Asha fluffed up the pillow and sighed. Her 16 year old daughter was totally ignorant on keeping her room neat. In her age I used to cook for the whole family, she thought, but no I should not compare. Neither do I want her to face the hardships that I faced during my teenage; my kids will get the best in their life. But I too get tired; I get only 2 days leave and the entire Saturday goes in cleaning. True, there are maids, they work but they do not put their soul into it. And so she kept on conversing with herself. When suddenly her hands felt something under the mattress, she took it out to see a small packet with some powder, she gasped; was it some drug-hashish, ganja something. Her mind went blank and she sat down heavily.
Her mind whirled and went back to the time when Saloni was 4 and Sajan was 2. Her husband Vijay was about to open a small scale industry of ball bearings and she had joined a nursery school as a teacher, so that the home fire could be kept burning. Earnings in a new venture were always so erratic. Maaji was with them so she took care of the kids while she went to school and Vijay tended to his ‘baby.’ It had been very hard for him, the floatation of the company, the employee turnover, trying to keep the employees happ , competition, everything but he had succeeded. She was so proud of him. She in turn had taken care of the home front, the kids studies, their PTA meetings, taking on her shoulder whatever she could so that he could concentrate on his work. Recently they had bought this bungalow in the city’s posh locality. They were surrounded by the city’s affluent. Sajan had adjusted quite nicely but he had always been a happy boy. Initially Saloni was lonely, she didn’t feel any sense of belonging. But she seemed to be quite satisfied nowadays, was this, the reason, she thought.
She asked Vijay to come early and they sat talking. He looked at the packet and said ‘Yes I do think its some kind of drug. Where were you when all this happened?’
‘Huh, excuse me, I didn’t understand’, said Asha.
‘You are the one who stays most of the time with the kids, didn’t you notice something amiss.’ He had barely said this when the door flew open and his mother barged in. ‘How dare you say that to her. Don’t forget that when you were busy floating your company it was her who took care of the home, kids and also the money’.
Vijay looked at his mother in shock. Asha had told him many times that his mother overhears their conversation but he never believed. But today he got evidence.
His mother continued,’ yes I listen to what you all speak and it has been my habit, I used to listen to your father too. Your wife is a saint; she neither doubts you or keeps an eye on you.’
Asha didn’t know whether it was a praise or criticism and so kept mum.
‘And now is not the time to criticize or fight with each other,’Maaji continued,’ now is the time to work as a team and solve this crisis’.
And so it was decided that the three of them will take turns, never to let Saloni alone at home. Always keep on talking to her. Vijan from now on would come home early and they would all have dinner together. Weekends would be spent together too and maybe summer they would take a vacation somewhere. And so with a surge of confidence that night Asha went to Salonis room.
‘Kya kar raha hain mera baccha,’ said she (what is my child doing)
‘Why did you come in my room without knocking and why do you forget that I am not a baccha anymore?’, said Saloni and Asha felt deflated.
Later she told her co conspirators-‘people are supposed to be on a high when they do drugs but why is Saloni so unhappy?’
‘Maybe because she knows what she is doing is wrong. Asha the values that we have imparted must be there somewhere.’ was Maajis reply.
So they took turns to crack Salonis shield, sometimes with love, sometimes with sternness. And all the while they hoped they were not too late…….
It was a month later when Asha went to Salonis room to find her weeping, on enquiry she was told quite rudely that it was none of her business; when Asha cracked,’ Not my business? Its damn well my business, you are my daughter. I know about you and am here to help you.’
‘You know?’ asked Saloni and started weeping some more.
‘Do tell me baby, what is the problem. We tried to give you everything. Earlier even though we could not afford, we tried to give you the best. Then why?’
‘Maa it is nothing like that; you always gave me the best. In our earlier flat and society, I belonged but after coming here I was an outcast. Nobody made friends with me. Then one day Anoo, our neighbor introduced me to her elite friends circle. I so much wanted to be friends with them that I also took whatever they were taking. That’s how it happened.’
‘So are you happy now’.
‘I am happy that I belong now but no I am no happy inside. Do you understand what I am saying’, asked Saloni.
‘Yes I think I do. And you are taking it regularly.’
‘No only when I am with them. But you know Maa for sometime I will be very happy but later I will feel so bad.’
God bless Maaji, maybe that’s what she meant by our values not going wrong,’ So why are you upset today?,’ probed Asha. And Saloni started weeping violently.
‘We were dancing to some music Maa when Rohit came close, I was not comfortable so I moved back, he persisted and when I told him to back off, he said that that is how high society people dance. After all that’s what I was doing, all the time, imitating their style, looks, clothes, habits so why not this? He made me feel so cheap maa. As if I am dumb without a mind of my own. He made me feel as an impersonator, but can he be like me, a topper in school, swimming champion, can he paint like me.’ Asha held her close. How do you console your child? How do you tell her that a world is full of good and BAD people, and that out of the assortment youhave to pick the right ones. But most important how can you take away your child’s pain. You can give chocolates, you can give gifts but how do you take away pain?
So she held her tight. And wished that Maaji was here. She was sure that she might be somewhere there listening to them. And lo the door opened and in she came and stroked Salonis hair.
‘You are very right, darling. You can impersonate them but they can’t even do that. Because you are an all rounder, good in studies, sports, painting everything. And what are they? Cowards who can’t face the world so they have to depend on drugs. Yes you need friends but friends who share your thoughts and your interests not such types who bring your moral, your self confidence down. And never consider yourself lonely, we, your family will always be at your side, come what may.’
‘Does that mean that I am pardoned?’ asked Saloni in a small voice.
‘Not really’, said Maaji,’You will have some punishments. Firstly you have to stop using these things, Secondly you have to participate in all family activities, thirdly you have to help Sajan in his studies and fourthly you have to get in touch again with your friends from out old colony. Understood?’
‘Yes dadi, understood’, said Saloni and hugged her Dadi
Asha was relieved a major hurdle had been crossed; but how things will move from here; that time would only tell.
This will be the last post of this year, so wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Peaceful 2010