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A Birthday Gift - Short Story About Mother's Gift

Mr. Sen glanced towards the wall, the hands of the clock indicated that it was three in the afternoon. He would have to leave office right away and go for his appointment with the doctor. He looked up at his assistant Shrabasti, sitting in front of him and announced that he had to leave immediately and that she should finish the pending work before she left for the day. Shrabasti looked up with a start slowly coming out of her thoughts and nodded slowly. Mr. Sen had noticed recently that his assistant had become absent minded. She had always been a star performer and the different departments of the organization vied to have her services. Mr. Sen had fought quite doggedly to retain her in this section but certain personal issues had mentally disturbed Shrabasti to quite an extent and he was well aware of that. He had tried to be as helpful as possible in his own way but deep inside he knew that no amount of sympathy was enough to make her feel better.

Mr. Sen packed his Tiffin and umbrella into his smart looking leather bag and made his way out of the office. “See you tomorrow” he said as he left. Shrabasti nodded in acknowledgement. The figures on the paper made little sense to her at the moment. Her mind had been wandering and trying to push back the thoughts did not help. They came back to haunt her and the deep uncertainty of the situation made her uneasy. Shrabasti, sat up straight and looked at her watch. It was three-thirty, Gargi and Babita her two colleagues peeped into the chamber and found that Mr. Sen had left. “Shrabasti Di, what are you doing?

Still working? It is your birthday and you should be on your way home, your family must be waiting to cut the cake” chuckled Gargi. “Nah, say that her hubby dear will be waiting for her with open arms” said Babita mischievously with a twinkle in her eyes. Shrabasti smiled. Yes she had to leave early.

Her two sons Tatun and Simba would be dancing in excitement and waiting to cut the cake on their mother’s birthday. She made her way to the washroom. Washed her face and looked up into the mirror. At 39 she looked good she felt, taking into consideration the mental state she was in. Shrabasti was not a classical beauty in fact she was short and had a dark complexion but had the most beautiful pair of eyes in the world. Friends and colleagues adored her for the person she was. Her helpful nature made her touch people’s heart, inspite of all her problems she never forgot to wish people on their birthdays and anniversary and was a wonderful host to people who visited her home. She brushed her hair and adjusted her dupatta. The rust color new dress which she wore looked gorgeous on her. It was time she left.

Her colleagues gathered around her as she collected her belongings and gift packet which they had given her on her birthday. Another round of wishing and joking followed before she finally left. Making her way to the nearest suburban train station Shrabasti sunk back into her melancholic mood once again. Tatun her elder son was a sweet child but was enormously hyperactive. He was always upto something which was dangerous and disturbing. He was an average student and had to be regularly cajoled, threatened or spanked to get through his regular studies and exams. It was not Tatun though who disturbed her more. It was Simba, her three year ten month old younger son who was born with Downs’ Syndrome and had been the source of a lot of distress. After he was born Shrabasti came to know about the pitfalls of a child having Downs’ Syndrome.

Slow learning process, being prone to illness and a constant need to attend to him was taking a toll on her. She had become irritable and having to manage her home, aged in-laws, her office and two kids was becoming too much of a stress for her.

In two months time SImba would turn four years and yet he was yet to speak and this had been the biggest disappointment she was facing right now. Speech therapy sessions and visits to doctors had yet not given her the joy of hearing her son speak. Not being able to speak meant he would not get into a proper school. A drop of tear moved down her cheek as she settled into a seat in the train taking her homeward. Tatun would turn eleven soon and his constant defiance of Sinjin’s efforts to discipline him made her lose her temper often. Nowadays he had taken to taking Simba inside a room and locking the door with a plea that he would play with his younger brother. Given Tatun’s temperament his grandparents were apprehensive that he might hurt Simba while playing one of his dangerous games.

When queried, Tatun never came up with a proper answer as to what he had been doing with his brother inside the room. Shrabasti’s husband was busy with his business and found little time to spend with them.

Shrabasti let out a sigh. She felt cornered and over burdened by the situation. The train moved into her home platform and she brightened up at the thought of being able to spend time with her children on her birthday. She disembarked from the train and made her way through the lanes of Birati. She approached the gate and was surprised to see that no one was the gate. It was usual to find them near the gate if they knew mom was coming home early and Shrabasti had expected Tatun to be jumping around in excitement with SImba in tow. The door was open and this too was unusual, as she moved inside she peeked into her mother-in-law’s room and found her sleeping while her father-in-law sat on an easy chair with his eyes closed, obviously resting. She still could find her sons and called out for Tatun. Bappa, her husband was also not at home and a sudden fear gripped her that something terrible must have happened to SImba. She swiftly moved on to the first floor and just as she approached the door of the room, Tatun came out smiling. Shrabasti felt disappointed and irritated. Tatun must have been playing with SImba as he usually did and had perhaps forgotten that it was his mom’s birthday, she thought. “What have you been up to? Where is Simba?” she asked somewhat sternly. Tatun just shrugged his shoulders and said “Oh, we were just getting your birth-day gift ready”.

Curiosity took over Shrabasti as she walked behind Tatun, quickening her steps. “What is that?” she asked, trying to think of what it could be possible and why he had involved SImba in his activity. A strange sense of apprehension tinged in her mind. “I think you should change your clothes and wash before you can have your gift” said Tatun matter-of-factly as he walked down the stairs like an adult. Shrabasti glanced inside the room and saw Simba sitting quietly on the sofa and her eyes searched for a hidden packet or something which she could make out to be her gift. She found none. Reluctantly she walked back to her room as she knew pressing Tatun any further would not yield any result. He could be very adamant if he chose to be so. She went to the washroom, changed her clothes and drank a glass of water and tried to remain as calm as possible. Tatun suddenly appeared in front of their bedroom and said “it is time to have your gift, please come upstairs” and turned around to walk up the stairs.

Shrabasti followed her son like a dutiful mother. On reaching the room, Tatun turned to his mother and said, “Every year I give you something on your birthday and this year SImba will give you something, I just helped him”. Shrabasti found the statement enigmatic but could hardly hold back her intense curiosity and moved straight ahead into the room. “Please sit down on the floor” ordered Tatun. Shrabasti followed what he said mesmerized by the way things were going. Tatun looked up and Simba and nodded smiling an impish smile. Simba moved up slowly and walked towards his mother and suddenly threw his arms around her and said in clear words “Happy birthday ma, I and dada love you so much”. Tears rolled down Shrabasti’s cheeks she pulled both his sons close to her and wept the happiest tears of her life. Tatun had all along helping SImba with his speech and had planned the perfect gift for his mother.

Contributing Story Teller I am Jaideep Majumdar, working with a petroleum major in India and write articles and stories for the print and electrnic media as a freelancer. Presently I stay in Kolkata. [email protected]

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