(a fiction short story)
It all started when God took my baby brother away. Poor thing! God took him away even before he was born. And Mamma was never the same again; she changed forever.
We were so happy then. My Papa, my Mamma, Granny and me. We all lived in a cute little house in a place called Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth in Pune.
In the morning Papa caught the company bus to his factory in Pimpri and Mamma walked me down to my school nearby on Bajirao Road. And the evenings we all went to the Talyatla Ganpati temple in Saras Baug, played on the lush green lawns, and if Papa was in a good mood he would treat me to a yummy Bhel prepared by the man with the huge flowing beard at the Kalpana Bhel stall on the way back.
On Sundays we would go to Laxmi Road for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.
And once in a while, Papa would take us on his Bajaj scooter to Camp, or a ride on the Jangli Maharaj Road, or to picnic spots like Khadakvasla and Katraj lakes, or up Sinhagarh Fort, and once we even went all the way to Lonavala; Papa, Mamma and me, all riding on our beloved and hardy scooter.
It was a good life, and we were happy and content. Two things are a must for a happy home – firstly, you should love your home, and always want to go home (your home should be the best place in the world for you); and, secondly, your home should love you, want you to come, beckon you, welcome you and like you to live in it. Our cute little house in Sadashiv Peth with all the loving people in living in it was indeed a happy home. And I had lots of friends all around.
One day they all said Mamma was going to have a baby. Being a girl myself, I wanted a baby sister to play with, but Granny scolded me and said it must be a baby brother, so I said okay – I would manage with a baby brother.
And suddenly one day, when Mamma’s tummy was bloating quite a bit, they rushed her to hospital, and God took my unborn baby brother away. And Mamma changed forever.
I sat beside Mamma in the hospital and consoled her, “Don’t worry. God will send another baby brother.”
And on hearing this Mamma started crying and said she would never have a baby again and I was her only baby.
She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital. Most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.
“She’ll go crazy sitting in the house all day. She must do something!” everyone said, but Papa was adamant: “Who’ll look after the house, my mother, my daughter?” he asked.
“Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything,” Granny said, so Mamma joined a Computer class nearby. And soon she started becoming normal again. “She’s a natural programmer,” everyone praised her, and when she finished the course she was offered a good job in a top software firm.
“No way,” said Papa, “I’m the breadwinner. I don’t want my wife to work. I want her to look after the house.”
“MCP,” said everyone to Papa. I didn’t know what MCP meant, but it made Papa very angry.
“Let her work. I’ll manage the house,” Granny said.
“Don’t worry, Papa. I’m a big girl now and can look after myself. I’ll study regularly and come first,” I promised.
And so, Mamma started working. And when she brought her first pay and gave it to Papa, he said proudly, “I’ll be the last person to touch my wife’s money, to live off my wife.” So my Mamma gave the money to Granny and Papa didn’t say a thing, he just sulked for days.
Life was hectic now. Mamma got up very early, cooked the food, did the housework, got ready and then both Papa and Mamma caught their respective company buses to their faraway workplaces – he to his factory in Pimpri and she to the IT Park. And after that Granny made me ready and I walked down Bajirao Road to my school.
One day my Mamma’s boss came home with Mamma. He said the company wanted to send Mamma abroad to the US for working on a project. He had come home to convince Papa to let her go. I thought Papa would argue, and hoped he would not let her go, but surprisingly he meekly agreed, probably thinking it was futile to argue, and Mamma went away to the States for three months.
Then there was an IT boom. That was a turning point in our lives. Mamma started doing better and better. Papa felt jealous that she was earning more than him, so he took VRS and started a business selling spare parts. And then a competition started between them, and soon they were making so much money that Sadashiv Peth wasn’t a good enough place to stay in any longer as it did not befit their new found status!
So we moved to a luxury apartment in a fancy township in a posh suburb of Pune, and I was put in a school known more for its snob appeal than studies. Our new house was in a beautiful colony, far away from the city, with landscaped gardens, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, and so many facilities. It was so luxurious, and people living there so highbrow and snobbish, that Granny and I were miserable. “It’s like a 5 star prison,” she would say. She was right in one way. For the whole day when we were away she was trapped inside with nothing to but watch soaps on cable TV.
I too missed our cute old house in Sadashiv Peth, the Bhel, the trips to Saras Baug and Laxmi Road and most of all my earlier friends who were so friendly unlike the snobbish people here. Oh yes, this was indeed a better house, but our old place in Sadashiv Peth was certainly a better home!
But Granny and me – we managed somehow, as Mamma increased her trips abroad and Papa was busy expanding his flourishing business.
And suddenly one day God took Granny away. Mamma was abroad in the States on an important project and she just couldn’t come immediately. She came back after one month and for days Papa and she kept discussing something. I sensed it was about me.
And tomorrow morning, I’m off to an elite boarding school in Panchgani.
I don’t know whether what has happened is good or bad, or what is going to happen in future, but one thing is sure: If God hadn’t taken my baby brother away; I wouldn’t be going to boarding school!
Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve