his profile was actually good. It was the kind that would suit Maria. Above all, Sarah liked him. He spoke nicely to Sarah and she had to move on to free Sarah of her guilt. She got dressed in her best Salwar Kameej. She never required any make up - she was naturally beautiful.

Anand dropped in on time. Sarah and Maria glared at him with open jaws. Such similarity! The same eyes, the same smile. He bent and touched Sarah's feet and greeted Maria with a gentle shake of hands - same mannerisms! Sarah had prepared a sumptuous lunch. She missed how Ajay used to relish her hand made food and she was happy to see a similar reaction from Anand. Anand left for Kanpur in the evening. He seemed to like Maria too. They exchanged phone numbers and talked to each other during the week. Anand always ensured to talk to Sarah whenever he called up Maria. These gestures made Maria fall in love with Anand - yes love can happen twice. Maria made up her mind to marry Anand. Sarah was very happy with this news. Since there was no one in Anand's family, both of them wanted a simple marriage without much pomp and show. Dates were fixed. They were to exchange vows in a temple two months later.

One day Maria decided to tell Anand about Ajay and the similarity they held. Anand usually came over to Lucknow on Sundays. Maria told Anand about Ajay over a phone conversation. Anand felt sorry for Maria and Sarah and promised to give them all the happiness they deserved. However, he was also shocked to know about the similarity in looks that he shared with Ajay. Maria was unable to accept this similarity as just a coincidence or her mother's theory "Beta every person has seven identical twins in the world." One day she requested Anand to let her know his biological parents' name if he knew. Anand did not know his father's name, but from the records of the orphanage he knew his mother who had left him at the orphanage because he was an illegitimate child. His father had not accepted him.

Maria was so thankful to Sarah for not leaving her at the orphanage and giving her such a beautiful life. The similarity between Ajay and Anand had taken so much toll over Maria's mind that she went to the hospital where Anand was born. The hospital was in a small town between Kanpur and Lucknow. She asked the hospital staff to look for thirty year old records! People gave her a weird look. It was a small government hospital and fetching thirty year old records from there was not a easy job. She saw a young clerk working in a small room in the hospital. She approached this man. He seemed educated. Maria explained her problem to him and requested him to help. She wanted to know the name of the biological father that was registered thirty years back. The clerk told her, that he would definitely look for it, but there was a major possibility that the mother did not disclose the father's name. However, he assured that if he gets, he will definitely come back to her within a week.

Maria got a call last Saturday from Jatin, the clerk at the hospital, that he had managed to get the birth certificate of the baby born on 30 Jul 1988 in this hospital and he was ready to come down to Lucknow to hand over a copy to her.

Maria waited anxiously at the coffee shop. Jatin had asked her to meet at this coffee shop and hand over the copy of the birth certificate. She was fidgeting with her ring, putting it from one finger to the other, trying to figure out - trying to compare that how the two fingers are so identical and how the ring slips from one finger to the other. She was remembering the times spent with Ajay and was looking forward to spend happier days with Anand.

Jatin waved at Maria. He handed over the birth certificate. They exchanged good wishes for each other's future life and took leave of each other.

Maria was close to what she was suspecting. She walked back home taking steps faster than usual. She reached home, opened her closet and took out the old wedding card that she had discovered at her friend's place some years back - Ajay's wedding card. She placed it on the table. She held Sarah's hand and made her sit. Sarah had no clue of what her girl was doing. She took out the packet that Jatin had handed over to her. She placed the birth certificate next to the card on the table.

"Shri Harihar Prasad Dubey invites you to the wedding of his son Ajay...."

"This is to certify that a boy of 2.5 kgs was born at our hospital on 30 Jul 1988 at 5:26 PM to Satyavati. Satyavati claims Harihar Prasad Dubey to be the father of this child and this boy will be shifted to Nirmal Bhavan Orphanage on Aug 1st 1988."

There were tears in Sarah's and Maria's eyes. Maria was happy to have found Anand as her life partner and Sarah wondered, how could this person shun the child of a single mother!!


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