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Hope can be cruel, but we cling to it anyway. Here’s a story that captures the high and the fall of blind hope.
One of the top 5 entries for December’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “It’s astonishing how we comment on change, as if change is something remarkable. On the contrary, not to change is unnatural, against nature.” from Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence.
Raghav adjusted the weight of his three-year-old daughter Diya on his hip, paid the auto rickshaw driver, and picked up his suitcase. “I might as well have landed on another planet,” he thought to himself, looking around in bewilderment. Gone was the ramshackle grocery store at the corner of the lane he used to live on, seven years ago.
In its place was a swanky coffee shop with shiny glass doors and tastefully decorated interiors. Some of the houses had been replaced by taller apartment buildings with watchmen standing smartly at guard outside. And hadn’t there been a huge mango tree right at the corner where a giant hoarding with a photo of a grinning politician now stood?
He walked onward gingerly, a bit unsure of his steps, and hoped he was heading in the right direction. “It’s astonishing how we comment on change, as if change is something remarkable. On the contrary, not to change is unnatural, against nature,” he thought and finally began to feel positive about the undertaking that he had returned to his hometown for.
His wife, who had not accompanied him and was at home in a bustling city a two-hour plane ride away, had been more optimistic than him about his trip. But then it was he who had known his father better than she had.
“Doggy!” little Diya pointed enthusiastically at a woman walking her dog as they neared the small park that was still in existence, near his ancestral home. He could not yet see the ancient building that had housed their large joint family and wondered if it would still be recognizable to him. He was about to pass the park when he stopped in his tracks and squinted in the morning sun to take a better look.
There he was. The person he had come to meet. The man he was watching had a head full of white hair. His posture was slightly bent with advancing age although he still carried himself as stiffly as possible, as if his back was being pushed straight by an invisible force.
Raghav could not see his face clearly yet, but he remembered those sharp eyes which could pierce a hole through him with one stern glance. How he had dreaded facing them so many years ago when he had decided to approach his father with news that he was certain would not be received well at all. He was planning to marry a girl who was not only from outside their orthodox community but also belonging to a religion that was frowned upon.
Perhaps if his mother had still been alive, he might have managed to convince her and garnered her support at least. He had braced for the impact of his father’s strong hands to strike him across the face like they do in the movies. Instead, just the stinging words from his father had proven to be more painful than he had anticipated.
“If you even dare think about that girl, consider that you have put a dagger through my heart for good. And our relationship will not return from the dead either,” the man had told his son.
That threat, however, had not proven to be sufficient to detract Raghav from pursuing his true love. Gathering up every ounce of courage, he had eloped with the girl of his dreams, away from their regressive neighbourhood and small town, on being disowned by his father, extended family, and community. Now, seven years and a daughter later, here he was, hoping to show her who her grandfather was.
His father was sitting down on a bench now. Raghav felt a warm feeling of hope rise in his heart. He approached the elderly man, the weights of his child and the suitcase in his quivering hands feeling very light. The man on the bench looked up and froze when he saw Raghav.
“Father…” called out Raghav and felt the man’s familiar gaze stab through him and his daughter.
The elderly man frowned, got up and put out a hand to stop him. “Principles are principles. I shall carry them to my death,” he said with pride in his voice.
He then got up and walked away as fast as possible as if wanting to get away from a rotten smell.
The loud whistle from a train brought back Raghav to his senses. Diya bounced excitedly on his arm, with shrill cries of “chug-chug”, “chug-chug”.
What? Hadn’t the train station been farther away from this place? This was all his shocked mind could think of at that moment. He shook his head sadly and sighed to himself. So many things had changed, and yet some had remained painfully the same.
Pic credit: Concept image for hope via Shutterstock.
Deepti Nalavade Mahule is a book lover. She maintains a blog called 'Dancing Fingers Singing
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