ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

God is Merciful!

Photo credit by Miguel Angel Sanz on Unsplash

The cab was speeding along, on the highway. And so was Khushi’s mind!

She smiled as she recalled the day the two of them came back from school with their report cards, and Raja had actually passed in his eighth standard final exam, after spending two years in the same class! And what a wild celebration they had!

“Khushi, Raja, let me be, you two! I’ll fall, get me down, this moment,’ screamed Sita as Raja lifted her up.

“I have passed Maa, can you believe this? I have passed this time,” Raja sang as Khushi clapped and danced with him, around their mother. Everyone in the family was happy that Raja had been promoted to the next class; and the fact that Khushi had topped her class, well, that was almost like a forgotten footnote, Khushi remembered tenderly.

“Khushi, when you become a doctor and join the army, as you keep saying, I will keep aside a sizeable number of trucks in my transport company for you, to carry all the medicines that you may need, to treat our soldiers. I will see to it that there would never ever be any shortage of medicines, or any delay in procurement and transport of medicines, which you so often talk about as an avoidable problem that our army doctors have to face,” Raja would confidently speak.

“I am sure you will take care of that, Bhai,” Khushi would respond lovingly.

“How sweet this mango is! I will take it home for everyone to have a bite of it,” Raja would put the half-eaten mango in his pocket. It would be shared by all four of them, after dinner.

“What a nitwit I am, Khushi, am I not? Wish God had given me some brains like yours; then no one would give those dirty looks at me,” Raja would be muttering while lying on one of the branches of their favourite mango tree, as Khushi would sit under it, reading a storybook.

“Who says you are a nitwit, Bhai?” Khushi would defend him strongly. “Tell me, how many are as good a goalkeeper as you are? You are the star player of our school football team. Without you, our team would never be the undisputed champion that it is!”

“Ah, football! Yes, how I love the game! Coach Sir never can’t dream of replacing me as a goalkeeper, he told me that several times,” Raja would say proudly.

Khushi often wondered later, after she had grown up, that what a wonderful set of parents she was blessed with! Even though not much educated, they had so much sensitivity and wisdom, in dealing with their children. To them, brilliant Khushi and not-so-brilliant Raja were alike. Neither would they ever compare them, nor would they speak differently about them. They would always emphasise togetherness, acceptance, and love; true love that did not depend on intelligence or skills, or achievements! She found such parenting pretty rare!

“Stop the car! Please stop the car!” Khushi cried out, as her eyes fell on the big board at the side of the road: “Khushi Transports”!

Her village, Bihubana, was barely five kilometers away. After discovering her biological family, who she thought were dead, through television, she had found out about her brother Raja. He ran one of the top transport businesses in Odisha and had many trucks and ran ambulances too. His ambulances were free for the patients and he had quite a few trucks that were always plying for the Indian army. Khushi felt immensely proud of her brother!

She shuddered at the memory of that fateful day of the earthquake! The day she lost her biological family forever, or that is what she believed then. She felt doubly blessed to have Sunaina and Riyaz step into her life as her adoptive parents. They were no different than Sita and Raghu, in their love and wisdom.

The car sped off again, towards Bihubana. Why couldn’t she stop her pounding heart from coming to her mouth! Finally the car was entering the village of Bihubana. The village had changed so much in the past decade. Still she could manage to direct the car to their house. There stood the big berry tree, as big as ever. Right next to it stood a nice and big house; “The Nest” was the name of their house!

Khushi couldn’t move. She kept sitting there tight on the seat. Hearing the car, someone came out of the house. It was Raja, her brother! Sunaina sitting next to Khushi gently nudged her to get off the car. No one knew that Sunaina had mailed Raja, that she would like to meet him in their house, to discuss some project with the army where his trucks would be required. The mail ensured Raja’s presence at home.

Khushi got out of the car and stood looking at her brother. Ten years had changed their appearances completely. Children had transformed into young adults. But something in Khushi’s eyes made Raja’s heart skip a beat. He slowly came close and kept staring into Khushi’s eyes.They were the same eyes! With the same love filled in them!

“Khushi? Is that you, Khushi? Khushi…” He screamed and hugged her tight.

Brother and sister held each other tight, as if they would never let go of each other. Hearing Raja scream, their mother Sita came out.

“Maa, our Khushi has come! Can you believe Maa, our Khushi has come!” Raja kept on repeating the words as he danced around. Sita could not comprehend the whole thing. Khushi came rushing towards her and took her into her arms.

“Maa, Maa, I never thought I’d see you again. Maa, Maa am I dreaming?” Khushi laughed and cried and danced. Sita held her hand and dragged her inside the house. Khushi stopped. Raghu was sitting on an armchair. He seemed to have grown old, much more than his age. He was listening intently to the commotion outside. How blank his eyes were, thought Khushi! His eyes met hers and remain locked for a few moments. Tears started streaming down his eyes; his lips moved, but no words came out!

“Baba never spoke since that horrifying day when we lost you, Khushi!” Khushi heard her mother’s trembling words. She slowly walked towards Raghu. Raghu never took away his eyes from her.

“Khushi — — -Khushi — — —” and Raghu started crying uncontrollably. Sita, Raja and Khushi hugged Raghu and all four of them cried their hearts out. Sunaina and Riyaz stood at the background quietly witnessing such emotions of love and joy that overwhelmed them too.

They all sat down together. They had so much to catch up; ten long years! They heard Khushi’s story and expressed their heart-felt gratitude to God and to Sunaina and Riyaz. “Khushi, Maa and Baba refused to move out of Bihubana even though I told them that my work is expanding and staying in Bhubaneshwar will be better for me.

“My Khushi lives here, Raja. All her memories are here; we can never leave this place,” Sita would speak decisively.

“See, our Khushi has returned home” Sita’s voice was quivering as she turned towards Khushi and said, “Forgive me my child! Please forgive me for choosing your brother over you. I love you just the same; It was only ...” Sita broke down again.

“Maa, what are you talking about? Do you know how desperately I prayed to God at that time, that you call out Bhai’s name? You and Baba have always loved us equally, and there has never been an iota of doubt about that.” Khushi took Sita into her arms.

“I could not sleep peacefully all these years, Khushi. I felt so guilty. We could never accept that you were gone from our lives forever. The darkest day in our lives that wiped away almost the whole of our village, haunts me! After we came to our senses, we found ourselves in different hospitals. It took a few weeks to recover enough to move out. Your maternal uncle, my brother, traced all of us and took us with him to his home. We were devastated at losing you. We stayed there for around four months. Your Baba stopped speaking. He became a nerve-wreck. We started getting news of people rebuilding their homes in our village. We too returned home. Raja put his heart and soul in Baba’s job and look what he has done to it! Like always, he has made us all so happy and proud!” Sita was stroking Khushi’s hair, fore-head, the whole body.

“God is so very kind! God is so very merciful!” Sita kept on uttering again and again.

Khushi gently got up and came to where Sunaina and Riyaz were sitting, quietly. She knelt down beside them and holding their hands, kissed them. She looked into their eyes, brimming with tears.

“Yes, God is so very merciful! He gave me another beautiful set of parents to hold me when I was falling apart. People get lucky with only one pair of parents; I got more than lucky, with two!”

Sunaina and Riyaz hugged her and held her in their arms!

Khushi looked out of the window of the aircraft. She was leaving her homeland again, crossing the oceans, to reach New Jersey. She had her studies to finish. She had to complete her degree in medicine. She had to come back and join the Indian army as a doctor!

Photo credit by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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