Read on how to enrich your life by purpose, i.e. to find depth and, a reason to get out of bed each morning, your own Ikigai.
This is a story of a young boy whose mother helps him to find himself in the most unusual way.
Sahil had done what he could but still had butterflies in his stomach – Sahil would embark upon a new phase of his life the next day. This feeling kept him awake through the night.
“Well! Not the first time”, Sahil chuckled to himself. He had lain awake tossing on his bed the same night he had finished his 10th standard board exams. His then girlfriend Shalini had abruptly walked out on him.
She seemed detached during the exam days, but on the last day she behaved as if she had seen a ghost. While his other friends indulged in conversations on how to spend the vacations, Sahil hurriedly left the examination centre. He checked his profile on Facebook with the hope of seeing a message from Shalini, but to his disappointment, she had deleted him from her friends’ list.
Sahil was a guy who could never charm the girls either with his looks or his talents. If one could call it talent, as Sahil was known as the whiz-kid of his school for his expertise and perfection with Mathematics and Physics. But what use was that to him. His friends thought of him only during exams. And the girls in class were mesmerized by the school-captain, Rohan’s stunts on the basketball court and Haroon’s skills with the guitar. For all these years Sahil’s only pride was his “Best Student of the Class,” badge.
But things changed. Sahil had Shalini– the prettiest girl in class. She was every guy’s dream but she chose Sahil. Sahil felt like he had conquered the world when Shalini proposed to him – he was lost for words. Sahil enjoyed every bit of her company. For him it was like living a dream when he walked with her to the library, sat together in the school bus and the coaching classes.
Emotions took over all logic. Not numbers, but Sahil found more meaning in love songs and poetry. All Sahil could think of, was Shalini– he would marry her once he became an engineer.
As always, rumors had its own place in school. People believed Shalini was with Sahil only because he helped her with studies. His close friend Ravin said, “Dude, can’t you see? This girl is only using you”.
Sahil disregarded the comments. He thought to himself, “Selfish people.” Nothing mattered to him except Shalini’s presence. That glow on her face would soothe and calm Sahil down. Once Sahil finished a full plate of khichdi, without any complain. Sahil’s mother smiled to herself thinking, “Did he not hate it until yesterday?”
That was it – Sahil never heard from her after the last day of 10th exams. The heart aches most for the ones who you care about selflessly. So did Sahil’s. His only sojourn from his play station on his laptop or his IIT coaching classes. He even refused to join his friends for the long awaited ‘Hampi’ trip.
He was the only child of his parents who were both engineers and worked for reputed IT companies in Bangalore. It all looked happy and well in his family. He went to one of the finest schools in Bangalore and as expected topped his school boards.
The result day had arrived, for which Sahil had been so eagerly waiting with a hope to catch a glimpse of Shalini for the last time. But that day she seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. It was much later he learnt that her parents had had a divorce and she had moved to Dubai with her mother. Sahil’s fantasy about meeting Shalini and the reality that Shalini would never return, both did not change.
He kept tossing and turning on his bed. That night as he lay awake, he feared going to school the next day. It was the same school, some old and some new friends, new classroom, new books and subjects – however, everything without Shalini.
With these thoughts, he stared at his new iPhone – this was his gift from his parents for his brilliant results.
With these thoughts, he stared at his new iPhone – this was his gift from his parents for his brilliant results. Though it did not excite him much, he managed to smile at his father. That night he decided to scroll through his Facebook profile on his new phone. As he disinterestedly scrolled through the same old monotonous stuff, he saw that a friend’s request was awaiting his response. It was a girl, Devapriya, from St. Mary’s School, Shillong and was in the 11th standard. Her profile picture was that of a puppy’s. “So typical”, Sahil thought to himself, and accepted the request only to satiate his curiosity.
Immediately the chat box blinked with a ‘hi’ from Devapriya. He replied with a simple ‘hello’. Both of them exchanged some common information. Devapriya confessed that the only reason she sent him a friend’s request was because he looked decent. Sahil smiled his real smile after a long time.
In school, Sahil was aloof amidst all the commotion of the first day of school after vacations. While his other friends tried to get friendly with some of the new girls in humanities section, he walked the corridors aimlessly. It seemed nothing would heal him. During lunch when he checked his phone, there was a brief message on his Facebook message box, “Hope you are having a good time!” He smiled to himself and replied with a big smiley. Thus, began an exchange of mails on Facebook.
The great thing about Facebook is that it helps one drop one’s inhibition without making an eye contact. Sahil found someone in Devapriya in whom he could confide. He felt like a ‘somebody’ when she asked him about his hobbies, his likes and dislikes and “why he hated khichdi?” He knew he mattered to her. She remembered so much of it all. She mailed him once during his lunch break and before he went to sleep. He laughed at how she was perfect with her timings – right when he was about to switch off the lights of his room, a mail would hit the message box. He spoke to Devapriya about his parents, how much he loved them but still felt distant from them. He talked about Shalini andhow it hurt and broke him and how he feels that no one can genuinely love him. He told her how no one would take him in their teams because he was not a good player.
Devapriya listened to him patiently and offered advice. She always told him how he was a wonderful person and it was not worth thinking about the people who left him. They were just not worth him. Slowly Sahil started believing in himself.
In a year, Devapriya became his best friend. He once asked her for her photo and phone number.
In a year, Devapriya became his best friend. He once asked her for her photo and phone number. She sent him a picture; he smiled at himself because she looked so much like his own mother. Devapriya had one condition – she will meet him in person if he promises to crack his IITs. This became Sahil’s ambition – he no more just went to his classes, he did it with vigor. Devapriya was always there to listen to him and offer her advice. He felt close and distant to her at the same time – she was more caring than friendly, more conscious than carefree. But Sahil had no time to ponder over it. He had to get through the IITs at any cost. He kept toiling and Devapriya was always there as a support.
Two years had passed by. Sahil had made it through IIT Delhi. He was enthralled. He first broke the news to Devapriya on facebook. And she promised the day he reached IIT Delhi that she would call.
It was a hot summer afternoon. Sahil was a part of one of the prestigious institutes in India. His parents had accompanied him to Delhi and to his hostel where he would spend the best years of his life. There was no teary farewell. His parents hugged him and they took a taxi to Delhi airport.
Sahil was excited; he could not wait any longer for his best friend Devapriya’s call. But he forgot all about it in the enthusiasm to meet new people who had joined the hostel. It was 11:00 pm when a mail hit his mail box. It was from Devapriya. It read:
You are the most wonderful guy I have ever known. So, here is something I want to tell you. My name is not Devapriya and I do not live in Shillong. I am not someone unknown to you. You have known me all your life. I am your mother.
Wait don’t react to this. Just give me a hearing.
You are the most precious thing in your father’s and my life. But you always maintain a distance from us. You refuse to talk to us about anything. You talk only when talked to, even that in mono-syllables. You are either busy with your studies or the play station. There was no place where Daddy and I could interact with you. Even while driving together, you are plugged-in on the iPod.
Two years ago, you had lost your spark. My Sahil seemed depressed. So I intervened as a facebook friend. I had no other option. I wanted to talk to you and understand you so that I can share the low in your life. Yes, that photo I sent you is of my childhood. We have it on our photo album which you never cared to open. I just photo shopped it to make it look modern. Whatever I told you about Shillong is true, I grew up there and went to St. Mary’s School, Shillong. I used to tell you stories of Shillong when you were a child but you forgot all about it as you grew up. So, in these two years, I told you about me and you did about yourself. And most importantly you grew the self confidence you never had before. I did it because I wanted you to be confident again. Most importantly I wanted to know my son whom I love more than anything else on earth. Now, you are in a new city and your life will change. You will miss or need us less. This was my only chance to know you better and I tried my best.
Hope you forgive your mother. Let me tell you again that you are worth the best in the world. And any woman who knows and loves you is lucky. I consider myself one.
Saahil kept staring at his mobile screen. He felt bitter, he felt weird, embarrassed but at the same time happy too because he felt closer to his mother. He did not speak to his mother for the next 15 days. But life ran too fast. Classes, roommate, seniors, ragging, hostel, everything took over at IIT Delhi. He fell in love with the institute. He started talking to his mother normally. Devapriya was never mentioned and soon forgotten. He talked to his mother more and she became a good friend to him.
It was another night tonight; he was tossing and turning on his bed. He was home. 7 years had passed since that Facebook message. His whole house was in a commotion. He is going to get married the next day with Anamika whom he met at IIT Delhi. He was smiling to himself thinking of everything- how times passed, how he grew to be confident and now an engineer with Microsoft. He looked at the photo-frame by his bed in which he was 7 years old and his mother is hugging him tenderly. He had tears in his eyes. He opened his wardrobe, took out a beautifully wrapped packet and went to his mother. His mother was still busy talking to a relative. He pulled her to his room, held her hands and said, “Maa, this is for you.” Then he just walked out of the room.
His mother gently opened the packet. It was a beautiful bracelet with a note hanging to it. She read it with teary eyes – it said, “Maa you are so beautiful, you will be forever my first love.” For a long time she sat with that note and smiled to herself wondering how much her little boy has grown. Tomorrow her little baby will be a groom. He is a big boy now. She smiled and walked to the corridor to check if everything was ready for the next day.
Co- written with Sangeeta Goel, who left her high-flying corporate job to travel, write and tell stories to everyone who needs one.
Cover image via Shutterstock
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
Awesome one paromita and sangeeta. A story about mother and a growing up son….is so adorable.
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