Rajesh woke up from his afternoon nap feeling tired. Age does that to you; even after a nap, you may wake up feeling tired and exhausted. But at only 52 years of age, Rajesh felt and looked much older than his actual years. Add to that, his rheumatism was acting up again; he could feel a tingling pain in his knees. He got up, stretched his hands above his head and yawned loudly. His bedroom floor was strewn with things. Pieces of colorful crepe paper, glue sticks, scissors. An assortment of small colorful paper fans, all in different stages of completion, was lying on the floor. You know the paper fans we made while sitting in class, from sheets torn from our notebook, when our main teacher was absent and a guest teacher came in and asked us to do ‘craft works’. These were the first ever Origami work of almost every child. And Rajesh was making these again now; this time with his grandkids; Anya & Ayan.
Anya was a cute little 5 Year old with big, round eyes, pasted on a face surrounded by gorgeous little roundlets of curls and with a small button nose. She loved Disney princesses and the little diva already had a style statement which was fashioned on said princesses. The exact opposite was her little brother Ayan. The lean and lanky 4-year-old currently considered vests to be clothes, proper enough to be worn when stepping outside of the house. While inside the house, he preferred going commando most of the time, which was the reason of his constant altercations with his mother. In fact, since they had been here, Rajesh and his wife had already had to step in quite a few times, to stop their daughter from losing it at her tiny little brat.
Rajesh went out to his room to find his wife. Rajesh and Vimla were married for 28 years now. They shared an understanding and companionship that comes with a relationship that long. They both understood each other’s needs and emotions without having to express it out loud. He saw Vimla coming out of the kitchen with the tea tray in hand. At 49, Vimla did not have a single gray hair on her head. She was ever so active and handled almost all of the household chores herself. She would be up, early at dawn and keep working till late at night when she came to bed only after cleaning up the whole kitchen. Age had not affected her much, it was Rajesh who had always suffered from bad health and as the years passed his health only kept deteriorating.
“Where are the kids Vimla? They have left all their stuff in my room and have now gone out to play. Please ask them to pick up their toys.” “Come have your tea.” “Let me go and bring them in, it is evening already, they also must be hungry. I will go get them.” Rajesh went out in the garden, calling after his grandkids. Vimla sat down at the table and sipped her cup of tea. There was a plate of biscuits and cakes on the tray in front of her. She silently stared out of the dining room window which faced their back garden.
Rajesh went out in their garden, but the kids were not there. Maybe they had gone to play in the park near their house. His legs were hurting, he sat down on one of the cane chairs and waited for his grandkids to come back.
Falguni was Rajesh and Vimla’s eldest daughter, they had two sons Deepak and Dhiraj. Dhiraj, their youngest son was doing his masters from a UK university and Deepak was working in the States. He lived in Chicago with his wife, who had moved there, post their marriage a year ago.
It was 2 years ago that Rajesh has had a minor heart attack while he was at his shop. Thankfully he was out of the hospital within a few days, but his doctor had strongly advised him to take it slow. Rajesh knew this was not a possibility as he had a very successful and demanding business. It had taken him years to build his business, he had put in his sweat and blood in it. He could not let go of it. He had called Deepak after being released from the hospital. Deepak had been hugely surprised when Rajesh told him of his wish for Deepak to come down and take over the business. It would mean giving up his career and his life. Deepak could not even imagine doing that, he had never intended to take over the business and he told this very clearly to his father. Rajesh had not taken very kindly to this, he was not used to being disobeyed, neither by his wife and kids nor by anyone else. He understood he will have to sell his business soon. He had not talked to Deepak for a whole year.
It was then that Falguni had decided to move back from Pune, she had told her father that she will take over the business. Her husband, who was a lecturer at a Pune college, had applied for a job here. They had moved here a year ago and taken a house in the same colony. Slowly, Rajesh had passed over the reigns of his business to Falguni. He had taught her the lessons he had hoped to teach one day to his sons. His legacy, his hard work, his success was to be carried on by the daughter he had got married off, at age 21. Now, his 26 years old daughter had stepped into the shoes which he had hoped his 25-year-old son will wear.
He was getting impatient now, “Where were the kids? Come to think of it he had not seen Falguni either, she was here earlier, where had she gone? Had they left for home already?” He went inside. “Vimla where is Falguni? The kids are not outside, have they gone home?” “Please sit down, your tea is cold. I will warm it up, come sit down.” Vimla started getting up to go into the kitchen. “No, I don’t want to have tea. Why did she leave without telling me? Call her and ask her to talk to me. These kids have no respect for their father at all. My sons are busy in their own lives. My daughter does not care.” Rajesh was getting agitated now, Vimla went near him and put her hands on his shoulders, “Come, lie down a bit, please. You should not get so excited. It is not good for your health, I will give you your medicine now.”
Rajesh went with her and sat down on his bed, while Vimla took out his medicine box. “Please call her first Vimla, I want to talk to her.” “Ok, now take this tablet please.” Rajesh lay down after taking the medicine. Vimla covered him with the blanket and went out of the room.
She went to the living room and dialed Deepak’s number. What time was it in the USA? Hope Deepak picks up, she waited while the phone rang on the other end. Her son picked up after a couple of rings. “Deepak how are you beta, how is bahu?” “I am fine Maa, how are you, how is Papa?” Vimla was silent for a moment, “Deepak, did you decide when you can come beta? Papa is getting worse by the day, I don’t know how much are the medicines working. If you are here we can take him to some renowned doctor. He has his next appointment tomorrow, but this is such a small town, I think if we take him to a bigger hospital, it will be better.” She sat and listened to her son on the other end for a few more minutes. When he hung up, she came back and sat in the dining room.
Her mind went back to the day 27 years ago, they were sitting in the doctor’s small chamber. “Mr. Rajesh are you sure you want to do this.?” “Yes Doctor Sahib, we don’t want a daughter. What use is a daughter? I need sons who can carry on my name, my business, my legacy. A daughter is only a waste of money. What will people say if they come to know that my first born is a girl.” “Ok then, Vimla ji, please take these medicines I have written down and come back tomorrow at 9:00 AM.” Vimla had been there the next day.
It was a year ago that Rajesh had started showing the symptoms of hallucination little by little. His treatment was not showing much results. In a couple of months, he had started talking about his imagined daughter, Falguni, the daughter, who never was.
Vimla went into the bedroom, Rajesh was sitting alone on the floor folding paper fans. She stood by the door watching her husband talking to his grandchildren. He had dreamed up another life, a life that was never born.