She looked out of the window. The streets were illuminated; flickers of intermittent crimson and amber lights were casting varied patterns on the walls of her dark room. The noise of the passing buses, cabs, cars, honking rickshaws, vendors, even faint voices of men and women, though distant, resonated joyousness of the festivity. It was the day before Diwali. Houses in the neighbourhood were decorated with earthen lamps, electric bulbs, and rangoli.
Nita liked this darkness. It had entered her life and was to stay. The last Diwali, her son was with her. It was years now that her husband had left her. It was he who had named their son Atlanto – ‘one whose depth was fathomless’. She had brought him up single handed.
“Mamma, don’t! I hate the ‘thum’ sound of the crackers!” Then Antu was three.
“Mamma! Can I invite my friends this Diwali?” Then Antu was twelve.
“Mamma! Rashi’s parents live in New Town. May I spend the evening with them? They are elated that I got selected in MIT.” That was when…..
That was when … she had become absolutely alone.
Earlier, it was Atul who made Diwali meaningful for her. Even after he left, she had Antu. She tried to make the festival special for him, bought him toys, crackers, decorated the house and never let him feel the absence of his father. She took pride in his academic success. His teacher of sixth standard, Mrs. Debjani, had called her to say, “Mrs. Banerjee! It’s a pleasure to have your son in my class.” Those words had filled her life. She felt complete.
She often talked to herself in her loneliness. She complained, “Atul, you went away, its been years. You moved ahead in your life, you settled again. Even I could, but didn’t. I had Antu. How could you forget Antu,and all the dreams that we had seen together? You know, he has grown up to be just like you! The same smile, same confidence, same strong shoulders. .He is so tall for his age. He is so quiet…”
Nita wondered how life had cheated on her again and again. Friends in her office often told her, “Go out! Make friends. You have a life too. Antu is growing and will be what he is destined to be. It’s ok! You too can go out with friends for some time. Have fun, watch a movie. It will relax you. You are still so beautiful. Dress well and be happy.”
But Nita had just prioritised the needs of Antu over everything else. Be it his homework, his project, his birthday or his health. Even Antu got irritated with her at times. He had told her mom once, “Start living for yourself. You need to be occupied. When I will go to college, you will become too lonely.”
But Nita was too much obsessed with her motherhood to understand his words then.
Yesterday the courier had delivered a packet from Silicon Valley, US.
Antu worked with Google now. Nita’s dreams had come true. Her son had reached his dream destination. Along with the packet, he had sent his regrets for his inability to spend Diwali in Kolkata.
They are going to Hawaii this weekend.
He seemed so thrilled to be visiting the islands. He mentioned how they would stay in the best of the suits in the best sea-facing resort. He had even expressed happiness over his success in the last project at office; he was being considered for the position of GM.
In the darkness, with the packet of gift in her hands, Nita wondered why she could not share the joy of her son! Why could she not feel proud of her son’s success! She recollected how much she used to be elated when he topped the class and had even distributed new saree’s to relatives during Diwali, the year when he had qualified for the NTSE scholarship. The things which should have given her the greatest gratification of life was somehow failing to lift her spirits. Instead, tears were flowing down her eyes.
She tried to peep within herself as she made conscious efforts to bless her son that Diwali.