By Smriti Mahale:

Mr and Mrs Vardhan saw those eyes near the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital that day. They were the same shade of sapphire blue. But then, the spark in them had disappeared. What they could see now were only the wisps of tear drops, like the skies after a heavy down pour. They looked tired, they looked helpless, they looked unhappy.

Mr and Mrs Vardhan had come for their routine health check up. At the age of 86 and 81, where else would you find an elderly couple on a Saturday morning? It had been their routine for years now. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, they would come to the hospital and spend a day with the doctors and nurses. Fortunately, they were in the pink of their health except for meagre signs of old age! The couple had a son and a daughter; both of them in some wretched corner of the globe, with their respective families. Twenty years ago, on their anniversary, Mr and Mrs Vardhan were got the most beautiful gift by their children: the papers of a life- time bond with the Old Age Home!

From then on, they had a new family. The inmates of Ashraya Old Age Home were all beings of a cruel world. The fingers they held firmly when their children were about to fall, had ruthlessly signed on papers that freed them from their responsibilities. Love and kindness that had been showered now were returned through money orders and online transfers. A seedling planted with the hope of support in times of fragility now bore thorns. Homes that were built with bricks of sacrifices and love were shattered with the swords of selfishness. Life had to go on somehow. The members of Ashraya had succeeded in giving a purpose to the rest of their living. They ate together, they spoke about happier times together, they cried at the unfairness together, they lived together. In the mornings, after a healthy breakfast they indulged themselves in activities they liked. Activities they had sacrificed for their children. While Mr. Rao shovelled for his new jasmine garden, Mrs. Wadeyar baked cookies for the festive season. While some weaved, some solved crosswords in the newspapers; others simply sat and watched innumerable television shows. They were happy, in the world they had to live in now to survive. What they missed were the eyes where they once upon a time had seen the whole world, the smile that lighted up their lives in the hardest of times, the love that was shared. They silently cried to Him for some answers.

Ravi and Richa were the children from the house that was homed right in front of Ashraya Old Age Home. The mansion was secluded in layers of Gulmohar and Mango trees. With the serenity of a crystal pond beside, where ivory swans swam, the mansion was a reflection of the Edens and the fortunes Ravi and Richa were brought up in. Ravi was 15 years of age and his younger sister was 10. The children often visited the old age home. They came as a splash of happiness on a gloomy day to the old couples. The entire day was spent in showing unbiased loved to the two kids. They played games, they ate ice creams, they sang, they cracked jokes, they laughed, they smiled at the innocence of the kids, and they had no regrets for a day. The children reminded them of their own children, their happier times with them; they reminded them of their grand children with whom they could be sharing the same moments, if only…

The children were more than happy to spend their time in the Old Age Home. Both of them had lost their grandparents and had found a way to replace their existence in Ashraya. Richa’s blue eyes glowed like sapphires when with them. Ravi was delighted when his sister was happy. They had learnt from their parents that love was not underlined with the ties of blood or relations. It was something that held the world together, firmly, like the dawn holds to the sun with the promise of a new morning, the river to the sea with the faith of a successful journey. The more you gave, the more you would receive, maybe not from the same person, but from a heart that danced freely in the glory of the true human spirit. With the same thoughts, they had continued for a few years. Just as the rule of the world goes, the happy family was shredded on one Sunday morning when the car they were travelling in was hit by a truck. Richa was the lone survivor to endure more merciless acts of the cruel world.

More mercies followed. Relatives unfairly lay hands on the property that legally belonged to Richa. From the abode of heaven she was thrown into an orphanage of the city. Her journeys to the Old Age home stopped. She disappeared from their lives like the morning mist from a mountain. The couples had cried again, this time for a different reason though. They had once again lost someone they had loved. Life still had to move on like before.

Richa had grown up in the orphanage with the dreams and aspirations of any woman of this world. She had forced herself to forget the life she had once led, and had grown accustomed to her new world. After the age of 18, she had moved out to a world of independence. Her intelligence had earned her a job and a life. She had fallen in love, married and lived a normal life. The financial deficiency of her husband was nothing to her. They could afford a simple meal of rice and curry thrice a day. That was more than enough for her until that dreadful 3rd Saturday of the month.

Her husband was run over by a truck from the way back from work. While he was battling with death for a life, Richa was battling with people she knew for money to pay for the hospital bills. Hard times became harder with refusals from all ends. She simply sat on the iron bench of Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, with those sad sapphire eyes, with the floods of hopelessness emerging from them.

Mr and Mrs Vardhan had seen her then. They had recognized her. The old couple had immediately sold the only property they were the owners of, for her. They were left with nothing now, except for the gratitude of Richa and her husband who now come to the Old Age Home every Sundays with their 6 month old son.

Richa now quietly sings in her son’s ears:

“It’s my blood that flows in your veins,
It is the same blood that someday will give us pain.
Let this blood be replaced with love,
Love that will bond us together forever!!”

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