Anandita, a girl with a spark in her eyes and a smile on her lips…. Loved life and loved Uday, her Uday. She and Uday fell in love while they were still in school and knew at that age that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with each other. From that point onwards they never looked at anyone else and stayed true to each other.
They finished school and joined the same college. Their love for each other seemed to grow every day. Wherever they went, they went together, whatever they did, they did together. And if they were not with each other then their eyes seemed to be on the lookout for each other. Now both Anandita and Uday were bright students who always did very well in class. But Uday was the more ambitious of the two. Once College got over Uday wanted to enroll for his masters and though Anandita was not too keen she decided to enroll too just to be with him. That over Uday got a job and now the two of them wanted to get married. Anandita’s parents wanted her to wait for a while, maybe work for a few years before tying the knot but she was adamant and very clear that she wanted to settle down with Uday as soon as possible. So they got married.
Uday joined the corporate world and they began their life in the city of Mumbai. The initial few years were full of happiness and joy and since they had known each other for so long there were no adjustment issues at all. They were aware of each other’s likes and dislikes. And they were madly in love. The setting up of the house, buying things for it, cooking meals, it was all a lot of fun. In all this, a little sore point was Uday’s parents who did not like their daughter in law as she belonged to a different caste but then they lived in a different city so it did not bother Anandita a lot. Whenever she had to visit them she would just ignore all the taunts and jibes and actually be very sporting about the whole thing. For one she knew it was all temporary and second of all her husband was always by her side. He always stood by her no matter what and if required could even tell his parents off.
Though with time one would have expected the in-laws to accept her and move on, that never happened. With each passing year, their dislike for her seemed to be only growing. Other than this everything else in their lives was perfect. Being ambitious and hardworking Uday was on a rising spree in the corporate world and Anandita was always by his side, supporting him and cheering him on. Though his parents’ treatment of Anandita always bothered and saddened him with time he learnt to ignore it. And the fact that his wife never complained made it a lot easier.
Two years on and their son came into the world and three years later it was the turn of the second one to make there world happy and content. They were a happy family of four. Uday’s work was such that he had to often move cities which meant shifting homes, looking for new schools and adjusting to a new way of life. Whenever this had to be done, Anandita would every time rise to the occasion and never crib or complain though she was the one who had to mostly bear the brunt of a move. Uday was always too busy to help her much and she had to rely on his office staff and on her own judgement to make most decisions. But she managed it all and each move seemed to take place effortlessly and seamlessly. Even on a regular basis, Uday had to travel a lot and most of the times Anandita had to manage most things on her own. Not only did she manage but she managed happily. She never bothered her Uday, while he was at work no matter what. Uday on his part appreciated his wife and her role in his life. He realized that his rise and progress at work had majorly to do with his wife’s efforts and sacrifices.
The children also like their mother always adapted to the new cities and to the new schools happily. Uday being an achiever wanted his sons also to excel in whatever they did. While the elder one was able to measure up most of the times, the younger one found it difficult to perform well. Though a bright kid he wasn’t very inclined towards academics and therefore struggled in class. Uday was not used to this and couldn’t accept it. At times he would get very upset when the younger one couldn’t perform well. At such times Anandita would step in and try to make Uday understand that academics could not be everyone’s cup of tea but this was not something that Uday wanted to accept. The younger one, who they had named Arjun liked music, he liked theatre but found it difficult to like Maths or History. Arjun’s lack of interest in academics started to become a bone of contention between the husband and wife. No matter how hard she tried Anandita couldn’t make her husband understand that Arjun was different from him and their elder son Gaurav who always topped the class. As the boys grew up and the academics became more and more rigorous, Arjun just couldn’t cope up and very often the parents would be summoned to school and lectured on how they needed to focus on their son, spend more time with him and get him to do well in class. Uday would get really upset and frustrated at such times and with time started taking out his frustration and anger on Anandita. He felt that since she was the one who was supposed to take care of the children it was her responsibility to make sure that everything happened the way it should and if it didn’t then she was to be blamed. It never occurred to him that being busy at work did not absolve him from his duty as a father. And moreover, it was quite alright if Arjun wanted to do different things and not just study. There was no denying the fact that he was a gifted child but his gift lay elsewhere, not in academics.
Anandita managed to pull along, spending as much time with Arjun as possible, helping him in his studies and at the same time encouraging his passion for music. What she had realized was that Arjun had a deep interest in the fine arts and especially loved to play the guitar. She knew that Uday would never be able to accept this and so Arjun would need her to support him in every possible way. There was one particular incident when Arjun failed in an exam and Uday was mad at him. He was so angry that he just couldn’t control himself and started beating up his son. Both Gaurav and Anandita tried stopping him but he just wouldn’t listen. The poor child was screaming in pain but it seemed as though the devil had got into the father and he just couldn’t see the child’s pain. The shame of being the father of a child who had failed was too much for him to handle. Ultimately he stopped out of sheer exhaustion and with no capacity to hit anymore. This incident shook up the entire family especially the children who had never seen this side of their father’s personality. Even Anandita who had known Uday for almost eighteen years now had never known him to be so angry and violent. Once he had cooled down she sat him down and tried to make him understand his mistake but though he realized that he shouldn’t have raised his hand he still could not come to terms with Arjun’s so-called ’academic failure’. He tried to make up though by apologizing to all of them and in particular to Arjun but the incident jolted them all up. That day once again reinforced in the mother the feeling of always being with her child no matter what.
Meanwhile, life continued. There was no change in Uday’s parents’ attitude which didn’t really bother Anandita but it shocked and surprised her to see how they could ignore their grandchildren as well. They hardly ever visited them and were quite immersed in the life of Uday’s younger brother and his family. Though personally, it didn’t affect her much she did feel that her children were missing out on the love and affection that they could have got from their grandparents. Her own father had also passed away by then and it was only her mother who visited them occasionally and spent time with the boys.
Meanwhile, Uday always being a hardworking person was quickly moving up the corporate ladder and it wasn’t long before he was offered an assignment in Bangkok which meant the whole family having to move yet again and this time they were required to move countries. Though by now Anandita was used to the moves and the adjustments related to the moves, this time it was a little more complicated as she had to visit Bangkok many times before they could move lock, stock and barrel. The move was quite tough for the boys as they had to learn to adapt to completely new surroundings, an alien way of life. Gaurav as always was quick to adapt and change but Arjun found it very difficult. Other than having to make new friends he had to adapt to a newer and different way of teaching and he just couldn’t do it. It was proving to be very challenging for Anandita to help him. Uday just wanted the adjustment to take place and couldn’t really care about the difficulty involved. Anandita’s heart would go out seeing her son struggle but beyond a point, even she couldn’t help him. She would talk to his teachers to find a way to help him but it was becoming obvious that academics were not his cup of tea. Having realized this, the school was extremely supportive and encouraged him to follow his passion which was music and theatre. In fact courses on the various aspects of film making aldo fascinated him and he wanted to take them up. Uday, of course, wouldn’t let him do that and wasn’t prepared to even discuss the issue. Left with no option Anandita decided to consult the school counsellor who of course was all out in Arjun’s defence and couldn’t see why the father was being so stubborn about it. Uday was summoned to school and told in no uncertain terms that he could not force the child in any way and would have to let him follow his heart. Uday found the interference in what he felt was his child’s life totally unacceptable and seriously started thinking of pulling Arjun out of the school. However, when he discussed the idea with a couple of friends they dissuaded him from doing that because they told him that every school would have a similar kind of a policy in this respect and he would not be able to push his way through.
Though the school was not changed, Uday started ignoring his younger son for not meeting his expectations and also Anandita because somewhere deep down he blamed her for this situation. Anandita found his behaviour absurd and unreasonable but was clear that she would continue to support her child.
Since the boys had now started spending long hours in school Anandita had a lot of free time at her disposal and so decided to put it to use. While dealing with Arjun’s issues she had had many interactions with the school counsellor and had found the space of counselling to be very fascinating and meaningful. She realized that she too had a flair and desire to help children with issues and so wanted to explore how she could do that. After doing a bit of research she found that she could take up courses in the field which would equip her to take up counselling as a profession at some point. When she discussed this with her husband he wasn’t very keen on letting her do it as he thought she would end up neglecting her home and family. He had got so used to having her at home all the time and at his beck and call that the thought of her not being there was unimaginable. But by now Anandita had had her fill of being at home all the time and so wanted to step out. Moreover, she also felt that getting into the area of counselling would help her with Arjun as well. So she enrolled herself for the course. There was a routine to her life now which had nothing to do with husband or children. For once in her life, she was doing something for herself, investing in herself which gave her an immense amount of satisfaction and happiness. Her boys with the exception of the husband were super proud of her and wanted her to take up a job as well once the course got over. Now the course was an expensive one and Anandita could sense that this pinched Uday quite a bit. He wasn’t used to spending money on her in this way and somewhere felt that it was a waste of time and money. Moreover, Anandita had always been careful with money and had never ever splurged on anything. But now that she had started going out she wanted new clothes, new shoes, new bags, a development that Uday did not like. But since he couldn’t really stop her he started taking out his frustration by picking up fights on small issues like the food not being cooked well or on time or the house not being clean enough. Added to Arjun’s issues this development also contributed to the husband and wife moving away from each other. More and more Uday started behaving like a child who couldn’t have his way. He started spending a lot of time away from home and family. Gone was the Uday who loved to take the boys out, go for movies, meet friends and generally be around.
Anandita tried talking to him to understand why he couldn’t let her be but he wasn’t prepared to listen to her at all. Six months into the course and there was a revelation for which Anandita was not at all prepared. One evening while on her way back home from class, she stopped to pick up groceries for the house. It had been a long day, she was dead beat and she knew that she still had to cook dinner once she reached home. So, therefore, she decided to treat herself to a cup of coffee at this lovely café which had just opened up and was on the way to their house. When she walked in, what she saw stunned her. Uday was sitting with a local Thai girl having an animated conversation with her. The fact that he was sitting with a woman was not shocking [ in fact that wasn’t shocking at all] but the way they were sitting definitely was. They were holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes and quite oblivious to the rest of the world. It wasn’t a very large place but they didn’t notice her at all till she was actually standing right next to them. As expected Uday was equally stunned to see her but he quickly covered up his shock by introducing her to the girl and telling his wife in Hindi that she was a colleague. Anandita obviously didn’t believe him but not wanting to create a scene she quickly left the café but not before telling her husband to be home as quickly as possible.
She reached home somehow but once there, couldn’t find the strength to do anything. One part of her was telling her that it wasn’t a crime for a man and a woman to have a cup of coffee with each other while the other part couldn’t erase the image of the way they were behaving with each other which made it obvious that it wasn’t just the coffee. There was more to it, they were not business acquaintances but something more. But this part she didn’t want to believe. Finally, Uday came back home and went straight to their room with Anandita following him. She shut the door and looked at him hoping against hope that what she felt he was about to say would not be said and it would turn out that the girl was just someone he had met for work. Uday on his part began by saying that the girl whose name was Anna was just a friend but he couldn’t look Anandita in the eye while saying that and that inability on the husband’s part confirmed the wife ’s suspicions. She had about a million questions to ask but just couldn’t get herself to do that. Her brain went numb and it seemed as if she was left with no capacity to think at all. All she could do was to leave the room and spend the night in the guest bedroom. Morning came but she couldn’t bring herself to do any of the routine tasks. She told her children that she was a bit under the weather and needed to rest. Everyone left the house and she was all alone. She didn’t know who to talk to, she didn’t know who to consult and she couldn’t think straight herself,[ so much for the counselling classes!!]. She desperately wanted to question her husband but yet didn’t want to. Was she not ready to face what she might have to? She had no answer. Various thoughts were coming and going, various emotions were doing exactly the same thing. She didn’t know what to do.
Eventually, she decided to consult one of her friends who was with her in her counselling class. The friend suggested that rather than trying to find answers herself she should as a starting point talk to her husband and get a grip on the real situation, get to know exactly where it was that she stood. She called up Uday and told him that she needed to talk to him and asked him to head home. Once they started talking or rather once Uday started admitting, the feelings of shock, horror, of being cheated on and being let down just seemed to come one after the other. It seemed as though the move to Bangkok had been her undoing. Uday had met Anna right after their move to Bangkok and found in her a friendly, approachable colleague to begin with who was ready to help him adjust to the new work environment. This had soon changed and they had started meeting outside the office as well and it wasn’t long before the two had realized that they were in love. It seemed as if Uday also wanted to come clean and was tired of having to maybe lead a double life. When he said that he was in love with Anna, Anandita just looked at him as if to ask if he wasn’t in love with her anymore then. But she didn’t. She was hurt, there was no question about that but by not reacting it seemed as though she was trying to see how much and to what extent could he go on hurting her. Finally when he had no more to say she just asked him one question which was about his future plans. He had no answer.
By evening Anandita had been able to collect herself a bit and be in a position to question Uday. The boys could also sense the strained atmosphere in the house and the fact that all was not well between the parents. Anandita now wanted clarity and so she told Uday to clearly reveal his future plans. He looked at her and said that though he would continue to support Gaurav, the older son through his school and college, he wasn’t prepared to do the same for the younger one since he was going to do something that he didn’t like. Anadita just looked at him and told him that he was being unfair and obnoxious. As for her, he told her that since he was planning to marry Anna at some point she would have to move out. When she asked him how he could do that to her, his wife of twenty years and after having been with her for thirty years he as before had no answer. He just walked out of the room. She followed him and asked him how he expected her to support herself considering the fact that she wasn’t working and was in the middle of doing that course. He told her that she could look for a job but she would have to discontinue the course as it was way too expensive and he had no intention of paying for it. By now the boys also figured what was happening and did not want to be just silent spectators. Gaurav walked up to his father with a questioning look on his face. He wanted all the details of the affair and what it meant for their future. Though never the one to confront anyone and especially not his father, at that point, he realized that he would have to step in and support his mother. She could not be left alone to deal with their father. He told his father to sit down with all of them and figure out the way forward. The two boys were not prepared to let their father get away with this callous and cruel treatment of their mother and so Gaurav told him that if he wanted to keep his ties with the children he would not only have to support both his sons but also Anandita. Arjun was also extremely agitated and in that state, he threatened to call the cops and lodge a complaint against the father. Since Uday was a high ranking corporate executive with an image to live up to he couldn’t afford to let that happen. So he agreed to talk though he wasn’t willing to agree to most of what the boys were asking for. What he was not realizing was the fact that by dismissing all of Arjun’s concerns and refusing to take care of him he was pushing the child further away from him. As it is the two of them were not very close and now there would never be any reason for them to be close at all. Meanwhile, Anandita called up her brother who lived in Australia to come and see if he could talk to Uday. She, of course, had no reason to call her in-laws as she knew that they couldn’t care less about her or her children. And her own mother was no longer there.
Her brother came and had a chat with Uday. He told his sister that there was no way that Uday was going to change his mind about leaving his family. He was not prepared to listen to anything against Anna or against his relationship with her. On the contrary, he had a list of complaints against Anandita and her ways. He was particularly against her handling of the ’Arjun situation’ as he called it. He felt that she had not supported her husband at all when all he had been doing was to ensure Arjun’s well being and had gone on to give in to a child’s whims. As a result, she had created a divide between the father and the son and going by this she could not be trusted at all. He felt that she had done all this to make herself be seen as a supportive and enlightened parent and thereby had ended up being close to Arjun at Uday ’s expense. Though her brother tried hard to make Uday see sense Uday was stuck somewhere and wasn’t prepared to listen at all. He just couldn’t understand that he was being unreasonable and insensitive.
But what the bother managed to achieve was to make sure that Uday agreed to support both the boys through school and college and give some financial support to Anandita as well. Uday moved out the same evening giving his wife and children two weeks to make alternate arrangements. Since the boys were in the middle of their school year Anandita requested Uday to give them more time. He agreed as it was also Gaurav’s last year of school. He gave them six months but that was it. Anandita knew she was up against a wall. She had to find a way out but how she didn’t know. Her brother told her to proceed logically by first finalizing Gaurav’s college and then look for a place for herself and Arjun. He offered to help her with the house, the rent and the struggle with Uday.
The six months were over in a flash but by then some part of their lives was in order. Gaurav was almost ready to move into college, they had managed to get an apartment on rent and so were ready to move out. It was heart-wrenching for Anandita to leave the house, she had set up with so much love and affection. The fact that she had to do it for another woman who had now taken her place in her husband’s life was unbelievable, unacceptable. But believe she had to, accept she had to. Every room had memories, every curio had some history. How much she had had to convince Uday to buy that high chair, to buy that lovely floor lamp, things that she absolutely loved but now had to leave behind her. She kept wondering how Uday could live in the same house without the three of them when she couldn’t leave the material things. But obviously, she had no answers. Trying to put up a brave front in front of her children she walked out of the door, the door to her once upon a time home, her haven. Her brother was with her through all of this. She knew that she could never thank him enough for what he had done and what he was continuing to do for her. The children also though heartbroken were trying to be as brave as possible. And so they left to start a new life.
Anandita’s days were spent trying to settle into a new life where money was a huge concern. She did not allow herself to dwell on anything emotional during the day but come night time and she couldn’t help being run over by emotions. It still seemed like a horrible nightmare, how could the man for whom she had sacrificed so much, put up with so much, so that he could succeed, with whom she had built this life, just dump her to be with someone else? Had he never loved her, had he never cared for her? How could he push her into this hand- to- mouth existence for no fault of hers? Was this how she was going to be living now, alone with hardly any money? Couldn’t he have let her finish the course so that she could have found a job after that and become financially independent? How had he just fallen out of love with her? Had there been signs that she had missed? So many questions but no answers.
Many times her brother would sit with her, talk to her but then ultimately he too had to leave. He had a family and life back in Australia and had to get back to it. She knew she had to accept the situation and try and move on. The boys were settling into their new lives and adjusting to the new circumstances as well. Uday on his part had started living with Anna and was paying for the educational expenses of his children but as far as money for the running of their house was concerned he was quite irregular. He would pay for a few months and then stop, so there was always this element of uncertainty in their lives. As it is what he had agreed to give was a pittance but when he didn’t give even that Anandita didn’t know what to do. If she tried calling him his phone would either seem to be switched off or there would be no reply. She even tried to get some of their friends to intervene but Uday had become like this heartless, unfeeling person on whom no amount of convincing or reasoning now seemed to work. From being a soft-hearted, sensitive person he had now become cold, distant and callous. Even the children could never ask for anything….. Her brother, of course, was a big help and never refused to chip in whenever she needed something. In fact, when Uday started avoiding sending the money every other month her brother decided that he would send some every month no matter what. Life was tough but Anandita knew she had to fight it out and not give up. With Gaurav busy with his college life her full focus was now on Arjun. She wanted him to follow his passion. It was quite clear by now that he wanted to get into the world of movie direction and so she wanted him to go to the best possible place for him to get trained for this. All her efforts paid off when Arjun got admission into a very well known school in the US to take up a course on film making and film direction. In fact, by moving out of his father’s shadow and domineering ways the boy was able to flourish.
Once he also left Anandita was now absolutely on her own. Though Gaurav was in Bangkok, he kept quite busy as he had now started working. She didn’t have too many friends now as most of her friends had been the wives of Uday’s friends or his colleagues and now that she was no longer with him they were no longer with her. She was in touch with some of her friends from India but that didn’t really mean much to her life in Bangkok. The loneliness was getting to her and she wanted to do something with her life. For a change, she decided to visit her brother and spend some time with him and his family but after a few weeks of being with him, she decided to come back to Bangkok. Her brother suggested that with his help she should get back to finishing the counselling course that she had enrolled for earlier. He was willing to support her till she could equip herself to become financially independent. She knew that she would love to do that but didn’t want to burden her brother once again. He brushed aside her objections and protestations and told her to go back to doing the course.
Meanwhile, the divorce had come through by now and though Uday had agreed to provide monthly maintenance he hardly ever stuck to it which though not surprising made life difficult for Anandita. But Gaurav had also started earning now and between him and her brother she had enough support to be able to see through life. She rejoined the course and within a year and a half was a qualified counsellor. Arjun also having completed his course was now looking for work but that wasn’t easy to get. So he moved back to be with his mother who had by now come to terms with her new life. In fact, now after a long time life seemed to be good and she was happy once again.
Uday too had a daughter from Anna and seemed to be really happy. It sometimes seemed strange to Anandita to see how he seemed to not only have moved on in life but also how he seemed to have forgotten them all. He never ever expressed any desire to meet his sons and they only seemed to get in touch on birthdays when also the conversation was brief and awkward.
It is strange, it is inexplicable and it is grossly unfair but life seems to reserve all the challenges and tests for its favoured people and in this case, the chosen one was Anandita. For some time she had been feeling exhausted and listless and had been attributing it to the stress and tension in her life. But even now when things were a little easier she continued to feel tired all the time. On the boys’ insistence, she decided to get a medical checkup done and like so many other things in her life it turned out to be a shocker. It was discovered that she had a lump in her breast and it was diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer. The doctors said that it could be treated but then who was going to pay for the treatment. She knew that her brother would help but would it be fair on her part to trouble him yet again. She had a long conversation with her boys and they were both of the opinion that they should approach Uday who did owe her something.
To be fair the news of Anandita illness did shake up Uday and he suggested that they also get a second opinion on the line of treatment to be followed. He even organized for it but the opinion was pretty much the same. Anandita needed surgery, to begin with, and then a number of chemotherapy sessions. The bottom line was that they needed a lot of money and they didn’t have it and Uday wouldn’t/ couldn’t give it. She didn’t feel like asking her brother but he stepped in as always and chipped in for the surgery. But thereafter it became really difficult. The boys were now desperate for help and wanted to do anything to get their mother treated. But they didn’t know who to approach. Arjun came up with the idea of approaching their grandparents who he thought just might help. He decided to go and visit them and explain the entire situation. Since there did not seem to be any other option Gaurav agreed to his suggestion. Arjun went to India and met his grandparents. They were stunned to know about the developments. Of course, they had known about their son’s second marriage but had no clue about Anandita ’s illness. Contrary to his expectations Arjun found his grandmother to be extremely sympathetic towards Anandita and was very angry with her son for treating her so shabbily. She told her husband that Anandita had been the daughter in law of the house and they just couldn’t dump her now that she needed help. The father in law also felt the same and so they decided to help out. Thanks to them Anandita was able to get herself treated and since she was young and strong her body responded very well to the treatment and her cancer went into remission. She was of course extremely grateful to her in-laws and once back on her feet, she even went to see them.
Life went on, both the boys were now settled professionally and Arjun was making a name for himself in the world of film making. He had started making documentaries and short films. His dream was to eventually win an Oscar. Meanwhile, Gaurav found the girl that he wanted to marry. The marriage was fixed and though the boys were against the idea, Anandita persuaded them to tell their father about the wedding. Uday did attend the wedding but stayed only for a while. He came with Anna and their daughter but what was shocking that he came empty-handed and didn’t think of giving anything to his son or daughter in law. The boys were not really surprised though!!
As it usually happens after a gap of about two years the cancer came back with a vengeance and this time it decided to stay and take Anandita with it. The doctors told the boys that no treatment could now save their mother, they just had to let her live her last days the way she wanted to. The boys and her daughter in law did everything in their power to make her happy, spending time with her, taking her out, doing whatever she wanted. Her brother also visited her as often as he could. The one person she didn’t want to meet was Uday and they all made sure that he didn’t get a whiff of her condition, not that they expected him to do anything.
Then one early morning in the month of June, Anandita woke up her sons who were sleeping next to her, looked at them and told them that she wanted to go. She couldn’t bear the physical pain any longer and she didn’t even want them to spend money on her if she wasn’t going to get better. The boys had been expecting this but is one ever ready to lose a parent?? They were heartbroken especially Arjun who had been really close to her. They informed their uncle and sent a message to the father as well. The father came for the funeral but that was the last time that he met his sons.
After the passing away of their mother both the boys decided to move to the US. They had nothing to keep them in Bangkok. They moved on in life, became very successful in their lives but never got in touch with their father. He hadn’t been there for them when they had needed him, when their mother had needed him and now they didn’t need him. He had no place in their lives. And yes, Arjun did get to the Oscars and in his speech, he had tears in his eyes when he thanked his mother in heaven for all that she had done for him. There was no mention of the father at all. The father saw him on TV, felt happy on his son’s achievement but he had no one to share the happiness with. Anna was clearly not interested. He didn’t even know how to reach out to the son who seemed like a stranger now. His son did not need a father now…. Justice??