Thursday 15 August 2019

Short Story 2019 Shortlist, Akriti Chauhan

Re-Knitting Yarns

“They will never accept our relationship. They have high expectations of me, I can’t let them down,” said Azaan.
“I respect that, but you too have a right to decide for yourself, they are happy in their world, now it is your time to experience the same,” said Shlok.
“But I am their ideal, I don’t want to do anything that they feel ashamed of, this might ruin my image,” Azaan shared her concerns.
“We are not doing anything that we shouldn’t. Is it wrong to spend a life the way you want to?” asked Shlok.
“But-” Azaan was concerned about the image she earned for herself.
“You are free, do whatever you feel is right for you. I will wait for your call by ten at night. Tickets are done for the early morning,” concluded Shlok and left from the temple for his home.

Azaan is a woman of 58 years of age, stays alone in Delhi. Both her sons are married and settled in Bangalore. Besides this, she is also a Yoga instructor. Yoga classes it is, where she met Shlok.

Shlok is a retired government official. He has a son, Rishab who is working in an MNC as an investment banker. He stays with his son but barely gets chance to talk to him, by the time he comes home after his office & late-night meetings, Shlok is off to bed and morning by the time Shlok is back from yoga classes, he goes to work.

They get to meet each other only on Sundays. He was sure that his son would understand him as he has always been a super dad for him, who has never let his son down. However deep inside the heart, he was busy convincing himself if Rishab would accept this new dad.
Both Shlok and Azaan were proud of their Kids. It wasn’t one way, their kids were also considerate and used to look at them with high spirits.

Post her husband’s death Azaan started working with a Yoga Training Centre. Her husband was the only person she knew in her in-laws, as he got disowned by them on the grounds of marrying a girl from another community. However, after his death, they helped her. They were always there for her on a small condition of saying yes to everything. Yes to share her husband’s pension with his parents, yes to work for them as a house-help, yes to raise niece and nephews as a governess and yes to give a full body massage to her brothers-in-law. A single no would mean she is not obedient enough to be a part of them.

She stayed with them for three years but could not give a good massage to them and hence was thrown out of the house on being shameless and arrogant.
She established her own world with her two sons, started yoga classes in a small garage with double shifts. Now she is managing a yoga institute with eight junior and two senior instructors, one being herself.

Shlok got divorced with Arti when he realised that they weren’t compatible with each other. Soon after the divorce, she died in a road accident.

He restarted his life with his son Rishab. Being from an affluent family, he had multiple options for getting married. His mother also said, “Get married dear. How will you raise a kid all alone? He would need a mother too.”

To which Shlok replied, “My Love story has got over now. I cannot give that place to anyone. My world means Rishab. If he needs a mother, then it is you and a father or a friend then it’s me. That’s all”.
Rishab is more of a friend to him. He is the one who got him admitted to yoga classes. However, due to his new job, he was not getting enough time for Shlok and wasn’t aware of his dad’s new budding world.

“Are you sure? Is it correct?” asked Azaan anxiously.
“This is the best we can do for them,” replied Shlok,
“Hope you have kept all your belongings safely”.
“I have kept it in the locker and have shared all the details to them through an email,” said Azaan.
“Have you?” she enquired.
“Yes, I have left the file on the table, with all the details in the same,” he replied.
“Don’t worry he will be alright,” assured Azaan. She could understand Shlok, as she was going through the same storm of emotions as him.
It wasn’t easy for Azaan and Shlok to leave everything behind and restart afresh. Both had tasted the adventures of life, now destiny wanted them to get ready for more, to smile a bit more, to cherish a little more, to live a bit more.

The bus was running at full speed leaving roads and trees behind.
“What are you looking at?” asked Shlok.
“Nothing, I was just thinking how life reshapes itself,” she smiled.
“You still miss Mr Mathew right?” asked Shlok, trying to gauge the situation.
“When Mathew died, people used to sympathise with me saying, everything would be all right eventually, and the pain will lessen. It’s been years & I am still waiting for that moment,” said Azaan.
“The pain never gets reduced, it becomes the part of our lives. We learn to live “happily” with that pain. It’s like a void that can never be filled,” Shlok shared his experience.

“Why didn’t you have a second marriage?” asked Azaan.
“As I said, I started living happily with my pain and new partner would have fetched new dreams which I was never ready for,” justified Shlok. “My happy world would always mean Shlok and Arti,” said Shlok and closed his eyes to revisit the memories of Arti. “What about you? You are beautiful, why didn’t you think of a second marriage?” asked Shlok after coming back from the memories of Arti.

“Well, thanks for the compliment but I have had enough memories of my first marriage, was just not in a mood to rediscover the same” clarified Azaan. “I left my home when I was 21, Mathew left for the heavenly abode when I was 25 and I left my in-laws’ house when I was 29. Have gone through a roller coaster ride, was not ready for more adventures. Since then, decided to be happy without Mathew than being sad with unwanted people,” she explained.

“What are we going to do now? I mean do we have any plan?” asked Azaan.
“Has our life ever followed a plan?? I doubt. The only plan right now I have is not to have any plan”. He was ready to explore a new life.

Re-knitting Yarns – It was written outside a small home near hillside facing lush green fields. It was a small two-room set with a kitchen and a giant living room from where sky scrapping mountains could be seen and a backyard from where the roar of a flowing river could be heard. It was in a small village in the lap of Himalayas.

Shlok started tuition classes with subjects from Mathematics to History and Science to Arts. Money was important to lead a respectful life, understanding this Azaan re-started her yoga classes in the backyard of the house. They started knitting the loosened ends of life.
They were the angels who came up with a light of happiness in that village. They started school with two kids and after seven months they had 26 students. In the school, no one could discuss money. Of course, it had a fee but that fees could be any amount that villagers could afford. To the surprise, no one was learning for free. The villagers were trying their best to pay their teachers. There were only good students everywhere.

Every evening Shlok and Azaan used to share the part of their lives. Shlok still had a clear memory of all the moments spent with Arti whereas Azaan could still feel the warmth of her husband’s tight hug.

They used to cherish their moments spent long back in their lives respectively but were still fresh in their memories. Now Shlok also knew about the habits of Azaan’s husband & Azaan was aware of Shlok’s wife’s beauty. They had started living their present with a respect for the past. They found a new energy within.

They developed an interesting habit of writing a letter to their kids daily sharing the happenings of the day, however, could never arrange a courage to send the same.

Ten months had passed, Rishab was still looking for a clue to find his dad. It was a Friday morning when he got a blank letter. He thought someone had played a prank on him but then got surprised as it had a stamp of Manali Post Office. Without thinking twice, he reached Manali, however, his foot got hurt while getting down the bus. The pain was unbearable, and that’s when an old man advised him of a Yoga instructor in their village. He somehow managed to walk through the address.

He saw an old man teaching students in the small veranda of a house, it was the moment he was waiting for last ten months!! He wanted to run and hug his dad, he stepped forward to run but suddenly a group of people rushed against him to get inside. He moved aside and got to know they were going for a yoga session. He asked one of those people going inside about the house and people living there.
He stayed in a hotel for two weeks, observed Re-knitting Yarns & the people staying inside. He knew his destination but wasn’t sure of the road to be taken. He was introspecting, “How he could not understand his dad?? How he got so occupied with his life that he could not share his father’s pain. Why he could not realise that a new story can be reknitted with old yarns??

He wiped his tears and got ready for his D-Day. He was firm that he had to question them. Like a daily ritual when Azaan and Shlok were discussing their past lives Rishab entered the hall.
“Hey Dad, What’s up?? How are you doing?? This is beautiful. Isn’t this like a dream house? Oh, you are also here- Ma’am you are very beautiful-” Rishab was going on & on, “I wish I could have attended your yoga classes in Delhi I would have met you right there. That would be the bigger regret for me. Never mind, It is never too late,” said Rishab.
“I will be back,” said Ms Azaan understanding the situation, she thought perhaps she should move out.

“No please stay, I want to talk to you. Had enough interactions with my dad before, I have come here for you Ma’am. Rather I would ask you, dad, please give us some time in private,” requested Rishab to Shlok.

Shlok left from there but with a bag of questions on his mind, “What would Rishab say to her, would he scold her, would he be upset, and is he being a sarcastic or real?? How would I explain all this to him etc. etc.”

Rishab started again –
“Don’t be offended, Ma’am, but you are really very beautiful. In fact, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Well honestly, I don’t know where to start – I am sorry for not understanding my dad. I am sorry that you both could not share your feelings with us. I am sorry for not creating that world for both of you. I would like to thank you. Thank you for sharing my dad’s pain. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, thank you for letting me share my feelings with you.”
“No one outside this house knows that Teacher Azaan is still Miss Azaan Ali and Sir Shlok is still a bachelor.” He started again…

“Would you please complete my family? Would you please be my mom? A mom that I have never met, only imagined. Will you complete my family? I have a dream of a family with a happy mom and a dad. Will you help me realising the same?”

Rishab was sitting on his knees with a ring in his hand and tears in eyes. Azaan was crying standing in front of him. Shlok was standing outside the room, praying to God to give him the strength to answer his son’s yet to come accusations.

Today is Azaan- Shlok’s seventh Anniversary. Every year Rishab visits his parents in Manali with his wife. He organises a small retreat where Azaan’s kids also join them to relearn the new version of love, faith & respect.

Azaan & Shlok still share the moments of love with Mathew & Arti. The only difference now is Azaan understands Arti better than Shlok does and Shlok celebrates Mathew and Azaan’s anniversary with villagers as a carnival.

There seems no limit to the purity of love. It can happen beyond the set norms of understanding and beyond any explanations. It is limitless…

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