Anand - Finding Peace

Take away what a person loves the most and he will yearn for it till his last breath.

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1. Anand - Finding Peace

“Anand, Anand. Where are you, son?” shouted Manju as she came of her hut searching for her son.

“I am right here maa. I’m about to win Suresh’s marbles maa. I’ll be right there with you.” Replied Anand trying to focus on winning all of Suresh’s marbles.

“You had a stomach ache this morning and now you are here playing. You didn’t even go to school today. Oh god what will I do to him to make him listen to Me.” Said Manju as she went inside her hut. “I have prepared the lunch, come and eat it while it’s still warm.”

“Ok, mother I’m coming” said Anand and started going home “leave the game as it is Suresh. I’ll come back after lunch and continue.”

Anand came in and sat on the mat set on the ground where the plate was already set and the meal was about to be served.

“Did you wash your hands and feet?” asked Manju “How many times do I need to tell you to wash your hands before eating? Go and do it now.” Anand stood up, went out to the earthen pot poured water and washed his hands and feet then wiped them dry. He looked at his mother she was smiling and looking at him. He smiled seeing her smiling. For Anand, his mother was his greatest priority and he loved her. His father died when he was three years old. In the year 1947 his father, who was a freedom fighter, died serving his country. The villagers of Durga Nagar respected Manju and the Panchayat had decided to provide for their living. Every month the villager would spare a portion of their income and provide for them.

It has been ten years since India got freedom but not much has changed for the people of Durga Nagar. Durga Nagar was a small village on the present day border of West Bengal and Bangladesh. People can realise the change taking place in the world when a new model of a motor car arrives in the village every now and then. All the children except Anand would run behind the car. Anand said that one day he will come in one of those cars and all the children would chase his car. He would come and take his mother to Calcutta. The city, that everyone in the village dreamed of going to one day.

Next day, while brushing his teeth with a twig of mango tree Anand saw his uncle, Madhukar coming towards his house. Madhukar was Manju’s older brother who lived in Calcutta. Every once in a while he would visit his sister and nephew. Madhukar was wearing a kurta along with a khadi coat and a dhoti. He was carrying a large Rohu with him as a present for his sister and nephew.

“Maa!” shouted Anand “look who is coming.” Anand ran and hugged Madhukar. Madhukar laughed seeing Anand.

“You are growing so fast. How are you, Anand? How is your mother?” asked Madhukar.

“Everyone is fine Kaka. Come in.” said Anand and took him towards the home.

Manju was standing at the door. She bent down and touched Madhukar’s feet. “Aayushman Bhavo.” Said Madhukar praying for her good life.

“I hope you will stay with us for week this time, Dada.” Said Manju.

“No, Manju, I’m here just for three days.” Replied Madhukar.

“Anand, run to Ramesh babu’s store and buy some sweets for your uncle. Bring ‘sandesh’ for him. Your uncle loves them.” Said Manju.

“I’ll go maa, but after a while. I’m going out to play with my friends.” Said Anand.

“No, Anand you didn’t go to school today so you can’t go out to play.”

“If I brought those sweets, can I go out then?”

“I can consider it then.” Said Manju smiling.

“Then I better get going.” Replied Anand and ran to the shop.

In the afternoon Anand and his family feasted on the Rohu and decided to take a quick nap. In the evening Madhukar was sitting on the mat outside the hut, watching Anand and his friends play in the front yard. Manju came out of the hut with a plate with two cups of tea on it. They sat down and chatted for hours, remembering old times from their childhood.

“I’m worried for Anand, Dada. What is he going to do with his life? He doesn’t go to school and all he wants to do is to play all day. I cannot be tough on him because if I am tough on him, then who will he look up to for love? Times are changing Dada. If he won’t study now then he won’t even get a job. I just want him realise that he has responsibilities.” Said Manju.

“Don’t worry Manju, I’ll talk to Anand. He will listen to me.” Said Madhukar ensuring Manju that everything will be alright. He could see that his sister was worried about her son.

Next afternoon when Anand came from the market, he saw Madhukar was sitting on the mat outside.

“Come here kid, sit with me.”

“Yes, Uncle Do you want to talk about something?”

“Would you like coming to Calcutta with me?”

“Yes, Uncle I would love coming to Calcutta with you” said Anand excited but then he realised that he can’t leave her mother alone “but how can I leave maa here, all by her?”

“Listen to me son, I know that you love your mother but you need to come with me. You need to understand that you have responsibilities. Come with me to Calcutta. You can study there with your brothers and when you get a job you can take your mother with you to Calcutta. You can come and live with her during the holidays. So what do you say?” asked Madhukar. Anand saw his dreams in front of him. He can study there and become a successful man and then he can give her all the riches and happiness that he thought of giving her. He gave Madhukar a positive nod and looked determined. “So, go and pack your luggage. Just take a few clothes. I’ll go talk to Manju.” Said Madhukar.

Madhukar reached his home the next day in the evening with Anand on a hand pulled cart. Madhukar paid off the cart driver. “Well Anand here we are. This is your new home”

“So, which one is yours? The upper one or the lower one?” asked Anand amazed by the size of the two storey building. Everything was so different here at Calcutta. Everything was so enormous here. He had seen thirteen motorcars since he arrived in the town. No one seemed to pay attention to those cars here in Calcutta unlike his village where everyone would chase down the cars. There were so many people walking on the sidewalk. He had never seen so many people walking together. The whole city seemed to be moving to him.

“The whole house is mine Anand.” Said Madhukar proudly.

“Wow. It is so large that if it was at our village at least five families would have lived in here.” Said Anand amazed.

“Well it’s not your village son. It the largest city you will ever see. Come, let’s go inside.”

Madhukar had a wife, named Mohini and two children, Mohan and Sohan, who were twins and were of Anand’s age.

“Mohini, Mohini” shouted Madhukar as he entered the house.

“Yes, coming” came a voice from other room and then the voice got its face when Mohini entered the room with a broad smile on her face “Well I didn’t know that we were expecting guests” the smile was suddenly gone. Anand bent down and touched Mohini’s feet.

“Sada Khush Raho.” Always stay happy, said Mohini to Anand.

“No, Anand is not a guest. He will stay with us from now on” said Madhukar overwhelmed.

“Bring a few more children and convert this home into an orphanage” hissed Mohini as she leaned in, near Madhukar ear. She didn’t expect Anand to listen but he listened. He didn’t say anything.

“Mohan, Sohan, look your aunt’s son is here.” Shouted Madhukar.

Out came two boys from the upper floor. They leaned on the balustrade and laughed when they saw Anand. Anand was wearing a dhoti and a kurta which was something new for the boys as no one their age wore that. They wore shirts and half pants with suspenders.

“Don’t just stand there. Come down and meet him.” Said Madhukar. The boys came down the stairs to meet Anand. They put their hands forward for shake. Anand folded his hands and bent to do a formal Namaste. The twins looked at each other and burst out laughing. Anand didn’t know what was wrong so he joined them and started laughing.

“That’s enough boys. Now go upstairs and show Anand his room.” Said Madhukar.

Madhukar went into his room and saw Mohini struggling to clean the already clean cupboard. “Cheer up Mohini. He’s just a boy. Manju was worried about his career so brought him here so that he can study. He needs someone to guide him. He is like our son Mohini.” Said Madhukar.

“But he is not our son.”

“Don’t worry Mohini. Everything will be alright. Anand is a good kid. You will adore him once you get to know him.”

“I am afraid that won’t happen” said Mohini and stomped out of the room furiously.

At night everyone was at the dinner table. Anand was sitting in between Madhukar and Sohan and in front of Mohini. Mohini had prepared a number of dishes and Anand loved the feast. But something was not right at the table. No one was talking. There was silence all around the table.

“Aunt, Can I have some rice?” asked Anand to his aunt looking at her. Mohini nodded. She got up and put spoonful rice in his plate. “Put in some more” and Mohini almost emptied the bowl on his plate. One spoon after another. Madhukar looked at her with disgust. How can she do that to a child? Mohini looked at him and smiled. Anand just sat there eating his meal.

Next day Madhukar came home with a school bag, pencil box, water bottle, books, uniform and new shoes. He called out to Anand and gave him his new belongings.

“Anand you have to go to school from tomorrow. You will go with your brothers to the school” said Madhukar. Anand took the things and went into his room. He seemed to be as excited as Madhukar. No one else was.

“Did you get us anything Baba?” asked Mohan.

“No, son sorry I spent all the money that I had and besides Anand needs new things more than you do. I’ll get anything that you want in the next month. Is that okay?” Said Madhukar.

“Yeah, do whatever you want to do” said Mohan and went back to his room. Sohan followed him.

“How can you do this to your own kids?” asked Mohini in the bedroom. “You haven’t talked them since yesterday. You should have brought something for them too. Don’t make them feel the ones left out in their own home.”

“What do you want me to do Mohini? Anand needs those things more than them. Moreover what do they need, they have everything. I believe that sons are intelligent enough to understand the situation here.”

“Anand needs this; Anand needs that but what about your sons? Sohan asked you for new shoes two months back. You said that you have no money and now you bring that kid a new pair of shoes. Your children are already feeling insecure” said Mohini crying “all I want is that you to do are to prioritise your priorities. I don’t hate Anand, I just love my kids.”

Madhukar didn’t say anything. He went into the bathroom. He didn’t know what to do. Providing for everyone in the family simultaneously was a hard job.

Anand started going to school the very next day. Within a week he had new friends, lots of them. Anand was also doing well with his studies. He loved being at school. There he had friends with whom he can share his feelings, who he can talk with. They were his destination away from the loneliness at home. School was where he felt complete now, among his friends but he couldn’t find the peace of mind that he had at his village. His brothers didn’t like that now Anand was better than them at school. So if someone asked them if Anand was his cousin they would simply deny it. At home Anand stole their priority and now at school he was doing better than them. Mohan and Sohan hated Anand now more than ever.

Madhukar had told Anand that if he needed to communicate with his mother then he can write a letter to her and give it to him. Every evening Anand would write a letter. In the letter he would write about his new friends, about his life at Calcutta, about Calcutta, telling her how big the city is and how many motor cars he has seen till date and then he would tear it. He wanted her to know how badly he needed her but he couldn’t let her know. He wanted her to know how badly he needed her lap to sleep but he couldn’t. He felt that if he told her it would portray him feeble and his mother would then call him back to her and then he won’t be able to provide her with all those happiness.

One day Mohan, Sohan and Anand were playing with a ball in the backyard. Anand threw the ball at Sohan but Sohan failed to catch it. The ball hit Sohan on his nose and it started bleeding. It was a minor injury but it was not a minor one for Mohini. Mohini started crying as soon as she saw the blood although Sohan was not crying. She treated it to stop the bleeding.

“How did it happen?” asked Mohini. Mohan and Anand were standing in front of Mohini while she was sitting on the bed beside Sohan, who was lying down on the bed with his head held high to stop the bleeding.

“It was all Anand’s fault maa I am telling you. He threw the ball so hard that Sohan couldn’t even see it and it hit his noes” said Mohan

“No, aunt believe me it was all a mistake. I didn’t intend to do it.” Said Anand.

“No, he did it on purpose maa I’m telling you.” Said Mohan.

“Don’t lie about it Mohan.” Shouted Anand and Mohini slapped him.

“Shut up Anand and go to your room” shouted Mohini. Anand didn’t anything. He went into his room and lied down on his bed.

“You shouldn’t have hit him Mohini. Elders should let children resolve their own issues. He is just a child. I’ll go get him for the dinner” said Madhukar sitting at the dinner table.

“I asked him to come, twice. He says he isn’t well. Let him sleep” said Mohini irritated.

“Yeah Baba let him sleep. Why do you care about him so much?” asked Mohan.

“Shut up and eat your food” said Madhukar to Mohan.

Next morning Anand wasn’t up to go to school. Madhukar decided to wake him up. He went to his room, stood at the door and gave him a shout. Anand didn’t respond. Madhukar went in to shake him up but as he touched him he found out that Anand was down with high fever. His whole body was burning. Madhukar rushed down to bring a bowl of water and towel and he started keeping wet towel on his head. He shouted out to Mohini. He told her to keep providing him with the towels and he went to call a doctor.

The doctor came. He checked on Anand; gave him medicines and went out.

“Doctor Sahib is Anand okay? Asked Madhukar.

“The fever should be down by dusk if it is not you can call me tomorrow again. In the meanwhile take care of him. Give him the medicines and keep the wet towels on his head” said the doctor.

“How much is your fees doctor?” asked Madhukar

“Madhukar Babu how can I take money from you? But two rupees would be adequate.” Said the doctor.

“Yes yes here you go. Take it” said Madhukar as he gave him the money.

“Come to me if there is any problem. Come to me any time.” Said the doctor and left.

When Madhukar returned he saw Mohini sitting beside Anand with a bowl soup in her hands. She was making him drink it. “Don’t worry I will take care of him.” Said Mohini as she continued feeding Anand. Madhukar saw her feeding Anand with her own hands. He never thought that he would see this day. In the afternoon Mohini made him eat some food. All day she was with Anand, changing the wet towels frequently. When her sons returned from the school she asked Madhukar to give them the food.

“How is Anand, maa?” asked Mohan as he entered into the room.

“Doctor Sahib has said that the fever will go down by evening.” Replied Mohini.

“Maa, I think that Anand might have hit Sohan by mistake. I was dishonest maa. See what I have done to him. I hated him so much. The gods should have punished me, not him” said Mohan crying.

“It wasn’t your fault son. Don’t worry Anand will be all right. Then we can live together peacefully. Anand is now family and we need to take care of family” said Mohini as she embraced Mohan, Anand opened his eyes. “Anand, do you need something?”

“Water.”

“I’ll go get it, Anand. Do you remember me? I’m Mohan, your brother.”

“He remembers everyone. Now go and get your brother some water. There is warm water in a container in the kitchen. Bring it from there” said Mohini “Anand do you need anything else? Can I get you something to eat?”

“Nothing just water.”

Mohan came in with water in a glass. Anand drank it and lied down.

“Is there anything else that we can do maa?” asked Mohan.

“Just take care of yourself and your brother. That’s it.” Said Mohini.

At night Madhukar came into the room. “Mohini you have not eaten anything since morning. I don’t want you to fall ill. Go and eat something. I and the boys have eaten. There is food left for you.”

“No, I need to stay with him. I was thinking of rubbing some mustard oil on his sole.”

“We will do that Mohini” said Madhukar with his voice firm.

Mohini went down for dinner when she came back she saw Madhukar, Mohan and Sohan with Anand. Mohan and Sohan were rubbing oil on each his sole. Madhukar had applied oil in his hair and was changing the wet towel. She just stood there crying. She was feeling guilty. Madhukar got up and embraced her.

“It’s all my fault Madhukar, it’s all my fault.” Said Mohini crying.

“NO, it’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. Right now Anand needs us, Mohini. Anand needs you, Mohini.”

The whole night Mohini and Madhukar were with Anand hoping that the fever would go down any moment now. But the next day the temperature instead of going down went up. The doctor was called. He was examining Anand while Madhukar was standing beside him. Mohini stood at the door and peeked in from there. She stood there feeling guilty for Anand’s situation.

“I have never seen anything like this. Anand is not responding to the medicines. If the fever keeps going up like this I’m afraid we will have to admit him tomorrow. I’m giving him some medicines now. If there is any change then send someone to call me.” Said the doctor as he stood up to leave.

“What is happening Doctor Sahib, Can you tell me?” asked Madhukar.

“I don’t know Madhukar babu. I have not seen anything like this. Just pray to God that Anand recovers from this.” said the doctor and left.

Mohini was coming down the stairs when she saw Manju coming up the stairs. “Mohini, where is Anand? I wasn’t feeling good lately. I felt as if Anand needed me. Is he okay?” asked Manju. Mohini looked Manju in the eyes. Mohini’s eyes welled up. She didn’t say anything. She rushed down the stairs into her bedroom. Manju went up into Anand’s room and saw Madhukar and the doctor leaving the room. “Is Anand inside?” asked Manju. Madhukar nodded and then went down the stairs with the doctor.

Manju went in to the room and sat beside Anand. She kept her hands on his forehead and moved her fingers through his hairs. “Anand” said Manju. Anand opened his eyes.

“Maa is it really you?” asked Anand.

“Yes, beta it’s me. I’m right here.”

“Oh maa Finally you are here. Can I sleep on your lap maa?”

Manju gently put Anand’s head on her lap while moving her fingers through his hairs.

“You know I have not slept in days, maa ever since I came here” said Anand “I couldn’t sleep without you maa. I just wished that you were here and now that you are here, I can sleep peacefully maa. I can sleep peacefully now. Just hold me tight and don’t let me go maa.”

Anand then closed his eyes and slept peacefully. Anand never woke up again. Finally Anand found his peace.

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