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A woman faces a tough life, only to find a second chance at love. What happens when love enters her life in the most unusual way?
The atmosphere was simply electrified! There was gaiety, celebration and loud music. Children ran about in delight. Food, fruits and soft drinks were in plenty. The whole house had been decorated with colourful and dazzling streamers and flowers. Everyone was happy. The arrangement was just as Manju had desired. After all, her daughter and her only child, was getting married. Her husband was a perfectionist! The marriage hall had been booked well in advance and that too in the very grand Taj hotel. But why was Manju not with the visitors? Why was she not cheerful? Why was she so anguished?
In her room, Manju paced up and down. Her distress was how to break the topic? Her husband had advised her to convey the facts to Shweta, her daughter. But every time she endeavored, her heart beat accelerated. What would be the reaction of Shweta, she shuddered at the prospective negative reaction!
…Manju was born onto an affluent zaminder family in a small village called Bariarpur in Bihar. How many acres of land her father possessed, she had no idea. She was the youngest and the only girl among four siblings. Hence, she was the darling of her family. Life was luxurious and very joyful. She had a playmate named Amar. He lived near her house and his father was the headmaster of the local school. Both Manju and Amar went to school together, played together and at times had meals together. He was two years her senior and would help her with her studies. After his schooling, Amar had secured a seat in the prestigious, IIT, Madras! Manju too had finished school and joined B.A English in Patna Women’s College, Patna. They hardly met during vacations as their holidays did not coincide. The childhood companions were thus separated.
After her graduation, Manju’s parents got her married to an IAS officer. He was posted as the District Collector of Patna! No one had asked Manju about her opinion. Soon Manju settled down to domesticity. As the DM’s wife, she was entailed to a lot of social responsibilities and formalities. Although these were entirely new to her, she had ingrained herself into such life-style. After a year, her daughter, Shweta, was born and Manju was overjoyed. She was completely lost in the innocent and cheerful world of her baby. Her husband was loving and caring. She had hardly begun to enjoy life, when a great tragedy struck! Ajit Kumar was an intrepid and sincere officer. He was determined to eradicate illicit liquor and drug peddling in his district. In this process, he invited several enemies. One horrendous day, his foes surreptitiously got fatal drugs mixed into his orange juice. Within a day, he breathed his last. Manju was stunned and shattered. She returned to her paternal home. But life in Bariarpur was far from normal. Her father hardly smiled and was intensely grieved. So were her mother and brothers.
People clicked their tongues and exclaimed, “What a pity, bechari. She is so young. This should not have happened.” There was more mayhem than peace. Manju could tolerate no further. Therefore, she returned to Patna to her own house, which her husband had built for her! She was determined to continue life for her daughter’s sake. An elderly uncle and aunt accompanied her and agreed to stay with her. Although, she faced no pecuniary problems, she joined as a teacher in a local convent. Manju started life afresh. But fate had other plans for her…
One day, Manju took her child to play in a nearby park. This was her most cherished amusement. That evening, Shweta was wild with joy running around a tree. At that time, she spotted a bird pecking grains. She dashed towards it and in the course tripped over a stone. The tiny child was shocked and burst into tears. Manju rushed towards her. But before she could pick her up, someone had already lifted her. The child was soothed and comforted. Amazingly, she nestled and lay her head on the stranger’s shoulder! Manju gently called “Shweta”, the kind gentleman turned around to hand her the baby. Manju looked at the person and was astounded! She kept on gaping. He too was equally stunned. Instantly he recognised her, “Manju!” She wished she could run away. He stared at her closely, her no makeup-face and bare forehead told him all. He squirmed in intense pain and amazement.
Again he called her name, “Manju, when did this happen? I just can’t believe this!” She lowered her gaze and was silent. Tears streaked down her cheeks. After all, Amar was her childhood friend and she could confer and confide in him freely. Shweta was still clinging to him.
“My home is nearby, let’s go there and I will narrate all,” recommended Manju.
So they walked to her home. Her uncle and aunt were overjoyed to see him. After tea, she related all that had happened. How she had got married, her very short glorious married life, the great tragedy and the sequences. He heard her with great dismay and misty eyes.
“My friend Manju has suffered so much and I was not even aware …” he cried out.
Little Shweta nestled closer to him. Manju was amazed how her shy baby befriended with this new uncle Amar. One day he took them to his house. His parents were too joyful to see them. Thus their visits and acquaintance increased. Shweta bonded more affectionately with Amar. He too adored her.
Good days rolled by. One day, Amar took them to an amusement park. All had a wonderful time. While driving home, Amar broke the shocking news. He had been transferred to Bengaluru and had to report for duty within two months! Manju was quite disheartened. Shweta had nestled near him and had gone to sleep.
“Manju, I need to talk to you…”he started slowly, “Ma and baba do not want to leave their home. I don’t want to go alone. Will you come with me?”
Manju was perplexed, “But how can I come with you?”
He hesitated and hastily blurted out, “As my wife.”
She was shocked, “as your …” she stammered, “but how can I, that’s not possible and what will my people say?”
“Manju in what age are you living?” he was almost exasperated. “You know” he continued, “I have always been in love with you but…felt I was not of your level.”
“Come on, try to understand those days I was just a village school headmaster’s son and you the affluent zamindar’s only daughter. So I wanted to earn a prestigious degree and job and then propose. Alas, by that time you were married.” He stopped to breathe in.
“Now I am well placed, I can take good care of you and Shweta. Think about this and give me your answer. I am willing to wait. Ma and baba too are with me.”
Manju’s concern was how will her parents react…a widow remarrying was not in her family’s history! Manju thought and mustering courage, discussed with her uncle and aunt. Surprisingly, they were only too happy. She finally gave her consent but left the ultimate decision to her parents. Astonishingly, her parents were awash with joy! Thus the marriage was solemnised in a temple in a simple fashion. That was how Amar had become the father of Shweta! Both of them adored each other.
But Manju had kept this secret. Now it was high time she informed her daughter about this. But how was she to break this news…
There was a hard knock and then abrupt opening of the door. The loud noise shook Manju from her reverie. She looked up and Shweta came racing in.
“Mama” she cried out astonished, “you are still not ready. Are you not happy your beti is getting married and that too to her best friend! Come on get ready soon.” A look at her mama and she understood that her mother was disturbed. “Why are you so troubled?” Manju shook her head. “I have to tell you something beta…very urgent.”
“Then tell me …” but before she could complete, Manju hid her face and started to cry. Shweta had rarely seen her mother cry.
She was shocked and putting her arms around her, she whispered, “I know what is troubling you” Manju looked up enquiringly.
“Yes, you want to tell me my father is not my real one. I mean he is not the one who gave me birth. That my real father is Mr. Ajit Kumar, right?” Shweta sounded so cool and confident. “Dad told me that long time ago, but I did not desire to trouble and embarrass you. So, I had remained silent”.
Manju was flabbergasted and when she looked up, her husband had quietly entered the room and was smiling! He winked at her. Manju embraced her child and wept with joy. How could she ever repay him for his unrequited love!
Image via Unsplash
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