Fifteen days had passed since Akhila’s mother had died. You could have money, you could have the best of medical attention and yet when death comes calling, nobody can do anything.
The bubbly Akhila had become quiet. Mechanically she went about her work with a vacant look in her eyes. My heart bled. Anand noticed her silence and one night after she had slept, summoned all of us to talk.
‘So what are your plans?’, he asked his brother.
His brother still grieving for his wife asked, ‘Which plans?’
‘Will you be staying here to be near your in-laws, will you be back to our place, what?’
‘Let me see’, he said still not ready to make a decision.
‘Anna, you have to decide soon. Akhila needs a family. Just see how lost she is….’, his voice cracked up.
His brother was lost in his own grief.
‘We are old but we will take care of Akhila’, her grandmother said, ‘How will Arun manage a job and taking care of her. Once he remarries then maybe he can take her back’.
‘But will she like it here’, I said. Her grandmother was a disciplinarian. Would the chirpy bubbly girl, like here in the iron rule of her grandmother.
‘Is there any other option?, said she.
‘We can take care of her’, said Anand hesitatingly, looking nervously at me.
In other circumstances I would have screamed at him asking how dare he take such a big decision without consulting with me first. But today I was calm. Today ‘me’ didn’t matter. It was Akhila’s happiness which mattered the most.
‘Your wife?’, said the old woman with a toothy grin, ‘She hasn’t been ready to mother your child, will she be ready to mother someone else’s?’
I am packing. Today we are leaving to get Akhila admitted to the Medical College at Manipal. I can hear peals of laughter from the adjoining room while my eyes well up with tears every passing moment.
And suddenly she comes and hugs me from behind.
‘I suppose we can take bath in your tears today’, she jokes.
I shrug her off.
‘Chikkamma, I will be coming home almost every weekend so why are you mourning’, she says.
‘You will understand only when you become a mother’, I say.
‘Really… so when did you become a mother, the day I came to stay here or the day Adesh was born’, she says.
I give her a slap on her back.
I don’t really know when I became a mother. Was it the day when she came to stay with us or was it the day when she refused to stay with her grandmother and held me tight or was it the day I gave birth to Adesh. But I know that Akhila made me see a new side of me, a side I had refused to acknowledge, that of being a mother, that of being Me.
As we dropped her to the college hostel to take her steps to be a Gynecologist, I thanked the one above for having sent this angel in my Life.