Chapter 4

Now that Holi was over, there were only a few days left before the examinations and by the time Ajita had finished her daily work she felt tired and sleepy. It was at this time that both her husband and mother-in-law fell ill. Vijay had a stroke of malaria and Jaya contracted cholera. Vijay had become very weak and Jaya was advised to take complete rest and all due precautions.

“You are very tired, Ajita. Go and take rest for a while.”  Vijay said as he watched Ajita go about her chores. For the last several days, Ajita did not get the time to take proper rest. She was overloaded with work.

“You have to work throughout the day even as you are preparing for your exams,” Vijay said with a low and apologetic tone.

“Just relax”, Ajita brought a glass of milk and toast for Vijay.  She had given tea and biscuits to her mother – in – law. “Don’t feel bad and please do not worry about me.  I am fine and you are not responsible for your illness. One can fall ill, at any time.”

“I will feel bad if you do not score well.  You have been studying throughout the year and now, you are disturbed at the time of examination.”

“It does not matter if I get fewer marks. I just need to pass this exam to get a degree.” Ajita managed to look relaxed.


The doorbell rang.

The landlord, Mr. Bannerji entered the house.  Vijay greeted him and Ajita went to the kitchen to get him some tea.

“How are you feeling now, Mr. Vijay?  My wife told me yesterday that your mother and you are not keeping well.”

“I am better now, but my mother is still not well.” Vijay answered in a low voice because of weakness.

Hospitality towards guests during illness sometimes becomes really problematic.  Whoever would hear about their illness would come to inquire their welfare. For Ajita, it was added work to attend to those guests.

Ajita really needed someone who could help her this time. She missed Gaurav who had gone out for a college trip.

She kept the tea and biscuits on the tray and came in the living room where Mr. Bannerji was saying, “Two months later, my elder son will be getting married and my accommodation is not sufficient to adjust everyone so I will require this portion for him.  I am sorry to say this now when you are sick, but I preferred to intimate you early, so that you get enough time to search a new accommodation for yourself.”

Abhi, who was sitting next to his father, asked Vijay: “New accommodation? What does that mean, Papa?  This is our house. Why would we go from here? Why is uncle saying so?”  A shadow of tension appeared on Abhi’s face.  He looked at everyone for the answer.

Ajita took him inside.

Abhi still could not understand why they had to change the house.  He loved his house very much.  He was born in this house.  His friends were here.  He was comfortable in this house.

“I will not go anywhere.  I will stay here only.  If you want to go, you may go”  Abhi became restless.  He wanted to hear from his mother that they would not go.

“Abhi you have got your bat and ball.  If you give Anand to play with your bat and then you ask him to give back when you need. Should Anand give it back or not?”

“Yes, of course Mom, It is my bat so he must give it back when I want”.

“But if he says, I like this and I won’t give it back.  Will he be right?”

“No, he will have to give it back, it is wrong to keep other people’s things.”

“So do you agree the owner should be given back his possession whenever he wants?”

“Yes, I agree.” Abhi remembered, a day before, he shared his bat with Anand.  Now he would not share it with anyone.  A thought of possessiveness came into his mind.

“The same way this house belongs to Mr. Bannerji, and now he wants it back from us.  We took it from him when he did not need, but now he requires for his own use, we should give him back.”  Ajita said, but she knew her innocent child did not know that this was a rented house. A child of such a small age cannot understand what a rented house means. He just knew that it was his own home, which he cherished a lot.

A feeling of guilt, sadness and loss filled her.  This house, with all the beautiful memories was close to her heart. She came into this house after marriage. A new phase of life began here. She remembered each and every moment she had spent here. When Abhi was born, they bought a pram for him. Abhi enjoyed lying on his pram, and somebody had to rock it continuously, until he slept.  When he started standing on his feet, the window, over the bed was his favorite location of the house. He loved watching the street from there. From that stage, Abhi started liking cars and loved counting them. He was acquainted with all kinds of vehicles, fruits, vegetables, vendors, serviceman, colors, and seasons of that street.

A trail of memories was passing through her mind.

They had developed a close affinity with the neighbours. Ten years are enough to develop a relationship among people. They had many friends there and celebrated all the festivals together. Abhi had never demanded another sibling as he had many companions in the neighbourhood.  Life in the house had been like a beautiful journey where every day was full of excitement and happening.

Ajita came to Vijay after Mr. Bannerji left. She found Vijay’s eyes were filled with tears and he was looking really tense. Ajita knew why he was feeling helpless. Vijay was a simple and honest man with nervous temperament. Moving house at such a short notice was not only physically hard, but also emotionally draining.  The more he thought, the more nervous he got.

“Do not worry.  We will sort out this problem.  We just have to change the house. So many people change their house every year.  That is not a big deal” Ajita encouraged her husband. Ajita put up a false sense of bravado.

Change is the reality of life, and they had to accept this.

Ajita convinced both Abhi and Vijay to have the courage and look ahead to facing this challenge.  They all decided not to feel sad about this change. Although they all knew in their hearts that these were mere words of consolation, they had no other choice.


After two days, Gaurav returned from the tour and joined them in their search for a new flat. At last they found one, which was smaller in space but higher in rent. It was located hardly two kilometers away from their current home.

They decided to shift immediately before her examination started.

Everyone was busy in packing, but Jaya was very upset and annoyed with Vijay and Ajita for their decision to shift from there. She was not ready to understand the situation.

“You scoundrel, keep the luggage carefully.  You all don’t know your work properly; If any of the articles break I will not pay you a single penny.”  Jaya was scolding and shouting the laborers’ who were unloading the luggage from the truck and moving it into their new flat.

“I am telling you, fools.  Why do you not understand my words?”  “Take the luggage carefully on the stairs. No article should be broken.”  She again shouted at the laborer who was trying hard to lift the huge carton to the third floor of the building. The steps were very steep and high.

Jaya was furious with the laborers throughout the day. By the evening, the laborers had got used to her thunderbolts. They remained calm. Might be they felt the pain of shifting from the place called “home sweet home”.

Ajita was busy unpacking the cartons. Vijay and Abhi were assisting her to arrange the furniture and other things in much smaller rooms. First, they made Jaya’s room so that she could take a rest. She was completely drained by the end of the disappointing day.


“Everybody, please come for dinner.” Gaurav called Jaya, Ajita, Abhi and Vijay.  He had brought dinner from a hotel as the kitchen was still not set up.

Everyone was very hungry after a very long and hectic day. They reached the table in no time.  Jaya announced that she did not want dinner as she was not hungry and wanted to go to sleep.

Everyone knew why Jaya was not having food.  That was not the first time when she said so. She had developed the habit of saying ‘no’ to supper whenever she was angry or upset. Abhi and Vijay started their supper as they could not resist the mouthwatering aroma of the food and pickle.  Ajita could not eat without her mother-in-law. Like every time Ajita came to request her to join.  Jaya always agreed to eat at the end of a long conversation.  The same drama happened that day also.  When Jaya agreed, everyone enjoyed the Matar Paneer, Malai Kofta with soft and warm chapatis and mixed vegetable pickle.  Gaurav somehow managed to make tea in the still-to-be-set-up kitchen.  The delicious food relieved them from the physical and mental pain they had endured during the day.  Soon they realized how tired they were, so they slept wherever they found a place to sleep.

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