I was driving back from office. It was my last day at work. I had resigned my job. My mind was entangled in the happenings over the last few days.
“Was it only a few days?” I wondered.
“Why should a child be punished for his parent’s mistakes? Is that fair?” I thought to myself, or maybe I was asking the almighty.
I had promised Sheela to be back soon. I floored the accelerator. I looked at my watch. I should reach there in 20 min.
"We like the flat", said Mr. Khanna. He was seated on the red couch in our drawing room, beside his wife. She nodded in agreement. I stood behind the sofa on which my wife was seated.
"Good to hear that", I said.
"But we cannot offer you beyond 52 lakhs", said Mr. Khanna.
"That’s too less", I said.
"I am ready to go down to 57 lakhs. I certainly cannot afford to sell at 50", my wife said.
Trust her to negotiate the right price. She was good at bargaining and she had proved it more than once. I smiled to myself thinking about her encounters with the shopkeepers.
She then proceeded to explain again on the benefits of the locality as well the value of the existing furnishings and the projected increase in the property value.
The khannas’ tried to settle at 53, but my wife wouldn’t budge from 57.
Finally she said "I want the flat to go only to the right people, and you seem to fit the bill perfectly. Due to certain other reasons, I also need to ensure the sale quickly. The final price is 55."
Mr. Khanna looked doubtful. Mrs. Khanna nudged him and whispered something to him. I kept my fingers crossed.
"It’s a deal then", said Mr. Khanna.
So that’s it. Our flat was being sold. The place where we spent the latter 5 years of our married life, the place were our Rohan was born....
The plan was to shift to a new flat. The memories associated with the current flat were too painful for her. The new flat was her selection. She had spent a lot of weekends looking for the right flat. I accompanied her on all these occasions, but she never liked any.
That was until she arrived at this flat. The layout was much similar to the current flat. Even the balcony in the main hall, had a similar view to the garden. We used to spend time together in the evenings on the balcony at our current flat, planning our future life. That was when she was pregnant with Rohan.
She was standing on the balcony and looking at the garden, lost in thought. She too was probably thinking about those days.
I went close behind her and whispered “Buy this sweetheart, this is ideal"
I and Sheela used to work in the same company, and that’s where we met. Our relationship transitioned quickly from being colleagues to friends to lovers. We knew we would get married, even if the entire world opposed us. But luckily for us, we belonged to the same religion and were from families of a similar social and financial standing. Though we were of different caste, our families accepted each other and agreed to the alliance.
The initial 2 years were fun as it is for all newly weds. She had resigned and joined a different company after marriage. We ensured that we reached back from our respective jobs on time, to spend time with each other. We travelled a lot on weekends. Life was as rosy as it could have been.
I started getting more and more responsibilities at my office. I got a couple of quick promotions. My job was no longer from 9 to 5. There were meetings to be held, dead lines to be met. The pressure that came with the promotions and the added responsibilities were huge. But I wasn’t complaining. I realized that I had the capability to reach higher and nothing was going to stop me from reaching there.
I was overjoyed on learning that Sheela was pregnant. But, to me, this also meant that I had to work harder, as I have an added responsibility of securing my child’s future.
This was the time, when we were looking to purchase a flat. Both of us were working and would be comfortable with the EMI's. We loved the flat as soon as we saw it. It suited our budget and was exactly we had hoped for. We soon shifted to the flat. I managed to spend some quality time with Sheela for a couple of months.
But soon my responsibilities increased .I was looking at a major promotion at work. This depended on my success with the existing project. I found myself at office almost all the time. I was spending less and less time with Sheela. This was the time she needed my support more, but I expected her to understand.
After all I am doing this for her and our child. Whenever I felt guilty of not being there for her, I justified myself with this.
Any parent would tell you, that the happiest moment in their life, was when they first held their newborn. The same was the case with me. It’s a wonderful feeling to realize that you have brought a life into this world. It’s also a bit frightening when you think you are completely responsible for this life.
Now there were three of us. I again decided to try to spend more time with Sheela and Rohan, as much as possible. But my current responsibility required me to travel extensively.
Sheela, who had to resign her job to take care of the baby, was with him full time. I started missing out of his growth. I was more of a visitor, with my home as a stop gap arrangement between travels. The quality time I spend with them was far and less.
This is all for them....I kept telling myself. I will spend more time with them, once I reach the next stage...but it was never to be. Every milestone I achieved took me further away from my family. I could feel me and Sheela getting further apart. The spark was gone. We started having frequent fights.
Rohan was 2 years old now. One night Sheela said “I am planning to get back to work”
"What?” I was surprised " Why do u need that ? I am earning enough to take care of everything”
"Its not money, Siddarth", she said, “I feel lonely and bored. You are never here”
“I have responsibilities at work. You know that”
“And you have no responsibilities towards me and our child?”
“Am I not providing you all the comforts?”
“Siddarth, you can never think beyond material comforts. I need a husband and he needs a father."
God! What’s wrong with her? I thought, after all that I have done for them.
“You have everything, still you crib. You do whatever u want.”
It got only worse from there. Three years passed. The fights got more and more frequent. I started spending even more time at the office.
I asked myself what went wrong. There was a time I looked for an excuse to get back home and be with her. No I am looking for an excuse to stay back at office.
I had a particularly bad day at the office. We did not bag the major contract which we were sure we would. I was still fuming at the loss, when I suddenly remembered.
Oh No! I had missed Rohan’s birthday party. He had turned five today and I had promised that I would come early and spend the evening with them after the party. My mobile was off as the entire day was spent in meetings. They must have tried to reach me.
I hurried home. I entered the flat. It was dark. There were gifts and balloons all over. I moved to the hall and switched the lights on. The birthday cake was still at the center of the table uncut.
“He refused to cut the cake without u. He cried himself to sleep” It was Sheela.
“I am sorry honey. I had this meeting...."
"That’s all you care for…your work. Me and Rohan don’t at all matter to you" She was shouting now.
"You know that’s not true...."
“I am fed up with this life “she said
“You are fed up with me, Is it not?” I asked, suddenly very angry.
“You don’t love me like before. You have moved further and further away after Rohan’s birth.” She said.
“It is you have changed and not me” I said.
What we said may not have made any sense, but both us were very angry.
“I have had enough” I said. “After a tough day, I come back home and this is what I have to face. I can makeup with Rohan. You are making it more difficult.”
“Why don’t you go back and stay at the office, your first and only love”
“Oh is it? OK, if that’s what you want. I won’t take it anymore. I am leaving “I said.
I turned around and paused. Rohan was standing at his door watching us. He had seen us fight before, but he looked very frightened now.
I wanted to pick him up and comfort him. But in my anger, I just wanted to leave, to teach her a lesson. Rohan will understand, I will talk to him tomorrow, or so I thought. I stomped out of the flat.
I drove to a nearby hotel and took a room. I drank myself to sleep. I woke at the sound of my mobile ringing. It was Sheela. Maybe I should not have reacted like this, I thought. But I was pleased that she decided to call. I won this round.
I picked up. I immediately sensed something was seriously wrong. Her voice was chocked up. "I am calling from the hospital. Siddarth… its Rohan....."
I don’t remember how I reached the hospital. My mind was in a dizzy. I just know that I got into the car and now here I am at the hospital. I went straight to the ICU.
Sheela rushed to me and was crying inconsolably.
After hearing our fight, Rohan thought he was the reason for the fight. In the morning, Rohan asked his mom, where his papa was. Sheela, who was still angry, muttered "I don’t know, why don’t you find out yourself".
She immediately felt sorry for saying that and was about to comfort him, when she remembered to attend the milk in the stove. When she returned, he was nowhere to be seen.
Rohan had run out of the house, in the hope of searching for his papa. He was hit by a bike as soon as he ran out of the gate.
“It’s all because of me...” she said
“No, we both are responsible...” I said.
The doctor came out of the ICU.
"There is some blood clot in the brain from the impact. We cannot say anything now. But lets hope for the best" He said gravely.
We held each other. This was a parent’s worst nightmare and we had no one to blame but ourselves.
I realized how much less time I spend with him. All that mattered to me was success and money. Yet nothing of what I have gained can help me now. I looked at my wife. I realized how much she was depended on me and how much I loved her. I wondered how we even thought, that the love was lost between us.
I prayed to God to give me one more chance, please just one more chance...
The ICU door opened again, the doctor came towards me......
The Khanna's got up to leave now. They will get back after consultation with their lawyer, to finalize the paperwork. My wife walked them to the gate to see them off. I followed her.
"See u later" I said, waving them good bye.
We walked back to the house.
Sheela walked to the bedroom. She sat on the bed. She looked tired and weak. Her eyes were sad.
"Momma...” I looked around. There was Rohan running towards us. Her eyes light up and she immediately picked him and put him on her lap.
I thought about the moment, when the doctor came out of the ICU. I had expected the worst. But the doctor said “He is out of danger now. He will be under observation for 24 hours. If everything is fine, you can take him home tomorrow evening."
I looked at my son. I yearned to pick him up.
But his mother said "Rohan, go and play in your room. I will be there in a minute". "Vroom...."He ran off to his room imitating a bike. I smiled at him.
She then looked at the framed photograph beside the lamp at the bedside. It was a photo taken during our honeymoon. She looked at it and started crying “I wish you were here Siddarth....Why did you leave us…."
I wanted to hold her and comfort her, but I knew I couldn’t. If only I had been more careful while driving back that day from the office, after resigning my job. I would have been alive in flesh and blood. I would have made up for my neglect to them, over the last 5 years.
But God had other plans. He may not always give us second chances in life. May be I should have made the best of what I was given. But that’s just wistful thinking now.
But I am thankful, that he let me be close to my family. My wife used to say...”you are never here!” Now I am here all the time, around them, listening to them, watching them.
Now is that what you call irony?
This is the author's maiden work, so you are requested to post in your comments