Reyan was very excited today. The cute seven year old, could not believe that Dadi, his grand mother, was expecting a friend that evening. In as many ways as his little mind could think, he had re-framed his question asking Dadi, “ Dadi, who is coming home today?”
“My friend,” was Dadi’s answer.
“Who else’s friend ? Dadu’s, Dad’s, Mamma’s?”followed the next question.
“No one’s, he is only my friend.” Dadi answered smilingly.
“What is his name?”asked Reyan.
“Anil, is his name, Reyan,”replied Dadi.
“Is he your school friend, Dadi?” Reyan’s curiosity knew no bounds.
“No Reyan, he is my writer friend,”said Dadi.
Reyan found this very queer. He had seen innumerable guests in the house, some were Dadu’s, some Dad’s, some mom’s, uncle’s, even aunt’s but never had he seen or heard of Dadi’s friend. Every one’s guests were Dadi’s guests too. Dadi never had a friend separately. He was very curious to see Dadi’s friend, who was expected in the evening.
Little Reyan’s curiosity amused Pushpa, his Dadi, at the same time, making her realize something. She had no friend of her own. Everybody’s friends were her friends too. She smiled at her thought; even Reyan had his friends. She sat down on a lawn chair in her beautiful garden. She took great pride in her sprawling garden. The winter flowers were on full bloom. The huge Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Roses, Marigolds, all were a riot of colours. The various colours of Hibiscus could leave anyone awestruck. Pushpa spent almost 2–3 hours everyday working in her garden, with her gardener. Blooming, blossoming of such beautiful flowers, left her dumbstruck at the art of Nature. She felt overwhelmed by the craftsmanship of the Creator. Sitting and admiring her garden, Pushpa did not know, when she had dozed off.
Pushpa made a beautiful bride. She had just completed her post graduation when suddenly there was a marriage proposal for her through her uncle. The proposal was so good that there was no reason to turn it down. The boy, Veer, was well qualified and his family was a reputed one in the town. Marriages were mostly arranged in those days. Pushpa got married and she came to her new home; her husband’s home. It was a big family and everyone welcomed Pushpa with open arms. She became ‘Dulhan’ for the elders and ‘Bhabhi’, ‘Chachi’ and even ‘Chhoti maa’ for various family members. She became the center of attraction for the whole household. Her cup seemed to be overflowing with all the love showered upon her. Yet there were some major life style changes for her, here. Her father, being in service, had a very fixed routine that automatically the family followed. ‘Early to bed and early to rise’ was the principle practised there. Her new home being a business family, Pushpa was aghast to find no fixed timings at all. The days would have a late start and they would end with very stretched evenings. Also, used to living in a nuclear family, here amidst so many people, Pushpa felt lost.
How clearly was that day etched on Pushpa’s memory! She had gone to visit her parents, a few months after her marriage. In the evening, after her father returned from work, her parents sat with her, chatting and enquiring about her new life. Pushpa started talking about her new home. Suddenly she blurted out,
“Papa, I feel lost in that house. I am never alone. I am not used to living closely with so many people. I don’t have any space. I don’t even have Veer with me, as much as I want to. He does not understand this. How will I be able to live like this?”
The room was impregnated with silence. Her parents kept drinking their coffee and Pushpa waited. Then her father spoke,
“Pushpa, do the people in that house, love you? Do they treat you well?”
“ Of course they do!They treat me like a princess, Papa. But I need space,” Pushpa did not know how to make herself understood.
“Then Pushpa, go and make your space there, beta. No two persons, situations, places can be the same. Remember the time when because of my transfer, you had to change school? Going to a college, from school, also would be hugely different, wouldn’t it? Joining work, changing jobs, everything entails accepting and adapting to these differences, to the best of our capabilities. It is extremely childish, to refuse to change, adapt. You are so very lucky to be showered with so much of love by so many people; that, mind you, comes only with acceptance. You too need to accept them from your heart as your family, like you accept us. Go to your new home and I would be very disappointed if I hear you having problems with adaptability. It points out to the lacunae in our parenting, beta.”
Pushpa went back home but her father’s words kept ringing in her ears. She knew that her father loved her from the bottom of his heart. She was his ‘Gudia,’ doll. Now with her married, could he have stopped loving her?Never could she have any doubts about that. With this strong belief, she held on to his advice; “Accept your new family, like you accept us,” he had said. Pushpa did just that. In no time, she transformed herself and merged with them, as one. To her surprise, doing so, made her the happiest. With time she had two lovely sons, very well rounded grown ups, very loving daughters-in-law, grandchildren and this was her beautiful, loving home that still housed so many people, all bound by love and togetherness. She never got tired of thanking her father, for his pearls of wisdom that helped her shape this lovely home. Years had taught her that there was no one way to happiness in life. So what if Pushpa never had a friend of her alone, she thought. Probably she had never needed one!
“Dadi, won’t you get ready to welcome your friend?” Reyan and Sia, the brother and sister duo was waking her up.
Pushpa had lately started developing a hobby; she had started writing. By chance, she was made to join a writer’s group by Mimi, her younger daughter- in-law. Anil, one of the group members, was coming to meet her that evening. That was the excitement, commotion, all about, smiled Pushpa as she kissed Reyan and Sia.
“How old is your friend, Dadi?” Reyan’s curiosity knew no bounds.
“No idea, Reyan. I too, am going to meet him for the first time,” said Dadi as she left Reyan open mouthed to her answer, while she stepped into the house, but suddenly everything in front , got blacked-out and she knew nothing.
Pushpa opened her eyes slowly. Why did she have a pipe into her nostrils? She looked around to find her husband sitting on a chair next to her bed. She was in a hospital! Soon she found out that she had had a heart attack for which she had been admitted in a hospital. One by one, her loved ones came to meet her.e There was relief and love in all those eyes. Reyan too had come to see her. He climbed on to her bed and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Get well soon, Dadi.” he said softly. “That day, your friend had to go away without meeting you,”he said with the slightest of concern.
Pushpa too now remembered. She smiled softly and said, “Oh yes Reyan! Looks like I have to wait a bit longer, to meet my friend.” She lovingly put her hands on his head.