“Can you come home earlier today than usual Sandeep? I need to plan.” Mrs Khosla asked while chanting her Mantras.
“Why Ma? What for?” Sandeep almost snapped back at her as he responded to his emails.
“This Friday, before the Navratris start, I want to see Ram Lalla at Chhatarpur. Last time you had promised. Sarayu is visiting her parents. She wouldn’t be back before Sunday. I also wanted to…”
“Ma? I drive to Manesar every day. You want me to go to Chhatarpur and then drive back to Manesar? Can you imagine how difficult it would be for me?” Sandeep downed his juice in one angry swig.
“Ahh! One day son! Can’t you take leave for a day?”
“Not possible Ma! March 31st is close. I have so many papers to retrieve and file. Why don’t you take Abhi? He can take off from his studies for a day. I will leave the car for you and take a taxi for the day. Got to rush Ma. See you in the evening!” Sandeep did pranam from far and rushed out.
Mrs Khosla sighed and picked up her rosary.
The said Friday arrived bringing with it chaos. The driver took a French leave citing stomach upset. Sandeep had a busy day with back to back appointments. He left after assuring Mrs Khosla that they would go to the temple soon.
Now Mrs Khosla was livid. Come what may, she had to go to the temple. That very minute. Grandson Abhi was studying with a tutor for an impending exam. He was keener to balance equations than to go with Grandmother to seek divine blessings.
Seeing the tearful Mrs Khosla, Abhi discovered a caring heart.
He called for an Uber taxi. He then sat Mrs Khosla in, after making her repeat all the instructions.
Soon the taxi took off.
“Namaste Ma’am” The taxi driver started the conversation, seeing that Mrs Khosla was nervous. Understandably so! After all, she had rarely traveled alone, that too in a taxi.
“Namaste. Could you go a bit slower speed?” Mrs Khosla replied timidly as she clutched at the handles. The taxi driver happily nodded though he barely reduced the speed.
“What is your name,” Mrs Khosla asked after she felt safer.
“Ayan!” The taxi-driver uttered with great pride.
“Hey, Ram! What has my grandson done? How do I ask this driver? Whether he is a…It is a tricky name. Cannot make out. Imagine going to the Mandir this way.”
She then saw the green Taveez around the neck of Ayan, in the view mirror. To avoid any further conversation she leaned back and started chanting prayers.
In a short while, they reached the Mandir.
Mrs Khosla quickly paid up the driver and stepped out before any conversation could take place. It was a hot day filled with devout devotees. The heat was oozing from everywhere. The milling crowd panicked her. Sadly Mrs Khosla couldn’t remember where she had to start. She then thought of calling her Grandson to clarify.
But…She had no phone with her. She had forgotten it in the cab.
Mrs Khosla could hear her heart pumping in her throat which had become dry. She felt she was going to faint.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was Ayan the cab driver.
“Ammaji, you left your mobile in the car. Why are you moving in this mela, all by yourself? Nobody with you? Are you adamant like my grandmother?”
Mrs Khosla wordlessly took the phone and whispered a ‘thank you’ and started to move ahead.
“Ammaji, Why are you so pale? Are you thirsty? Here take my bottle. I just filled it at the corner.” Ayan thrust the bottle at her.
Mrs Khosla nodded in the negative, started walking faster to avoid talking to Ayan.
“Ammaji, how will you go back? Shall I wait for you here and drop you back? Let me leave you till the main entrance” Ayan meant well.
Mrs Khosla was now desperate. Why wouldn’t this bloody fellow leave her alone? She started to run. As she did so, her foot got entangled in a pothole, her ankle got twisted, she fell down with a thud, with her head hitting the pavement.
Everything then blackened out.
Mrs Khosla slowly opened her eyes in a sterile room with white walls and ceiling. Sandeep was sitting next to her working on his laptop while Abhi studied in a corner. Daughter-in-law Sarayu was writing something on a thick pad.
Mrs Khosla after surveying the room whispered her son’s name.
Sandeep hugged his mother. Sarayu and Abhi followed suit.
“What happened? Why am I here?” Mrs Khosla’s voice was very weak.
Sandeep beamed. “Ma, you are back! We were all so worried. We would have lost you but for the timely action of that taxi-driver Ayan. You remember Ma, you have the rare blood group. When you fell down, hurting your head, you had bled a lot. Thankfully Ayan had the presence of mind. He got you admitted, called us from your mobile. When we panicked about the blood situation, he readily donated his blood. By a strange coincidence, his blood group matched yours perfectly. He saved you Ma. He comes daily to check on you. I am so sorry. I will never leave you again, thus.”
Mrs Khosla was stunned.
As her mind struggled to piece the events together, it struck her with a vivid clarity.
“Dear God, I had said ‘No’ to water, which I thought had become contaminated. Prejudices! So you had injected me with blood! Gave me a new life, a newer understanding of humanity.
It is true. Nobody goes away, empty-handed from your temple. Today you have given me a valuable lesson.”
Mrs Khosla smiled, closed her eyes and waited for Ayan.