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Celebrations: A Story About Family Exceptions And Stress

Story— Celebrations: Naina, had dropped a year to prepare for her medical entrance exams and when she had failed to secure a rank, so she had enrolled herself to graduate in a science program and had to appear for her back paper as she had flunked in one of the papers in second semester.

“Come here soon”

The tone of the voice was such that it sounded like a last warning, Naina rushed to the dining area. Her mother Pushpa gave her icy steel looks, while her father looked disinterested in the conversations going on in the house and focused on his plate.

Naina being the elder of two children of Mathur’s had a rebellious streak. But currently she wore a mix of defiant and calm look.

She had dropped a year to prepare for her medical entrance exams and when she had failed to secure a rank, so she had enrolled herself to graduate in a science program and had to appear for her back paper as she had flunked in one of the papers in second semester.

“Were you preparing for your exam that you failed to listen to me?” Enquired Pushpa, her mother

“It’s none of your business,” Naina replied without lifting her eyes.

“Don’t spoil the atmosphere and have your food silently,” interjected Anurag, the father.

Her brother Siddhartha who was sitting next to her appeared chirpy despite the tensions prevailing in the house. He was appearing for class 11th final exams and clearly was not the centre of attention in the current scenario of the house.

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The rest of the evening went in total silence.

***

The past few years had really been difficult for Naina academically. As a child she was always athletic, but as she started growing up she reduced her sports time to focus more on her studies. It turned out she was a decent student but could not beat any competitive exams.

Pushpa, being a senior officer in a bank, has had her ups and downs in her career. In her initial years owing to motherhood, she had compromised on her job profile and opted for easy postings and manageable workload. It affected her career graph for a short while, but she soon made up by sheer hard work.

Accusations were deep and cutting by both set of parents. Sometimes direct and sometimes veiled for leaving the toddlers home for long hours and by simply not being there physically for them.

Anurag came to her rescue. He spotted the brighter one between the two, and a silent understanding cropped up between them as to who will go ahead and who will take it easy on the career front.

Now again, a promotion was staring at her face when Naina started underperforming. Not only Naina was suffering academically, but her behaviour had become erratic too. The promotion was an important stepping stone for Pushpa to managerial cadre, and she had toiled day and night for it.

***

It was already 10 pm in the office the next day.

Pushpa squirmed on her chair and focused on her work. None from her family called her up to know about her whereabouts. Off late, they had got too accustomed to their hard-working mother.

“Where is my coffee?” yelled Pushpa from her seat.

Temper rising in her voice. She could feel the disinterest of her family in her and unspoken accusation of her parents and in-laws for poor performance of Naina.

Pushpa had learnt to silence them, but their eyes spoke to her in a tone which her mind could not shun. As she kept on working with feverish speed, her voice became crankier.

“This is not how it is done,” she snapped at her junior, who was suddenly standing at her desk. The junior expressed her inability to sit any longer as she was newly married and left without saying a word. She sighed at the stupidity of her junior and again dug her head deep in the work.

The conservative peons and help boys gave her a bored look and walked in a disgruntled manner around the office. Pushpa was known to have a bad temper.

As hard working as she was, she minced no words when it came to getting her work done. She fixed an appointment for Naina with a career counsellor and wrapped up her work.

The peons were talking in an unusually loud tones, “My daughter made it to Medical Entrance Exam”

“How wonderful, the credit goes to her mother,” said the second one and yawned.

Pushpa passed through them and slammed the door behind her.

***

“When is the promotion committee sitting,” asked Anurag as she entered the house at 11 PM.

“In a week”, she gave a relaxed smile as Anurag warmed the food for her.

Anurag was a senior associate in a private firm. He had not achieved much in his career. Not only he lacked the will to work hard in the office, but also lacked the necessary skill to guide the children in the house in the wake of his hard-working wife.

Despite his shortcomings, he was the only person in whom Pushpa found some comfort. Pushpa had reached a point in her career where the competition was cut-throat and despite all the hard work, sometimes office politics took its toll on her.

Anurag helped her wade through the negativity of the office. But the most she suffered was when the clerical cadre and peons looked at her with no respect.

***

There was a strong rumour in the office that today the promotion list will be emailed to employees. The corridors were unusually loud and people maintained a distance from Pushpa. She appeared unusually calm today as against the usual tyrant one.

Pushpa remained glued to the computer screen. Her heart was beating a thousand times in a minute, and she suffered from nausea and stomach ache at the same time. The only sign which gave away that she was nervous were her ears, which were red.

“Has Naina left for college?” Pushpa texted Anurag. Anurag was on leave today as Naina had her back paper exams. Siddhartha had left for school.

“Yes, any news?”

“No, the buzz is that the result might come by evening through mail”

“All the best, just pray”

“Putting up a brave face, but the butterflies won’t go”

“Relax”

“Make sure Naina meets the counsellor at 5 pm”

“She created a scene at the mention of counsellor!

“Coax her”

“Not an easy task!”

“The counsellor doesn’t give appointment easily, she is the best, try and get Naina on the same page”

“Will let you know.”

Pushpa peered through her transparent glass wall and saw all the employees going about their business as usual. She envied those whose promotions were not due this year. Each one of them looked relaxed and happy.

Especially the bald manager who sat in the cubicle whose both the sons had made into IIT, and he had not bothered about promotions ever since. The sight of the manager flared Pushpa, and she shouted at the helping staff,

“Clear the files lying on the floor, now”

***

It was 4 pm when Anurag called Pushpa up, “Naina did not appear for the paper”

“Why?”

“She did not feel like sitting for the paper,”

Pushpa stared at the ceiling wall when the realization hit that Naina might repeat the entire semester, again.

“Well Siddhartha was made the cricket team captain today, if that will cheer you up”

“No, nothing is going too, make sure Naina visits the counsellor at least”

Pushpa hung up her phone and rushed to the washroom to control the stream of tears which hung at the corner of her eyes. The judgmental eyes of all the relatives, peons, and office staff suddenly seemed glaring at her in a magnified way.

***

After a while she stormed out of the office and went to the nearby garment store and went on a purchasing spree only to dump everything at the billing counter.

She strolled the crowded streets randomly and returned to her seat. She looked calm, but with a storm within. As she settled down on her seat and checked her mail, she saw an office mail with the subject promotion list.

Her heart sank.

The day was not going well, could it make it even worse. She called up Anurag, “The mail has come, too scared to open it”

“I am hanging up, call me to tell the result within a minute, good or bad”

“Okay”

With quivering hands, she opened the mail and came to the sub heading. Tears rolled down her cheeks,

She called up again, “Anurag I made it, I am the only woman amongst the four!”

Soon, the office was abuzz with congratulatory calls, she tried to maintain a happy face, but her thoughts veered towards Naina and the dread of the house that was awaiting her.

***

With lethargic steps, she reached the door and rung the bell of the house.

Her surprise knew no bounds when she saw Anurag and children all dressed up with a cake in Naina’s hand. She looked into Naina’s eyes.

They seemed proud and hopeful. Pushpa fought to bring a smile on her face when Naina came forward and said

“Mamma, we all are going out, and we will celebrate.”

Image source: Studio India, Yogendra Singh, free on CanvaPro

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