…..Thanks dear Mavshi……… really value it!!!
This one is yours….and only for you
Give me all your sorrows,
Oh I take all those precious tears,
I bless you to conquer all,
That you’ll have no fear,
Today we celebrate, today we rejoice…
Today, I celebrate, today i rejoice,alas it’s September 12th. Today, I pray and thank god. Yet, why these shadows? Oh, why the disenchantment? Today, as I pen these words, why am I filled with dark gloom?
“Madhu,” I hear my husband call out for me, through the gloomy fog.
“Let’s leave a little early today. You know, we don’t have booking.”
I almost don’t hear him. I stare at my image in the mirror. What’s wrong with me, I wonder; I’d even forgotten to book the table at the restaurant. With a sigh, I lay aside my diary and pen. I force myself to get ready for dinner, for celebration.
“I am really sorry Sir, all the small tables are taken, at least half an hour wait. But….” Hesitantly the manager asks,” Do you mind sharing one of the big ones with them?”
The manager glances towards the family sitting nearby in the waiting area. They are a family of four, huddled together, two adults and two children. They seem decent enough, though the adults do seem a little uncomfortable. Quite simply dressed, the woman stares in daze at the décor and furniture, her eyes darting now and then to the tables laden with food. The man trying to appear nonchalant fools none, his self-consciousness obvious to all. The children oblivious to their parents’ discomfort are quietly entertaining themselves; a couple of paper napkins are enough for them to build boats and bridges.
My husband looks at me. I nod my head, uncaring. Together we are all seated at a big rectangular table, a couple of chairs separating the two families.
“Let’s celebrate today.Let’s have Chinese, your favorite,” declares my husband the minute we are seated, trying to cheer me.
“Please order for both of us, you know what I like.” I reply, barely glancing at the menu.
“Let’s try the usual and something different too. How about Cashew nut chicken?”
“Sweet and sour soup for both of us, Chicken lollipop as the starter, and then Chinese fried rice, cashew nut chicken and Hakka Noodles,” rattles off my husband to the waiter. Actually it is way too much food for just the two of us.
“Any drinks, Sir?” He asks.
“A Pepsi and a lemonade, please.”
Our order complete, the waiter walks over to the family seated next to us.
“Sir, could you give us some more time, we are not sure…” I hear the husband in the family seated next to us ask the waiter, in a small voice.
With a nod the waiter walks away.
“Vibhas this is too expensive.” I hear the wife whisper to her husband. “I was telling you, we should have gone some place cheaper.”
“Radha, we’ve discussed this. We want to expose our children to finer things in life. They should know all that’s out there for them.” He retorts a bit sharply
“Hey, don’t worry about that today. It’s Sameer’s birthday, a day for celebration, we’ll manage.” He adds a little calmly, tousling the little boy’s hair. The boy, around seven or eight looks at his father his face lighting up. His elder brother yanks at his hair, spontaneously. The younger one yelps.
“Shhhh, boys behave,” whispers their mother looking here and there, worried.
I can’t help but overhear all this.
“Aai Paneer, Paneer, Paneer please” chants the elder one.
“And Ice-cream too!” chips in the little boy.
“Your baba will decide.” orders the mother.
“Paneer Makhanwala and Four naans and raita,” says the man to the waiter.
“Sir, is that all?” asks the waiter.
“Yes,” the man replies, a little embarrassed, looking away.” We are not very hungry,” he mumbles to nobody in particular.
I look away. But my eyes wander back to them. I notice that they have not ordered any cold drinks either for the grown-ups or for the kids. The elder boy looks at my lemonade as I slurp on it. I try to smile. He smiles back. Quickly he picks the straw from the container in front of him and places it in the glass of water. He slurps on the water, his eyes twinkling. His brother follows suit. The expression on their faces is simply priceless! Surely they are enjoying the water much more than I am enjoying my lemonade.
By then both our meals have arrived.
“Madhu, you are enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” I hear my husband ask.
I look at him and answer with a smile.
“I am really enjoying myself.” I replied honestly. Those boys have somehow lit up my world.
“I am glad,” says my husband.
“Yes, do you know it’s the little boy’s birthday?” I ask. He glances over at the family smiling at the little one, his eyes clouding just a little.
I too look at the boys. Pleasure is written all over their faces .And their parents are all smiles too. The family is enjoying their meal. Paneer, raita and Naan is all they need. Our table is overflowing with delicacies and theirs is overflowing with love and bliss.
I am somehow deeply touched.
I am rather impressed with the children’s mannerism and discipline too. Not once have I heard them answer back nor have I heard them complain or shout. They seem quite satisfied and happy.
“Waiter, can you get some chocolate ice-cream for the boys, there?” I order the waiter to get some ice-cream for the young ones.
I look at my husband’s face. “It’s a day of celebration.” I stammer.
He nods his head.
“Sure. Ma’am,” with that, the waiter leaves to get the ice-cream.
“But we didn’t order any ice-cream, take it away” states the woman the second the waiter set the cups of ice-cream on the table.
“It’s all right.” I say to the waiter aloud. And he hurried away from the scene.
“I ordered the ice-creams for the children.” I smile back in response.
I feel the children’s eyes on me and then on their mother.
“But ma’am why?” She retorts, hurt and indignation written all over her face.
“Why did you do that? We would have bought the ice-cream for our children if we wanted to. We are not those types of people. We don’t want anybody’s charity.” Blurts the woman
“But…” there are tears in my eyes…
“Ma’am we try to give our children the best we can. And we don’t want anybody spoiling that. We may be poor compared to you but we have our self-respect. We want our children to work hard and I know that they will get all they want. We don’t…”
“Lady please don’t misunderstand…” I try to cut in.
“Ma’am there is no misunderstanding. We cannot take it. How could you?”
Tears are steaming down my face. My husband touches my hand and walks over to the woman’s chair.
“Lady Please, these ice-creams are not charity. These ice-creams are love. We are very sorry if we have insulted you in any way. We meant no harm.”
She is quite taken aback when she hears this. The woman, the man, the boys all stare at him.
“Lady just like you are celebrating your son’s birthday, we are also celebrating our grandson’s birthday, today. He is probably the same age as the little one. He is probably a lot like him too. And …and…” he pauses, overwhelmed.
“You see, we’ve not seen him for more than five years. He stays far away in America, we miss him so much…” his voice breaks.
“Lady our grandson loves chocolate ice-cream, if your sons eat the ice-cream, it’s like we are feeding our grandson…”
No more words are needed. The woman walks over to me and hugs me, her eyes clouding in understanding and love.
“I am sorry ma’am, I misunderstood. So sorry, you know even my mother is far away …” she whispers overwhelmed
I hold her tight, trying to fight back my tears. But now I am weeping. I am weeping with joy…
And I weep as I watch the little ones gulp down the ice-cream.
I weep as I hug them.
And I weep as they bid me goodbye.
“Bye Aij, see you soon,” those are their parting words.
I am overjoyed.
You are pure joy,
You are sweet delight,
You lighten my world,
You bring warmth and light…
It is indeed a day of celebration. It’s my grandson’s birthday…and on this day I have just attained two new grandsons too. They have promised to visit me next Sunday…I am waiting…
Copyright(c) Rutuja Joshi 2007
Aai : mother
Baba : father
Aji : grandmother
Paneer Makhanwala : A delicious and spicy North Indian dish; made from Cottage cheese (Paneer)
Raita : Salad
Naan : Bread