"Swati is coming tomorrow Parvati."
That was dadi the doting granny of SWATI ,that chirpy 19 year old, whose mother had left her and gone to her heavenly abode when the child was just 3 days old.
Dadi still remembered the love an anguish in SWARNA'S eyes as she could see her death approaching her.she looked pleadingly at dadi and then at TILAK her husband as if to say " I leave her in your care" and then she passed away.A teardrop trickling down from the corner of her eyes. The last trace of life which had already flown away.
Dadi was stunned and shocked to see her beloved daughter- in -law go limp in her arms.She had loved Swarna very much as she had always reminded her of her dead daughter.
Dadi somehow started blaming herself for both these deaths she thought any girl whom she loved would not live long. And this precisely was the reason why SWATI always found her granny very distant from her ---she could sense the love but wondered why the aloofness!!
Dadi was the one who gave her the name SWATI daughter of Swarna and Tilak.
Parvati showered all the love and affection and all the pamperings but dadi was always a mute spectator never over indjulgent never demonstrative of her affection---though she knew about Swatis likes and dislikes and always instructed Parvati to cater to them --but remained discreet herself.
Parvati the maid too was all affection for her darling "bitiya" She had served this family for the last 25 years and was more of respected family member.
Other than these 3 pairs of eyes which doted on Swati was a 4th pair that of her dead mother always keeping guard , the guardian angel of her daughter.
One day Swati announced that --A friend from her college was coming to their place and would stay for a few days--the whole household was ablaze with activity and eager to please this friend of hers.
But they were all aghast to see that this friend was a boy. he had come there for an interview and would stay with them for a few days .
He got the job and Swati insisted that he stay with them till he found a new house.
Tilak was totally against this decision --and so was Parvati -- both of them dreaded the matriarchs wrath but they were all surprised when they saw workmen coming over to clean and settle the guesthouse--for Deepak.
Dadi had loved Swarna so much that even after her death they were both in contact with each other through that bond of love and affection which extends beyond all barriers of life and death.
After the workmen had gone away Parvati was instructed to keep some water ,milk and fruits in the fridge and a heater and some utensils, enough for a bachelor to fend for himself if he required tea or coffee at odd hours--lunch and dinner were on the house. Dadi looked up at the sky after she finished these instructions ---and there was Suwarna looking gratefully at her Mother -in- law.
And there were the other three looking bewildered at all these activities.
Deepak of course was overwhelmed but he was a very quite and ,reserved
person - not very demonstrative in his affections --Parvati was a bit dissapointed in him because she had secretly hoped that he and Swati would make a nice pair----the absence of any demonstration of gratitude or affection by him was not welcome by her.She wanted that the guy should atleast try to please DADI who was responsible fo all this "good treatment ".
Tilak was so busy with his music world that he never gave these things a second thought .
Swati was happy that she had been able repay a part of Deepak's kindness and friendship during her college days.He had helped in more ways than one.
Dadi and Swarna's soul both were keeping watch on Deepak's behaviour and hoped that he would pass their test and end their search for a good husband for their darling.
Deepak had in a way made a pathway into everyones heart though just through a small lane not any wide road .
.He had helped Tilak put a song into tune and Tilak was enamoured by his sense of music and melodius voice .
Dadi had liked his quite and dignified behaviour--and there was a nod fom Swarna too.
Swati of course was very happy and spent most of her time with him .This was a bit of a concern for Dadi because she was worried that in her inocence Swati may tell him about her macabre past.
(Once when they were returning from a holiday Swati had been lost in the train journey They had succeeded in locating her after about 10 days when they had found her huddled under a culvert in very bad shape and her state told about the trauma she had gone through.It was their goodluck that they had found her before anyone else could They had taken her to a hospital and nursed her back to normalcy before coming back to their hometown.This had remained a secret between Tilak,dadi,and Swarna's soul --no one else could come to know about it ,as they had kept their cool and had neither informed the police nor any of their relatives )
""What happened to your search of a house babu!!"" that was Parvati to Deepak.
""Paaarvatiii. go to the kitchen and finish your work". said dadi
""No maaji ...dont try to shut my mouth ..what do you think will people say when they see an unmarried outsider stay in our house for so long ..what will they think abou "bitiya"??""
"Since when have we started to care about people Parvati?" Tilak glared at her.
"No sir I think she is right I should leave now thankyou so much for your love and hospitality" said Deepak and he went inside the room to pack his belongings.
Swati was shocked to see all this -there were tears in her eyes as she quietly went to her room .
Parvati had thought that if she started this discussion it may lead to some talks of marriage between Deepak and Swati But to her dismay the whole plot misfired and here was Deepak saying goodbye to everyone touching there feet and walking away .
"God please do something I did not mean this".... she pleaded.
God heard her prayers ( or was it Swarna ?) and theOctober sky saw clouds gathering in from nowhere , a heavy breeze blowing as if a storm was to come ..and Deepak was forced to postpone his journey..
Over dinner that night the atmosphere was heavy when Dadi started talking just to ease the air. She asked Deepak about his family .
Suddenly Deepak lifted his eyes and looked at all of them .
"May I ask you to give me Swati's hand in marriage?"
there was stunned silence .... and as Deepak apologised for his behaviour ..they all smiled .
" No ..no its ok we are very happy."
Tilak the gentleman looked questioningly at his mother who nodded her head.
" Deepak what do you and your parents know about Swati --wont they like to see her before giving their acceptance ?"
"They know everything about her past and her present and it is they who want to have her as their daughter -in -law She had told them everything when they had met her in the college annual gathering last year --she had impressed them with her intellect and innocence and courage --the fact that she had disclosed everything to them meant that she was a brave and honest girl who could shoulder any responsibility.....and I am here to impress you and to gain your confidence so that you may think me fit to be her life partener." he smiled .
"The job that I am pursuing at the moment is the post of manager in one of my fathers many mica mines."
This brought a smile on Parvati 's face too as she was now sure that this man was not after the orchards her Bitiya was to inherit.
The storm outside had cleared and the heavy rains were now coming in a drizzle as if to bless the couple.
The next morning was a happy day in the Sahay household.
When Swati came out of her room and proceeded to her granny's.
"Dadi I dont want to marry "she whispered looking straight into her dadi,s eyes.
" No dadi I dont want to thrust myself on anyone --may be Deepak has said all that in a flush of infatuation or sympathy but I want to give him more time lest he regret his decision later and make our as well as his life misserable .Let him leave this house ,stay in another town and then decide ...may be he will find someone better than me .I will wait for him ......."
"....and so will I ...I am so proud of you Swati so proud to see your self respect ...I will wait for you as long as you want me to...""
and Deepak walked out of the door.
****** ******** ******** ******** ********
three years later.on a very bright October morning
A courier man walked upto Swatis house with a letter from Deepak s parents there was an invitation card inside .
Mr and Mrs khanna
the pleasure of your company
at a reception hosted to celebrate
the wedding of their son
at 8 pm on
there was a letter attached
"Swati the name of the girl and the date are to be filled in by you"