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The Greatest Blessing

2006-07-13 23:49

  Gautam Mehrotra was sitting in the living room and reading the newspaper. It was a Sunday. He had just finished his breakfast and was trying to catch up with the rest of the world. Gautam had retired as a senior executive assistant in the Collector's office, after thirty one year's of service, ten month ago. Soon after retirement he had shifted bag and baggage from the district to his son Swaroop's house in the city. Swaroop was a cashier in the State Bank of India and lived in a tiny apartment with his wife Rina and son Nikhil. The flat had a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen and a small dining space. The cramped set up was on the third floor of a ten storied building.

  Six year old Nikhil was very fond of his Baba and would sleep with him in the living room which was converted to a makeshift bedroom at night. Gautam too was enjoying his retirement life. He would play with Nikhil, tell him stories, take him to the park or the nearby markets and sometimes read a bit. In the District, all alone, after the death of his wife three years back, he had felt suffocated. But here with Nikhil for company he felt comfortable and relaxed.

  “Babuji, I want to discuss something with you,” Gautam looked up. Swaroop was standing with a worried expression on his face.“

  “Sure Roop come and sit.” Swaroop sat down and kept looking at the ground. It was clear that he was feeling uneasy. Gautam looked at his tense face and asked him gently.

  “What happened Roop? You look very serious. Is anything the matter?”

  “Babuji, actually there is a problem. Rina has got a job as a saleswoman in a boutique.”

  “A saleswoman? But why?

  “We need the money. The way the cost of living is shooting up we will not be able to manage only on one income. Nikhil is growing up. I want to give him the best education. Where am I going to get the money from? The three hundred rupees which you give every month too just disappears. I am hardly able to save anything.”

  “But surely you could have thought of a better job, a job which is less taxing.”

  “Babuji, you know jobs don't grow on trees. Rina is not even a graduate. Where is she going to get a job of her choice. We have to grab whatever is available.”

  “But Roop how will the poor girl manage her job and her housework?”

  “That is where we need your help.”

  “Sure. I'll do whatever I can.”

  “Babuji, Rina will have to leave at nine thirty and will reach home only by around seven thirty. She will not be able to cook lunch or serve you the evening tiffin.”

  “No problem, Roop. She can make some extra rotis and sabzi. I'll have the same things for breakfast as well as lunch. As far as the evening tiffin is concerned, I'll make a light snack for myself. You don't bother about me. I can take care of myself. What I am worried about is Nikhil. You know how fussy he is about food.”

  “I have thought about that Babuji. Rina has talked to Mrs. Desai who runs a cr踍he in the opposite building on the second floor. She has agreed to admit Nikhil. In the morning, as usual, I will drop Nikhil in his school. At 2 p.m. when the school closes Nikhil will go in the same rickshaw, which he uses now, to go to the cr踍he. In the evening, by around six thirty I will pick him up. Nikhil will have his breakfast at home and lunch and evening tiffin in the cr踍he.”

  “But Roop, if Nikhil spends the whole day in the school and cr踍he , what will I do? I'll go mad just sitting at home all alone.”

  “I was thinking……I…… feel……,” Swaroop hesitated and then said in a rush, “Babuji, there is a very good institution in our city. It is called 'Home and Hope'. It is run by an elderly Parsi couple - Mr. and Mrs. Wadia. I feel that you will be far more comfortable there. You will have good company - people of your age. I have been there. It is very nice place - neat, clean and well maintained. Its not very expensive. The three hundred rupees which you give me every month will be sufficient. And in case you need anything I am always there. And one more advantage is that there are quite a few diabetics there. The people who manage are used to preparing a diabetic's diet. So you shouldn't be having any problem. And Babuji, with Nikhil in the cr踍he and you in 'Home and Hope' Rina and I will be assured that the two of you are being taken care of and will be able to concentrate on our careers.”

  Swaroop stopped and looked at his father. Gautam was too shocked to say anything. He just sat in stunned silence: 'His only son wanted to dump him in an old age home'.

  “When do you want me to leave,” asked Gautam, his voice, his face giving no indication of his feelings.

  “Rina has to report for duty next Monday, so I'll shift you the coming Sunday. And Babuji you need not worry about anything. Both Rina and I will be coming regularly to see you, along with Nikhil. I'll also be in touch with you over phone. I am sure you will like the place.”

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