At one of the busiest crossroads in Mumbai stands a monument.
It is a sanctuary for aggrieved, despairing souls and a haven for troubled minds and conflicted hearts. When people find themselves at crossroads in their life, it is to this crossroad that they flock, in search of solace and hope.
‘We need to talk.’
At Shankar’s words, Aastha’s heart stilled. Her friend Mala’s husband had said those very words before he left her.
Things between the couple, married for over a decade, had not been ideal in the past few months. Shankar, a chartered accountant, had changed. Of late, he seemed perturbed and spent long hours at office. The formerly jovial man had become moody and snapped at her or their daughter. An invisible divide had come up between the couple. Their marriage had sunk into a depressed, non-communicative state.
Is Shankar having an affair? Does he want to leave me? Aastha wondered, at times.
‘I am sorry Aastha. I…’
Warm tears welled up in Aastha’s eyes. ‘Bappa,’ she prayed silently. Any statement that began with that combination of words spelled bad news, didn’t it?
Shankar continued, ‘…I should have confessed earlier.’
Aastha’s heart contracted painfully. It was true then. He was leaving her.
‘A few months back, I caught some discrepancies in the company accounts. The General Manager, my boss, was embezzling. He threatened to implicate and fire me if I did not bury the evidence. I had to comply, Aastha,’ Shankar said helplessly. ‘I could not afford to lose my job amid the pandemic. What would have become of us?’
‘So, that’s why you’ve been so disturbed?’ Aastha exhaled in relief.
Shankar nodded. ‘What I did was wrong,’ he blurted out and raked a shaky hand through his hair. ‘If I remain quiet, my conscience pricks me. If I report my boss to the management board, he will implicate me. What do I do?’
‘Oh, Shankar, have faith in Bappa,’ Aastha said and hugged her husband. How could I have thought that he was cheating on me? She berated herself silently.
In a deeply disconcerted tone Shankar continued, ‘Aastha, I want to confess. But, what if I am implicated? What if my boss gets me arrested? What will happen to you both? And, the shame…’
‘Shankar,’ Aastha replied cradling his face in her hands. Her voice was soft, steeped in gentleness and understanding. ‘Whatever the consequence, you have to do the right thing. We will seek Bappa’s blessing and then you must report this matter to the management board.’
Next morning, the couple made their way to the Siddhivinayak Temple.
‘Ganpati Bappa, give me the strength to do the right thing,’ Shankar mumbled, his head bowed in obeisance. Emboldened thus, later that day, he reported the embezzlement to the company board.
A year later…
‘Did I not say, have faith in Bappa?’ Aastha teased, her eyes dancing as she held Shankar’s new visiting card in her hand. It read – Shankar Sawant, General Manager.
* Vakratunda Mahakaya – a popular Ganesha Mantra to invoke the benevolent Lord’s blessings
* Image credit: DNA newspaper
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