ONE RAINY DAY – DR. PRADNYA SRIRAM
udha heard the familiar honk of the school bus at a distance. The girls would soon be home. She had almost finished making some snacks. It had been drizzling since morning. The rains were a welcome change from the scorching heat of the month of April. Rains meant a yummy snack of Bhajis. Sudha had just put the last batch of Bhajis in the frying pan when she heard her mother-in-law call out from the veranda, “Children are here”. Sudha decreased the flame of the Stove and went out to meet her girls. Shreya came running in and dropped her bag down and as usual asked, “What have you made?” Sudha smiled and said, “I thought you must have guessed it.” Shreya shouted with glee “bhajis for the rain” and ran towards the kitchen. Sudha asked her first to go upstairs and freshen up and then come down to have her snacks. Shreya and Sakshi were Sudha’s beautiful girls. Sakshi was in the 6th grade and Shreya in the 3rd. Suddenly Sudha noticed that Sakshi was unusually quiet. Sudha asked Sakshi if she wasn’t feeling well. “I am ok,” Sakshi replied and started to climb the stairs slowly.
Sudha went back to the kitchen to get the ginger tea ready. The last batch of Bhajis was really Crisp. It was almost 5.00 pm. Sudha thought, “I will serve the snacks and tea and then go and get ready. Sudha and her husband Suresh had to attend a wedding reception today. She had not even decided on what saree and jewellery to wear. The venue was at a far of location. They would have to start at least 2 hours early to reach on time considering the Bangalore peak hour traffic. She must be ready on time lest Suresh would be very angry.
Sudha hurriedly got 3 plates ready with 3 cups of tea to go for her daughters and mother-in-law. Shreya and Amma were already at the dining table but there was no sign of Sakshi. “What’s got into this girl. The tea and snacks will get cold.” Sudha thought. “Where is Sakshi? She asked Shreya. Shreya was happily enjoying the Bhajis and matter of fact said, “must be in her room.” It felt odd that Sakshi had not yet come. Sakshi was a real foodie and Bhajis were one of her favorites. Sudha was a little angry and decided to check on her.
Sakshi’s room door was closed. Sudha knocked on the door but there was no response. Maybe she was in the bathroom, Sudha thought and gently opened the door. To her surprise, she saw Sakshi sitting on the floor still in her school uniform staring at the wall. She had not even noticed that Sudha had come in. Sudha asked, “Sakshi are you ok? Bacha, what’s the matter?” Without even looking at her mother she said that she was fine. Sudha noticed that the tone of her voice was not normal. It seemed like a suppressed cry. Sudha immediately took her daughter in her arms and Sakshi started crying inconsolably. Sudha just held tight and when the cries became sobs Sudha looked at her and said, “something has happened at school. You can tell me. I can help you. No one can hurt my angel.” Sakshi in between her sobs said,” you can’t do anything. Nobody loves me. I am a misfit. Life has been very unfair to me.” Sudha said, “shoo…, what are these big words you are using. Has someone said something to you?” Sakshi was talking now and Sudha saw this as an opportunity to know what was going on with her daughter. Sakshi said, “You know Brinda the Principal’s daughter who is in my class. All teachers are partial to her. She has been selected in 3 events for the school day and I didn’t get selected even for one. The girls in the class are all the time hovering around her. I don’t like all this and so I don’t have friends. Brinda is not even good at their studies but she gets all the attention. I guess she is pretty. I am fat. Even my family thinks so. I hate myself.”
All her pent-up feelings had surfaced now. Sudha had tears in her eyes. Sakshi was a very sensitive girl. Sudha looked at her daughter with loving eyes and said, “You are beautiful dear. You have a heart of gold. Brinda can take advantage of her situation only till she is in school. But you are intelligent and your knowledge nobody can take away from you. I see a very bright future for you. Remember that your father and I are always there for you.” “But you both are so busy, Ma,” Sakshi said.
Sudha and Suresh were doctors and were very busy in their practice. Sudha had always thought she had struck a work-life balance. But… Sakshi’s words said it all. “what’s the use of giving them all the material comforts when we have no time for their emotional support. There must be so many like us in similar situations and the earlier we realize it is better.” Sudha was immersed in her thoughts.
Sudha was hugging Sakshi and said, “I am sorry. My daughters are my priority and remember that you can talk to me anytime and about anything whenever you wish to.” Sakshi kissed Sudha and ran to the bathroom to freshen up. Just then Sudha heard the door open and Suresh looked surprised that she was not yet ready. “I am not coming for the reception,” Sudha said and briefed him about the events. Sakshi came out and looked at them and said, “Ma you should get ready. You will get late.” Suresh came forward and hugged his daughter and said, “there is a change of plan. We are all going out for dinner” Let’s savor Ma’s bhajis first and we are taking a vacation so we will plan our vacation over a cup of tea. Sakshi smiled and ran down to tell the news to Shreya.
Sudha was concerned that a similar situation could arise again and decided to meet the class teacher the next day. Sakshi’s class teacher was very receptive and after hearing what Sudha had to say replied, “Mam, I have some good news for you. Sakshi has won 3 awards this year. One of the best outgoing students for Class 6. First prize for elocution and poetry writing. From next year she will be in the high achievers’ class so needn’t bother about Brinda. Also, tell her that she is my favorite student and give her the good news.” Sudha thanked Mrs. Sushila and requested her to tell Sakshi the good news instead.
The Annual Day had at last dawned. Sudha and Suresh with little Shreya were sited on the 3rd row of the auditorium. Soon Sakshi’s name was announced. Amidst the uproar of claps, their happiness knew no bounds to see their daughter receive the awards. Suresh’s camera captured the proud moments. While on the way back home Sudha looked at her beautiful Angels playing, laughing and singing in the back seat. She thanked God for everything and prayed for her family’s happiness. Suresh and Sudha had made up their mind to spend as much time as possible with their daughters and prioritize family time for they had realized that once time went would never return. It was the only thing no one could buy.