“She has snatched my only son”, she often cribbed. She had sent him to the city for a better life. And he had chosen to stay there, marrying the girl of his choice, that too from the opposite religion. Her husband had been killed in Hindu Muslim riots few years ago. “How can I accept a girl from that religion as my Bahu”, she often wondered.
The son never forgot his mother though. He would write her letters, asking forgiveness for hurting her sentiments, often explaining how the turn of events almost forced him to take that decision. They had studied together in the same college and liked each other a lot. The riots that wiped out her family, his love and concern, the big bad world, that now or never decision that changed their lives forever. He knew the mother would never approve, so theirs was a court marriage.
The mother had read the letter, each word piercing her soul like the dagger that her husband was killed with years ago. She had turned into a stone, deciding never to see his face again. His letters & the money continued to come without fail. The mother had taken up a job as a sewing teacher in the local school and never took a single note out of the monthly envelopes he sent. “He thinks he can make up for the loss by these pieces of paper?” And so she wowed never to reply.
The mother inside missed her son every moment. On Holi, she would remember how he loved the riot of colors, Janmashtmi reminded her of his childhood mischiefs just like Lord Krishna. Every Diwali she silently prayed to Goddess Lakshmi to give her son prosperity, for by now, she was convinced the son would have ceased to be a Hindu and would have broken every rule of the religion by marrying a Muslim girl. He never mentioned it in his letters and she never asked it.
The son had himself become a father now. He had sent a small pic of the baby, freshly born and all red, too pure to understand which religion he belonged to. He looked just like the son, when he was born. The mother kept looking at the picture till tears blurred her vision. The letter also had a ticket and the usual money. The son had made an extremely emotional appeal in the letter. “I know ma you will never forgive me, but what wrong has your grandson done? Is he so unfortunate as to not even see his grandmother once is his lifetime?”
She felt like grabbing the next train and be with him, but the thought of the Muslim daughter in law grabbed her everytime into the endless whirlpool of revenge and despair. She decided to go though, not for the baby but to return the money the son had been sending all these years and she had kept away untouched. She wanted to tell him how he had hurt his dead father’s soul by marrying a girl of the religion of his killers. She wanted to curse the girl for having snatched her only hope in this world.
It was early morning when she reached the city. The Azaan from the Masjid made her decision even stronger. As she reached the lane with numerous houses, she asked the shopkeeper at the tea stall for the address of her son, Gopal Chand. The shopkeeper gave her a long surprised look and asked, “You want to meet Gopal? But he was killed in a road accident six months ago. Poor chap couldn’t even live to see his unborn child. His widow stays in that house” he pointed to the house and resumed his job.
The mother felt a sudden heat behind her ears. She had felt it once when destiny had snatched her husband that unfortunate night. Suddenly, all things became clear to her – the money never stopped, the letters had become more emotional of late, the appeal in the recent letter…SO it is that Muslim girl stepping into the shoes of my son?
With heavy steps, she open the gate of the house. To her surprise, she spotted a lush Tulsi plant in the Balcony. Tears filled up her eyes as she remembered how she had taught the son that Tulsi brings happiness in the house. Her feet suddenly stopped when she saw the son’s widow watering the Tulsi with a Kalash and chanting the gayatri mantra. “So she never changed my son’s religion?” The tears overflowed.
As the girl finished her Pooja, her eyes met the mother and widened in surprise. She walked up to the mother, touched her feet and said “Namaste ma”. The mother, unable to bear the guilt and sorrow, hugged her tight and said “Salaam beti”