For quite some days, my eyes wandered into the marvelous store at the corner of the street. It housed the greatest of joys. Such fine and fancy merchandise! It had toys that would have been devoured by kids but for the security guards. However, what lured me the most…better than the rest…a bunch of chocolates.
Atop a bakelite block, in the heart of the shop, sat a tray of different chocolates arranged as if a mosaic.
The label read-“Pure German Chocolates-NOT TO BE SOLD INDIVIDUALLY.”
From its royal throne, drooped a price tag-‘142 Euros’. I didn’t know what a ‘euro’ was, so I inquired about it from the shopkeeper.
“Please sir, what is a euro?”
“Oh the chocolates!....um..well..a euro is a foreign currency. In terms of Indian money….142 euros….are like 10,000 rupees!”
My jaws dropped in amazement. Being the son of a factory worker and coming from an extremely poor family, I knew, it was beyond our means to get those. I knew such finery was for the elite. I turned around and quickly trotted out. I walked back home, thinking about the chocolates, all the way.
Dad had returned home from his work at the factory and mom was ready with the dinner. I gave a sigh of disappointment and sat on the floor to start my meal.
Within a few minutes, mom asked, “You look glum, what’s the matter?”
I tried to ignore her question and focused on the grub on my plate.
On not being answered she diverted the topic and said, “Your birthday is coming…..” I was literally taken by my throat. I had forgotten that my birthday was in the following week.
“…..what will you take as a gift this time?”
Honestly that moment, the picture of those ‘Pure German Chocolates’ flashed in my mind but I tried to keep shut. On being insisted, I told her of my desire and the price to get it. Mom looked at dad who was already gasping in horror, and then turned to me, smiling. That night, I felt drowsy and slept fast. Next morning, I woke up early. Mom helped me to get ready and I left for school. The Wonder Shop was closed. The day got deeper, the sun mightier and we finally had our dismissal. On the way back, I again gleamed at the shop. I tried to get a view of the chocolate from the lining spaces of the glass doors. It was still shining but realizing that I was late, I darted back home.
Arriving at home, I called out.
“Maa, I’m back!”
There was no answer. So, I went to check.
I could not find mom. Dad was also not there. Finding it very odd, I checked the bedside table for any clue.
There was a note-
“Your mother has been hospitalized due to severe pancreatic problems. I have left the food covered for you. Eat it. I will be returning in the night.-Dad”
I sat down for a moment. My mom was ill. I felt suffocated without her. I wanted to comfort her. She was the star in my sky, the butter on my bread, my mentor and my best friend. I wanted to go to her but I knew not where she was admitted. So, I waited till the night.
Dad arrived in the night at last and I rushed to him.
“Well, she’s okay….she’ll come home in a few days…..but..............”
Dad was hesitant to say more. I pressed him…and he had to give in.
“There are chances that mother would not survive.”
I stood as if struck by a meteor shower. I was in a shock. I was completely taken aback. What would I do without her!
From then on, every day I sprinted back home after school without any pause to ask father about mom’s health. He kept me well informed but never let me go to her. Slowly and painfully the days passed by.
Day by day my mother was getting well. The danger was over. One day, dad said-
“She is coming home.”
I was elated. My mother was well and was coming home on my birthday. The night before, I was tensed.
“She’ll be all right, isn’t it?”
“She will be a perfect mom”; he said.
“I don’t want a perfect mom……I want my mom!”
“Yeah! You will get her…”; said dad, grinning broadly.
I slept fitfully that night. Next morning, I woke up to find my dad standing with his hand on his hips. Mom was beside him. I hurriedly arranged my clothes and went to her.
“How are you” , I asked.
She merely gave me a weak smile. Then she produced a wrapped gift for me.
“You bought me a present…..Why? Seeing you fit would have been enough.”
“Open it dear…”
I opened the packet. My eyeballs nearly popped out of their sockets.
It was a glass box containing chocolates. There was a label on it-
“Pure German Chocolates…NOT TO BE SOLD INDIVIDUALLY…”
“Surely, you didn’t…..” I stuttered.
My mother smiled…
“Sweetheart, my kidney was nothing compared to your joy.”