Although Sunil was both angry and disappointed at Atul’s attitude, Apu wasn’t really surprised. She had seen in the past several months that Atul had started getting detached from her and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get through to him. He had seemed to have changed completely and couldn’t be bothered about her physical or mental state. She hadn’t told anyone but she had tried calling him after coming to her parents house but he had ignored her calls. As a result she had been expecting this kind of a behavior from him.
She also understood that she needed to give a serious thought to her life ahead. She was aware of the fact that her pregnancy had reached an advanced stage and couldn’t be terminated, hence she would have to give birth to her child. But what after that? Would she continue being with her parents? And if she did that would she keep her child away from the father?? Would that be fair? She mulled over these questions for many days, spoke to her parents, shared all her doubts and concerns with them and then ultimately arrived at a decision. She decided that she would not go back to Atul because she knew that things over there would never change. He would never be willing to see her point because he was too much under the influence of his parents and she could not visualize a lifetime of struggle and strife with his parents. She knew that she would not be able to bring up her child the way she wanted to amid all the controls and restrictions.
Her parents assured her that she could depend on them for everything and could live with them for as long as she wanted to. The only hitch was that Apu had no financial independence. Though she knew that her parents would not hesitate to support her, would it be fair on her part to saddle them with the responsibility of two people, she and her child? At this point she deeply regretted not having completed her graduation. She now understood the significance of what her mother had been telling her all along. She was very angry with herself for having been so pig headed and so blinded by her love for Atul. Today there was no Atul, there was no love and there was no chance of being financially independent.
She was completely distraught but then can parents ever let their children suffer? Seeing her in this state her mother advised her to focus on her child for the time being and think about her future once the child was born. Apu realized that what she was saying was right but along with the desire to give birth to a healthy child another desire was taking over her. She now wanted to explore options that would enable her to complete her graduation and study further. She was determined to not be a life long burden on her family and become self reliant. She didn’t want her child to grow up feeling that he had to depend on others for every big or small need of his as his parents were incapable of looking after him.
The remaining three months of her pregnancy went off peacefully with her parents and brother taking care of her. And then came the month of November and with that came little Aryavir, her little bundle of joy. His arrival was celebrated by the entire family and within two days the mother and son were back home to begin their lives. Inder decided that no matter what Atul and his family needed to be informed about little Arya’s birth but this time he decided to do the needful. He called up Atul’s father and in a formal tone informed him about his grandchild’s birth. As expected the response was cold and no one came to see the baby which was just as well. Inder had already decided that they would file for a divorce and completely free Apu from the clutches of her in laws. He consulted a few of his lawyer friends and within a month Apu filed for a divorce. Since she didn’t want any alimony from Atul he didn’t contest and in a few months time she was free and raring to go. What surprised and pained her was the fact that Atul had not shown any interest in seeing his child. But she decided that there was no need to brood over such matters and she needed to move on. She had got the divorce which was step one in the process and now she had to move onto the next step which was of studying further.
Since it had been only three years since she had quit studying she was able to rejoin and complete her graduation where after her parents sent her to London to do her Master’s. Though she was reluctant about leaving little Arya behind, her mother convinced her to go ahead as she was there to take care of him. In any case it was only a matter of a few months. Apu did that, came back and was able to land a job as a clinical psychologist in one of the leading hospitals of the city. The day she got her appointment letter was a day which would remain etched in her memory forever. That letter spelt freedom, independence, confidence and a belief in herself. She could not thank her parents enough for all their support and help. She knew that they would always be there but now she would not be a burden any longer. She could support some part of her own life and that of her son’s. So it was with a spring in her step and light in her eyes that she went to her place of work on the first day. And then there was no looking back. She had a dream, a dream of being her own person, a dream of holding her own no matter what and that day marked the first step towards the realization of that dream.
Life went on. Soon it was time for Arya to start school. His first day in school marked another milestone in Apu’s life. Thereafter with the support of her parents she went to grow professionally and personally too. A girl who at one point didn’t want to touch her books because of the man she loved was a changed person. She wanted to learn more, to grow more in her chosen field. And so there wasn’t a conference that she missed, there wasn’t a course that she didn’t attend and by the time she turned thirty she was one of the well known psychologists of her city. Her views mattered, her opinion mattered and her confidence, her self esteem went sky high. It was as though the Apu who had wanted her husband’s love, his respect and had done everything to ensure that didn’t want it any longer. She was a changed person.
Her parents and in particular her mother were proud of their daughter and her achievements. They were proud of the way in which she had managed to put all the pieces of her life together to start afresh. Her resilience, courage and fortitude made them want to support her even more. By now Sunil had also got married and had two children of his own. They were one big happy family. Sunil’s wife Abha too got along really well with Apu and in fact was greatly inspired by her.
Though they were not in touch, through their common friends Sunil had got to know that Atul had got married again and this time to a girl of his mother’s choice. But as maybe fate willed it he didn’t have a child which of late had become a bone of contention between his wife and his mother. There were constant fights between the two as his mother as was her nature blamed her daughter in law for not having been able to have a child. His sister had eloped from home to get married to a boy of her choice who her mother couldn’t stand. Sunil couldn’t help getting a feeling of “serves him right”!! Someone who hadn’t bothered to see his own son had been dealt a blow by the universe!! Well! Well! Well!
Apu having moved on in life couldn’t really be bothered by what Atul was doing or what had happened to him. She had her own world in which she was supremely happy. But there was challenge that she had to face. Now that Arya was old enough and had friends and cousins who all had a father, he wanted to know where his own father was. Had God taken him away or was he angry with him? His questions could not be ignored for too long but Apu didn’t know how to answer them. So for a few years she kept telling him that he had gone away for a while but eventually she decided to tell him the truth. He was ten by then and she felt that she could explain the situation to him. So one day she sat him down and told him that though his father was very much around they couldn’t meet him because they had got divorced. The child understood that bit but couldn’t understand why the father couldn’t meet him. After all he had not divorced him!! Apu had no answer to his innocent question and felt terribly guilty of having deprived her child of a father. But then Inder told her to stop blaming herself for something that wasn’t her fault. He told Arya that he should consider Inder to be his father as his own father couldn’t be around. Though not an easy task the father and daughter managed to convince the little child.
Though everything was going smoothly for Apu her parents did want her to consider a remarriage. They were happy with the way her life had shaped up but there was some part of them that wanted her to have a husband and a home of her own. But Apu was just not interested. She wanted to continue focusing on her career and her son who was almost fourteen now. She wanted him to do well in academics and go abroad for his further studies and she was sure that she didn’t want her parents to fund his education. Moreover she didn’t want any hindrance from anywhere whatsoever.
The way Apu’s life had turned out made it seem as though she had had her fill of love and romance as a young girl and now there was no room in her life for any of it. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t come across men in her life after the divorce but somehow she hadn’t looked at anyone of them with any romantic inclination. They had all been colleagues, acquaintances or simply associates who had come into her life, served a purpose and gone away. So even when her parents introduced her to someone they considered eligible enough she just refused to take the hint. She was kind of done with the whole idea of husband, marriage and the works. She did not want to complicate her life anymore. There was a kind of a fear, an apprehension in her mind about getting into any relationship. She just didn’t think that she could trust anyone any longer. And as a result she had built this wall around herself, a kind of a defense mechanism which did not let anyone enter the realms of her being. Every interaction was a superficial one with no one allowed any chance of getting intimate or close. Neena could see how her marriage had scarred her but was hopeful that with time, the scars would fade away and if it was in her destiny then she would meet someone who could make her believe in love all over again.
What was surprising in the whole affair was that it was Inder who was more inclined towards getting Apu remarried. Neena on the other hand was quite open about the whole thing. She felt that there was no need to push her into any relationship and even if she didn’t find anyone it was okay. She didn’t believe that Apu needed a man to make her life complete. She knew that she would be happy if she found someone but it wouldn’t really upset her if she didn’t. She was of the opinion that her daughter needed a man to complement her existence not to justify it. And she didn’t want someone who would again stifle her and make her life impossible. So whenever Inder broached the topic she advised him to let it be and to take things easy. This kind of support from her mother made Apu appreciate her and she wondered why as a young girl she had never understood her. But such is life.
Life moved on and Arya after having done splendidly in his school leaving exams was off to study at a top notch school in the US. The proud grandparents threw a lavish party to celebrate his achievement. Apu had tears of joy in her eyes as Arya in a surprise speech in front of his family and friends thanked his family and in particular his mother and grandparents for all their sacrifices. He looked at his mother and promised that he would never let her down, no matter what. Neena and Inder and the rest of the family couldn’t help marvel at the way the boy had turned out.
It was with a heavy heart that Apu along with her parents went to drop Arya to college. She felt terrible on her way back home. It seemed as though the country had taken away a part of her and decided to keep it with it. Throughout the flight she kept thinking about her son, how she had conceived him, how she had given birth to him and the struggle thereafter. She felt sorry for Atul who had never had a chance to see his son and feel that sense of pride that she felt whenever she looked at him. But that was his luck.
The house seemed very lonely without Arya but then Sunil and Abha made sure that Apu never felt alone. Their children also loved her immensely and never let her feel the absence of Arya. Apu felt blessed that she had such a loving and caring family, a family who had stood by her at all times.
As luck would have it, Apu got a chance to attend a conference in New York which is where Arya had gone to study. So within a month of dropping him off, Apu was all set to see him again. She spent fifteen joyful days with him. They went out for meals, for shows and it was fantastic but then soon it was time for her to go back. As luck would have it while on the way to the airport she got caught in a terrible jam and was sure that would miss her flight. She was panic stricken as she knew that she had to get back home as quickly as possible. There was an emergency situation at work which required her presence the moment she landed and so she couldn’t afford to miss her flight. She didn’t know what to do. She was hoping and praying that she would make it to the airport on time but that didn’t seem very likely. She reached the airport half an hour late only to discover that the flight had got delayed due to a technical fault. And since the fault had been discovered at the last minute the online checking of the flight status had not revealed it. What luck!!
As she was rushing towards the gate she collided with this tall human being who also seemed to be in a tearing hurry to get somewhere. The collision resulted in her dropping her bad, her boarding pass. And what is more the bag being a tote which did not have a zipper everything inside fell outside. How many times her mother had chided her for dumping millions of things in a bag which could not be closed. But of course she hadn’t paid heed to it!! And now this!! She cursed and she swore,something that she normally didn’t do but these were not normal circumstances. She had to be on the flight!! Not that with the boarding pass in hand it could go anywhere. But so what? While she was putting her things back in the bag she realized that there were two pairs of hands doing that and one of them belonged to that giant of a human being who had made this thing happen in the first place. She looked up to give him a piece of her mind when she saw the most heartwarming smile which made her just forget what she had been about to do. And what is more the smile belonged to this amazingly hot looking guy!! But before she could make a complete ass of herself , she reminded herself that she was the mother of a college going boy and so could not let these idiotic feelings get the better of her. She quickly gathered her things, muttered a quick thank you and joined the queue to board her flight. And so did he!!! Could it get any better?? And then to her consternation she discovered that the giant who went by the name Rohit was to be her co passenger all the way to Delhi!!
As it turned out Rohit wasn’t bad company at all . In fact he turned out to be quite friendly and nice though she was quite wary of talking too much or seeming to be too friendly. But by the time they landed in Delhi Rohit had managed to squeeze out her mobile number with a promise to meet again. They collected their bags, Rohit smiled in that heart stopping way once again and then turned to go away. It was when he turned away that Apu realized that she did want to meet him again. But of course she wasn’t going to take the initiative.
The next morning revealed that she didn’t have to do that. Once she had dealt with the emergency situation in the hospital she realized that there were three missed calls from an unfamiliar number. Her intuition told her it was him. She had to rely on her intuition because she had forgotten to save his number. And of course when she called back she realized that it was indeed Mr. Rohit Sharma who had called. He sounded even hotter than what he looked. Apu again checked herself and said a formal hello to him . And to her embarrassement and surprise the moment she did that the man started laughing in a mocking kind of a way. She wondered what was wrong. But of course when she asked him he brushed her question aside. After some small talk he came straight to the point and said that he wanted to meet her for coffee. And though she wanted to say a ‘NO’, she heard herself saying a ‘Yes’!! What was wrong with her? Why was she behaving like a teenager? She had no answer
So the next day after work she met Rohit and spent the next two hours in his company. And as on the flight they had so much to talk, so much to share. It was almost unbelievable. She learnt that Rohit was a surgeon working in a well known hospital of the city. He had been married for ten years but had lost his wife in an accident about two years ago. She had also been a surgeon but they had no children. Her vdeath had been the result of a ‘hit and run’ case. She had been trying to cross the road when at that very moment two young boys had chosen to jump the signal and snuffed the life out of her. It had been so sudden that Rohit had not been able to accept it for a long time. And the recovery had taken even longer. But gradually and slowly he had realized the futility of spending the rest of his life indulging in self pity and remorse. The remorse was there because he had refused to drop her to work and she had been crossing the road to get into a cab. Like in most cases time had helped him to heal and recover. Apu had tears in her eyes as she listened to his story. He held her hand and squeezed it gently. It was at that point though she failed to see it then, that Apu fell in love with Rohit.
The meeting got over and both of them left for their respective homes. But when Apu entered the house, the light in her eyes said something to Inder which he could not put a finger to. He asked her where she had been and Apu not wanting to say anything about Rohit said that she had been out with a friend for coffee. Apu out for coffee with a friend!! A pretty revealing statement. She hadn’t done that in ages, so how come today? Inder wanted to ask her but refrained from doing any such thing. But he did not refrain from mentioning this to Neena. He told her that he knew that something had happened in Apu’s life but he couldn’t say what. Neena told him to stop imagining things and switched off the light and went off to sleep.
And then much to the happiness and amusement of Inder these coffees with friends started happening every other day. And Apu also started looking happier and relaxed. Even Neena started noticing that Apu was now taking a lot of care to dress up and buy new clothes too. She realized that her husband was right . Apu was up to something but exactly what?? Could she question her? After all she was going to be forty. She decided to be patient and wait for her to spill the beans. It was getting increasingly difficult for her to do that but she had to because she had no choice.
Finally that day dawned bright and clear when Apu decided to make Rohit meet her parents. He had been pressing her to do that but she had been avoiding making them meet as she didn’t want to give any ideas to her parents. Rohit had made it clear to her that he was dead serious about the relationship and wanted to take it forward and therefore meeting her parents seemed like a natural progression. Apu also had realized by now that she had feelings for him but she didn’t want to give any false hopes to her parents. She wanted to be absolutely sure before introducing them to him. But by then it had been three months and she was sure . So she chose a Sunday evening to do that. Her parents were overjoyed to meet Rohit who apart from being very handsome was a cultured and affable man. Inder had a long conversation with him during the course of which Rohit told him that he was very much interested in marrying Apu though he wasn’t too sure about her intentions. She knew that she cared deeply for him but her past experience was making it difficult for her to make any kind of a commitment.
Inder was touched by the way Rohit spoke about his daughter and also by the fact that he was willing to give Apu all the time she needed to be sure about marrying him. Neena also spoke to Rohit separately because this time around she didn’t want things to go wrong for Apu. But the fact was that Rohit was a lovable person who everyone took to very easily. In fact even Sunil’s children could relate to him and talk to him. The only hitch was that Arya needed to be not only brought into the loop but had to like Rohit enough to let him marry his mother.
Apu was very clear that she would not go ahead with the relationship till she was sure that Arya and Rohit would get along. Anyways they didn’t have to wait for too long. Soon it was summer time and time for Arya to head back home. Apu had already decided that she would not wait for too long before talking to Arya about Rohit but when the moment actually came upon her she was nervous as hell. To begin with, she didn’t know how to broach the topic and then she was petrified about how he would react. But then while all these thoughts were crisis crossing her mind she thought to herself. Am I not supposed to be the mother!? Why am I behaving like a child?!
But then she was aware of the fact that Arya’s approval meant the world to her. She had since his birth done everything to ensure his happiness and well being and now could not do anything to jeoperdise that. The two of them shared a close bond and she was sure that she would not allow anyone to affect that.
So with a lot of trepidation and a lot of anxiety Apu entered Arya’s room to have a conversation with him. Arya’s response as she had expected wasn’t a ‘jumping with joy’ kinds yet he wasn’t completely averse to the idea of there being a man in his mother’s life. In fact he told her that it was high time that she had one. She on her part reassured him that the bond between the two of them would not get affected as a result of her relationship. Arya, the mature young boy that he had become told his mother that he didn’t want her to spend the remaining part of her life ensuring his welfare. It was time for her to focus on her’s and so he was keen to meet Rohit.
Thus over the weekend Apu arranged for the two to meet and Rohit being Rohit managed to charm his way into Arya’s heart. There was an instant connect between the two which was a matter of great joy and relief not only for Apu but for everyone in the house especially for Inder. It was a happy summer that Arya spent in India that year with someone who seemed to be on his way to becoming an integral part of his life. Arya loved the way Rohit took care of his mother and was sensitive to her needs and requirements. He could sense that his company brought a spark into her eyes, something that he had never seen ever before.
Though his grandfather and uncle had never let him miss the presence of a father in his life, being with Rohit and spending time with him made him realize what he had been missing all his life. The man to man chat, the banter, the ceaseless pulling of Apu’s leg, made Arya feel so good, so wanted in a way that he had never felt before. Rohit treated him like a son, cared for him and what is more shared his passion for tennis. Arya did not want this to end and was very keen to see his mother spend the rest of her life with Rohit.
Inder and Neena were greatly relieved to see the two of them get along but Apu still wanted to give them time. She didn’t want anything to go wrong. But since they were not meant to go wrong things did not go wrong. And then Apu had no apprehensions, no doubts and no questions left. She was left with nothing to say but a “Yes”when Rohit proposed to her. She had no reason not to take the second chance which life had decided to offer to her.