(Read the first part of the story here)
Mrs. Srikar was a bit taken aback to see Raju at the door.
“What happened Raju”? She asked.
“Madam, humse bohut badhi galti ho gayi, humko maaf Kar dijiye” (Madam, I have committed a great sin, please forgive me). Saying this, he folded both his hands and lowered his head.
Mrs. Srikar was really confused. She couldn’t make anything out of this.
“What are you talking about Raju? I don’t understand anything”.
“Kya sir ne aapko Kuch bataya nahi?” (So Srikar sir didn’t tell you anything?) Asked Raju.
Mrs. Srikar was about to ask him more questions, but just then her phone rang from inside. She excused herself and went inside to take the call.
Raju stood there, standing and anticipating about the next turn of events.
After a couple of minutes which seemed like ages for Raju, she came back and stood at the door again. Her arms crossed on chest now.
“Alright. Now I can make out finally. Srikar just informed me that he reported about the possible theft of his bicycle in the local police station.
You should have been a little more careful Raju.”
Raju hung his head in shame and guilt.
“But how come a cycle gets stolen early morning and you don’t get to know anything at all?”
Raju was silent. His eyes clearly betraying his emotions.
She asked again.
“When did you open the main gate in the morning today?”
“4.30 am”. Replied Raju.
“Hmm. This means that thief entered after that.”
There were a few moments of silence.
Raju was waiting for an opportune moment to seek forgiveness and tell about his sad state when cutting his thoughts, she said, “Raju, everybody is leaving for their village now, what about you? Aren’t you leaving? How are you managing food and everything else now that there is complete lockdown?
On hearing this, Raju couldn’t control his tears anymore.
He said, “madam, I have been saving money to go home since the month of March when Lockdown began, but Pawar sir asked me to stay back for a week so that he can arrange another local guy, but didn’t get anyone so far and it’s been 2 months since then. Yesterday, I got to know that someone from nearby area has been arranged and I was planning to leave finally. My parents back home are very worried as they are hearing news of Corona spreading the most in Bambai. I haven’t met my son who is 2 years old now, for almost a year and my wife too is requesting me to come back. I have already spoken to a truck driver Rajesh about my travel and was about to pay him 3500 rupees today for the conveyance, that is why I went to Pawar sir for asking my salary in the morning, madam”.
“Ok, so what happened then?”.
“He said, I won’t get any salary this month as the cycle has been stolen in my presence.
I am seeking forgiveness from you madam, give me one last chance. I came to say this. I wanted to meet sir, but he isn’t at home now. Hum unse maafi mangne hi ayethe madam.
I accept it has been a grave mistake on my part, but I do my work very honestly otherwise. I have done double shifts many times but never complained once about it, as it is my job.”
Saying this Raju folded his hands again.
Mrs. Srikar realised the complete scenario now.
Her heart went out to the mother back in the village, who yearned to see her son amidst these troubled times, to the young wife who must be waiting with baited breath, counting hours and days as to when her husband would arrive and to Raju, the young father who is pining to meet his little one.
A flurry of emotions gripped her. She too was a mother who was away from her children in this lockdown. Everyday, every moment has been so difficult for her and her husband during the last 2 months.
Mrs. Srikar controlled her emotions and said, in her usual, steady voice.
“Raju, I completely understand your situation. Our son is in the US, our daughter is in Dubai, and both Srikar and I are dying to meet them and so are they. This lockdown has made all of us so helpless. Flight have been held and none of us can travel for god knows how many more days. But I will make sure that you meet your family and your little son. Don’t worry”.
Raju felt as if a huge chunk of bricks and stones unloaded from his system. The sense of relief coupled with happiness was so intense that he almost felt numb with joy and didn’t know what to say.
Mrs. Srikar continued.
“I will speak to Pawar dada today. Please collect your salary from him tomorrow. And yes, book your bus ticket at the earliest.”
Mrs. Srikar was this middle aged woman, whom Raju always respected, but today, her graciousness touched his heart and soul. He bent down to touch her feet.
“Bohut bohut dhanyavaad madam. Bhagwaan ke rup me aap aye aur humko sankat mukt Kiyen. Hum ye upkar kabhi nahi bhulenge” (From the core of my heart, I thank you madam. You have saved me from this difficult situation, as if by some intervention. I would never forget this kindness in my life.”
“I just did what I felt is right Raju. Please pray for my children and for us, hope we all meet soon too”. Said Mrs. Srikar.
“Zarur madam. Hum prarthana karenge ki Corona jaldi jaye aur flight chalu ho Jaye. Nischit rup me aap apne bacchon se bohut jald milenge” (Sure madam, I will definitely pray that the lockdown lifts, flights start again and you get to meet your children soon).
Raju came back to his room and sat by the wooden chair.
He looked at the cover picture of Bajrangbali in his mobile and said ‘He Sankatmochan Hanuman, Srikar madam ne mujhe aaj bohut badhe mushkil se bachaya. Unka aur unke parivaar ka bhala karna Prabhu”. (O Lord Hanuman, Mrs. Srikar saved me from a very difficult situation today, please protect her family).
He then unlocked his phone and dialled the last called number – ‘Sujata’, his wife.
– Hello Sujata.
– ji kahiye..
– Haa suno. Ma bauji ko bolo.. Hum aa rahe hai…”
(Please inform parents, I am coming!!)