This story is by SathyaRam and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Oh, I love the musky smell and the feel of old books, rows and rows of books on huge shelves that rise to touch the ceiling standing tall like trees that reach up greedily aiming to reach the blue sky…. encompassed by volumes that are waiting to be read by me. Fiction, history, fairy tales, mythology are all carved into pages which are yellow with age and it looks like these thin pages hold the ‘weight’ of the weary world. Curled on the comfortable couch, I am mesmerized as I delve into page after well written page consuming every letter and sentence on the yellow pages……totally in oblivion of the minutes and hours ticking away”
There was a loud thud as the plane touched the hard tarmac and she woke up to the sound of the announcement of the arrival at Bengaluru International Airport; she wanted to stand up and stretch her long limbs but on both of her arms were the tiny heads of her four year old boys (her twin sons who were peacefully snuggled against their mother oblivious of the chaos and turmoil of embarking passengers). She called out for help from the passing flight attendant and slowly woke her boys up to the sound of her stomach rumbling with lack of food!!! The boys had fallen asleep with great difficulty and she had to stay without moving and had not had food nor water through the long flight as this might wake up the sleeping infants.
The young lady walked out of the flight with purpose, failing to notice the turning heads to get a second look at her tall svelte frame and long legs, dusky glowing skin and a bobbing head of black curls holding on with both hands to two mischievous toddlers with jet black curly hair who trotted along in their colourful squeaky shoes with eyes gleaming and sparkling in the noon sun!!!
She realized with a pang that it was such joy to be back in her home country and the enchanting Bangalore city where she had her roots….she proudly recollected that it is the largest and capital city of Karnataka!!! Her parents were both of Karnataka origin – Mysore and Bangalore born!
It was a happy reunion as her parents received her and their loving grandsons at the airport and took them home, she was so tired with the lack of food and rest on the long flight that she just wanted to reach home and snuggle into bed after eating her mom’s homemade food…..and read few pages of the book that has a permanent spot in her bag, which was nowadays also overflowing with ‘baby’ items like tissue wipes, jelly jars, small toys, colour pencils etc. The long winding road from the airport was mesmerizing to the boys as they chatted non-stop with their grandfather and she smiled to herself with contentment at the thought of coming back to India, oh it was heaven to breathe in the air and soak the sunlight of her homeland
Reaching home, though, reality struck, as the boys were also wound up after the long travel and would neither eat nor sleep!!!! It turned out to be another long night until they fell asleep and she too dozed off immediately after that, oh it was already midnight in India….
Then came school admissions, finding a job in India, and days merged into months and months into years….she worked her way up the career ladder and reached the top executive rank, the boys did well in academics and sports, their father too returned to India to venture on his own and there were only long days and longer nights like in most of the families in the middle-class society as they all were in a constant ‘race’ to excel in their respective lines of work
Oh…her joy for reading, gardening and fine arts were only a dream and sometimes she yearned for an hour for herself to just relax sipping a steaming mug of coffee reading her favourite book….but never really gave it a second thought as there were so many other pleasures that came her way, watching her sons become fine young men surpassing each other and their peers with excellent grades who also excelled in chess, karate, skating, cricket and various other sports and innumerable activities!!!
Her work also made her travel to the US for ‘leadership meetings’ and client meets few times a year, and weekends were well spent in Hindi lessons and the rest of the days of the week were a blur of activity too with school assignments, doctor visits and work commitments
The boys grew up to be dashing young men and completed their Grade X with excellent grades and joined a prestigious university with specialized coaching with an aim to get into Engineering Institutes of great repute, and with hard work and intelligence and a teeny weeny dose of Lady Luck they got selected in the ‘Excellence Batch’ for in-house intensive coaching and decided to leave home
This was the ‘twist in the tale’ for her as it came with a bittersweet nostalgia and as there was nothing much to do she let them go; her ‘nest’ had become empty in one go and she now thought that she had finally all the time to get back to her all-time favourite – READING…..
After a regular day at work, she came home dreaming of all the free time she had and how she would finally do what she always did only in her dreams for the last 17 years. She came home and enthusiastically pressed the bell and rattled the door as always….waiting for one of the boys to lazily saunter out to open the door with a ‘grunt’ that over the years she had understood was a ‘hello’!!! But no one came and then the truth dawned on her. She was ‘home alone’. Entering the house to so much quiet and eerie silence knocked her off her feet and twisted her stomach. Her tall frame rattled as sob after sob overtook her, she wept her heart out and did not understand the real reason for this!!!!
She sat in the silence for a long time missing her sons and all the bustle and noise that had become normalcy for her, tried calling her husband and her mother, but the ‘void’ in her chest was still as tight as an iron grip which she found hard to shake off
In the days to come, she tried working late, tried reading, went out with her friends for movies and long drives as suddenly her evenings were free BUT neither of these gave her any real joy or satisfaction
What had gone wrong? Why could she not move on? Her sons spoke to her every day exceling in academics. Her close friends and colleagues advised her that this was the ‘new’ normal, but her isolation was eating into her and ripping her apart. It was like this was not in her control and she had absolutely no power over the loneliness she felt when she entered home every evening. The sight of all the cushions intact on the sofa; no shoes, belt, uniform, books strewn about on the floor and bed; uneaten lunch boxes; she was missing it all!!!
Few months went by, and one rainy morning as she was walking in the park with her husband, one of her friends Raj stopped by, he looked radiant walking home from a yoga class and seeing her forlorn face advised her to join yoga. He did not leave it at that but took her to meet his yoga ‘guru’ and that was the day that changed her life—maybe forever.
She commenced yoga sessions, and this became her daily routine. Immersing herself into yoga changed the complete outlook for her. Oh! The transformation was immense….and unbelievable!
She learnt that pleasure and suffering arise because of the drawing together of the sense organs, the mind and objects. When that does not happen because the mind is in the self, there is no pleasure or suffering for one who is embodied!!!
Surrendering to yoga as a daily routine changed the way she was viewing her life. Realization dawned on her that her life is for her to lead and true happiness is only in her mind and independent of anyone else associated with her. Her isolation changed into ‘living’ a contended life and she started pursuing various passions like travel, trekking, long walks on the weekends and of course her favourite reading!!!
She had finally discovered inner peace and as she drifted to sleep in the night, humming….
“What does little birdie say in her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie, mother, let me fly away.
Birdie rest a little longer, till thy little wings are stronger.
So, she rests a little longer, then she flies away.”