Ananya looks at the mirror. She is stunning in her dark blue saree with glittering embroidery. She ensures that her grooming is complete in all aspects. To give it a final touch, she uses her ring finger and takes a red sindoor, vermilion red colored cosmetic powder, from a small box and applies it at the parting of her hair above the forehead as a mark of auspicious ritual in Hinduism.
Today is her Wedding Anniversary. It's been 8 years since she got married to Sanjay. She has cooked - paneer fried rice, cauliflower manchurian and mango pudding for lunch - all of which are Sanjay's favorite picks.
The dark clouds start hiding the scorching sun in Mumbai's Bandra city and the cool breeze starts flowing through the doors and windows of her home indicating the arrival of downpour anytime soon. She walks into her room and enjoys the breeze that kisses her on cheeks through the windows followed by tiny droplets making its way out to find a place on her cute face.
She chuckles and gets reminded of how Sanjay used to hold her from behind standing in the corridor and made her experience the water droplets falling from the clouds by extending her hand. The way she chased him in the home after he had got her drenched by pushing her out in the rain had flashed through her eyes. She then closes the windows and while she is leaving the room, a diary in the old wooden rack grabs her attention. It's Sanjay's personal diary. The diary is covered with dust and seemed as if it wasn't taken out anytime recently. The pages have become too old that mites have started enjoying them from one corner. She takes it out from the rack and wipes out the dust and the mites with the curiosity of reading through it.
She sits on her reading table with the diary and flips through the first page. The diary is 6 years old and dates to the year 2006 when Sanjay was serving in Indian Army in Srinagar. Her sharp eyes start moving to the first line of the diary. The diary reads -
"The queue of soldiers in front of Defence Telephone booth in Srinagar was unusual today. Sunday wouldn't have seen this crowd had it not been the eve of Diwali. Landlines are the only mode of communicating with our family members. Our city was placed under high alert from this week after the warning from CIA on the possibility of terror attacks.This had lowered the frequency of outgoing calls to once in two weeks. Soldiers here were excited to talk to their loved ones and enquire about their kith and kin.
I waited for my turn. I was extremely worried and had my adrenaline soar thinking about Ananya, who was pregnant. After a couple of hours in queue, I stepped into the booth and dialed 022-*** with fear. The call was answered by my wife. She couldn't control her emotions and burst out saying - "As you had wished, it's a princess." I felt as if I was the luckiest person in this universe and wanted to see and cuddle the child in my arms. I had always craved for a girl child and quite often I had expressed my wishes to Ananya about how I would take care of her and the child and satisfy all her wishes and dreams and support her in achieving her ambitions. I had then promised my wife that I would come home during the last Saturday of this month. The last Saturday is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary (I still remember ..No offence :)..)."
Ananya is interrupted by her child Deeksha who had kicked open the front door with the excitement on her face. She is back from school and look drenched. She was waiting for her grandma to open the front gate. As soon as the front gate was opened, she came rushing to her home like a sprinter leaving behind her grandma and the umbrella she was holding. Her eyes move in all directions as if she is searching for someone. When she couldn't succeed in finding, she comes to her mom and asks - "Hasn't dad come yet? Where is he? Hope he doesn't cheat on us this year." Ananya kisses her on her forehead and says - "So sweet of you darling. Take a quick shower and wear the new clothes placed on the cot. He will be arriving soon." The grandma stands still looking at her daughter-in-law and listening to the conversation she was having with her granddaughter. She then rushes towards Ananya and before she could utter a word, Deeksha holds her hands and pulls her for shower.
Ananya continues reading -
"After the call, I went to my room. I was shocked to see that the door was locked. I wondered where Mahesh and my other two roommates had left. Mahesh had already completed his call much before I had joined the queue. I have decided to wait until he comes to throw up the surprise of me getting promoted to the role of a father. After an hour, Mahesh had arrived with a gift in hand and hugged me. I was baffled and before I could speak, he took over - "You know what..?? Today is the biggest day in our life. The day we have been craving for. Aisha's parents have given their nod for our marriage." I was much delighted in hearing this news. It had come out of 7 years of struggle to convince Aisha's parents for her marriage with Mahesh. He then said - "I have applied for a vacation and once it's approved, I will be travelling on the last Saturday of this month as our parents have fixed our engagement the following Friday." I was taken aback by his words and felt happy for him. I had the usual practice of explaining him every time about the happenings in home during the night of our call. Today, he was waiting for me to speak and when he couldn't get any hint of me opening, he asked me what had happened and enquired about Ananya. Though I tend to divert the topic, he held on to it and questioned me repeatedly. Then I opened saying that I have become a dad and Ananya has given birth to a baby girl. As soon as he heard this, he lifted me up and started celebrating with my other roommates. He then said - "Hey, there is no wait. I will cancel my leave plan for you. Go for it and meet your cute little princess and your queen." I was a bit hesitant to accept it. After a long-heated discussion, he made me apply for leave and he reverted his. He had one request for me - to hand over the gift to his Aisha as soon as I land in Mumbai. After the discussion with my higher authorities here, my leave got approved within 3 days of applying. I am starting my journey of love tomorrow early morning. Love you Ananya..!!"
Her eyes start filling with tears. She flips through the pages craving for more. When she realizes that the remaining pages had no traces of ink in them, she bursts out weeping and rushes into her room and slams the door behind her.
In the meantime, in Borivali, situated at 16 miles from Bandra, Aisha stares at a photo captured with Ananya, Mahesh and Sanjay in the main hall. She knows the importance of today and starts visiting her college memories when Mahesh had proposed her and the opposition she had faced in her home for her love for a non-Muslim guy. It was when Sanjay had accompanied Mahesh to her home and explained her parents about the love his childhood friend has for their daughter and literally begged her father to get her married to Mahesh. When her father had turned down the proposal on religious grounds, Sanjay had always been in her support as her elder brother and requested them not to lose hope and concentrate on their career. He had also assured that he will again talk to her dad once Mahesh makes it to a good position in his career. Mahesh's parents were broad-minded and had clearly stated that they would accept the proposal provided their son gets a job offer and owns up responsibilities.
A few years later, both Sanjay and Mahesh got recruited in Indian Army. The sooner they received their recruitment news, they went to Aisha's dad again to revive the marriage proposal. Her father was firm in his decision in not letting his daughter tie knot with a Hindu guy, no matter even if he is a millionaire. Sanjay had promised her that he wouldn't let their love go in vain and would get to see them married with her parents' consent one day.
Just a few months before they were posted to Srinagar, Aisha and Mahesh had pushed Sanjay into the marriage with her school best friend - Ananya, as he was finding reasons to drop all the proposals coming his way. Ananya, a beauty with talent and a pure soul, was a perfect match for him.
Aisha then remembers what had exactly happened on this day, 6 years ago - "It was a fine evening. I had opened the door with the excitement of receiving Mahesh after 2 years. To my surprise, it was Sanjay. Mahesh was nowhere to be seen. I had welcomed him and got his blessings as my parents have accepted for my marriage with his close friend and congratulated him for his little princess' birth. The acceptance wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the constant effort of my brother in convincing my father. Though I was happy in Sanjay's arrival, I had expected Mahesh to come home as he had confirmed of his arrival the last time he had called me. I wanted to hug him with love for the marriage approval after years of struggle. Sanjay had read my mind and decided to surprise me before I turn emotional. He had opened his suitcase and handed over Mahesh's gift to me. I took it and ran to my room and unwrapped it. The gift was a crystal "Taj Mahal", a symbol of love that stands against all odds of nature. It was a symbolic representation of our love that had gone through all hardships and have now emerged successful in opening the doors of marriage. "If true love ever exists, it would bring us together to lead the next phase of life." - Mahesh's words made my eyes wet and thanked my brother for making my dreams come true. I wanted him to refresh and have a cup of coffee. But he was so much excited to meet his wife and the baby that he didn't want to spare anymore time here and took leave. On entering the front gate, he had raised his voice and said that he felt complete in all aspects and that he would come a week early with Ananya and baby for her marriage. He then smiled and bid adieu."
She couldn't come out of that shock even today.
Meanwhile, a few miles away from Borivali, there is a children's park. Mahesh is seen sitting on the park bench. He is lonely. It's been 4 years since he was transferred to Mumbai from Srinagar. This park area had remained special for many reasons. Before the corporation had built it, it was an empty land where he had grown up playing with Sanjay. They were always together, ate on the same plate, sat on the same bench in school and college, played together and even slept together in one of their homes. Their families have always treated the other as their second son. Sanjay had always been his well-wisher and considered his happiness only next to Mahesh's.
Mahesh wonders - "When he had expressed that he had become a father, how he had hidden his joy and feelings and enquired about my happiness in Aisha's parents accepting me? He still wanted me to go home and meet Aisha." He adds - "I didn't know how to repay for all his struggles to bring the families closer. The only thing that came to my mind was my annual leave. Though it's been nearly 2 years since I have last visited my home owing to a heated argument with my parents in looking for another girl for marriage, I felt sacrificing my leaves might be a small favor compared to what he did. So, I have decided to revert my annual leave and insisted him to apply for the leave as we work on the same division and two leaves cannot be sanctioned for the same period. In fact, I yelled at him and at a point slapped him when he was speaking for me repeatedly and made him to apply leave. I hugged him then out of love. I requested him to hand over my gift to Aisha when he lands in Mumbai as I wouldn't be letting her know that my leave plan is cancelled. I didn't want to hurt her saying that and believe the surprise gift would make her feel somewhat better. Sanjay left the camp with a sweet hug and forgot to carry even his personal diary out of his anxiousness to meet his family. I had then handed over his personal diary to Ananya later when I came home on leave."
When he was brooding over the past, he was interrupted by an old lady who was selling peanuts in the children's park. Looking at her grit of earning at this age for her livelihood, he bought a peanut packet from her and asked for the price.
She replied - "It's just 10 rupees, my child."
When Mahesh took out his wallet for the change, a photo of him taken with Sanjay fell on the ground. The old lady was shocked seeing the picture and took it from the ground with trembling hands and handed it over to him. He then thanked her and paid her the price and left the spot.
Tears rolled down her eyes as she sat on the park bench. She untied the knot from her saree and took a photo from it - The wedding reception photo of Sanjay and Ananya together.
She started blaming the Almighty for what had been a serious nightmare for her 6 years ago on this particular day.
She speaks up looking at the picture - "That day, I wish, one shouldn't come across in his life. I was thrown out of my home by my son in the evening for turning old and being a burden to him. I didn't know where to go. I came to railway station and sat on the floor. I was starving and didn't have enough money to buy food. With the money I had, bought a water bottle and fainted on the ground while drinking. When I woke up to senses, I could see that I have been rested on the lap of a young man of my son's age. He was wearing an army suit and looking at my condition, he took me to a restaurant and bought me food. Seeing his helping nature, I told him everything that had led me to this situation. He felt pity for me and assisted me with almost what he had in his wallet. He introduced himself as Sanjay and told me his life journey and where he is heading. He also said that he has been yearning to see the face of his beautiful wife who had given birth to his cute princess 3 weeks ago. He then showed me his wedding reception picture. I blessed him and his family from the bottom of my heart. He then looked at his wife in the picture and smiled at her saying that they have received the blessings of an old woman whom he had just met, and that is by far the most important blessings that one can receive in one's life rather than being spiritual. The very next moment he could see his train heading the station and he took leave from me.
I wondered how a son born to me had treated me as a burden and abandoned me and how another guy, being a stranger, had showered his love on me. I started thanking the Lord for me that kindness still exists in this World.
Much before I could end my conversation with God, there was a series of blasts in the adjacent compartments of the train, about a 100 meters from the station. The same train which Sanjay had boarded. I screamed and ran to the spot praying from within to safeguard my son from this incident. There was smoke all over with some bodies torn apart and some half-burnt with bloodshed all over. There was a complete chaos with people screaming and running in all directions. I couldn't find him anywhere. Police were restricting the public from entering the spot. I cried my heart out seeing the situation. A small paper bit caught my eyes just a few steps away from the exploded compartments. As I went near, I wept uncontrollably. It was the same picture which Sanjay had shown me a few minutes ago, now with blood splash on it.
Nature perpetuates the species by switching between birth and death.
Does it mean it needs to blindly follow its cycle without considering the deeds the humans carry out in this World?
Do all humans weigh the same in nature's scale irrespective of the love and hatred they show for one another?
If nature is a human, she would regret for her action that day." - saying this the old lady leaves the park with a heavy heart.