My Short Story – Forsaken Ties – Full text
…Continued from here.
“Unacceptable! I cannot allow my daughter to sleep till 10 in the morning. Anarghya, get up, this instant.” Mr Arora screeched. But the daughter merely grunted some indecipherable response about Shah Rukh Khan and turned over, continuing to sleep. The next minute saw Priti emptying a small cup of water, on Mr Arora’s order, over the peacefully sleeping Anarghya. “Didi!” she yelped. “But I was just about to shake hands with Shah Rukh Khan! He looked so gorgeous, absolutely delectable!” The two sisters giggled and Anarghya forced herself out of bed, suddenly recollecting last night’s mail. Glancing at the clock, she groaned, “Damn, I’m going to be late today.”
“Most surprising! Anarghya Arora being late? Absolutely unheard of!” Priti said, her voice laced with sarcasm, taking a dig at Anarghya’s unpunctuality.
“Out of my room!” Anarghya playfully tossed a pillow in Priti’s direction in an attempt to make her mind her own business.
Anarghya and Priti shared the usual sibling relationship and rivalry, full of fights and name calling. But that was only the surface. They’d always been there for the other whenever needed. The sisters were of different temperaments and had extremely different preferences, but they managed to bond amazingly well.
Anarghya brushed, bathed, and washed down her light breakfast of bread and jam with a huge glass of orange juice. After discarding nearly a dozen outfits, she finalised upon a gray pleated dress. She rushed through it all, but still managed to reach late at Eco-Garden. She perched herself on a bench, waiting for her friends to arrive. She looked around and noticed a middle aged lady in a nondescript red salwar kameez sitting on a bench, staring at her. Except for them, the park was deserted. Anarghya waited, getting more impatient by the minute. She almost reached for her cell phone to call her friends and tell them she was tired of their tomfoolery when she noticed the lady still looking at her. She returned the stare and to her surprise, the lady actually started nervously walking towards her.
Hesitantly the lady approached her. Twice she looked like she was about to say something but seemed to change her mind at the last minute. “Ji?” Anarghya questioned kindly. “Are you lost? Do you need directions to some place?”
“Err… do you happen to be Anarghya Arora?” the lady was barely audible.
“Why, yes! I’m sorry, I can not place you. Are you a friend of my mother’s?” Anarghya kicked herself for her pathetic memory. I’m definitely getting told off tonight!
The lady slowly sat beside her and said, “I sent you an e-mail yesterday. I am Gemini_09. I called you here to meet me.”
“What I have to say is very important, please be quiet for a minute and listen to me.”
“Abbe oye, dekh ke chalo maidamji! Marna hai kya?!”
The hollering of the auto driver caused Anarghya to snap back to reality. She momentarily paused to consider which way she was going. But deciding it did not matter, she continued walking along the crowd. She trudged on in whichever direction the masses took her. Her mind was blank. She felt empty, but strangely comforted by the sea of people around her. She was anonymous, just another face in the crowd. Under normal circumstances, she would have loved to be in the public eye, but not today. Today was different. Today she preferred the feeling of blending in, of being virtually invisible. Tired, she finally sat down at a bus stop. She replayed the conversation she had had with the lady over and over in her mind. She remembered every word uttered by both the parties. She had at first been confused, convinced that she had been mistaken for a different person. The lady in the nondescript red salwar kameez had told her she was her real mother. “I gave you up for adoption when you were barely a few days old,” she had confessed sadly. “What proof do you have?” Anarghya haughtily demanded. She was then shown a photocopy of the legal adoption papers bearing her and her parents’ names and other details like date, time and place of her birth. Around her, Anarghya’s world shook, and crashed; unable to withhold such a storm. She felt her throat knot and she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She felt nauseated. A hundred questions arose and circled her mind. She experienced shock, hurt, anger, all at the same time. After a few minutes of quiet, she collected herself and asked the lady in the nondescript red salwar kameez how come she had not contacted her earlier. That was the first thing Anarghya had wanted to know.
“I merely complied with the adoption centre rules. The centre prohibits birth parents from contacting an adoptee until the adoptee turns 18. Last week, I visited the centre again, asking for your e-mail address. Sending you a letter by post was not an option. Initially they were reluctant to disclose your ID but relented after I persisted. I have spent the last few days in anxiety.”
Anarghya pretended to ignore the last sentence, and instead asked, “Why did you abandon me?” mustering all her strength, for she could now feel the tears begin to well up in her eyes. The lady in the nondescript red salwar kameez told her the whole story between sobs.
“Your father and I tried hard to make ends meet. But there was never enough money. We got by, but very poorly. He began to take to the bottle. At first, he would have only a glass after dinner, but soon one glass turned to two and two to three. After repeated failures in business projects, he began to drink heavily. I tried to cure him of his addiction, but things only got worse. He could not come to face with his inability to earn a stable income, and behaviour started turning violent. Soon I was pregnant with you. He kept threatening me with dire consequences if it was not to be a boy. I put up with the torment as I lacked the courage to get out of an abusive marriage. I was terrified on the inside, for myself and for my unborn. After your birth, I had not wanted to part with you. Believe me. Unfortunately, I was neither financially independent, nor emotionally brave to divorce your father. I knew I would be unwelcome at my maternal home as a divorcee with a newborn. Your father forcefully handed you over to the adoption centre saying he had no money to spend on a girl child. I shed silent tears by the night. Not a day has passed since, without thinking about you, wondering how you were, and how you looked.” Her voice shook.
“Does he know you have come to meet me?”
“He passed away three years ago.” She said, deadpan; with a surprising lack of emotion.
“Why have you come now? What do you want from me?” Anarghya was numb.
“I realise I can not claim much right over you. I am guilty and regretful. I only ask you to let me in your life in a little way. I have lost out on 18 years; let me be a part of your growing up experiences. I shall contend with meeting you only once a month. That, and forgiveness is all I ask for.” She gazed expectantly at Anarghya for approval, like a small child would at a parent.
Anarghya sat motionless, unable to process any coherent response.
Seeing Anarghya so apparently shell shocked, the lady in the nondescript red salwar kameez quickly added, “I do not ask you to make a hasty decision. I understand your need to mull things over. If you find it in your heart to forgive me and your father, come here at the same time after two days. Remember I shall be waiting for you.”
And with that, Anarghya felt her body stand up and exit the Eco-Garden, her mind still wheeling.
She did not remember how long she had been sitting on the bus stop. With her family under the impression that she was out celebrating with friends, and her friends unaware of the recent turn of events, nobody missed her. Noticing a small pan beedi shop next to the bus stop, she went and asked for a pack of cigarettes. Despite her childish appearance, the vendor unhesitatingly handed her one. It was not often Anarghya indulged in smoking. It was a vice that killed, and she knew it. But just today she decided to make an exception. Today was different. She took a cigarette out from the box and fingered it for a moment. She quickly lit it up and inhaled deeply. She felt the soft smooth smoke rise inside her mouth. Her throat burned momentarily, unaccustomed to it. After a couple of deep drags, she was composed. She felt a pang of hunger and scouted around for an eatery. Having placed her order for a plate of vada sambhar, she lay back on the cushiony chair and began to mull over things.
She felt rejected, impure and unworthy of love. Mom and dad should have told me, why didn’t they? Anarghya reflected, feeling bitter towards them. The more she pored over this, the angrier she felt. Do I not have the right of knowing who gave birth to me? Anarghya considered this as a betrayal by her adoptive parents. She resented them for hiding such an integral truth from her. Her mind wound back to her childhood and adolescent days. She felt jealous of Priti, who was of ‘their flesh and blood’. Random incidents floated about in her mind. She gradually began to doubt and question her adoptive parents’ love towards her.
Wolfing down her food, she hastily paid the money and sprinted home.
“Oh! Home already, darling?” Mrs Arora was evidently surprised to see her inherently social daughter, whom she expected home not before 12am!
“I can not believe you did this to me!” Anarghya cried and hurled her cell phone out of the living room window with a force that surprised her.
“What are you talking about, beta? Did you have a fight with your friends? What is the matter? Tell mommy.” Mrs Arora was baffled at Anarghya’s unbecoming behaviour and rushed to wrap her arms around her.
Savagely Anarghya brushed off her mother and broke down into sobs.
“I am adopted.” Anarghya kept repeating this statement over and over as if hammering the fact into her mind.
Mrs Arora could not contain herself either; she wept silently, wiping away the rapid tears every few seconds with the corner of her pallu.
“Why did you hide it from me?”
After calming down, Anarghya had related the noon’s meeting and they all had felt the need for a proper mature discussion in order to smooth out the differences and clear the air.
“We were insecure, Anarghya. We feared that if you found out that you were adopted, you would not love us whole heartedly.”
“And so you chose to keep me in the dark? Found it wise to mislead me.” Anarghya was defiant.
Mr and Mrs Arora just sighed sadly; they did not have an answer for Anarghya’s bitter questions.
Anarghya was convinced her parents had been unreasonable with her. She refused to be emphatic or to see reason. She faced another blow when she learned that Priti was aware about her being adopted. Betrayed by her parents and closest confidante, Anarghya altogether stopped talking to them; while she herself suffered in silence.
Alone in her room, she suddenly craved to see her biological mother. She wondered what cruel times she must have battled all by herself, the hapless woman. How must it have felt to give away her very own newborn into somebody else’s hand… for once and for ever.
She spent the next day holed up in her room, hardly eating a snack or two. Nobody could talk sense into her. She was a girl of a fast mind and listened to no one. All she could think about was her forthcoming meeting with her biological mother. She imagined hugging her and feeling her pat her head as a mother usually would. Her resolve was further strengthened when Mr and Mrs Arora requested Anarghya to not keep in touch with her biological mother. How dare they deny her of her basic privileges, she fumed!
As Anarghya got ready to step out, her parents requested her to hear them out, one final time. Agreeing that she owed them atleast that much, she stopped, and sat across her parents.
“You are an adult now, old enough to make your own decisions. We are willing to accept your choice but you deserve to know the entire truth.”
Anarghya merely nodded her head, indicating they had her undivided attention.
Her dad said, “After Priti was old enough to be left at a crèche, your mom once volunteered to work at an adoption centre for a while. She enjoyed her time there as she dearly loves children. But while volunteering, she realised that there are so many children out there in the world, deserving love and care, but receiving none; for no evident fault of theirs. That is when we decided to adopt a child. We wanted to look after and cherish a child deserted cruelly by biological parents. Your mom was not unable to conceive, or anything of that sort. You weren’t adopted as a last resort, my dear. We saw in love with you the moment we laid our eyes on you at the adoption centre. You were crying in your cradle and shushed down as soon as your mother held you in her arms.”
Anarghya was speechless. She had been feeling like some sort of a makeshift daughter since the last two days… adopted after her mother could no longer conceive after Priti. It dawned upon that her parents loved her unconditionally.
“Inspite of having so many close relatives, why do you think did we have to sever ties with most of them? Because they never seemed to fully accept you as one of their own.”
“You are free to make your own decision but bear in mind one thing,” Mrs Arora spoke up for the first time that day. “Beta, you are anarghya for us, priceless.”
It was then that Anarghya saw fully how much she meant to her parents and how much they meant to her. Tears streamed down her face as she thought of the hurt and pain she had caused them in the past two days. It all came to her in a flash; she realised that she was truly loved by her adoptive family. Her respect and admiration for her parents increased tenfold. It was the final thing that stopped her from going to meet her biological mother, towards whom she now felt only resentment and bitterness. At present she found herself unable to forgive her. And she was reduced to being only a lady in a nondescript red salwar kameez.
She waited for a good two hours before accepting with a sigh that Anarghya was not going to show up. She sat for a while, allowing her mind to drift back to the past that was dead and buried, but not quite forgotten. Abandoned by her daughter just as she had abandoned her 18 years ago, she sat there for a while. Life had come a full circle for her.
Now for the justification! The maximum page count given to us was 5 and my story, adhering to the concept and frame of a short story,does not exceed a word. A few mentioned that they did not think much of the ending of the story. Here, I would like to say that I am in no way endorsing the decision and action taken by Anarghya. I am not saying that she did the right thing. Nor am I saying she was wrong. If you notice, I have tried to keep my writing non-judgemental. My story does not mirror the ideal or Utopian society. It is a fictional story of a ‘real’ character and ‘true’ emotion. We do not always make the right choices in life. And anyway, at the time of making the choice, the wrong does seem like the right… which is why we choose it in the first place! Perhaps I have not been able to justify Anarghya’s choice properly. While I could have edited the story and posted it up here, I choose not to. I do not believe in re-editing a story once it’s done. The point I have tried to make through my story is this: blood does not always run thicker than water.
Thank you for reading my first ever short story. I would really appreciate your comments and constructive criticism. Do post your feedback… it will give me the courage to write a second story.