Discovering the Self

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Nov 10

Discovering the Self (By Telly_News) (Thanked: 1 times)

Yes, Ranjan grew up after his college days, often being called on a lighter note by his retired parents, as ‘Shravan Kumar’ – who as recorded in Indian mythology, was a young boy who devoted himself in the care of his old blind parents. Ranjan’s middle class family was one of intellectuals and this instilled an immense pride in him. He was a happy-go-lucky boy like any other teenager fresh from having spent five years in the hostel for his graduation degree in engineering. Full of energy and gusto to be back home in Delhi after all those years of being away and missing the warmth of home environs, he in his youthful naivety, silently took it upon himself the mantle of filling the void at home for his parents.

Ranjan’s married elder brother, a year earlier had shifted home due to some misunderstandings with the parents. Whereas his sister Rupa who was the eldest in the family, had got married some years ago and was also living nearby in the same colony. And specially on the weekends, on the day of her visits, Ranjan felt excited as there was always a special menu planned by his mother. His father being a full-time writer after retirement, was mostly engrossed in his work. Ranjan’s sister, a lecturer herself and being involved with literature, spent many an hour in discussions with their father.

Both his brother and sister had always been more aggressive in nature whereas he was the emotional and accommodative type. As is happens often, being the youngest in the family, Ranjan in the childhood days, was always the handiest one for small errands and had uncomplainingly got used to it. And being third in hierarchy within the children, it was mostly his sister and occasionally his brother, who had the last say. Inevitably and unknowingly, he had always found himself towing the line. And like it happens with children, many times he had to be loud and dramatic to make his presence felt. His parents initially had been very boastful about the brilliance of their two elder children. However, after their constraint relationship with his elder brother, it was his sister Rupa who was the apple of their eyes.

Ranjan was quick to become a part of the household scenario once again– busy with his new job and happily lending a hand with household responsibilities. He became a favorite of his nephew and niece, often babysitting when they were dropped by his sister for an evening or when she was visiting. Ranjan had also kept in touch with a few college friends who were based in Delhi. In fact, coincidently, one of them- Sahil, lived in the same colony. It gradually became a habit for them to catch up after dinner for a chat over a walk and sneak in a smoke at the cigarette kiosk in the market. Sahil often gave Ranjan company when he occasionally went to his sister’s nearby house to be with her children when she and her husband had to go out in the evening. And his Saturdays which were a holiday for him, many a times got consumed assisting his parents handling the visits to the banks and companies where they had invested for monthly returns.

The modern-day ‘Shravan Kumar’ accepted this new life without thinking too much on being an ever-available helping hand for his parents and sister. His parents while occasional playfully chatter with him, would hint in undertones, that it was he who they looked upon to carry the baton across. These chats would leave him a bit confused and yet emotionally charged him.


Time had no doubt gone by swiftly. It was two years now since Ranjan had come back home after graduation. Office, friends and home— all had kept him going steady and he had started feeling settled in the new life-pattern. His friendship with Sahil had grown stronger and they shared many personal thoughts with each other. In fact, they acted as ‘advisers’ to one another. Ranjan had recently changed his job and was adjusting to the new work orientation. At the home front, his involvements had increased further. His father was devoting greater time to his writing. Ranjan’s sister Rupa was now working on a translation project along with his father and so was a frequent visitor. As a result, her children used to spend many a night with their grandmother and Ranjan had got used to the morning exercise of assisting her getting them dressed and then dropping them to the school bus stop.

One night while out for a walk with Sahil, Ranjan pensively shared with him, “I have been offered a job in Dubai and the terms are good. What do you say? Take it?”

Sahil was quick to respond, “Of course, if the deal is good—why not?”

“Yes, everything offered is appears okay,” Ranjan replied, and went silent.

Puzzled at the non-plus reaction, Sahil patted him on the back, “Then what are you thinking about? It will be a good experience and I’m sure more money. What do your parents say?”

Ranjan took a deep puff of the cigarette he was smoking, “Well, to be honest, I haven’t spoken to them,” he paused and then continued, “I know they would may be, encourage me to accept it.”

“So, what’s the problem then? Talk to them and go for it,” Sahil spoke excitedly. “I would not even think twice if offered a job in Dubai.”

Ranjan smiled at him, “I also would not have thought much if this irk was not there.”

“What holds you back?” queried the friend inquisitively.

They had entered the colony park and sat down on the bench placed along the walking track.

Ranjan lit another cigarette after stubbing the one he had just smoked. “You see, although I know that my parents would have no objections, I also know that they now rely on me quite a bit. Really, I don’t know–.” He was silent for a while toying around with the cigarette. “And to be honest, I think things are not going very well with my sister and her husband. I overheard my parents talking about it. I feel they need me here at home,” he spoke thoughtfully.

Sahil too lit a cigarette and with a frown on his face, questioned, “Has your sister talked to you?”

“No- in fact, to be honest, she always talks to my parents, and they in their own way communicate to me anything related to her.” He randomly looked up at the sky, “Surprisingly, my interactions with Rupa have always been generic.” After a pregnant pause, he casually remarked and smiled, “Come to think of it, in our house for our parents, Rupa is the think tank and I am like the legs and arms of the body. Both I guess are equally important –.”

Sahil jokingly said, “I guess she feels you are too young to understand. You should see how my elder brother Manoj talks to me— as if to a child who has little understanding of what is going on.”

Both were quiet for a while. A barking stray dog filled the silence of the night. Ranjan looked at Sahil and spoke with determination in his voice, “I have made up my mind. I’ll send a refusal to the offer.”

“Really! Don’t be hasty— think about it for a while.”

“No, my being here I think is important for the family. Yes, I’ve made up my mind.” Ranjan looked relieved after this decision, and the smile on his face was back.

His friend shrugged his shoulders, “Well, you know the situation best. But this is sure a fantastic opportunity for you.” He got up from the bench, “Come, let’s go- I have to send a few urgent emails.”

The two friends chatted for a while and then took to the respective lanes leading to their homes.

When Ranjan reached home, he was introduced to his father’s poet friend and  wife who were visiting. Both met Ranjan very warmly. He soon recollected that he had paid a visit to their house a few months back to deliver a recently published book of his father. His mother asked him to sit down with all of them which surprised him, as normally when his father’s writer friends came over, after the basic courtesies, everyone would get busy talking and he would politely find his way out. Today, both uncle and aunty were wanting to make talk with him. They were keen to know how his work was progressing and were in fact keenly chatting with him. The conversation went on for some time and then excusing himself, went to his room.

It was later in the night when after they had left that his mother came and informed him that they had come specifically to query if he would be interested to consider marriage with their daughter. Though not prepared for this, Ranjan in his stride agreed to meet her the following week.

It all happened very fast. Over a period of a month, they met many times and both experienced the positive vibrations to give their consent. His parents seemed to be happy and he sensed that they were also eager that he entered wedlock. The marriage took place a month later. His sister Rupa planned a post marriage reception and kept it rather austere without pomp.

Soon a new journey of domestic adjustments started for him and his wife Snehal. She was not really the demanding types and took to the new household rather smoothly. Presumably this was also because she was a good listener and quite accommodative. Being a working woman herself, she well understood the pressures of a job in his context also. Having been a part of a few conversations when Ranjan was jokingly addressed as Sharavan by his parents, she was appreciatively amused.

A new routine emerged in the household. Life no doubt had changed quite dramatically for Ranjan and he happily flowed along with the emerging lifestyle.


It was three years after Ranjan’s marriage. His friend Sahil had shifted to Qatar having accepted a job offer there. He himself, two years back, had taken another professional plunge. He shifted job with a promotion. His father had expressed his reservation about the job change, as he felt that the earlier one was a more stable one.  Ranjan had decided to go for it because apart from it being more challenging, it carried a much better pay package. He had since the past few months, started feeling a bit of the monetary pinch. After marriage, he and Snehal had on their own accord, started paying a fixed amount to his mother for household spending. They had also, having sold his old motorbike, bought a car and were paying instalments for it. “A little extra money is always welcome,” he had thought to himself.

And last year Ranjan had been offered by his company to shift to Mumbai as the Head of the department that he was involved in Delhi. It was to set up a totally new division. Snehal had been all for it, but after a lot of debate, they had concluded to forgo the offered opportunity. It would have been a huge career jump, but he somehow strongly felt obliged to his parents to be with them in Delhi.

In the recent months, Rupa his sister, had started staying back more often. Ranjan and Snehal assumed that this was not only because of the new literary project that she was working on with their father, but also because of the increasingly souring relationship with her husband. Over a period, Ranjan felt that she had become increasingly assertive, for which no explanation came to him. Though she as always didn’t talk anything much of substance with him directly, his mother had casually off and on talked to him a bit on this subject. He also sensed that apart from conversing about household work issues, his mother shared a lot less now with him about other family issues. But he brushed aside these thoughts without attaching any seriousness to them and in fact put in more to ease the pressures on his mother.

Snehal and his nephew and niece had developed a bond and she had cheerfully started participating in their care when they were around. In fact, on occasions when they stayed back, it was she who now dropped them to the school bus stand on the way to her office. The ‘Shravan Kumar’ spirit had quite got embedded in her also. Her involvement in daily c****s had gradually increased, though she felt that Ranjan’s mother during the past few weeks, had been discouraging her to be participant in activities which earlier with enthusiasm, had been thrust on her. She had shared this with Ranjan who laughingly had commented, “Good for you-. Don’t think too much.”


It was a lazy Saturday morning for Ranjan and Snehal. They had come back rather late last night after attending a birthday party of a close friend of hers. He went to the dining room for some food. His parents were in the process of finishing their breakfast. Sitting down with them, he spoke matter-of-factly, “Morning — and Rupa is not having breakfast?”

His mother seemed to be in a somber mood, “She decided to go home late last night. And where is Snehal?”

“Oh, she is in the washroom”, he replied while pouring tea for himself.  

His father had a sip from his tea mug, and while getting up slowly, said, “It would be good if you and Snehal come to my room after breakfast. We need to discuss a few things.”

There was a tension in his father’s voice and Ranjan asked, “Hope everything is all right?”

“Yes, have your breakfast and come and we’ll talk”, he said stepping out of the room.

Just then Snehal also joined in on the table, and he informed her about his father wanting to have a chat with them. She looked at him inquisitively as her father-in-law had never called them together to converse.

Ranjan questioningly looked at his mother who picked up her empty plate, “I’ve finished eating. Come and we’ll talk.”

They both were a bit puzzled and after finishing breakfast, walked to his father’s room. Ranjan carried his second cup of tea along with him.

His father was sitting behind his working desk and his mother on the chair adjacent to the desk. Snehal and Ranjan went and sat down on the nearby bed.

His father lit a cigarette and came straight to the point, “You see, how should I put it–. You must be knowing that Rupa and her husband have not been getting along with each other. Well, so she has decided to shift from her flat for a while.” He paused and pulled hard at the cigarette. “Now, it might get difficult for her to stay alone with the children,” he paused and look at Ranjan’s mother, who nodded silently. He continued, “So, last night we had a long discussion with Rupa, and decided that it would be best if she shifted here with the children.”

Ranjan had been listening very attentively, “Why- yes of course, that is a good idea.”  Ponderingly, he observed, “It would no doubt be difficult for her to manage by herself.” Getting up from the bed, he spoke pensively, “I didn’t have an idea that things had gone so wrong between them. Come to think of it, nobody has shared anything much with me.”

His mother shrugged her shoulders, “Well, that is not the point really.”

His father cut in, “Ranjan, last night when you were out, we have discussed it at great length.” He coughed, and continued, “You would realize that if she shifts here with bag and baggage, we would be short of space,” he glanced at Ranjan’s mother who again nodded.

Ranjan looked a bit lost and asked with concern, “And Rupa and you feel sure that the best way forward for her is to leave her home?”

His father was looking for the lighter, which probably had got buried in the maze of papers on the table. Finding it, he lit another cigarette, “Yes, as I said, we have thought about it all—and Rupa is definitive that she would like to move from there- may be for a while.”

Ranjan’s mother spoke up with a hint of abruptness, “Ranjan, the point your father is trying to make is that if she moves in here, then we don’t have those many rooms to accommodate everybody.” She fidgeted with her hair and after a deep breath, continued avoiding eye contact with Ranjan, “We therefore thought of asking you to look for some rented accommodation nearby.”

Ranjan looked at his father, “But I thought you said that she would be shifting here?”

His father replied, “Yes, she would be shifting here. What your mother is asking you to do is look for accommodation for yourself and Rupa— and excuse me, I’ll   have to go to the washroom.” He rushed towards the toilet door.

Ranjan was taken aback by what his father had said and turned to Snehal. She looked up to him in a bewildered mode. He then addressed his mother, “This is confusing for us and sudden.” He went and sat down next to Snehal on the bed.”

“Your father would have not talked about it if he was not convinced about this decision—and you know him, once he takes a decision then does not really think about it again,” his mother was soft in her tone. Getting up from her chair, she said, “Let me make some tea.”

Snehal too got up in a hurry and told him that she was going to their room. Her watery eyes portrayed her state of mind. Ranjan looked up at the ceiling and pondered if he should talk to his father further who was still in the washroom, but then slowly got up and went to their room.                                                        


Ranjan asked the waiter for two cups of strong coffee. Both he and Snehal seemed to be in a bit of a daze to this new development. Wanting a change in environment, they walked it to the nearby coffee cafe in the market.

Snehal was slowly regaining her composure. She smiled at him and broke the silence, “So Ranjan or shall I call you Shravan Kumar– what do you have to say?”

Ranjan shook his head, “What do I say! I still have not been able to digest what they have said— without even a discussion with me! Shift out-.” There was unease in his voice.

“Then why don’t you talk to them–. You are their Shravan Kumar!”

He looked at her and smiled, “Yes, you can pull my leg. It is a very awkward situation. As always, Rupa has not shared anything with me about this matter, nor have my parents and yet I am just supposed to follow the decision— but nothing new really.” He seemed to have got lost in his thoughts.

Snehal brought him back and spoke earnestly, “It would be best to talk with them about it. Will we be able to manage it financially?” Her eyes were watery again. “Asking us to uproot for no fault of ours— sounds crazy!”

“I know my father. It would be futile to talk to him and may lead to an unpleasant situation. And didn’t you hear my mother say that he was sure of his decision and would really not think again.”

“So Sharavan Kumar, what you suggest is that we look for a flat and quietly shift out? And you think they will be okay without you being around?”

Ranjan did not reply. The waiter brought the coffee with some very nice looking complimentary cookies.

“If only you had listened to me and taken the Mumbai offer!” Snehal had remorse in her voice.

Ranjan was staring intensely at the coffee in his cup. After a long silence, he transferred the intensity towards Snehal. “I think I have made up my mind. We will not go and discuss this matter further with my father. Yes, we will shift as soon as possible.” He straightened his shoulders and pulled back his hair.

“Are you sure?” Snehal sat up seeing the resolute in him.

Gulping down some coffee, he spoke with a definitiveness, “Snehal, it would be the best for us. I am not going to again be putting myself in the shoes of my family and thinking. I am going to wear my own shoes and move ahead.”

Snehal while still trying to grasp Ranjan’s mood, felt a tingling excitement, “Are you serious?”

There was a twinkle in his eyes which she had never observed before, “Of course I am. Snehal let us take the step. I don’t want to as always, go and — and in a way plead and ultimately hit a dead wall! They know what best they are doing.” He finished his coffee, “And henceforth, we’ll think what is best for us-.”

His confidence was infectious. Her gaze was a fixed one for a while, as if combating the wavering thoughts. She then spoke slowly, “If you are convinced, then I’m with you. We’ll work it out-.” There seemed to be a sense of pride in her voice.

Ranjan gave out a rather loud laugh which the lone other customer in the café found amusing, “Snehal, the journey begins now— from Sharavan Kumar to being myself– I feel like the enlightened one.”

Snehal was just staring at him and regaining her jovial self, said, “Well, the modern-day Shravan’s experience has been a unique one. It’s a new age–.”

Having payed the bill, he took her hand, “Now that we are in the market, come, let’s visit the property dealer at the other side.”



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