Abhagi (The Ill-Fated One)!
This is a story of how our own rigid beliefs are responsible for messing up our lives. Living our present to our best abilities, is all that we need to ensure a good future. Do our stars decide our fate? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Maybe it is a science, but surely a science that needs precision and knowledge. It is foolish to mess up our lives, based on a shallow knowledge of the subject …
“It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” Shantilal was all excited, holding the letter in his hands. “God has finally listened to our prayers and, after three sons, has blessed us with a daughter. Mother and child are both well, and they have sent me the time of birth too. Let me go right away and read the stars. I am sure my daughter is going to have a really bright future!”
Shantilal lived with his wife and children. His parents too lived with him. His wife Renu had gone to her parents’ place, in another city, for the birth of their fourth child. She chose to go because Shantilal’s mother was suffering from cancer for the past six months, and there would be no one to help her during the early months after the childbirth. Not every house had a telephone those days, and there wasn’t one at Shantilal’s house, so he got the news of the birth of his daughter through a letter. He was an astrologer by profession, and very staunchly believed in stars. With the letter in his hands, he went to his room and sat down on his table to study the combination of the stars at the time of his child’s birth.
“Oh my God! Oh my horrible luck! What ominous combination of stars this! She will always bring ill luck, wherever she goes. Why did God have to do this to me?” Shantilal kept ranting, pacing up and down the room. Suddenly he heard his father, Ramlal, call out to him,
“Shanti, come soon! Look what has happened to your mother!”
Shantilal ran to his parent’s room. His father was sitting next to his mother, on the bed, and calling her again and again.
“Sarla, Sarla! Open your eyes! Can you hear me, Sarla? Look Shanti, she is not listening to me. She will listen to you, I’m sure.” Ramlal turned to Shantilal, anxiously.
Shantilal sat by his mother’s bed and held her hand.
But Maa was gone forever.
“Maa has left us, Baba,” said Shantilal, as he broke down. “The ill-fated one has arrived into our lives and already the effects are on display,” he muttered.
“The ill-fated one? Who are you referring to, Shanti?”questioned Ramlal.
“Why, who else, other than this newborn daughter of mine? I just prepared her horoscope, after studying the stars at the time of her birth. And I cannot tell you how pained I am to foresee the ill effects that she will bring, wherever she goes. Look, how she has just come into our lives, and has eaten up my mother! Oh, how unfortunate I am, to have such a daughter in our lives!” Shantilal’s ranting would just not stop.
“But, son, Sarla had cancer. She was terminally ill, for the past so many months. Her condition too was gradually deteriorating, and we all knew that she would leave us soon. Why blame the poor infant, for that?” Ramlal stood behind Shantilal as he put a hand on his shoulder, to pacify him.
“No Baba, Maa would have surely lived for some more time, but for this girl! You need not defend her, please!” Shantilal was extremely agitated. “She is Abhagi (the ill-fated one). Abhagi she is! And yes! Now we will name her Abhagi, as well,” Shantilal burst out and looking at his dead mother, and fell over her, weeping.
Little Abhagi grew up, bearing the brunt of her father’s constant hatred and anger. Her mother loved her, but she had to be careful in front of her husband. Abhagi was loved the most by her grandfather, Ramlal, whom she called Daddu. Her Daddu adored her and did not care about his son’s disdain towards her. Abhagi spent most of her time with him and grew up listening to his stories, and learning about life in general, from him.
Shantilal was finding it difficult to find a match for his daughter. Her horoscope always came in the way. Her stars supposedly said that the person married to her, would not live long. Finally, Abhagi was married off at a tender age of seventeen, to a man in his thirties, who was suffering from tuberculosis. Abhagi, like a dutiful wife, nursed him to the best of her abilities but she could not fight Death; within a year, her ailing husband was gone. Again, her stars were blamed for the same!
Widowed Abhagi returned to her parental home and Shantilal had yet another reason to curse her. Only her Daddu embraced her openly, in his open arms. Daddu had become quite old by now. He was nearing eighty, but had kept himself quite fit for his age. Abhagi started staying with Daddu in his room.
Abhagi expressed her desire to study further. Shantilal was in no mood to spend money on her, but he had to give in on Ramlal’s insistence. Abhagi did her graduation and joined a school as a teacher. She loved children, and it had always been her ambition to become a teacher. After a few years she met Vikram, a doctor by profession, and both fell in love with each other. They got married in the face of stiff opposition from Shantilal, because Vikram belonged to a different caste. Again Ramlal supported the marriage, and Shantilal had to accede to his wish.
Abhagi and Vikram had two lovely children, and a very happy married life. Daddu passed away at the ripe age of ninety-five. A part of Abhagi died with him. Daddu had been her source of strength, all through her life.
Abhagi shut the photo album that she had sat with, for the whole of the afternoon. She had taken it out while cleaning the room and had started turning its pages, automatically. The phone was ringing and she was pulled out of her reverie.
“Hello! Yes, this is Abhagi speaking. What? Which hospital? I will be there as fast as I can.” Disconnecting the phone she ran out of the house, half-crying and half-screaming to their neighbour, asking her to look after her children when they would come back from school.
She called for an auto-rickshaw and, after jumping in, called Vikram.
“Vikram, Baba has met with an accident. A bad one. He is in the ICU of the Civil Hospital. I am on my way. Come as fast as you can.” She made no attempts to stop her streaming tears. Her Baba was critical! That was all that was pounding on her mind.
“You are his daughter? Well, he is very critical. He had been bleeding profusely, and needs an immediate blood transfusion. We did a test and have found his blood to be AB negative. This is the rarest of the blood types and we don’t have it in our blood bank. Please arrange for a donor as fast as you can. Time is running out for your father!” announced the doctor grimly.
“Doctor, my blood is AB negative! Please make necessary arrangements for the transfusion soon,” sobbed Abhagi.
Shantilal’s condition remained critical for five days. Abhagi never left his side. Then he started showing improvement and, after two weeks, he was discharged.
“You are alive today, only because of your daughter. She not only gave you blood, but nursed you day and night, without leaving your side. You indeed are blessed to have a daughter like her!” said the doctor when he came to Shantilal, at the time of his discharge.
Shantilal sat there, stupefied. Images from all these years, since Abhagi’s birth, started flashing in front of his eyes. All the horrible things that he spoke about his own daughter, kept hammering his ears. He was the one to name her Abhagi, meaning the ill-fated one! And now, she was the one because of whom he was alive today!
“Baba, what happened? It’s God’s mercy that you are so much better now! Let’s go home!”Abhagi came to him, love dripping from her smile, and wheeled out his wheel-chair!
Shantilal sat there, like a statue made out of stone!