I was busy in my household works and getting Atmaja ready for school. Still can’t believe how she grew up so fast that she is already 9 years old. It was just a while ago when I held her for the first time in my arms. Her baby smell, her rosy cheeks, big beautiful eyes, her tinny fingers holding my trembling hands with a grip, like a promise to never let go. And now here she is in her white and grey school uniform trying to make a ponytail of her long waist-length black hairs. A phone ring jolted me out of my thoughts. It was my friend Kriya, the only friend I had and I have. She can make me smile in any dire situations, although the info she gave neither made me cry nor made me happy. I don’t know how to react to the news of my father’s demise. I asked Atmaja to pack her bag and then sent her off on her school bus. In the meantime, I packed my bags and informed my office that I won’t be able to go to the office for a few days because of a family emergency. I couldn’t come up with proper words to describe the situation. After returning from school Atmaja kept asking me about where were we headed to, so I replied by saying that we are going to attend a funeral of a relative. She was shocked as well as happy to know that she is finally going to meet some of my relatives. In these 9 years, she has only seen me and her Kriya maasi as her family. I gave instructions to the driver about the location and we left. I couldn’t use the word “home”. The memories of that place flooded my mind like a flashback.
I was only 5 years old when she died and I was sent to my maternal grandmother to live with her. When my Grandma died I was 15 years old so I again came back to live with my father. I’ve barely seen my father in these ten years so after shifting also there was no father-daughter relationship. I was merely a maid to cook and clean for my father. I was scolded and slapped for every small mistake but I became used to it. I still remember that day vividly, the day of my mother’s 5th death anniversary. The house was full of guests for the havan. I was distributing Prasad when my uncle called me so loudly that the plate fell off my hands and the contents scattered on the ground. The moment I came into his line of vision he slapped me so hard that I fell on the ground. He opened an envelope and started reading it aloud. It was my pregnancy report which I thought I’ve hidden properly. There was a murmur in the crowd. Every eye was there to judge me and I knew in a few moments this will be the talk of the town. My uncle started thrashing me, I pleaded him but that was vain. I begged everyone but no one came forward to help me not even my father. Everyone felt sorry for my family that they were taking care of a characterless daughter who spoiled their name and image in society. No one spared me to listen to my explanation. No one even asked me the name of the father of my child. They threw me out of the house. I couldn’t cry, I didn’t know if I was sad that I had nowhere to go or relieved that I don’t have to go back to the house. Unknowingly I reached Kriya’s house who was the one and only person who knew my life inside out. When I saw her I started crying and told her about what unfolded today at my house. She wanted to go back to my house and fight for me but I couldn’t muster up the courage to go back there. So she spoke to her boyfriend, who treated me like a little sister, to arrange a place for me to live and a job to support myself.
During my pregnancy, many times the thought of abortion kept pecking up in the back of my mind. Killing the life growing inside my body. But with each passing day, I ended up getting more attached to it her. Since then I’ve never looked back at my past. I was a happy single mother who was bestowed with a sweet loving daughter.
We reached the gate of the house. As soon as I stepped inside everyone looked at me. They were not expecting me I guess. I took Atmaja to my old room and asked her to freshen up. My uncle entered when I went to touch the “dead body’s” feet. He held my hand and started to drag me away. I jerked his hand, he didn’t expect that. He started shouting, using abusive words, saying I came here in the greed of property. I just smiled and walked away. I paid all the necessary bills which made people talk to me and Atmaja. After the funeral and other rituals were finished, Atmaja and I were ready to leave. When I touched my uncle’s feet he blessed me. I never thought that his next question would freeze me to the core. He asked who Atmaja’s father was. Tears started forming in my eyes. Seeing which Atmaja answered that she doesn’t have a dad and neither she wants. I had a genuine smile on my face after hearing that. I turned to my uncle and said that it now it doesn’t matter who he was because he is dead.
We started back for our “home” and Atmaja slept on my lap. Whatever may have happened in the past, I could never regret the present. At that instant, I forgave my father who also was Atmaja’s father. Now that he is dead there is no use in holding a grudge against him. I forgive you, father.
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