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His rebellion hadn’t gone down well with his father and conflict had soon escalated into a family feud, with even her sister in law being called upon to intervene, and things had gone completely out of hand.
The changing season brought with it a lot of extra chores; putting away winter clothes, preparing for the summer and changing her routine of late morning walks. She would need to attend to all of that soon, but this weekend would be occupied by preparations for the festival. She usually didn’t do much by way of celebrating the festival, especially since her husband’s demise a few years back.
This year however was different. Her son would be visiting after many years, taking advantage of his vacation time. Knowing him well, she could sense that he had chosen the timing specifically and he had been insistent on getting together.
She had her misgivings, especially about his suggestion that they would drive down to their ancestral home the day before Holi, and spend it with extended family. She was not usually too keen to meeting that side of the family, and wasn’t sure how this celebration thing would be received. Her mother in law had never really recovered from the tragedy, and the shock and betrayal had been too much, she feared.
As she read his messages, however, she had decided that she would try and enjoy the time she was getting to spend with her son. After all, those days had been as tough on him as on them; and if this was what he wanted, she would try and see how it went. If they didn’t feel like it, they wouldn’t celebrate the festival. At least, after so many years, they would be together. Wasn’t that what mattered?
The week passed in a flash, as she made preparations to cook his favorite dishes, and ensure he would have a relaxed break.
His uncomplicated childhood had passed much faster than it should have. His rebellion hadn’t gone down well with his father and conflict had soon escalated into a family feud, with even her sister in law being called upon to intervene, and things had gone completely out of hand.
She had always known the importance her husband accorded to wealth and fame; and even his family seemed to be just a means to this end. Difference of opinion and divergent view points were simply unacceptable and untenable in his universe. His arrogance and controlling nature had been obviously to her throughout their married life, but she had hoped that fatherhood would make him see things differently.
That was a dream that wasn’t going to come true, she had realized as her strong willed son grew up.
When it seemed like the son could out do the father in his strong will, there had been trouble in paradise. Father and son were at logger heads and no one seemed to be able to make either one see reason. While her husband was widely regarded as invincible, her son had the courage of his conviction. Both clashed with each other, many a time. Caught between them, this was a battle that consumed her life for many years, and she was condemned to lose; irrespective of its outcome.
And the outcome had occurred, claiming her husband shortly after the death of his sister, changing everyone’s lives forever.
With great difficulty, mother and son had reconciled to rebuilding their lives. They had left for the city to try and put the past behind them. The months had turned into years, and she had been overjoyed when he got a good opportunity for higher studies. She did miss him, but realized that the move would be good for him.
The day he was to arrive, she could hardly contain her excitement. She waited late into the night and was overjoyed to see him. He hadn’t changed at all. His innocent smile and boyish charm brought back memories. Mother and son talked late into the night, before falling asleep
She woke up next mooring to see him already up, making preparations to leave. “Are you sure you want to drive down?” she asked. “You must be tired after travelling.”
“Yes mother, get ready quickly,” he replied, as he hugged her; leaving the unsaid unfinished.
She was mostly silent on the journey, as was he.
This was the first time he was returning after those terrible days, to what had been his childhood home. She had returned once for a few days when her mother in law had taken ill. After nursing her for a few days, she had excused herself. After all, there were many others to look after her. The family had seemed t understand and hadn’t pressurized her either. What could they say, after all? She had always been alone even when she had lived with them.
As they drew up on the porch, she noticed the lovely flowers that were growing. A little unkempt and unattended to, they still stood out. It was spring, after all. It looked as if the building had been freshly painted and the road newly carpeted. The air was so much cleaner and fresher than the city one she had had to get used to.
She was surprised to see everyone waiting for them. Her mother in law was leaning by the door and as they touched her feet, everyone had tears in their eyes. Her son, the lone heir, was paying his regards to the elders, before heading to the havan area. Preparations for an elaborate Pooja awaited them, and she hesitated when someone beckoned her to take her place.
Understanding her dilemma, he came to escort her.
“Mother, let us finally allow the past to be past,” her son said. “Let us heal ourselves and each other. Everyone paid the price for the greed and ego of one person. Today, let us pledge to eliminate the evil from our hearts and find the good within. Let us pray for father and my bua.”
“How can you say that? Your father wanted you dead. And his sister connived with him!!”
“Mother, I have found it in my heart to forgive him. He was misguided by his ambition and ego; and he suffered because of it. Bua was also party to it, but ultimately she was tricked by him, and was another victim of his, just like all of us. They have suffered and left the mortal world, but by holding on to our angst, we continue to hurt ourselves. Today, let us release ourselves of this burden and forgive our past along with those who bore us ill will.”
Prahlad was right. Deep within, she had also begun to let go. Hadn’t she been able to see the beauty of the palace when she had arrived? Things had been as they always were; she simply hadn’t been able to see them or recall them earlier! Prahlad was right, it was time to move beyond their past; and maybe this was the way to do it?
“Prahlad, wait. Get your grandmother also. She is the eldest; she must be part of the ceremony.”
Both ladies, victims of avarice and greed of the males in their lives watched as Prahlad performed his rituals before their turn. Diti realized that her mother in law had also lost those who were dear to her, and had struggled with the trauma alone.
Would life had been just a little better for both of them, if they had been able to give each other the strength and solace of companionship and sisterhood, she wondered? As the flames rose from the havan kund, and she added ghee, she finally was able to find it in herself to stop feeling resentful of the past. Life was full circle. She had been a strong mother, and had raised a strong, kind hearted and brave son who would finally do right by all of them.
Later, as they chatted over tea, Prahlad enjoying the gujiyas lovingly made by his dadi, she suggested what had been on her mind.
“Prahlad, should we take dadi with us to the city? It would be a good change for her, and we could also consult good doctors for her.”
“Mother! That is wonderful. Two of my favorite ladies together. I would love that!”
The next day, and every year after, they celebrated Holi with joyous and colorful festivity.
Image source: Viraj J Narkar / CC BY-SA and By Raghuvanshidude – Holi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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