Monday, 27 March 2017

A Family Valentine Day

'Neela, please hurry up beta, they may be reaching here any time now,' Mr Rai called out to his daughter. Her fiance Ritvik and his parents were coming to discuss their wedding date and other preparations over dinner. Neela should have been excited, it was the culmination of three years of love after all, but she seemed a bit subdued. She had been in a pensive mood ever since Ritvik called up to inform about his parents' forthcoming visit to India to finalize the wedding date.
After his wife's sudden demise in a road accident fifteen years ago, Mr Rai had been her father and mother both. Father and daughter were extremely close to each other. Their emotional bond was, in fact, so strong that he was her only confidante till now. But of late she seemed to be keeping something from him. Or may be it was due to the usual jitters before a girl's marriage, he thought.
Shrugging his shoulders he decided to concentrate on the more pressing matter at hand resolving to have a word with Neela later at night. He was determined to find out what was eating into his lovely daughter's happiness.
Ritvik and his parents arrived soon and after the usual exchange of pleasantries and rounds of juice, snacks and coffee they sat down to deciding the nitty-gritties of Indian wedding ceremonies. Mr Rai sneaked a glance at his daughter to see her glowing face but was startled to find a strange emptiness in her eyes. To his amazement Ritvik also seemed to have been looking intently at her pretense of a happy facade. To distract him from Neela's blank eyes he asked Ritvik,''So young man, what are your plans for tomorrow? I am sure you guys have some big plans as it's your last Valentine's before marriage!''
''Yes of course Uncle, I have some special plans for us, all of us in fact.''
''All of us? What do you mean? We are oldies, you youngsters go ahead with your celebrations and merrymaking.''his father protested.
''Yes son, your dad is absolutely right. We don't wish to intrude into your personal moments. These are the special moments memories of which you'll cherish throughout your life.'' Mr Rai told Ritvik as he caressed the flowing strands of his daughter affectionately. He quickly ran a hand over his face pretending to wipe some nonexistent sweat but his moist eyes were not hidden from the perceptive eyes of both Neela and Ritvik.
''You're returning to America in a week's time so better spend all your time together, what say my little one? Look, she's already getting upset at the thought of your departure.'' Mr Rai tried to color his daughter's desolate spirits.
''No uncle, she's upset because she thinks it's going to be her last Valentine's day with you. Both of you have always celebrated it together every year. She loves you so much that she's getting jittery at the thought of leaving you behind and not being able to look after you in your old age. We've been discussing this and have almost reached a conclusion. She's just not sure how you would react to our decision.''
''What decision? And Neela, you don't need to worry about me sweetheart, I'll be fine. In fact I will go out everyday, visit places I have not and of course you can come back to your Dad whenever you wish. This is how it has always been the tradition when daughters get married and set up their own home. And this is how it should be now. Cheer up beta!'' Mr Rai tried to pep up his daughter who had not spoken a word till now but her eyes gleamed with a certain joy of having arrived at a decision.
It was Ritvik again who spoke in a firm voice,''No Dad, this is not how it's going to be this time. You are moving to the US with us after our wedding. We can not leave you behind to fend for yourself all alone when you need your children most in your old age.''
''But this is not possible. How can I go with you children? I don't wish to be a burden on you. I'll be happy here and look after myself well, I promise!'' Mr Rai protested vehemently.
''Then are we also a burden on your daughter Mr Rai?'' Ritvik's parents retorted jovially. ''You are as much Ritvik's responsibility as we are for Neela, and we will look after our children and grandchildren together.''
''But.....'' Mr Rai's voice trailed off.
''No ifs and buts Dad! If I get married, you come along with me!'' finally Neela spoke up resolutely, conclusively.
''And tomorrow we celebrate a new kind of Valentine's Day, all of us together!'' Neela and Ritvik chimed in joyously.