A Suitable ‘Boy’

Ananya looked back from the verandah railing  and smiled at Mihir lovingly. He put aside the newspaper and patted the cushion beside him, for her to sit. She sat down, leaned back and closed her eyes, lost in her thoughts. How time had flown, she reflected. They had been together for fifteen years now. They both had lost their spouses to fate and had met in their forties. Very few people get a chance to live two lifetimes in one life; she was amongst those chosen few. Life as she knew it, a happy marriage, a loving husband, two kids and a secure environment, came to an abrupt halt when she had lost her young Army man to the exigencies of his service. At 38, she had been left adrift in mid-stream with her two small children, to manage on her own and to bring up her kids single handed, to the best of her abilities. ***  She had met Mihir through the machinations and behind-the- scenes work of her mother. Her old parents had changed cities to be with her in time of grief. They had stood like the rock of Gibraltar behind her, steadfast and strong, protecting her from any untoward incident happening in her just bereaved life. Even in those early days after her husband’s demise, her  mother had been very sure in her mind that she would not let Ananya  live alone without a companion for the rest of her life, and Ananya had been  thankful that she had been spared her mother’s thoughts right after her bereavement. Like Pandav’s Arjun, who unlike his brothers could only see the eye of the bird on the faraway tree when asked what he could see, her mother had set her goal on finding her a suitable  ‘boy’. She was like a woman possessed. Nothing Ananya said to the contrary worked with her mother and so she had let her be! “What will be, will be!” she thought to herself. With a dedication worth applauding, her mother had hounded matrimonial sites, their offices, her friends and even casual acquaintances. Gods had finally taken pity on her poor mother; her friend had informed of this ‘boy’ who had lost his wife some years back to cancer and was looking after his three children and managing everything else on his own.  Her mother had been spurred into action, giving little thought to the fact that Ananya would have to take on his three children besides her two, if things worked out! He was in his forties, well settled (a primary criterion, for her mother!) and the most important thing, was known to her friend. No time was lost in contacting him. Seeing her work to make this ‘match’ happen, it was as if Ananya was back again in her twenties, like the time of her first marriage. Ananya had let her mother be, totally under estimating her mother’s zeal for the job on hand even in her advancing years! It kept her busy and gave her a will to live. So, they had met on Dussehra of that year, a coincidence that had made her mother extremely happy as she saw it as a good omen of happy tidings to come! They had met at her parents’ place. Mihir had come with his family, which got him a brownie point from her. “Hi, I am Mihir Srivastav. Glad to meet you,” he said extending his hand. She shook hands with him and returned his greeting.  “Where are your children? I would love to meet them and get to know them.” This sentence bowled her over and won her respect that instant. He met them; asked them about their life, their hobbies and their interests and actually listened to their answers and conversed with them. He talked to them about his three children (two daughters and a son), and endeared himself to her kids with his candour and ease.  Rest of the things just fell into place seamlessly. Her apprehensions about their eating habits (he a vegetarian and she a non-vegetarian), different languages (he being fluent in his mother tongue and she in English, having studied in a convent) and different cultures were summarily dismissed. “These differences are inconsequential; we have much larger issues at hand— namely our children. We have to work towards making us a cohesive family of seven and if our kids take to each other, we are then home free!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.  She was charmed by this logic, how right he had been in zeroing on the most important issue that concerned them— their children, and not their differences. They had spent the next couple of hours filling each other about their spouses, their careers and their families. It had been a relief to be able to speak about Sameer —her first husband—as nobody (including her family) would talk about him thinking it would upset her, but was dying to talk about him; to relive her days with him and remember him aloud, rather than in her thoughts only. She knew he too had liked talking about his first marriage and his memories of his wife of 21 years. By the end of the afternoon, they had decided to take this further, much to their parents’ astonishment and joy. Her mother’s vindicated face had shone with happiness. Looking at her mother, Ananya had known at that moment that she had made the right decision and she had found a companion for life!  *** His complete trust in her to run his life and to look after his three children from the day they had married was such a tremendous act of faith on his part, that even now looking back, she sometimes thought that she must have done something right in her previous life to get such a decent and a good man like him to build her life again on her second outing. Opening her eyes now, she spied Mihir riffling through a photo album. Leaning over, she saw pictures of their Ooty holiday. Five grown up childrens’ faces happy and laughing. All seven of them posing in the botanical park.Pictures of them having fun. Memories made for posterity. An album radiating love and joy.  “What have you been thinking?” he asked, looking at her. “Your face was flitting with emotions!”  She straightened up on her seat, took his hand in hers and said, “The years gone by! The trust you bequeathed in me! How come you have never questioned my decisions till date, trusting implicitly that whatever I was doing was right and good for our five children? Their education, finding life partners for our girls, the boys and their career choices and handling finances for the family?” He gave her a long look. “When we met all those years ago, I liked what I saw at first sight. I saw the grief I felt reflecting from your eyes, your face was kind and full of love and your words rang with sincerity when you spoke about your husband. I knew we were not some young teenagers at the threshold of life, but had seen more life at our age than most see in their long lives. I saw two well brought up children, polite to their elders and caring about their mother’s welfare. The fact that they did not object to your finding a partner, in spite of being so young, spoke volumes of their maturity and their love for you! I knew from that moment that my search was over. I was not a callow youth, looking for love; I wanted a mother for my children and a companion with whom I could walk into the sunset. I am lucky that life has given me a second chance at love and sent you to me!” He paused for a moment, as the windchimes that she had hung in the verandah, tinkled in the breeze. “From day one, you were as loving to my three children as yours. A disciplinarian, thanks to your Army background, you handled five adolescent children admirably. I can never forget how you won over my daughters by becoming their friend instead of trying to be their mother. Their confidence in you grew when you told them that no one can take their mother’s place, nor will you even want to; but you will be there for them whenever they need your help or advice. The fact that they would have a home to come to after their marriage, with our unconditional support to them, I think won my daughters over!  As for my son, he was too young then to have any rebellious thoughts, and took to you instantly.” “Yes, it has all worked out so well, isn’t it?”, she smiled up at him. The fact that their five children had accepted each other without any issues, itself was a big blessing. The minor problem of them accepting each other with their individual idiosyncrasies, though difficult at first had been also sorted out with acceptance and love.  Oh yes! though unsaid, she knew he echoed her love. This love was not like the first flush of love which you experience in your twenties, but a mature love, in which patience and restraint played an important role. With a fortitude that they both possessed, they had made their children strong enough to face the world and chart their own path in life. Today, at the threshold of their silver years, they had a wonderful future to look forward to; she could visualise herself walking into the sunset holding his hand. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to their absent spouses for their blessings from above, and slid closer to Mihir to rest her head on his shoulder. He has till date never questioned my decisions, trusting implicitly that I whatever am doing is right and good for our five children. It, of course goes without saying that I returned his trust in full measure and was impartial to all our children and would like to get to know each other and our children. I knew that if his children accept me in their lives, I will be a good friend and support them whenever they need me. We both were aware that it was not going to be easy but we were ready to face the challenge.     Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!