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Radz always changed the topic , when Laxmi asked her something seriously. But this time Laxmi wouldn’t back off. She move closer to Radhika and said more like plead,” why radhu, why u have to torture yourself like this?? You know u can change your fate. And I will make to change it for u”. She paused for sometime and the next moment she hugged her tight without bothering it was a crowded place, people might be watching them like it’s something funny. she Whispered in low yet clear voice,” I really want u to be happy radhu, to live like us, back to your old self”. Radhika stood statue without figuring what to reply.
Radhika was thinking what to reply Laxmi, but gods grace both guys reached. Ed said mischievously, “ what a lovey –dovey moment between you girls !! I think we missed out something.”
Laxmi parted herself while staring guys, “yes!! You missed many things. But, I am not ashamed to admit I love my darling very much.” By saying that Laxmi pinched Radhika cheek, “ aaahhhh …my sweetooo…soooo cute.”
Radhika laughed,” stop embarrassing me now. Let’s move”.
In these all action reaction Arjun didn’t say one word; but he observed both girls keenly. He might not aware about the reason behind their grumpiness, but he thoroughly got to know that some seriousness was there, which Laxmi tried to hide by her chirpiness and Radhika by silence. “ What problem must Radhika have?? She had a such loving family.. or is it related to Laxmi”, thought Arjun to ask ; but stopped himself by seeing the face of girls. All went to their fun timing.
At first they all went to famous zoo and national park Nandan Kanan where they had a gala time. For Arjun it was new experience. He never went to either national park or zoo. Though he had knowledge about many animals, still he was unknown to some kind of animals for which others made fool out of him and laughed hard. He saw Radhika laughing and engrossed in his thought, “if she will laugh like this, I will love to do this stupidity again and again.”
Funniest moment happened when Ed was intently observing a monkey and started to chewing foods, monkey jumped on him by crossing iron rod barriers. He ran away with all his power followed by monkey. “Why the hell he is after me? What I did?” He ran to his gang hide behind them. Radz told him to throw away some foods to monkey and told him not to mock or tame monkey. He threw some fruits and snacks in other direction as monkey ran away. In all of this game Arjun enjoyed very much, laughing heavily. Ed glared him when Arjun was still laughing. When they entered into snake house Laxmi went to one corner and stood silently shutting her eyes tight. Radhika was trying to drag her, tired she said, “ they are inside glass bars , they won’t come out , plus I am here with you why you stood like a statue there.” Laxmi was going to reply something both halted hearing Ed,” look Albert this is what we called a seductress. Serpent fits it, look man the way she crawls and move.” Arjun looked him perplexed, might be thought how a dangerous snake can compared to women. In fact all looked him wide eyed. After some hours they left Animal Park.
Then they went to Pathani Samanta planetarium. Topic for the day was “creation of baby universe”. After having fun at there all went to Nicco Park. Just then Nandini’s call came. She asked everyone to join her immediately. And the happiest person was Arjun. He didn’t know why he felt those missing motherly love. Before that they all went to university and submitted the short report about previous sites. Poornima was glad that her students took good care of new students.
Surprising fact when all went to Radhika home. Sanyukta (Laxmi’s mother) and Abinash, her father both was available. A random gossip was going on between elders. Dilip came forward and happily welcome guests. But Abinash stood there at same position with an expressionless face. He went to Radhika and side hugged her. Laxmi’s father cared Radhika very much. He asked about her matters and turned away when boys tried to greet them throwing a weird look. Both Arjun and Ed looked each other stunned with Abinash’s reaction and shrugged off. However Nandini and sanyukta came to made up the odd situation by all smiling.
Nandini was almost shocked when Arjun touched her feet. “you don’t need to do that”, exclaimed Nandini still in trance.
“No aunty, even if I raised in Canada, I know it’s one of important greeting and customs to take blessings from elders by touching their feet.”, said Arjun smiling. “Though I did forget at first time because of my other thoughts.. But I am not forgetting it..Sorry”, he explained it further.
After did same with Dilip, sanyukta; he went to get blessings from Laxmi’s father followed by Ed, though Ed was surprised by Arjun’s behaviour. Laxmi’s father went away without letting the boys to do that. Later he went out by reasoning he had some urgent work. Boys felt uncomfortable without able to guess any proper reason. Sanyukta pulled them to dining not letting them to think further.
Before Nandini served, Arjun asked,” aunty, today you goanna feed Radhika like previous day”?
Nandini smiled as her eyes twinkling,” yes, of course. No matter how she eats, but first bite I always feed her. And I love to do that. “She looked Radhika lovingly who stared her too with beams of happiness.
Arjun was observing them. A tinge of pain passed across his body, a bit of envy too. He remembered one of his childhood incidents just before his parents’ divorce. Arjun went to park with his grandmother Avni Mehera, who was a big reason for Anuj Mehera’s love failure. There he saw some antics of children with their parents and came back with a hope might be his mom would feed him, play with him, and buy him toffees. But he saw his parents fighting verbally with each other, pointing out each other’s guilt mistakes. Anuj tried to stop when he saw Arjun. But his mother Elena screamed,” why are you silent now? To show your son that you are very good and caring that you never did mistake.”
Anuj just tried to stop her,” is he not your son? And please Elena stop for god shake. It’s not good for Arjun to hear all this now”.
Elena shouted even more,” he is Albert, not Arjun. I damn care about if he listens anything. You still have your previous relationship and acted all innocent. What’s the big deal if I met someone else, who have ability to fulfil my dream. I don’t want to stay with a looser like you.” Then Elena picked up her bag and rushed out, halt at doorstep throwing a sharp glare to Arjun. She was mad with anger, spitted venomously to Anuj by indirectly pointing Arjun,” he is the biggest mistake of my life.”.. Which earned her a slap from Anuj? She left home after that and then after two months divorce happened.
At that tender age might be Arjun didn’t understand anything but he only deciphered that because Anuj slapped Elena, so divorce happened. But each and every statement stayed there as he already wrote on his heart. Later when he came to age of understanding, while working at a painting gallery Anuj met him. He hissed out of hatred,” only because of you and your ridiculous disgusting first love, I got abandoned. My lovely mom has no time for me. Only you are responsible for everything. I hate you, beyond your thoughts.”
Anuj tried to held Arjun while he pushed him. Anuj seems hurt but only said ,” I don’t know son. But if you ever witness true love and affection of a mother, you may understand the meaning of a real mother. I hope you’ll start to forgive me after that.”
Every time Anuj wanted to meet Arjun either he denied straight or insults him. That continued until his Grandmother Avni Mehera’s last time. On her last time she requested Arjun,” don’t insult, don’t get angry on my son. It was my entire mistake I didn’t heard him in past. Anuj is a son who never disobeys me. He loves you a lot my child. It’s just I did some mistake for which I resent myself till now.” After sometime Avni said,” time will make you understand what is real, what is fake…very soon.” On Avani’s last right Elena Was absent. Later she reasoned some absurd things.
His thoughts broken by pinch of Ed below the table. Arjun asked,” what?”
Nandini looked perplexed,” is it that bad, so you don’t wanna eat anything?”
Before Arjun could answer Radhika said,” no Maa..it’s so tasty. Don’t ever doubt on your cooking.” Arjun seconded that immediately.
Radhika narrowed her eyes,” then why don’t you start to eat, when we are almost done.”
He thought what should he reply. He drowned in his painful past memory lane. He never knew whenever he meets Nandini he immediately started to compare her with his own mother, to be accurate only biological mother. What he always wanted from his mother he found everything in Nandini. Anuj’s and Avani’s words were ringing in his ear constantly. He could clearly saw the difference between real and fake. Was his father always been right? was he wrong to know his father? For the first time his heart felt numb suddenly. True, he realized after seeing true affection from a mother, his heart too started melting for his dad. He got up suddenly and excused himself politely and went to his dorm.
Ed was already acquainted with Arjun’s behaviour. So without any surprise he made all understand and got up to go. Laxmi went with him to see off till gate. Laxmi was trying to say something but hesitates how to say. Ed held Laxmi’s hand and said,” you don’t have to feel uncomfortable or hesitate for saying something to me. I understand there must be some reason behind uncle’s behaviour.”
Laxmi looked at him surprised, how well this person understood her. She replied,” thanks for understanding. He is like that, but this will not happen again.” Then she mumbled,” I need to talk with radhu, only she makes my father understand.”
Arjun reached his room and shut the door with a thud leaving a startled Remy behind him. Remy was happy by thinking Arjun was in bad mood because of Radhika. Moreover she knew it was going to start a new life for Arjun. He was pacing inside room by holding phone. He dialled Anuj one moment and cut the call next moment. That was continued until he awake.
Next day all meet at university. Laxmi and Ed already left for khandagiri and udayagiri hill and caves. Radhika decided they will join them later after Lingaraj temple visit. Radhika looked Arjun who looked tired and pale. He was not attentive also. She said, “ when we have some confusion , we should leave it and do what we want. Otherwise our life will become miserable, by living through heaps of “if”. If I did that, then that may happen or not. So why don’t confirm it.” Arjun looked her, trying to understand her meaning. They reached at famous Lingaraj temple, which had historical, mythological, architectural importance. It was the temple devoted to lord Shiva. Arjun just stared being amazed the main sanctum surrounded by 100 small temples. It was look like a garland of temples having main big temple in middle. And the architecture had no comparison.
“ A gigantic construction between 1025 -1065 AD, about 180ft height dominating the landscape of city. It was a big surprise that how big pieces of rock could be lifted to such a great height when modern devise were quite unknown to that time of remote history. Like other main temple it had too four sections ; Viman ( main sanctum where the holy deity worshipped), Jagamohana ( assembly hall), Natamandira (festival hall), Bhogamandapa ( bhoga , food for god offered from hall of offering). That was the ancient style of kalinga architecture.”
Arjun looked amazed, looked Radhika seeking more details. she asked Arjun to go inside and check intently. He was adamant he would saw only sculptures not deity. Finally he went inside after Radhika promised that she would not push him and he would wait for her at hall. Radhika explains while they were circling around whole small temples,” these temples were built by somavansi rulers (descendants of moon god) Jajati Keshari and Lalatendu Keshari. The temple decorated with various sculptures and scriptures. The stone work described about Hindu Myths and Puranas. At the southern door of hall there, she pointed for Arjun to see; depicted marriage scene of lord Shiva and Devi Parvati. On another side where Yasoda churned curd and sri Krishna as a child disturbed her.” Arjun looked on confused.
Radhika smiled and said , “ those were made by ancient artisans. We just saw and praised their work. Our small mind even can’t able to guess why they made such sculptures.”
She continued , “ here lord Shiva worshipped as Hari-Hara, combined form of lord Vishnu and Shiva. The lord was originally worshipped by two demons Kriti & Basa. So lord stayed here drowned by their devotion preferring over Benares. Devi Parvati came in search of lord in disguise of cowherd woman. The demons forget everything in her beauty and wanted to marry her. Devi Parvati told them to carry her, and crushed them under her weight.”
Then Radhika took Arjun another side of temple where the bull was worshipped. There was hole in one ear of bull and another side had no hole. It was believed that if you wish something and said to bull’s ear which had hole , become true. She asked Arjun to pray his wish. Arjun did nothing but just to follow what was said by Radhika. Near bull temple , around 5-8 feet away there was a square hollow. A magnificent black stone statue was there. The miracle of that statue was at the rate you laugh seeing the statue, it would smile that wide. Arjun didn’t believe it at first but stood dumbfounded after getting reaction. On the way of returning lord Ganesha temple was there. It’s said in Hindu mythology, lord Ganesha was first prior god before visiting any god. They went before but Radhika described its myth, how Devi Parvati created him and how his head cut by anger of lord Shiva without knowing he was his own son. But later he gave life to Ganesha by giving a elephant head , symbol of intelligence and knowledge. Later it was showed that lord Shiva loved his son very much despite all happenings before, same goes for Ganesha. There was no great father-son bond than them.”
Radhika was getting emotional,” after father is father, who tried every possible way to make us happy despite how much we cursed them. I regret the missing moments with my father till date.” Arjun looked stunned. He was feeling like something pierce inside him. He told Radhika to wait inside car , he would come after five minutes. Radhika went. Arjun went to a quiet place, breathed deeply and finally made up his mind, “ you can do it Arjun, no need to feel ashamed.”
In Montreal, Canada
Anuj was busy with an important meeting. His phone vibrated non-stop. He ignored at first, seeing an unknown number. But when second time it buzzed he didn’t know why his heart pounded faster. “ that is look like one international call .. May be some urgent deals”, he mumbled and excused himself from meeting and went outside. His feet stood rooted to ground hearing “ DAD”….after long 24 years awaiting he listened his son Arjun addressed him as DAD not Mr. Mehera.