Anshuman couldn’t wait to go for his run the next day. He didn’t know how correct it was to interfere in someone’s life but he couldn’t hold back anymore. He had to see the boy who had stolen his heart in barely two meetings. For a decade or so he hadn’t known such emotions even existed in him. He ran today against the morning sea breeze, the salty drops hit his face as the waves greeted him while he ran close to the shoreline. The enormous sound of the sea calmed him to the core and rejuvenated him. He had slept fairly well last night albeit for 4 hours. But given his usual, it was a lot.
Lost in the sea-induced stupor he continued his run till he reached the clove. It was just like he had left it last morning. He has been intrigued and couldn’t get much of his online work done. He was invested in a few start-ups and provided them guidance from time to time. Last year he had invested in Vedshastra nursing home in khopoli near Mumbai. It belonged to his friend Keshav Goyal a self-made pharmaceutical honcho. The nursing home was his pet project as well and also Keshav’s sister and now his close friend Nirvika’s workplace. She was a doctor and very good at that. Anshuman’s sharp eye for talent hadn’t been wrong at all. Within few months of starting the nursing home was looking at an expansion. He intended to convert it into a full-fledged hospital soon and was in talks with his other financer friends as well.
His vast entrepreneurial experience helped in troubleshooting to a great extent and most of all getting work done kept him busy. But since yesterday he had been disturbed and wanted to see for himself if Manpreet was all right. That little boy intrigued him to the core. He felt like he was seeing Meera’s childhood all over again… He knew he was a fool to do so but that boy’s innocence tugged at his heartstrings. He walked up to the gate and knocked but there was no response. He wondered if they were all sleeping and felt like a douche for disturbing them. He decided to complete his run and turned back. He ran towards the rock ahead and just as he passed it, he saw Manpreet seated hunched on a drawing book he had got him yesterday with his crayon box next to him.
“Hey, buddy what’s up…? What did you make today…”?
Manpreet looked up and his face brightened up with a full smile reaching his gleaming innocent eyes. “…Anshuman… look…” He spoke without a stutter and held up his drawing. Anshuman sat on his haunches and peered at the creation. Oh goodness…it was him and he had worn the same checked shirt to the market trip. He was teary as he saw the detailed sketch. It reminded him of Meera… she was a sucker for details as well. She got the emotions so well on the sketch book and later on the canvas. Probably if she had lived and had a child there was a chance, he or she would have some of her talents passed on hereditarily. Anshuman for one would have left no stone unturned to pamper and spoil the kid… He continued to stare at the masterpiece. Right then he decided he would do something for this gifted child.
“…So, buddy can I keep this…?”
Manpreet happily nodded and tore out the sheet at the dotted line before handing it over. Anshuman rolled it and pushed it into his tack pant and helped the boy gather everything. They walked back towards the clove and he realized Manpreet hesitating to go in. “…What is it, buddy…? Did your mom say something yesterday…? Do you want me to talk to her…?”
Manpreet tightened his grip on his palm and spoke softly. “…Mmmmma dddint cccc….cccome lllaast nnnnight…” His face crumpled as he tried to hold back a sob. Anshuman pulled him into his arms and rocked him rubbing his back. What kind of a woman didn’t bother to reach out to her child for two days? He held him with his shoulders and wiped his tears.
“…Buddy, where does your mom work…? Do you know…?” Manpreet nodded and he continued. “…can you take me there…? We shall find her together…?”
Manpreet hesitated but eventually nodded. Anshuman went on his knees and spoke. “…Ok where does she work…?”
“…A hotel…?” Anshuman wondered if Manpreet would be having his mother’s contact information given the secrecy around it.
Manpreet nodded. Right then the gate opened and Manpreet’s nani walked out. She didn’t acknowledge Anshuman and tried to drag a resisting Manpreet inside. He squirmed dropping his booty and she slapped his back. “…Why on earth do you torture this old woman…you brute…” She panted.
Anshuman had enough. “…Look aunty… please don’t do it…”
She glared at him. “…Stop interfering in our lives… wait here… I shall return your things… my grandson doesn’t need alms from strangers…”
Anshuman tried reining in his anger. “…Aunty… it was a gift to a super talented child… Manpreet is amazing… if his mom has a problem…let me talk to her… he can…”
The woman held her trembling hand up. “…stop right here mister…” Gone was her soft demeanor from the first day he had met her. “… Look Mister, kindly leave us alone… we don’t need any stranger butting into our peaceful life… yesterday you shouldn’t have taken him to your place… his mother will throw a fit if she finds out… so do us a favor and go away…” She turned to leave and tried to pull a wailing Manpreet who chose to lay on the floor.
She gave Anshuman an angry look. “…this boy has never thrown a tantrum his whole life and look what you have done…”
Anshuman pushed open the gate and walked in. Manpreet got up and rushed towards him holding him tightly around his hips even as his grandmother looked, horror written all over her face. Anshuman inhaled deeply and spoke. “…Look Aunty, I don’t know you at all or your circumstances, but Manpreet here is extremely talented… he is unable to attend school as well… and whenever he is out with the boys… you saw… they bully him… how can a child develop without adequate exposure…?”
“…So, you… a stranger is going to tell us how to bring up a child…” the woman spoke with sarcasm dripping from her voice.
Anshuman sighed. “…Aunty I want to talk to his mother… give me a contact number…”
“…I can’t give away her number like that…” She abruptly said.
“…Fine then… Manpreet here will take me to her… won’t you buddy…?” Manpreet nodded into his belly where he had dug his head and not moved since, his grip tightening around his hips.
The woman’s face was drained of colour. “…No… please don’t… she wont like it… she will be furious… she is working her ass off to earn a living… please don’t jeopardize anything…”
Anshuman now felt for the torn woman. “…Don’t worry aunty… I can handle it and trust me… I will do nothing that will put Manpreet or his mother in any kind of peril.”
“…It’s a lot more complicated… I don’t think you should…” The woman tried a last feeble attempt to dissuade him but Anshuman stood on his ground. He couldn’t help Meera but he would do everything possible for this boy.
“…I promise you, aunty, nothing will go wrong…” he assured her. Even as the woman panted and looked on, he held Manpreet’s little hand as they walked out of the gate. Somehow taking up a step for this little bundle of talent gave him a strange sense of gratification. He had never felt it in the last ten years.
Was this Meera’s way of forgiving him…?
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.