I had planted a new Tulsi Plant in the pot. It was growing well but the plant was still weak and I gave a support of a stick and told my daughter to take good care.
‘I will, ma’, she said, ‘ You just go for your conference and …meet your childhood friend and do not worry about your plants’
I smiled at her and left for the railway station. It being the monsoons I had preferred to go by train. I had time at my disposal and so had opted for going by train rather than taking a flight and bothering whether the flight will take off or not.
I had thought of hearing some audio lectures to prepare for my paper at the conference but I could not. My mind kept on thinking of those childhood days. Sakhi and me had been friends from the time I could remember. Career and marriage had taken us to different cities and though we had managed to keep in touch, we had met only once in the last 20 years.
This conference of mine was in her city and I had jumped when the Divisional manager had suggested my name and had done a happy dance. My colleagues must have thought that I had gone crazy.
Sakhi came to receive me at the station. She looked frail, wrinkles on the face, grey hair. But that was expected. We were not growing younger, were we? But it was her stoop and her dull eyes that concerned me. I knew Sakhi she always had a sparkle in her eyes. Why then was she so dull?
‘Amu’, she said to me, ‘let me tell you very frankly, my house is very small’.
So that was her worry.
‘But Sakhi, I came to meet you, so it does not matter. If I wanted comforts, I would have stayed in some hotel’.
Her husband was at home. We had breakfast and I was hoping that he would go to work and we could have a nice chat. My meetings were to commence from the next day.
‘You did not get the milk and vegetables that I asked you to bring?’, it was Sakhi
‘Our vegetable vendor comes only after 10 am, so I thought…’, it was Shyam her husband.
‘Yes, and by that time the mild vendor will have increased the rate by 50 paise per packet’, she said.
‘Its ok,’ he said.
‘What ok’, she said. He then looked at me, kept mum picked up a shopping bag and left.
‘Useless fellow just idling away his time’, she muttered after he left.
I was shocked. I remembered those times when they were courting each other. They looked so ‘made for each other’. So what had happened now?
I came to know that Shyam’s business had closed down. He had some differences with his brother who was his partner and they had parted ways. The business closed down but the rift came in the family too. They were all living together and then they had split after the partnership had been dissolved.
Shyam had enough savings to buy a small flat and to fund their children’s education. But he had not been able to start a new business. And he was not willing to get into a job. Being his own boss for so long, he was not willing to work under anyone. And it was then that Sakhi and he started having difference of opinion.
Sakhi had always lived in big houses, could not adjust to the small house, she was angry that he did not go in for a job. But I said, even thought he was not going for a job, did he not help her around the house. Sakhi had always been a teacher at a school and did he not take up all the responsibility of the house. Did he not supervise the kids homework. Helped in cooking et all. But isn’t it his duty to earn too, she said. He had savings but at the rising cost of living. in no time it would be over and then what? Her earnings as a teacher were not enough.
Shyam when Sakhi was not around shared his share of woes. Sakhi had become impatient, she did not care for him, she cared only for money. I agreed and disagreed with him. Money then is such a thing which is needed for sustenance. And yet spoils many a relationship.
I had deliberately not advised both of them. It was such a situation that advise would be futile. And the fact was they were not at fault; the circumstances were forcing them to be irritable and impatient.
It was on my last evening with Sakhi and Shyam that I began a nostalgia trip. Of how the dashing Shyam had wooed Sakhi. How impressive he was in his talk and how he had won so many contracts for his company. How Sakhi used to ensure that however late he came, the meal was hot and she always was eager to know about his work and also she saw to it that the kids did not bother him much. How Shyam had once travelled in a crowded ST bus and had reached late in the night just so that he could be with her on her birthday, how he always treated everyone with respect etc.
They had listened to in silence obviously remembering all those happy times.
It has been almost three months to that day and Sakhi had called me. She told me that how after my talk they had decided to start afresh. She told me that Shyam had set up a photocopy shop. It was a small beginning but still a beginning. ANd she thanked me for my support. ‘Support’ I had asked. Yes, support she said, you had just supported us. You had not been judgmental but had just given us a hand. That was what we had needed.
My Tulsi plant is doing well too. My Tulsi too had needed just that- a support to grow strong!!