In the tiny village of Chaukori, Uttarakhand, Biji was left behind in the mortgaged, British era haveli.
Gaurav, her only son came back after three years from Gulf on two months leave.
“There’s a surprise for you in the garage,” Biji spoke softly to Gaurav.
With curiosity in his eyes, Gaurav headed towards the old vacant garage.
Inside, he noticed a neatly arranged bed, a side table, and his old cupboard. The room was minimalist, however, well-equipped.
“Biji…” Gaurav turned around. He saw a young lad in his early twenties standing beside Biji. The boy wore rugged jeans, coloured hair, and tattoos on the forearms. Chaukori boys were still untouched by such fashion.
Gaurav exchanged pleasantries and took Biji aside.
“Did you see how he looks?”
“Relax, Gaurav. I love this new found Homestay business. Kunal is such a sweetheart.”
Biji had developed a motherly affinity towards Kunal. The overly helping “sona puttar’s” presence irritated Gaurav.
“The guy doesn’t shave…He simply vanishes and returns at odd hours… how messed up the room is…He is a loner…Do you know his details… that punk haircut…” Gaurav nagged continuously. But for Biji, Kunal was the sweetest next door boy.
And then one night Kunal didn’t return. Not even in the morning. Gaurav sneaked into the vacant room. He checked Kunal’s stuff. He found lots of files, a box full of pills and syringes. Then came the last straw. He found a hidden camera in the room.
“I told you this guy was fishy…I am sure he was on drugs. And a hidden camera?”
Biji was shocked. She didn’t rent out the garage room to any tourist after that.
A month and a half later, a mustard gold limousine halted in front of the haveli.
“You must be Biji?” The middle-aged lady in exquisite floral chiffon removed her glares.
“Haanji, and you?”
“Kunal’s mother. Kunal was terminally ill…Blood cancer. He wanted to spend some of his last days in the mountains. He wanted to feel at home amongst the peaks and chose your Homestay. I had insisted him to attach a camera in the room so that I could keep an eye on his health.”
Gaurav was dumbfounded at the revelation.
“On his last day here, he suffered breathlessness. I knew this was coming but, it would happen like this, I wasn’t prepared,” she continued calmly.
Biji held her hand. Tears rolled.
“He left this for you.”
It was a small note.
“Biji, all my life I wanted to feel the warmth of a home. My rich stepfather sent me to the boarding school. I missed home. When I came back, a little time was left with me. In this one month, I lived my childhood and adolescence both. Your
A cheque of exact mortgage amount was in Biji’s hand.