Now that Holi was over, there were only a few days left before the examinations and by the time Ajita had finished her daily work she felt tired and sleepy. It was at this time that both her husband and mother-in-law fell ill. Vijay had a stroke of malaria and Jaya contracted cholera. Vijay had become very weak, and Jaya was advised to take complete rest and all due precautions.
“You are very tired, Ajita. Go and take rest for a while.” Vijay said as he watched Ajita go about her chores. For the last several days, Ajita did not get the time to take proper rest. She was overloaded with work.
“You have to work throughout the day, even as you are preparing for your exams,” Vijay said in a low and apologetic tone.
“Just relax”, Ajita brought a glass of milk and toast for Vijay. She had given tea and biscuits to her mother–in–law. “Don’t feel bad and please do not worry about me. I am fine, and you are not responsible for your illness. One can fall ill, at any time.”
“I will feel bad if you do not score well. You have been studying throughout the year, and now, you are disturbed at the time of examination.”
“It does not matter if I get a few marks. I just need to pass this exam to get a degree.” Ajita managed to look relaxed.
The doorbell rang.
The landlord, Mr Bannerji entered the house. Vijay greeted him, and Ajita went to the kitchen to get him some tea.
“How are you feeling now, Mr Vijay? My wife told me yesterday that you and your mother are not keeping well.”
“I am good now, but my mother is still not well,” Vijay answered in a low voice because of weakness.
Hospitality towards guests during illness sometimes becomes really problematic. Whoever would hear about their illness would come to inquire about their welfare. For Ajita, it was added work to attend to those guests.
Ajita really needed someone who could help her this time. She missed Gaurav who had gone out for a college trip.
She kept the tea and biscuits on the tray and came into the living room where Mr Bannerji was saying, “Two months later, my elder son will be getting married and my accommodation is not sufficient to adjust everyone so I will require this portion for him. I am sorry to say this now when you are sick, but I preferred to intimate you early so that you get enough time to search for new accommodation for yourself.”
Abhinav, who was sitting next to his father, asked Vijay: “New accommodation? What does that mean, Papa? This is our house. Why would we go from here? Why is uncle saying so?” A shadow of tension appeared on Abhinav’s face. He looked at everyone for the answer.
Ajita took him inside.
Abhinav still could not understand why they had to change the house. He loved his home very much. He was born in this house. His friends were there. He was comfortable in this house.
“I will not go anywhere. I will stay here only. If you want to go, you may go” Abhinav became restless. He wanted to hear from his mother that they would not go.
“Abhinav you have got your bat and ball. If you give Anand to play with your bat, and then you ask him to give back when you need it. Should Anand give it back or not?”
“Yes, of course, Mom, It is my bat so he must give it back when I want”.
“But if he says, I like this, and I won’t give it back. Will he be right?”
“No, he will have to give it back, it is wrong to keep other people’s things.”
“So do you agree the owner should be given back his possession whenever he wants?”
“Yes, I agree,” Abhinav remembered, a day before, he shared his bat with Anand. Now he would not share it with anyone. A thought of possessiveness came into his mind.
“The same way this house belongs to Mr Bannerji, and now he wants it back from us. We took it from him when he did not need it, but now he requires it for his own use, we should give him back.” Ajita said, but she knew her innocent child did not understand that this was a rented house. A child of such a small age cannot understand what a rented house means. He just knew that it was his own home, which he cherished a lot.
A feeling of guilt, sadness and loss filled her. This house, with all the beautiful memories, was close to her heart. She came into this house after marriage. A new phase of life began here. She remembered each and every moment she had spent here. When Abhinav was born, they bought a pram for him. Abhinav enjoyed lying on his pram, and somebody had to rock it continued until he slept. When he started standing on his feet, the window, over the bed was his favourite location in the house. He loved watching the street from there. From that stage, Abhinav started liking cars and loved counting them. He was acquainted with all kinds of vehicles, fruits, vegetables, vendors, servicemen, colours, and seasons of that street.
A trail of memories was passing through her mind.
They had developed a close affinity with the neighbours. Ten years are enough to establish a relationship between people. They had many friends there and celebrated all the festivals together. Abhinav had never demanded another sibling as he had many companions in the neighbourhood. Life in the house had been like a beautiful journey where every day was full of excitement and happening.
Ajita came to Vijay after Mr Bannerji left. She found Vijay’s eyes were filled with tears and he was looking agitated. Ajita knew why he was feeling helpless. Vijay was an honest and straightforward man with a nervous temperament. Moving house at such short notice was not only physically hard, but also emotionally draining. The more he thought, the more nervous he got.
“Do not worry. We will sort out this problem. We just have to change the house. So many people change their house every year. That is not a big deal” Ajita encouraged her husband. Ajita put up a false sense of bravado.
Change is the reality of life, and they had to accept this.
Ajita convinced both Abhinav and Vijay to have the courage and look ahead to face this challenge. They all decided not to feel sad about this change. Although they all knew in their hearts that these were mere words of consolation, they had no other choice.
After two days, Gaurav returned from the tour and joined them in their search for a new flat. At last, they found one, which was smaller in space but with higher rent. It was located hardly two kilometres away from their current home.
They decided to shift immediately before her examination started.