“Moksha, will you please answer the door,” her mother called out as she added the last bit of water to soften the dough some more, the impression of her fingers appeared and vanished with the constant kneading, like the hide and seek of the early morning sun. The obedient tiny feet rushed, steering their way through the dolls and the doctor’s set scattered on the mosaic floor, the trinkets in her anklet singing in unison. “It’s Riya Aunty!” Moksha exclaimed, her eyes twinkling in euphoria. The lady had a paper bag and a tube-rose bouquet in her hand. She could get a better flower, I thought to myself. The little doctor tossed away feverish Mr. Cuddly Bear with no remorse and guided her in, holding her manicured fingers. I couldn’t help but smile, Mrs. Sen chuckled at her daughter’s innocence too.
It had been five months since I moved to Vasant Vihar. I’d finally found a shelter that wouldn’t require me to commute four hours daily! Working for Cyber-Security and seeing the increasing rate of cyber-crime, I thought it was the perfect time to take baby steps towards my goals of social responsibility. Since charity begins at home, I decided to spread awareness about social-engineering, fraud calls and phishing mails by having door-to-door visits to the families and tenants residing in my apartment. It also helped me justify the ‘ambivert’ tag I’d earned despite the me-time my close ones know I have for rejuvenating from the week’s exertion. I couldn’t do any better than two floors per weekend, for people like Mrs. Sen would not let me stand at the door. My balcony being east-facing, gave a distinct view of the children’s park in our colony. I often watched Mokshagna play there in her mother’s supervision, but that was the first time I met them in person.
“You are here with us on a very special day. The mushroom, chicken and pudding are done. The dough is almost ready, Riya will help me with the salad. We’ll have a little celebration, followed by lunch together.” It took me a few seconds to process her words, my neurons have this habit of becoming less receptive in such awkward situations. With a question mark on my face, I started cursing myself for being at the wrong place in the wrong time. My eyes started wandering, searching for streamers and helium balloons. “Thank you Aunty, but I’ve already prepared lunch. Besides, I wasn’t aware of Moksha’s birthday today.” I could feel my ears getting warm, embarrassment always does a little red magic to them.
Riya unboxed a pineapple cake, it had colorful roses with tiny edible silver balls as dew drops on the petals. We proceeded to a corner of the L-shaped hall where stood a photo frame on a wrought iron table, beside it was a hand-carved wooden urn. Riya placed the flowers in it. “Shaurya passed away in a road accident a year and seven months ago. He would have been thirty-eight today,” not a quiver in her voice, not a tear in her eyes. “He loved the fragrance of tube-roses, we always fought over flowers, for I loved roses more then,” she uttered with a faint smile on her lips. Mrs. Sen’s words left me speechless. The dots started connecting immediately. It is then that I realized ‘Mrs.’ Shaurya Sen on the list of winners for the Father’s Day event, pinned to the society notice-board wasn’t a typo in the first place.
Mokshagna smiled at me, she still had the stethoscope hanging around like a pearl necklace. I was astonished by how life had brutally taught the souls to attain such a dangerous level of impregnability at these tender ages. That day I realized life is beyond the fairy-tales we dream of, much more than the fancy happy endings in the movies. It is a daughter whose childhood would be gone much sooner than mine, who does not remember the voice which called her by different names, or the touch of the hands which held her face when he kissed her good night each day. It is a mother trying to be a father breaking all stereotypes, a body accustomed to frocks and ballerinas striving hard to get comfortable in boring trousers and leather shoes, a wife seeking shelter in photographs and making love to memories, with glimpses of her long-lost husband in her daughter’s brown eyes.
The birthday was someone else’s but the presents were mine, a family away from home and a lesson for life. I complain less now, the atheist in me had learnt to count her blessings.
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