The Uncertainties of Life

Mukesh Kumar
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I was all dressed up for the party and stood in front of the mirror admiring myself. Putting
on the white XXLshirt, a clean-shaven eligible bachelor like me looked no less than a
Cinderella’s Prince Charming. It was the last day of the college reunion. I was very excited
to meet my old friends: Vikramjeet, Pratik, Atharva, Emily and Maitrayee. Everyone was to
come to attend the party, as all had confirmed on the phone.
It was seven o’clock. My coffee had almost got cold recollecting the memories from the
past with my photo album. Almost fourteen years had passed. How quickly the time
progressed! But it seems it all happened just yesterday.
When I had reached at the party I met some old classmates of mine. I introduced myself as
a teacher of literature in my own school. Pratik had become a banking agent; Vikramjeet
continued his family business of fertilizer, Emily was a librarian, whereas Maitrayee
remained a housewife and a mother of two. The information that shocked me most was that
Atharva was employed in a private firm, because during college he used to tell us that he
would be taking the civil service examinations after completing his graduation. He had
always been wanted to be a bureaucrat. However, his scornful smile created some doubts in
my mind. Despite being curious, I refrained from asking him, imagining perhaps my
curiosity might embarrass him. But it was obvious that something had gone wrong with him.
‘Hey Samrat! Wazzup?’
The voice of the woman thrilled as well as elated me. It was Emily Stewart, my best
friend at college.
‘Excellent.’ I said, ‘And what about you?’
‘Leading a normal life, as usual,’she added, ‘I have been a librarian for the past two
years.’
Emily and I had been best friends since we were children, as we used to live in the same
neighbourhood. After my father’s promotion, we shifted to a new flat, leaving the rented
house. But I remained in touch with her as we were studying in the same collegiate school.
In college we were joined by our new friends. Although we had separated from one another
almost eight years ago after graduation, we’d remained in touch through the phone calls and
emails.
During the schooldays, sometimes I used to wonder that how a jolly, impulsive and
outgoing girl like Emily could be friends with a boy like me who was very emotional, quiet,
and shy of course. During college, when Atharva, Pratik, Vikramjeet and the others made fun
of me, or addressed me sarcastically as ‘Sam’ or ‘Sammy’ instead of my original name, i.e.,
Samrat and I looked a bit emotional, Emily stood in my defence. That is how a true friend
works.
When we completed our graduation and to be separated, all of us were sad because we
would seldom meet but we promised to keep in regular touch with one another. And so we
did. Before this reunion, I had had an opportunity to meet them on the occasion of
Maitrayee’s wedding ceremony. But I couldn’t attend the occasion because of my
examinations.
However, after leaving college something made me feel that perhaps I had a soft corner
for my childhood friend. In fact, I thought of proposing to her more than once. But I never
dared to proceed with my feelings. I was gripped with panic everytime I thought about it.
What if she were to reject me? What would I do then? I didn’t want to lose her as my best
friend. At that time, I thought it was better to suppress my feelings than to bring them out in
the open. We also belonged to different religions. There was fear in my mind that our
families might not agree to blessing our union. This reason was sufficient to prevent me
going forward.
Years passed. On the occasion of the college reunion, Emily was dressed in a black kurti
and pink skirt. She was as jovial as she used to be in school or college days. She continued
babbling about herself and her family. Others were also looking very attractive.
‘My dear Emiline,’said Vikramjeet, ‘I think you should talk about your parents’ recent
most desirable task—of which I’m already aware—because you promised me that you will
reveal your secrets to all of us today.’
‘Of course. I was about to tell everyone about it,’said Emily.
‘But you didn’t.’
‘Okay, I’m telling them now …’she said smiling.
‘After my speech?’ he asked.
‘Vikram, don’t be a moron.’
‘I refuse to understand,’ Vikram said, showing mock annoyance.
‘Then I’m gonna murder you, man!’
‘Then you’d be in jail.’
We laughed at their banter. Vikramjeet was still being a prankster as years back. Then
Pratik intervened, ‘Stop quarrelling guys! Will you please come to the point?’
After a few moments pause, Emily spoke out, ‘Finally my parents have stopped searching
for an eligible bachelor for their daughter.’
‘You must have threatened them,’said Maitrayee.
‘No, dear,’she said, ‘actually …’she paused and then taking Atharva’s arm she said,
‘We’ve decided to get married.’
‘What?’ Maitrayee and Pratik asked, surprised.
‘Yes, dears,’said Vikramjeet. ‘I’ve know this for the past two years. They were secretly
messaging, mailing and dating. Atharva had shared this with me earlier as he proposed to
her. Atharva, tell them about it,’ he said looking at Atharva.
‘It’s true,’said Atharva. ‘Emily and I are going to get married next month and all of you
definitely have to come. And don’t worry; I’ll personally invite you all,’said Atharva
excitedly.
‘This is really exciting!’said Pratik. Maitrayee also expressed her delight and
congratulated the couple.
‘Congratulations to both of you,’ I said. She was holding Atharva’s arm.
On returning home that night, I felt went to my room with a sense of loss at. I thought of
Robert Browning’s lover from ‘The Last Ride Together’ and realized that I should allow my
beloved to choose her own path of happiness. If she wished to be happy with someone else,
I should not put petty obstacles in her path by telling her about my love for her. If I do love
someone, it’s not necessary that she has to be in love with me. Sometimes little injustices
happen in life. But we have to go through such sufferings and pains with courage. I decided
to overcome my frustration and attend my best friend’s wedding.
A month later, on their wedding day, I went to attend the function. As my family and that
of Emily’s used to live in the neighbouring area, my parents were also invited by her father.
To my surprise, I could see no one from Atharva’s family as long as I stayed there. I
assumed they would come later. But what could have held them back?
Our group of friends had also come together to attend their wedding and wished the
newly married couple a happy and prosperous married life. Another day, Atharva arranged
a get-together as a treat for his friends instead of a formal reception.
Almost one and a half years had passed since our college reunion. One day, while coming
back from the post office, I met Vikramjeet. During this time I had not visited either of my
friends. Even phone calls, emails, messaging were infrequent among us. He recognized and
called out to me from his car. I waved and went to meet him. I told him I was happy to see
him after such a long time. I asked him about his life, his family and about the others in our
group. Then I could not help but ask him about Atharva and Emily. A shadow of pain and
sadness passed his face. Instead of answering my questions he asked, ‘Sam, don’t you know
anything?’
‘About what?’ I asked.
‘About Emily and Atharva?’
‘Actually I heard about Emily’s pregnancy from Pratik a few months after their marriage.
Once I had called them up to, but no one answered the phone. So I didn’t call again, thinking
that something must have happened. They didn’t answer Maitrayee’s calls too. So I just …
Anyway, what happened?’
Vikramjeet spoke with a lot of pain in his voice, ‘Well, last year Emily had a boy. He
looks a lot like his father but …’ his voice turned gloomy, ‘Atharva and Emily are no more.’
He paused, ‘They died in a car crash a fortnight back.’
‘Oh dear God!’ My head reeled with the news. I put my hand on the car’s bonnet for
support. All I could see was the happy face of the couple in front of my eyes.
‘Are you okay? May be I shouldn’t have …’
‘No, no, it’s okay. I needed to know this,’ I said. Then it suddenly struck me, ‘What about
the baby?’
‘The boy survived miraculously,’ he said. ‘Both of Emily’s parents had died last year.
Her father had a massive cardiac arrest. Her mother couldn’t take his death and completely
broke down. Then she passed away within six months of her husband’s death. As for
Atharva’s parents, they denied any responsibility of the child because they said Atharva had
married against their wishes to a non-Hindu girl!’
‘Is that even a reason? What sort of cruel people are they? They’ve said no to their only
grandchild! The kid is after all their dead son’s only representation.’
‘Mm … So horrible!’ Vikramjeet said shaking his head. Then he spoke again, ‘Do you
know they did not even take his body from the morgue! It’s all because of religion. And that
was why he chose to work at a private firm. Atharva’s family had refused to provide any
sort of financial help for his study of Public Administration only because of his being in
love with Emily. He had been abandoned by his family forever. After leaving the college, I
had always remained in close contact with Atharva. And that’s how I knew about his family
disputes and stuff.’
This came as a shocking news to me. I could not imagine they had gone through so much
in order to stay together. But my heart was going out to the child. ‘What about Emily’s
cousins, uncles or aunts? Are they not taking care of the child?’
‘They were informed. But I don’t think they would care for the infant as the neighbour
told me. As a result, the child had to be sent to the nearest orphanage. Emily and Atharva
named the boy Devraj before they died.’
Once I had seen the little boy in photographs which had been sent to me by Pratik in his
emails. It was pretty obvious that he’d got them from Vikramjeet, as Pratik too hadn’t been
in touch with the couple. So there was no direct contact of the couple besides Vikramjeet.
‘I was just thinking about paying a visit to the boy after taking the address of the
orphanage from the local police station,’said Vikramjeet. ‘I want to go but I couldn’t …
because I’m just scared, you know. I have a family to look after … So I couldn’t make up
my mind for that.’ I nodded my head in understanding.
After talking some more, Vikramjeet went away. I remained there, thinking of the
shattering blow life had given the infant who’d lost both his parents just in the beginning of
its life! Why had that happened? Why does the life become so ruthless and merciless to most
people?
Suddenly, a loud gust of wind coming from the open window hurled me back to reality. I
finished the last sip of my coffee. It was entirely cold and almost turned tasteless. I closed
the album that contained the last meeting of our entire group at the college reunion
ceremony. How quickly thirteen summers have passed! My father died a couple of years
ago. I did not think of marriage throughout these years.
I heard footsteps running down, and an elated voice cried out, ‘Dad, it is raining outside!
Let’s get drenched in it. C’mon!’
‘Dev, if it rains outside you should shut the doors and the windows instead of running
out!’
‘Which I already did, for your information,’ he said sarcastically. ‘Now let’s have some
fun in the rain; c’mon, Dad.’
‘No.’
‘Dad, please Dad. Even Grandma’s not letting me go outside.’
‘Dev, if Grandma asks you not to then you shouldn’t go outside.’
‘Why?’
‘Because you’ll catch a cold! Besides your mid-term examinations are coming. What will
happen if you fall sick?’
‘You know what!’ he said excitedly, ‘In school our teacher has told us that he used to have
a lot of fun in rain while he was in the school. If he could do it, then why can’t I?’
‘Because I told you so. I don’t want to know what your teacher did in his schooldays.
I’ve never stopped you from watching TV or playing games. But not this. I’m worried about
your health.’
‘Honestly, Dad. You’re being really mean!’
‘I don’t care.’
‘But Dad … can’t you let me go? Just once …’
‘No.’ I got angry. ‘Haven’t I told to you to be inside when it rains?’
His face turned gloomy as I scolded him. So I had to soften my voice, ‘Dev, I want you to
listen to me. Do you get that?’
‘Yes, Dad,’ he said calmly.
‘Then no more arguments. No more questions. Go upstairs. You are a good boy, aren’t
you? I know you are.’
‘Yes, I am.’
‘Then go upstairs. Good boys always obey their fathers.’
‘Fine. I’ll go,’said Dev and he went off. The excitement on his face had disappeared. I
didn’t mean to hurt his feelings, nor to spoil his fun. But sometimes strictness is necessary
for raising a kid properly.
Now I realized that life isn’t so unfair for those people who have gone through the dark
phases of life. I got the most precious and dearest reminder of my best friend (or my
supposed beloved) Emily by adopting her only child. Now I am his father. I am happy with
the partial fulfillment of my desire. When I go out for work, my mother takes care of the kid.
Although the boy takes after his father but in his deepest nature he is as jolly, spirited and
impulsive as his mother once was.
Moral: Fulfillment of a desire on earth is bliss. But what doesn’t happen according to one’s
wishes is even better. Because then it is the wishes of the Almighty Himself. So whenever
one gets upset with something, it should be kept in mind that He has already planned
something else for that person.

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