Ashutosh was terribly upset. A phone call in the early morning had disrupted his usual calm and serenity. This morning, as he was brushing his teeth, his cellphone , which he kept under his pillow, was screaming for attention. His wife was busy in the kitchen and could not hear the sound which was subdued by the pillow on it. His father was sleeping in the other room . After brushing, he hurriedly picked up the phone and looked at the three missed calls from an unknown number. Irritated and with some apprehension, he had returned the call. The person who picked up the call had informed that she was his mother's neighbour and she had tried to call Ashutosh after getting his number from his mother's cell. She told him that his mother was admitted to a hospital in Jayanagar after she fell from the stairs. She was unconscious and the doctor had asked the neighbour to inform the family. She also said that she would be with his mother till he came. Family !!!!! Ashutosh was aghast. His mother had separated from his father years ago, when he was just a toddler. Though she had taken Ashutosh with her, because of her eccentric ways and her innumerable business projects, he was left to the mercy of helping neighbours and most of his days with her were spent on the street alone. His father, a silent and calm loving person, came to see Ashutosh once or twice a year and avoided his son's pleading eyes. But years later, he couldn't refuse to take home his intelligent, rank holder son , who was begging for his love and attention. The hatred the boy felt towards his mother had turned to an admiration and a deep longing for his absent father. So, when he finally could walk off with his father, he had done so, without even turning to look back at his crying mother. He hadn't met or thought about his mother, till now. He finally informed about the phone call to his wife and father, who had just woken up. His wife got ready in a minute , asked the servant maid to be with the father in law till they came back from the hospital, and they both rushed to the hospital. The doctor assured them that Ashutosh's mother was doing okay and she had to remain in the hospital for a day or two for observation. Since it was a head injury, they had to wait it out, the doctor said.. When they were allowed to go into the ward, Ashutosh's wife Panchami almost dragged a reluctant Ashutosh inside. The drowsy heavy eyes in the bandaged face struggled to keep awake on recognizing him. Panchami sat on the bed and took her outstretched hand in hers. Ashutosh stood a little distance from the cot. The mother, realising that he would not go near, wept silently. Panchami gently wiped the tears away, assuring that everything would be alright. Panchami decided to stay back in the hospital and sent Ashutosh home. Her stern look and the silent message that she gave him were enough to make him squirm . All the way home, he just kept recalling his wife's look of reproach. When his father enquired about the patient's condition, Ashutosh was surprised to detect a worry, a concern in his quivering voice. He repeated the doctor's words and went to his room, not being able to look at the worrying face of his father. In the evening, when Ashutosh went to the hospital again, he found Panchami and his mother chatting away like old acquaintances. Panchami forced him to sit beside his mother and listen to his mother's pathetic story. When he hesitated, his mother asked Panchami not to force him, in a feeble voice. Arranging for a nurse to be with his mother for the night, Ashutosh took Panchami home . An unusually subdued Panchami attended to her chores at home. Ashutosh waited for the explosion in the privacy of their room. But Panchami calmly and matter of factly told her husband whatever she had learnt from her mother in law , whom she had met for the first time that day. She told of how Ashutosh's father had suspected the fidelity of his wife on the first night of their wedding, how his mother wanted separation when she could no longer stand the husband's suspicions and the way he avoided taking responsibility of his wife and son, how at times there was no money at home to feed the child , how after getting separated , she had toiled day and night to provide good food and good schooling to her beloved son, how her life had lost all its meaning when her only son went away to live with his father. Panchami narrated how lonely and sick and penniless his mother had become and how she could not go to work anymore, how she survived on just two glasses of thin gruel daily. Also how she lived in a tiny 5 x 5 cubicle with a sheet roof in the third floor of a building which she had taken because of its meagre rent. And how her B P had acted up and made her fall down the stairs. Panchami ,then coolly, started comparing notes with whatever he had said of his mother , to what had actually happened. She made Ashutosh see his mother in a new light. Ashutosh could now relate to his mother mentally. The good food, the good clothing and the good education till graduation were all his mother's valuable gifts to him. It had, in turn , given him good health and a high paying job in a fine company. Because of his obsession with his father, he had been blind to his father's faults. When he thought of the small room that his mother called her house, his heart gave a jolt , comparing it with his two storeyed, five roomed house. He buried his face in Panchami's lap and wept his heart out. Later, when Panchami asked about his next plan of action, Ashutosh answered in a firm tone that he was bringing his mother home , soon as doctor permitted. Panchami was very happy . She said that people need their companions more in their old age than in their younger days and that he had taken the right decision because his father would have a much needed companion. Next morning, by the time Ashutosh and Panchami got ready , Ashutosh' s father was already dressed and ready to go to the hospital with them. To Ashutosh's look of surprise, Panchami's eyes answered..." I told you so". Entering the ward, Ashutosh went and hugged his mother and kissed her forehead. His mother sobbed uncontrollably , moved so much by his expression of love. Her joy was trebled when she saw her husband standing there , waiting for her to notice him. When the doctor came for rounds, Ashutosh requested the doctor that if all was well, he would take his mother HOME. Finally, they were really a FAMILY now.
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