The Pious Love

From the sweltering summer of India to the freezing winter of Canada, Rohan has traversed a long journey to pursue his master’s here. On the other hand, thousands of immigrants from all over the world, arrive in Canada on work permit or as Permanent Residents (PR) in search of greener pastures.

Rohan had recently completed his B.Tech with honours from I.K. Gujral Punjab Technical University, Kapurthala, Punjab; though he was always keen on honing his artistic skills by pursuing his undergraduate studies in the field of art. During his school days, he had won many state and national level competitions in drawing and painting. But in his village such activities for a boy are considered a blight on their masculinity because such petty activities are meant for girls, while boys need to show their masculinity by putting their blood and sweat in fields by driving tractors, tilling the soil, sowing the seeds and so on.

Now you guys must be wondering who am I and how do I have such detailed information about him. Well, I am the 20+ years old basement in the mansion of Mrs. & Mr. Jassal which is situated on the intersection of Queen Street and Chinguacousy Road in which Rohan is residing with two of his friends, Jasmeet Singh and Sooraj Singh. The boys addresses them as Uncle, Aunty even the couple treats them as their own children.

Since my construction, I have been a home to students, families, live-in couples and friends. I have been with them in all their struggles and success. I have stood as a witness of how this country can make or break a person’s life and his ambitions. But I am in awe of Rohan as he has a charming personality and a heart of gold. Besides this, I like the way he manages his roster, so as to spare a good amount of time on weekends for my upkeep.

These current inhabitants of mine are studying together at the Conestoga College situated in Kitchener, a lesser known city of province Ontario. But nowadays it’s become the preferred choice for the international students as well as for immigrants to reside, study and work owing to the fact that it is less populated and has more job opportunities and not to forget the peaceful environment which is certainly not the case in cities like Toronto, Ottawa.

Today 3rd of November, 2015 is his first birthday after landing in Canada. He came here on December 1st, 2014 just a week before his classes at college were about to begin. And on his special day, they are decorating me to the best of their ability and available resources. Who they? Off course, Jasmeet and Sooraj. They are first cousins and arrived in Canada about three years ago. Rohan is also from their village, hence they gel together like perfectly oiled machine. Most of the people in Gurudwara and even those from their college mistook them as siblings such is the strength of their bond and love for each other. After all living in a faraway land from their hometown and that too where everything from food to fashion, customs to climate, rules and regulations are starkly different from India having friends like family is a heavenly blessing.

Rohan after attending his classes at college and completing long and tiring shifts at work comes back to me at quarter to ten or even later in the night. Just as he enters, he hangs his winter jacket in the closet built in the foyer, changes into his nightwear and then has the leftovers as dinner. Then he starts painting because this is the only thing which acts as a fuel for his body and mind to tackle all the situations in  his life. It also acts as an antidote to the suffering that he is going through because of his inability to find a way to take stand for his passion in life. He wanted to be a painter since his formative years, but his father was and is still adamant on not allowing him to follow the true calling of his life, because for him it will bring dishonor to the family name as they are the landlords in society.

Even continuing his education here was solely his father’s decision because this is the norm of their village, a small one near Nakodar. Rohan is studying Masters of Business Administration and is trying his best to score A+ grades because he doesn’t want to upset his father as it will lead to accusations thrown at his mother for pampering him. He is the only living child of his parents after two of his elder sisters were aborted during his mother’s first trimester of pregnancy because his grandmother disapproved of having any granddaughter.

“Jasmeet, I am having doubt. He might feel bad because we are planning all this without his permission.”, said Sooraj.

“Oh c’mon man, we know Rohan since his birth. His anger will be momentary and then he will love this arrangement that we have done for his birthday.”

Just then the doorbell rang and Sooraj opened the door. It is Ruhani. She is head over heels in love with Rohan and is not just his girlfriend, but an equal partner who without any official ceremony takes care of Rohan and all his needs beside supporting him emotionally. They both met during the orientation ceremony at their college. She is in the same batch as Rohan, but is pursuing her post graduation in the field of kinesiology.

“Hey guys, so how’s the preparation is going on? I am so excited for tonight as Rohan is going to get the surprise of his lifetime.”, said Ruhani walking into the kitchen to place the chocolate cake that she had baked herself along with muffins and other stuff to serve for dinner.

“Almost done, have a look. We have decorated our basement like a palace with fresh flowers. Fairy lights are adjusted neatly around all the sketches and paintings done by Rohan in the living room. Welcome drinks are ready and placed on the coffee table.”, said Jasmeet while responding to her query.

“Ok and what about your responsibilities for party, Sooraj? Have you prepared the batter for pakoras as per the recipe that I had sent you on WhatsApp? You know na, Rohan loves to eat them especially if they are cooked similarly the way mum prepares.”

“Yes dear, I have prepared the batter as you had mentioned in your message. But I am amazed that you get along so well with Surinder aunty because I know her since childhood and she is not a person who is easily impressed.” Jasmeet and Sooraj  looked at her curiously waiting for her response.

“Eventually everything connects. My love for Rohan gave me the courage to speak with his mother and because she is his first love, so for me as well she is of prime importance in my life.”

Smiling gleefully, she further continued, “Though he had informed her about me on the very same day I said yes to his proposal, yet he had told me that her permission is pivotal for our relationship to go further. I vividly remember the day when I had my first conversation with her, she was on video call with us. And after greeting her, I asked about her wellbeing. She replied, “If my son is happy then I am as fit as a fiddle.” She further continued, “You both need to be there for each other and act as a support system rather than fighting over petty things.” After that I started calling her frequently and now we have become good friends.”

“So, she gave you this recipe for pakoras?”, asked Jasmeet.

“Yes, she did.”

“Such a lucky girl you are, even before becoming her daughter-in-law you have already won her heart.”

With tears of joy rolling down from her eyes, Ruhani said, “Yes, I feel blessed to have her in my life not as a would-be mother-in-law, but rather as a mother. It is only through her that I am able to get the motherly love and care as, my mother had passed away just after giving birth to me.”

Sooraj, sensing the emotions, commanded Alexa to play the song ‘Pyaar Deewana Hota Hai’. As soon as the song started playing everyone had a good laugh.

Ruhani while blushing said, “Now you both go and relax a while before getting ready, while I am going to the kitchen to fry the pakoras. It’s going to be 4 pm and after completing my chores in kitchen I need to cross check all the other arrangements as well.”

After frying the pakoras, she put the candles on cake and placed it neatly on the centre table.

“Jasmeet, I have placed the butter chicken, mixed vegetables, kadai paneer, biryani, rajma in the tray beneath the oven and rice in the hot case. Tandoori naan is also ready and we will reheat them with butter before serving.”

“Ok and what about other starters?” enquired Jasmeet.

“Sooraj has brought them from Guru Lukshmi in Brampton. For desserts I have also cooked the wheat fudge, another favorite dish of Rohan. So we are done with all the preparations. I must say you both have put immense efforts in trying to make this day a special and memorable one for Rohan.”

“What we have done is nothing in comparison to what you are doing for him. You gave life to his passion. I have seen many lovers who promise the world to each other. But I have never seen a young woman like you who went the extra mile to refuel the fire for her lover’s passion in life. You convinced him to restart his journey as an artist.”

“I just fulfilled my duty towards him because for me love is not only about roses, chocolates and gifts. It’s about standing with each other and supporting each other in our endeavors.”

“But still the way you handled all those meetings and presentations, before finally being able to bag the spot for Rohan’s paintings in the annual exhibition on Art and Culture by the government of Canada is very commendable.”

“His love and dedication towards his passion gave me the strength to handle all the troubles that I had encountered in the last month from getting an appointment to presenting his work in front of Mr. Peter and his committee.”

Sooraj overheard their conversation and said, “Ruhani it’s your commendable efforts and Rohan’s dedication that we are able see this day.”

“Yes, it’s his dedication and commitment to his call that even after studying and working part-time, he still managed to give a new lease of life to this basement by adorning its walls with his wonderful paintings, after taking out time from his hectic schedule.”, Ruhani reverted.

It’s half past five and Mr. Wang arrived with his wife.  He is the manager of the warehouse of Walmart in Kitchener where Rohan is working part-time for 20 hours a week as per the law of Canada for working students. Ruhani had invited them to the party because he always took care of Rohan as his younger brother, beside guiding him regarding career and life.

“Hello dear, how are you? Heartiest congratulations to you and I must say you are looking great in this attire.”, said Mrs. Wang as she admired Ruhani’s Punjabi salwar suit.

“I am glad that both of you came, to grace this event of our life with your presence.”, said Ruhani while shaking hands with both of them.

Even Mr. Peter had arrived.

“Good evening, Mr. Peter. Thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule. This day has arrived because of your cooperation.”

“Very good evening Ms. Ruhani. Please accept this, it is for both of you, no celebration is complete without a bottle of champagne. When will Mr. Rohan be arriving? I am eager to meet him after seeing his masterpieces during our meeting with you.”

“It’s 6pm, he must be on his way back from college. Meanwhile, please come in and I will introduce you to our guests.”

“Hey guys, let me introduce you to Mr. Peter, the Chairman of Canadian Art and Culture Organisation. He helped me a lot while I was presenting Rohan’s work.”

“Hello everyone. Wow Ruhani, I am spellbound by these paintings. What you had shown me during the presentation was a mere trailer, this is the whole movie. This man really is a genius. I can see a world-famous artist in the making.”

Just as the doorbell rang, she became anxious because this was going to be the D-Day of their life. She was going to present the most precious gift to Rohan, one that she had been working on for the past month.

Quickly checking herself in the mirror, she prayed silently in her mind. She felt a sense of nostalgia as she reminisced about the day they had met and how far they had come in just few months.

Sooraj switched off the lights and instructed everyone to be silent while he went to open the door.

“Hey Sooraj, what is going on? Why is there no light?”, enquired Rohan while entering the living room.

“Happy birthday my love.”, said Ruhani, planting a kiss on his forehead.

Sooraj switched on the lights and they all sang the birthday song for Rohan.

“Hello Mr. Wang. Hello Mam. Namaste Uncle, Aunty.”

Just as he was about to ask Ruhani about the stranger in his basement, she said, “I will introduce you to him later. Let’s cut the cake first.  Everyone is waiting Even mum has been online for the past half hour.”

After cutting the cake he offered Ruhani the first bite. She then reciprocated.

“Rohan this is your present from mum and me.” said Ruhani while handing over an envelope to him.

Bewildered he looked towards his mother on the iPad and asked, “Maa, what is this?”

“Open it. You will get to know.”

“Oh my God, how is this even possible. I mean I have not even shown my work to them.”, said Rohan while in complete shock.

Even Mrs. and Mr. Wang, Mrs. and Mr. Jassal were unaware of this surprise.

“Mr. Rohan, you deserve this and we are happy to have you on our board as an exhibitor for the coming five years.” said Mr. Peter shaking hands with Rohan.

Ruhani with tears in her eyes and smile on her face narrated everything that had happened in the last month.

“Rohan, since the day we have been together, I have never considered you as my boyfriend but rather as my life partner.  After I got to know about your love for painting from you and mum, I made up my mind to help you in succeeding in the field of arts. So with permission from mum, I went to meet Mr. Peter after I saw an advertisement on Facebook in which young artists were invited to showcase their talent. The shortlisted one’s will exhibit their work in the final exhibition in Ottawa on upcoming Canada day.”

“She is right Mr. Rohan. Our organisation is always looking for talented people like you to present their work. But in your case, it was a once in a blue moon event, where all the jury members voted for you during the selection of the candidates. Your painting titled ‘My Lost Sisters’ was hugely appreciated by everyone “, said Mr. Peter.

“I am spellbound by your efforts Ruhani. It’s you who motivated me to express the pain and void that my mother and I had in our life because of the killing of my unborn sisters through my painting. I will definitely use this opportunity to raise voice against female foeticide.”

Rohan while taking the iPad in his hands said to his mother, ” Maa, see what Ruhani has done for us. She has shown me a way to express my beliefs and thoughts. Now I promise that I will not let any mother to suffer the loss of her girl child. I will make sure that my art will always be vocal about the injustices in society.”

“Jug jug jiyo mere bacho, rabb tuhanu hamesha bhaag lgaave.”, said his mother and ended the call as it was early morning in India and she had chores to do at home.

“Thank you, Mr. Peter for this opportunity.” said Rohan and Ruhani continued “I will always be grateful to you for being so supportive and allowing me to present his work as I wanted to surprise him with this selection letter on his birthday.”

“You guys are most welcome. God bless your togetherness.”, said Mr. Peter and then he opened the champagne.

After everyone had toasted Rohan’s achievement, Rohan commanded Alexa to dim the lights. He walked towards Ruhani and knelt down in front of her and asked, “Will you be my always, forever?” She nodded yes. He put the ring, he had bought for her on her ring finger and they both hugged each other. He whispered in her ears, “I really don’t know what magic it is, that you came in my life and painted the blank canvas of my life with the colours of your love, care, warmth, trust and support. Love you Jaan.”

I wonder if I will ever witness this kind of pious love unfolding in my presence and this is the reason why I am so fond of Rohan.
***
Glossary

1. Jug jug jiyo mere bacho, rabb tuhanu hamesha bhaag lgaave – Blessings for long life and good career.
2. Maa – Mother
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Madhu Sudan (Er Shine)

Madhu Sudan is an engineer by profession with a passion for writing and sharing her thoughts through pen and paper. She is also a researcher and nature loving person.

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