Why, My Dear Parents?
Why, My Dear Parents?7 mins 244 7 mins 244
It was 1981 and the early morning air in Pune was chilly. Shefali took an auto-rickshaw from her home to the railway station. Ramesh, her two-year-old son was wrapped up in a sweater with his head covered by a woollen scarf. Shefali was travelling light as she planned to return from Mumbai the same day. She carried a small duffel bag filled with clothes and some eatables for her only son.
The train to Mumbai pulled out of the station on time and soon they were speeding towards their destination. Mother and son sat close to each other with the mother protectively hugging to her son. When the train reached Lonavala, she got down to buy Vada Pav for Ramesh. He seemed to like it very much. She got one for herself and a cup of hot tea.
The train was now pulling into Thane station. Shefali got down, asking Ramesh to stay put in his seat. She hugged and kissed him one last time. The train left the station without Shefali, with the boy wondering what happened to his mother.
All the passengers in the train alighted at VT, except for Ramesh. His mother had asked him to stay put and he would obey her and wait for her to fetch him. But his mother would not come, now or ever. The boy could not understand why his mother had left him alone. After a long wait, he stood up and went in search for her on the platform.
A lone child wandering in a crowded railway station attracted no attention. Ramesh was now lost and confused. His mother was nowhere to be found, and he did not know what to do? Just as he was about to exit the platform a firm hand clamped on his shoulder.
“Boy, what are you doing here all alone? Where are your parents? Are you lost?”
Ramesh could not reply coherently and he began to cry loudly. The railway official who had seen the boy wandering aimlessly took him to his office. He immediately arranged for announcements to be made on the station PA system. When an hour had passed without anyone coming to claim the child, he got worried and reported the matter to his officers.
Ramesh grew up in the orphanage where the railway department had put him. He was now nearly ten and had stopped wondering about his parents. He was an orphan in this city. The orphanage officials too had given up their search for his parents and had concluded that Ramesh was abandoned by his mother for reasons unknown. They had put advertisements in newspapers but there was no response. Like many orphans in their custody, Ramesh too was being looked after by them to the best of their ability.
It was then that the elderly lady visited the ashram one day inquiring about Ramesh. She claimed that she was his grandmother, his maternal grandmother. Ramesh recognized her and was happy that at last someone cared for him.
His grandmother took Ramesh with her to Nashik where she lived. When Ramesh enquired about his mother and father, she would say nothing. But the boy needed answers to his questions. She told him that his parents had died in an accident and were no more in this world.
Ramesh cried for his parents, but he could still not understand why his mother had left him at the station. If at all she had missed boarding the train, why did she not come after him to VT? When did his parents die? His grandma would not say anything to him.
The year was 2017 and Ramesh was now 40 years old. He was married and had two daughters. His grandma had passed away a few years ago and today he was visiting his maternal aunt in Dhule with his family. Ramesh now worked in Mumbai and had a flat of his own.
Malati, his maternal aunt was happy to see Ramesh. He had studied hard and done well so far in his life. She loved Ramesh like he was her own son.
“Maavshi, you look thinner than we saw you last time. Are you ok?” They had finished dinner and were sitting in the drawing-room.
“It is good to lose weight, no? I am getting old and it is bad to have fat in your body, so the doctors say.”
“As long as you feel fine Maavshi, it is ok, but still, you should take care of yourself. You live alone here with no one to take care of you. Raju is in the US and you do not want to go there. Savita is married and you won’t go to live with her. Am I not your son? Why don’t you come with me to Mumbai and live with us? You know Maavshi how I miss having a mother. I had one but was not lucky enough to grow up under her love and attention. God snatched Aai and vadil from me too early. Thankfully, Aaji was there to rescue me from the orphanage and take care of me. I now have no elder except you. Please bless our house by living with us.”
Malati had tears in her eyes. Ramesh had made her emotional and guilty. She and her mother had all these years hidden the truth from Ramesh and made him believe that his parents had died. The time had come, she thought, to tell him about his mother and father.
“Son, I must ask your forgiveness before I tell you this. Will you forgive me?”
“Forgive you for what? What do you want to tell me?”
“The truth about your parents.”
When Ramesh was born, his parents should have been happy for it was a divine boon for parents to have a son as their first child. A lot of pressures are taken off when a son is born first. Despite being literate and god-fearing, we still cannot hide our desire to have a son instead of a daughter. No doubt, we say that goddess Lakshmi showers her blessings when a girl child is born, but the joy of begetting a son is universal in most Indian families.
The truth, however, was that there was no joy when Ramesh was born. The timing of his birth could not have been worse. Shefali and his father’s relationship was at a dead end and headed for divorce. Ramesh was born two years after they had married and a lot had happened by then.
Shefali was in love with another boy and it was so strong that she could never get over it. Vijay, Ramesh’s father, discovered this even as their marriage was into its sixth month. The seeds of bitterness and betrayal were therefore sown early in their relationship and it grew only worse. Ramesh was an accident and neither Shefali or Vijay was ready to own him. Vijay even doubted that Ramesh was his son.
By the time the boy was two years old, his father had already left him and his mother to their destiny. Shefali too desired to marry her paramour but Ramesh was a thorn and her lover would not marry until the thorn was removed.
Shefali could think of only one solution; abandon the child somewhere far away from Pune and leave him to die or survive according to God’s will. On that fateful day when she boarded the train to Mumbai with her son, she had already decided.
Shefali and Vijay were alive. Both remarried and were now living happily with their children. Ramesh’s maternal aunt could never accept that her grandson was an orphan. She had hunted for him and finally found him. Malati and her mother had vowed never to tell Ramesh about his mother’s story of betrayal.