Not a bastard.

Ritika was discarding the unnecessary items from the old wooden almirah when she found a crumpled letter, choked in the dust that lay there since 21 years. She began to unfold it and what surprised her was the fact that it was still kept safe. It was written to her, by her mom. In her lifetime, she had read that letter around 30 times. She didn’t realise the girth of those words when she read it for the first time. But each time she read it thereafter, she had amalgam of strong emotions and had more love and compassion for her mother.

16 year old Ritika came running to home, stumped her feet hard on the floor of the verandah and shouted, “MOM! Tell me that I am not a bastard! Or am I?” Her face was red in rage and anger as Aneeta looked at her, surprised. Again, the kids of the streets had called her a ‘bastard’ in series of teasing her.
Ritika always missed her dad. She had never seen her own dad but had heard stories from her classmates about their fathers since childhood. Stories about how they bought them strawberry flavoured ice creams after they came back from work, their dads being the best superhero in their own little world and how both their parents went out for family dinners. But for Ritika, her dad was an illusion living in the cascade of her dreams.
Slight tears had ensued Aneeta’s eyes as she sat down on her knees, pulled her child closer and kissed her forehead.
“No Ritika! You are not a bastard. They don’t know you. You are an angel….”
“But where is my dad?” She asked furiously interrupting her mother.
“Dad? Look at me! I…am your.. dad I-I-I..am your m…ommy. I
..am your both” she said un-jumbling her broken words and an even broken heart.
“I knew it. I knew you were lying. Till when are you going to fool me with your words? You think I am still a kid? Go away mom! You are a liar.” Ritika hurried swiftly into her room with vexation in her eyes.
Aneeta sat there, her ears echoing the last word her daughter had said – LIAR. No she wasn’t. And Ritika was not a bastard. Aneeta had never revealed the painful past to her, thinking she was too small to step into the veridical of this cruel world. But today, the 16 year old girl had to know about it.
She went to her room, pulled out a fresh page from her diary and began writing. She wrote what her daughter needed to know at that point in her life. She was no more a kid and was a 16 year old teenager. Aneeta knew she cannot hide the truth from her anymore.
She wrote how she met Ritika when she was just 10 months old and she was only a 24 year old girl herself. She was crying of hunger and thirst when Aneeta found her in tatters, wrapped around a cloth in a bean box. Her parents had abandoned the 10 month old for being a girl child, thus the fate kept her here. With days of care and nurture, she fell for the little child’s innocence and the little fingers that curled her index finger. She fell for those little eyes that gleamed in happiness seeing her, for the smile that curved that petite face when she slept in tranquil in her arms. She had decided to adopt her. And very obviously it didn’t turn out in good taste from her family. Society, morals and people pointing finger at her were the fears that haunted her parents. After two months of commotion, arguments and fights, she finally decided to leave her parents and move to Dastoorbad. The only place where she thought she wouldn’t be judged. She worked as a Physics teacher in a nearby school and made the both ends meet. She felt independent raising a child single handedly.
“No one will respect you, marry you with that child in your arms you are holding. Everyone is going to pelt you with their hatred and gossip. No one will believe you that you have adopted her. People will call her a bastard. ” Her parents had said when she was leaving. She futher wrote how people here started jabbering behind her back and how it effected her emotionally. Like her parents said, she was never believed when she called Ritika as her adopted child. With years passing on, she stopped caring about what people said. As Ritika started growing up, she forgot about all the brooding and worries. Admist all this, she never really lost her will and hope. Until today. She had been called a liar before but it never hurt her as much as it did today. Her own daughter had now labelled her a ‘liar’. But she knew, no one else but Ritika would understand her.
In the end, she wrote how much she loved her and will always do, no matter what and how Ritika was her pillar of strength. She kept the letter inside Ritika’s closet.
Later that evening, Ritika brought her some wild flowers and hugged Aneeta. They didn’t talk. They just cried together. And it seemed as if the tears were talking out their vented feelings. Aneeta again had her hopes high.

◆◆◆◆◆
As she finished reading the letter for the 31st time today, she again had glitters of emotions in her eyes. She felt proud being raised by a woman who was so strong, gallant and stout hearted. Their stories were same. Both their parents were gone but both chose to believe in each other even when the candles of hope blew out. Aneeta was no more living in this world but the letter always replenished her absence. Her mother was indeed her ‘dad’. She was not a bastard.

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