“Kya hua Nani,” Anjali came in after making sure the children were fast asleep.
“Kuch naahi bitiya,” Nani sighed, “Ab umar hui gawa.”
“Kyon Nani, aapk aisa kyon keh rahe ho,” Anjali was disturbed by the tone and defeated posture of Nani, rather than the words.
“Naahi bitiya hum theek kahat rahe”, Nani smiled, albeit tremulously, to allay Anjali’s concerns, “There was a time when I would have jumped at going to a new place, but now,” she shook her head, “now I dread the thought of having to move, I feel as if I am leaving your Nanaji here, when he is one who left me and went away long away.”
Anjali put her arm around Nani as tears slipped down her cheeks in silent sympathy, “Janat ho bitiya,” Nani continued ruminatively, “Man is very greedy, the more one gets, the more one wants. If this shift in base had occurred even after you got married, I would not have minded, I could have adjusted, but now,” Nani sighed again, “par ab naahi.”
“Ab kya badal gaya Nani?” Anjali asked mystified.
Nani smiled and seemingly went off on a tangent, “You know my son takes good care of me, he is very solicitous and polite, Aakash has taken after him; Aur Manorama! Oh well the less said the better; Payal bitiya is also a good girl; she respects me a lot and always makes it a point to follow my wishes. Yash is of course a darling, but I am afraid I am too old for boisterous little boys, I can only sit in one place and perhaps tell stories, but boys,” She laughed affectionately, “Boys want you to play cricket! See Ankit is still small enough to want to sit and be entertained by his Badi Nani, but by the time he will be Yash’s age,” Nani shook her head and again laughed, “Naahi, he won’t have time to sit next to me.”
Anjali put a hand on Nani’s shoulder, Nani patted it and continued, “But Anya; Now Anya will always come and sit next to me, she will always have time to chat with me, just like you always have time for me,” She caressed Anjali’s face and said, “Like Khushi bitiya does; aisa naahi hai Payal doesn’t have time for me, naahi, she is a good girl, but she is reserved, she doesn’t talk much, she sits quietly next to me, it is restful and peaceful of course after Manorama! But still,” Nani laughed self-deprecatingly, “See I told you man is very greedy, no matter how much we get we always want more, I not only want somebody to give me time, but also someone who would jabber with me!”
Anjali laughed and shot a keen look at Nani, “Par Nani, aap ne bataya nahi, what has changed?”
Nani was silent for a while, “Ever since Anya talked to Chotte, he always comes to wish me goodnight. And it is not just a perfunctory duty bound visit,” She hesitated, “Manohar, Aakash they too come routinely after dinner and indeed have been coming for many years, they wish me, shuffle a bit and leave at the first opportunity,” She shook her head affectionately, “Both are so alike, self-effacing and quiet, worried about encroaching, disturbing,” she hesitated and mumbled as if embarrassed to say it, “But sometimes I can’t help but feel as if I were a duty, a responsibility, a farz.”
She was silent for a while, Anjali waited patiently, “But I understand, I really do, everyone is so busy juggling life career, family, who has the time for an old lady,” she laughed at herself, “I was happy, content, my children cared for me, what more could one ask for? Then along came Chotte, the Lucknow wala Chotte,” Nani’s face brightened and her eyes sparkled, “Each night Chotte barges into my room at whatever time that is convenient to him ostensibly to wish me good night, but he comes and fiddles with my things, opens drawers, albums, even my medicine box; every day he rifles through my stuff and uncaring of whether I am praying or combing my hair, he will bombard me with questions and not rest till I give him my full attention, just like Ankit!” she laughed.
Her voice softened, “Other days, he lies down quietly on the bed, sometimes even dozes off and goes away without saying anything except Goodnight Nani! Or he may put his head on my lap and talk about his mother, you or his childhood. The thing is he comes to meet me, without any rush or zabardasti, he makes me feel as if he has comes to my room because he wants to; not because it is the right thing to do.”
There was silence as both struggled with their emotions, “Anjali bitiya, I have found my Chotte after so many years, I cannot, I simply cannot lose him again,” her voice broke, “All these years, I watched him grow with a heavy heart, hoping against hope that one day Devi Maiyya would make everything right again, that before I die, my Chotte would come at least once to steal my hairpins,” she broke down completely.
Anjali held her Nani close and let her cry it out, all the pain and anguish, closely guarded and bottled in over the years. After a while, Nani was calmed down, she straightened and wiped her tears rather embarrassed at letting her guard down in this manner, Anjali looked at her teasingly, “Achcha Nani, toh yeh baat hai, Chotte aapka sabse favorite hai!”
To Anjali’s utter surprise, for she was actually joking trying to tease her out of her dumps, Nani reddened, “Naahi aisan kono baat naahi.”
“Hmmm,” Though not too convinced, Anjali let it pass, “But Nani, if you feel like that stay here, Chotte has already asked you to stay back hasn’t he?”
Nani sighed, “Yes of course, but what will I say to my own son?” she shook her head, “Manohar came to me last night in my room and said, ‘Amma do whatever you think best,” then a bit wistfully, “If only he had insisted a bit.”
“Par Nani,” Anjali was confused, “Why do you want Mamaji to insist and create more confusion for you?”
Nani sat with a mulish expression, “My own son! Doesn’t he want me to go along? Maybe that is why I am upset? Because I feel it doesn’t really matter to my own son whether I go or not,” her voice broke a bit, “And it hurts.”
Nani was quiet for a while, “It hurts even more that I am talking like this about my own children, who loves me and who doesn’t. To have to choose between your own children at this age,” her voice broke and dropped to a whisper, “And worse, to have to decide which one of your children you love more.”
Anjali hugged Nani in sympathy and support, “What did Chotte say when he came to wish you goodnight, he does come every night, right?” Anjali said trying to divert her attention.
Nani sighed shook her head, “He didn’t wish me last night,” then with a faint smile, “But he came thrice to check up on me in the night, each time he left without saying anything.”
By the way Chapter 3 of Sonu Aur Titu ki Lovely is up for your kind perusal, comments and suggestions 😀
Click here for Chapter 109