The Blessed Birthday
The Blessed Birthday
We reached a restaurant that was my mother’s favourite. As promised, I had to share the expenses of the ‘treat’. As we reached our car back, I knew the time was coming nearer. I had planned it throughout the day, but as the time to implement it came nearer, I felt anxious.
Not because it was wrong, in fact I was sure it was correct; but because I was going to reveal something that might have been surprising in a way that it could bring back the turmoil which she was trying to avoid. Yet, as I drove towards Upper Lake, I knew that I had decided of doing that. I felt that it would be important for her to know, what I had found out not just by my efforts, but also by another coincidence.
I stopped near the Boat Club. I knew my mother wouldn’t leave from there without taking a boat ride. As I parked the car, I took the belongings that I had been hiding till now. For me, they were the most priceless possessions at that time, and the most critical ones too.
By the time I reached the place where my parents and Mishti were waiting for me, it was already 8-30 P.M. and I had been told beforehand that the ticket counter for the boat rides remained open only till 9 P.M., with the weather that persisted since the past week.
“Mom, you’ll be going I think and you too dad”, I said turning to them both,” I’ll go and get the tickets then. Mishti, what about you? In for a boat ride?”
She seemed confused. Then said,” Actually I would be more comfortable here, near the shore, with the view around.”
My mother looked at her for a few seconds and then said,” Oh yes, I told you this view is equally awesome dear. So you two remain here. Siddharth will tell you more about the place”.
“Oh, no I mean I will stay over here. Of course you should go too, doctor”, she looked at me.
Before I could reply, my mother laughed and said, “He never goes Mishti. So for tonight, he has a company.” I felt thankful for her reply. For a minute, I stared blankly at my mother, until she said, “Come on now go and get them before the counter closes”.
I hurried off to the counter, got two tickets and set my parents for their favourite ride. I knew it would take them exactly 40 minutes. It was always a pleasure to watch them happily enjoying it. Yet, I never felt that enthusiasm to go and enjoy that since I had grown up. I felt more blissful at the shore.
The serenity of the calm water seemed a mystery to me. It possessed so much energy and strength, yet the peace that came from watching its beauty had more to do with calmness, rather than the thunderous noise that it could bring. However, I knew that like everything else which seemed calm just at the surface, it contained that turmoil of waves too.
I saw her standing near the railing of the Boat Club, waving at my parents. I went and stood beside her. Probably she thought the same about the serenity of such a place, or probably she wanted to be herself for some time. I was completely unaware of what she was thinking.
For a few minutes, none of us spoke a word. She was aware of my presence. I realized that when she spoke, waking me up from my silence all of a sudden, “So even this place has got that beautiful view”, looking at me, then added, “Yet, I loved that view more”, and smiled.
I wanted to smile back too, but I did not. I could not. I knew her words were an attempt to hide her thoughts. Of course, she must have been nostalgic as well as sad, or probably happy. I did not know that, but I knew what must have been her state of mind. I wondered whether it was the right time to speak it out and concluded that I should wait for some more time.
We stood in silence, when I remembered that I hadn’t replied to what she had said.
“Oh yes, this is beautiful. Mom loves it very much. But even I like the one from there more”, I smiled back at her.
“Thank God you replied”, she said, laughing at it.
I did not laugh. I simply smiled, “I was kind of absorbing the surroundings”.
“True. Absorbing the surroundings. Strange that you used to feel cold till now, when you loved all this”, she looked at me with a surprise.
“Actually even I didn’t understand how I felt comfortable in winter! I mean I have started enjoying it really”.
“That’s why it is said that surprises are a part of life, isn’t it?”.
I nodded at her words. We did not speak a word for another few minutes.
Then she spoke, “Actually doctor, I have something for you tonight.”
On noticing my expressions of denial, she added, “Don’t worry. It isn’t something materialistic that you might feel reluctant to accept. In fact, it is something very small that I had promised to tell you and now I think I can. I did not know what else I could give you. You have everything, but I had to give you something. It is your birthday after all”, the way she emphasized on ‘you’ and her last few words about it being my birthday made me wonder how she must have been feeling all day long.
I did not speak, but she continued, “I am giving you the secret trick behind not feeling cold. I’ll tell you how it seems warm and beautiful, but not chilly in such a weather.”
I looked at her in disbelief, but she smiled at it, “Yes I know I had denied to tell you that day, but you might not have understood it until you could feel the chill affecting you less than before.”
I asked her,” Oh that’s my pleasure then. What is it?”
She laughed and said, “As I said, it is not anything big, yet something great. It is the warm light inside you which remains shining always despite the chill. The light of blessings. The love that you have for your loved ones. The love that you feel around when they are present. The love that brings warmth when you close your eyes in this chill and stand to face it. It is just that little light.”
I could not believe what I had just heard. Not because it was something surprising, but because I had been expecting something like that. I felt ecstatic to know that what I believed was true. Never had I felt that way earlier. I did not know how to respond, but it had surely touched me deep inside.
“You know doctor, I’ve seen from where this miracle comes for you. I’ve seen the way you feel blessed with your parents. It is so soothing to look at you all and see you talk. I feel great to know you all in fact”, she smiled at me.
She took out a photograph from her purse, “You know for me, that warmth comes from here”. It was a photograph of her parents and her beloved pet. I could understand what it meant to her. “Actually whenever I look at the sky, especially at the brightest stars, I feel them very close to me”.
I did not know what to say. She had not said the wrong thing, but it wasn’t the only thing. Yet, I knew that deep inside my heart it came from somewhere else too. But I wasn’t going to tell her. I gathered words for something so beautiful.
“Thank you so much Mishti! I really do not know if thank you suits here or not, but I’ve never got such a beautiful thing from anybody ever. It is so touching and genuine. I am really blessed that I can feel that warmth in my life, and grateful to everybody who has brought it for me. I know it is something really close to you, yet you shared it with me and that’s what makes it so special. I will remember this all my life”.
“Don’t make me feel as if I’ve given you the security access to some treasure doctor. But it was my pleasure and I don’t tell everybody about it”, she replied.
“And it wasn’t less than a secret for me, considering the way I’ve seen you with a thin jacket all this time”, I laughed, then added, “I have got something for you as well”.
She looked at me, surprised. “For me?”
“Yes”, I looked into her eyes, “You might not know everything about me, but I do”, I gave the piece of paper to her, “Happy birthday. God bless you”.
She looked at me and then at the piece of paper. Her eyes were filled with tears. At first, she tried to stop them, but then they came out. She wiped them off, but some more came, and then she started weeping like a child.
I did not know what to do. I was about to apologize for bringing it up when she said, amidst her tears, “I have been missing mom and dad since morning. Last night, I thought of a match just because basketball seemed the only way to escape the memories which haunt me. I have been missing my previous birthdays. They were never so lonely. I always had wishes from those I loved”.
As if coming back from some other world, she looked up at me, “You are the first one to wish me doctor, on this birthday. And for everything that you’ve done tonight, I am really thankful. I was blessed to know about a place which I could love. And for the lovely evening too, thank you so much”, tears still remained in her eyes, “I had felt surprising though, when I heard that it is your birthday too”, she smiled at last.
“Oh but I wasn’t so surprised when I thought about it a little later. It is coincidences which play an important role between us, isn’t it?”, as I said that, she looked at me in a way I couldn’t understand. I tried not to think much and said, “Now I’ll be happy if you take a look at it, then I’ll tell you what it is”.
She looked at it. I saw her expressions change from dull to the enthusiastic ones that I’d seen when she played basketball. Then as if realizing what it was, her jaw dropped in wonder and she looked back at me with a grin, “From where did you get this doctor? You are giving it to me! Oh by the way, thank you! It is a lovely present. Amazing. I can’t believe I have one. I can preserve it forever in my diary. No, first tell me how did you get this?”
It was delightful to see her back again, in her usual form. She looked more beautiful when she had that happiness on her face. And now she stood beside me, looking at me with a child-like eagerness and innocence, forgetting where she was. I could spend my time thinking how she could remain that way, but I was expected to speak.
I laughed at first, then replied, with a smile,” It is a long story. Actually I had gone for the under-16 zonal tournament to Delhi. We had a great time with the other teams too. At that time, one of the members of the Federation had been very supportive to all the players over there. Just for fun, he told each one present over there that the winning members could ask for anything that was possible to be given.
When we reached the finals, he met our team again and repeated it, I still thought it was for fun, so I tried to throw a bouncer. While others asked for whatever they wanted, I told him that if our team won, I would like to get a photograph of Vince Carter, along with his autograph. He promised me that he would send it and noted down my address. We played and won the match. He met me that day and reminded me about our conversation. I had believed him, but when I came back home, I forgot about it. Until after a month, I got a letter with this, and I jumped everywhere showing it to everybody.”
I paused, she looked at me opening her mouth. I knew what she would say, “Yeah I know I felt the same. Had I known, I would’ve asked for the same by Michael Jordon, but I’d thought it won’t be possible. Though later I felt, it could have been possible too. Actually, at that time I was more impressed by Vince Carter. I mean I know Jordon is an unmatched legend, but Carter was a contemporary player you see”, I smiled.
“Wow doctor! You have treasures literally”, she laughed. “I still can’t believe I am holding the photograph of Carter with his autograph. And you are giving it to me? You earned it. I could have never thought of getting it in my life. You are a wonderful player..”
“..who got defeated by another wonderful player in the morning”, I laughed.
“That doesn’t matter. It was my luck today. Simply luck”, she smiled, “So I can keep this you mean?”
“Always”, I replied.
“Thank you doctor”, she replied excitedly.
I felt great to see that light in her eyes, but I had to show her something else too.
“There is something more”, I said.
“Oh is this evening going to be full of wonderful surprises?”, she smiled.
“I am afraid it might not be wonderful. But I have to tell you. You should know about it”, I remained serious.
“You can tell me anything that you have to. It has already been wonderful enough”, she took the seriousness this time.
I took out the pages I had been carrying, the ones from the recent edition of a magazine which I had found in the cupboard while I was looking for that autograph.
“Mishti, it is this”, I handed them to her.
As she read the pages, I sat in silence, breathing in the serenity and warmth of the surroundings with the secret I had just come to know. I had the most divine presence with me that night, and the events of that night leave me mesmerized always. I looked at her in the light around us. She had to be blessed with happiness. She had to be taken out of all that troubled her.
She looked up not at me, but towards the water. She sat in silence. I did not interrupt her. I knew what she must have been thinking. She had just read that a possible culprit for destroying her world was weaker than before. It might have aroused memories, doubts as well as her burning desires for knowing the truth.
She spoke after what seemed like ages,” This is a recent edition, isn’t it doctor?”
“So this N. Ramamurthy is undergoing trials for the corruption charges in that NGO case. And he is no longer the MLA. They’ve given the reference to the story I had got published back then”, she paused, “I do not know how I should feel doctor. I do not know from where to start. But this person seems to be the one to start with after all that happened with me before I was shattered. I am not sure if this is a good news, but if something is happening for Ratna’s case, I have a hope too. Am I right doctor?”, she asked looking into my eyes.
She understood everything as I wanted her to, in the same way. The one thing that was always true about her, she never gave up and I was proud of that, “You are absolutely right. And believe me I think you should speak to Ratna once. She’ll help us to know about the present scenario, before we can start and get to the hidden story”, I smiled at her.
“Thank you for everything doctor”, she said with her soft voice, “For this evening and for whatever I still have to find out”.
“You need not thank me.” I replied.
We saw our parents coming back to us with their usual smiles. We proceeded towards them. I said to her before we reached them, “And tell me everything. I am a part of this too. I am there you know”.
She responded with a thankful smile and joined my parents. We asked them about the ride and talked about the weather. But deep inside, we both had just experienced the most wonderful nights of our life. May be, that was true about only me. Yet, I knew I had succeeded somewhat in trying to get her back to what she was. And I hoped to do more of it, by staying with her, for what had to come.
As I drove back home, I wondered why God sent certain people, certain moments at the most unexpected times. Probably, because he knew better when it was the right time. I felt closer to that peace as I felt the chilly breeze on my face, knowing the secret behind it.