As he trailed hastily towards the termination of the road, crumpled by the uncomfortable wind and exasperated by the colossal expanse, the light twittering through the lacuna finally boomed when he heard her mother.
“Duggu, how come you are early today?”
A nervous Duggu, humiliated as hell, unable to respond, went straightforward to his room and sat over his favorite Popeye entwined red dark bed-sheet.
The tensed and confused mother entered his room.
A shallow boy, flinched by his own framework, with a pale serious demeanor protruded out of a loving, charismatic son which offended a caring mother.
“What happened Beta?” she sat beside him quietly, in no hurry and adoringly staring at his son’s serious face.
He wasn’t crying. He was simply gawking at the marble floor, eyes uninterrupted, face fossilized like a stone and mouth dried enough to narrow the entire appearance.
“I don’t want to go school tomorrow.” he yelled.
“But tell me what happened? Did Ms. Marla say something to my son, how dare she? She always criticizes about you, seems she has no other work. Or did that fat lad said something? Tell me? I will come with you tomorrow,” Mrs. Parvati said resolutely.
“Maa, nothing happened like that. It’s just that they all laughed at me and I felt so bad. They asked about my dad’s profession. I said he is a driver. They all started laughing. I couldn’t understand why? Is it bad being a driver? Is it laughable to be a driver’s son? What fault have I done?”
He was upset, but she was shattered, more at her own faith. She felt bad, debauched that the cruel world out there was frolicking all over again. It had taken years for her to accept things the way they were, to crush down her own dreams and live a life she never desired and incidents like these kept mocking at her again and again.
There is always more wretchedness among the poorer classes than there is humanity in the higher.
She could feel the reprisal in his innocent pious eyes. All her life, she kept him close; trying hard to transcend the coal into a polished diamond, but nothing comes without a price.
“It’s no wicked being a driver. He works entire day because of us. He is a great man. People admire him. I respect him. Life is incredibly unfair. But he is always with us. It’s no bad being a driver. They won’t understand because they haven’t confronted poverty the way we have. And we won’t let them crush our feelings. We won’t let you face what we had. You will go far ahead than anyone. Don’t feel bad by them. They are not worth your tears” she said as ardently as she had felt every moment.
She was once from the most affluent families but then life and love ruined her. She fell in love with her driver. It was defaming for the whole society but for her–It was pristine. She left her prosperity, escaped and married. He loved her. She loved him. Others hated them. Many said she will pay for all the shame she has inflicted upon her family. He will never be able to keep her contented.
But they were all wrong. A true love demands no money. It demands time, purity and unconditional love, but such instances broke her. It took an undue amount of pain and persistence to live in the pitiable old smelly house and to work all day, feed her son and husband. It wasn’t easy.
And true love demands everything. And the one, who never wavers do get a prize at the end. She wanted her son to be rich. To dream what she couldn’t dream off. He would accomplish her vanished dreams. And she was adamant.
That’s why they worked day and night so that he could get the best education.
“But Maa, they always make my fun. Last week, they all went to mount Abu in Rohan’s car and they made my fun and said–‘Tell your father and then you can also come for free.’”
This time she was in agony. It’s bad being a poor, but making their fun is against any morality.
“Next time you too will go to mount Abu. Don’t worry. Next time, if anyone says anything, tell me. I’ll teach them how to talk and behave.”
A whirring and grumbling noise stopped the mother-son discussion. The fumes of carbon purred and brought Mr. Sharma right on his lunch time.
On Sunday’s he took his family to a nearby beach where they would discuss everything. The Taxi they had bought consumed their entire saved penny. And the money recovery wasn’t ample. It was a messy business after all. Existence demanded entirety.
He entered the house and was surprised to see Duggu.
“Are waah! Come here Duggu, look what I got for you,” he took out dozens of kismi bar chocolates from his old Lenin shirt.
Duggu ran and grasped them all. He was all renovated. For a seven-year-old chap, chocolates can mean everything.
“So tell me, how come you are early today?”
Duggu stared at him, memorizing everything. He found it tough to gulp the rest of chocolates. He desired to say a lot of things but words desiccated in his chocolate puffed mouth. His father was stringent related to studies and Duggu was aware about the consequences of opening his mouth.
“I ran in the middle of class to home,” the scared voice started to babble, “but Papa it wasn’t my fault,” he said and looked behind, at her mother, to explain further.
“Parvati, what happened? Did he do something mischievous in class again? I am tired of his complaints. He is not a kid now. I am tired of ruining my business and coming to school all time just to hear is complains. I feel embarrassed being his father at times. Even he barely studies. Today I will remove the cable connection too. Whole day he watches cartoons. Chhota Bheem, Doraemon, Ninja Hathodi and all pathetic series. Can’t they make something educational? Pandey’s son who is in a lower class than him speaks such rich English. I was so shocked to see his intelligence and skills and my Duggu, studying in such expensive school can’t even pronounce words properly. For whom am I taking so many efforts? Tell me? Is it for me? No. All for him and he is busy eating chocolates all the time. I am tired of Duggu.” He was drained and infuriated.
Duggu couldn’t digest further and started crying. He jerked his hand and chocolates went flying down the floor. He ran and clutched mother’s saree for some comfort.
“See he is crying again. That’s all he does, he never accepts his blunders.”
“Chup bhi karoo, this time it’s not his fault. Stop blaming my son all the time. He is a kid. Stop yelling at my son,” Parvati vented out her anger.
“You always take his support. One day you will ruin him completely. Then don’t blame me.”
“I am there to take his care. He will twinkle like a diamond and accomplish all our dreams. Don’t say anything to him.”
A feud occurred over the innocence of a son and a mother, when on a mission, never fails. While the temperature of the trivial room started escalating, telephone echoed, cutting their conversations in middle.
Furiously, Mr Sharma picked up the phone and blustered a rude–Hello.
“Hello, is this Mr. Sharma I am speaking with?”
The voice seemed familiar. The tone seemed optimistic.
“Yes, I am speaking…”
“Yesss… Ohhh… Yeah, he has come home. Who said that? How dare they make fun of my boy? Haan… Ok…Ok… Yes, I do understand… It’s ok… No need to be sorry… But such things shouldn’t happen in class, Madam. Just because we are poor doesn’t mean we will withstand everyone’s remark… Haan… Jee… Yes Madam, I understand… Ok …Ok… I’ll keep that in mind… Ok Madam. Theek hai. Bye”
Parvati tried her best to make out an association of those intermittent broken replies. “What happened? Who was it? What was the person saying?” She was curious.
In a moment, they completely forgot their feud.
Mr. Sharma gazed at Duggu empathetically. Then he stared at the chocolates shattered over the floor. He picked them all and went towards his crying son.
He crouched, looked in Duggu’s teary eyes and said softly, “I am Sorry. Forgive me.”
A restrained smile appeared over Parvati’s face. She understood everything. At least the School Principle was decent enough to accept her mistake and apologize to a driver.
Sobbing Duggu didn’t know how to respond. He clutched his soft hands tightly into mother’s sari.
Mr. Sharma felt his heart getting heavy. He started to feel bad for everything he had said. He had been a very harsh father, always shouting and restricting his only son for everything.
He brought out the chocolates like a magician upfront.
Duggu started at his big hands which carried the best chocolates in the whole world.
“Duggu loves chocolates? Doesn’t he?”
Duggu saw the swarm of delicious Kismi bar chocolates staring at him seductively and begging to be eaten.
“Yes,” he said slowly.
“Shall we go to the fair today? You want to see the Jaadugar?”
The word ‘fair’ brought a sudden elation and surprise over Duggu’s face.
He embraced his father.
“Yes, all my friends have gone and they talk all day about it. We will go Papa?”
His cheerfulness knew no bounds and this brought a sudden smile on everyone’s face.
Duggu was their life. His innocence was their strength.
He plunged all the chocolates from his dad’s palm and started eating them all as fast as he could.