Together in Spirit (A Short Story)

Four-year-old Vihaan woke up in the morning and chirped, “Good Morning Mamma”.

“Good Morning Darling. How are you feeling today? Are you Ok?” asked Smriti stretching on the bed, before moving on to affectionately hug him and pull him into her arms, under the blanket.

Her husband Aditya had already left for the day. He had refrained from waking up Smriti since she had remained awake most of the night for Vihaan. “Yes Ma, I’m better today”. He replied, hugging her back tightly. He was recovering from a high fever and as they lay on the bed, he went on chattering incessantly about everything that he could think of under the sun to let out his early morning energy. In the middle of all this, he realized Smriti’s bangle was hurting him.

“Oh Mamma”, he suddenly complained, almost yelling at her. “You are hurting me.”

“Sorry dear. I’ll make it alright”, she patiently replied and immediately pulled out her hand from under his small frame. At that instant, Vihaan saw Smriti’s mobile phone, on the other side of the bed and raising himself, snatched it swiftly. He loved to see his favourite videos but she seized it back saying “Noooo…you are not watching that. Your eyes will hurt.”

At that he got angry. “Bad Mamma”, he screamed. “You are a very very very very bad mamma.”

Smriti was upset. Wherever did he learn this from? She had tried every method to get him to stay calm and countless times to make him understand but nothing seemed to work.

He was always hyper, refused healthy food and demanded junk. He hardly ate any proper meal during the day, perennially refused milk, had vision issues at his age, kept complaining of headaches and tummy pain all the time. And most of the times he acted stubborn with almost everyone, screamed and ended up beating other children whenever he felt offensive. Yet the children in the neighbourhood were understanding, considering his age and ignoring his behaviours, often invited him to play with them.

Smriti had begun wondering if he needed psychological counselling and had planned to discuss it with Aditya, who had been completely busy. But what he had said just now had somewhere hit Smriti in the heart. She was unable to forget it, especially after her tiff with Aditya.

The night before, Aditya had done something similar. He had sardonically mocked her inability to cook even a simple curry properly when all she was doing was sitting at home and taking care of their son. An extremely irritated Smriti had strongly retorted back at that very moment but somehow the damage had been done. ‘How could he?’, she wondered. ‘What does he know of child-rearing, especially a child like Vihaan, when all he does is returns home in the evening to plonk himself before the TV and especially at a time when Vihaan would be mostly asleep? Does he even know how much the child has grown up since the last several months?’, she found herself thinking angrily.

She found it unable to forgive the derision in his tone. She wondered how much Aditya knew of Vihaan’s problems, since he hardly got any time for himself, forget the child. But whatever it was, he had no right to treat her like this, especially when she had given up her high-flying job to keep their personal lives smooth-sailing. She had never wanted a salary or identity at the cost of family care. She knew that if she went out the way Aditya did, Vihaan and the house would suffer. At the same time, she also understood Aditya’s work tensions and tried to keep him absolved of the home affairs, as much as possible.

During the weekends, Aditya mostly stayed glued to his laptop and when he was not working, he would take time out to play with Vihaan or take them out. Besides this, he had nothing else to deal, as far as Vihaan was concerned. He never bothered about his school progress which was always marred with complaints. Though Vihaan was relatively ok in studies, his behaviour caused a lot of issues everywhere he went. She tried to counsel him several times but it never seemed to work and finally, she began understanding the root cause of the problem. He missed his father’s involvement in his daily activities. Much as Vihaan loved Smriti, nowadays, on several occasions when she had tried to talk to him she found him asking for his father. She wanted to speak to Aditya about it and ask him to stay more involved with their son. Also, there appeared to be some other problem with him, though he was a basically affectionate child.

Smriti loved her only child a lot and showered every affection on him. However, at times, she felt grieved that her sacrifices did not seem enough for Vihaan. Or maybe he did not need this at all. Maybe he found her involvement intrusive and therefore was getting more spoiled due to her presence around.

Smriti wanted Aditya and Vihaan to do well in whatever they did and even though educated, she was willing to give up everything to be their pillar of support but today all her ideas of sacrifice looked like a failure. She wondered about several of her friends who boldly continued advancing in their careers, without giving a damn about family priorities, leaving their children in day-care or with maids.

She pondered if she should scrap her idea of being a stay-at-home mom and pick up the ropes back. Left to himself, Vihaan might probably do well as time passed, the possibility of which might probably get thwarted, should she continued chasing him on everything. She decided to speak to Aditya about this as well.

Several thoughts crossed her mind and she felt utterly confused. After sometime, Vihaan forgot everything and came around to a still upset Smriti asking her to carry him.

Smriti replied “No beta, I will not. Just sometime back you said that I was a very bad Mamma. So why would I carry you?” Hearing that he became remorseful and began howling loudly while hugging her tightly. “Sorry Mamma, I’m Sorry. I would never do that again.”, he promised.

Refusing to give in for some more time, Smriti finally melted and taking the crying boy on her lap, squeezed him back tightly and comforted him. “Never do that again ok? Never say Mamma-Daddy are bad ok?”, She coaxed him. “Ok Mamma”, he replied, his mood slightly restored.

The day went past as usual. In the evening, Aditya returned home late. He had informed Smriti that he had to attend a dinner meeting with his colleagues. Vihaan had been put to sleep. He came around to the kitchen, where Smriti was winding up for the day and hugged her tightly.

He had sensed Smriti’s annoyance yesterday and had refrained from saying anything in the heat of that moment. “I am really very sorry about yesterday. I should not have said that. I don’t know, what came over me. Maybe, it’s the work pressure in the office, which is kind of destroying my sanity. I am aware Vihaan has a problem and you are trying to cope with him as best as possible while managing everything single-handed, never once asking for my support during the past several months so that I am not disturbed. But lately, excessive work stress has been taking a toll on me and I did not realise what I was saying. Had it not been for a solid partner like you, would I have been able to get this far? Today we got to know that my boss and his wife are getting divorced since he caught her having an affair with someone, all because of the late hours that we have been putting in since the last several months. Though I remained tongue-tied yesterday, I had immediately realized my mistake and this shocker news that came today made me count my blessings. Please forgive me.”

Smriti hugged him back tightly. Everything she had planned to tell him about wanting to start back vanished into thin air for she could clearly see that all was well with her world. Vihaan was just a child and whatever his issue was could be handled, as long as Aditya was beside her.

What mattered was they were together in spirit. Once again her regrets disappeared like a puff of smoke and she thanked God for this blessing of love in the form of a sweet family.

That night as they silently lay in each other’s arms exhausted, each one of them found themselves lost in their own thoughts with the feeling uppermost on their minds, “We are going to miss this someday.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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