A young Major dials his mother’s number, with a wistful smile on his face.
His mother on the call “Son, how far are you now? By the evening you will reach? Your father has already lit up the diyas.”
The major laughs and says, ‘It’s just 3pm but father’s Diwali have started already! The potter of the family!”
His mother senses a jovial evasiveness in her son, over the call she ascertains again and says, “This time your posting is just three hours away from home. If you haven’t left already, you know what your father will do…”
Varun chuckles and says, “If he had a temper, I would have imagined him smashing the diyas he made painstakingly. The quietest man of our colony, he will probably just complain to his potted plants”
Varun’s mother tries her negotiating skills, desperately yearning for her son’s presence and says, “Your father has been putting off going to the hospital for his heart check-up”.
Varun sounds a little taken off guard and he says, “Ma! This is not fair.”
Varun’s mother having found the weak pulse, makes a dive for it and like a trained, hardened negotiator in a war-room, says, “Like father, like son. Both adamant. He won’t budge.”
Varun’s light-hearted veneer keeps him buoyed and he says, “The army should send you to negotiate and crack deals in intense hostage situations and hijacks”
Varun’s mother then tries a sentimental approach by being tearful.
Varun in a placating tone tells her, ‘Ma, everyone’s leaves have been cancelled. We have to immediately leave for a nearby posting…”
His mother sounds worried, turns to look behind her where a family is sitting along with her husband in the living room. A pretty and lively girl is talking vivaciously to the people in the room. Two elderly gentlemen and an elderly lady are sitting on the sofas.
Varun’s mother turns back to the call and says, ‘Neha’s family has already arrived. From the number of sweets boxes and gifts they have brought, for sure they want to fix the engagement and this is the first time, her parents have come…. (Her voice trails off)
Varun, laughs good naturedly and says, “Don’t worry about her parents, they have been trying to get us married for as long as they know about her and me. Just ask Neha to narrate stories about her patients. The chatterbox that she is, she will keep everyone engrossed”.
His mother says to him, suppressing her anxiety, “You think her chatter will make us forget you? Is this a border posting…?”
Varun, hurriedly changes the topic to prevent alarming his mother and says, “Don’t worry, Ma. I will be back soon.”
Next Diwali, in the same house, there is darkness and gloom while through the open windows, crackers can be seen lighting up the sky and neighbours are bursting crackers.
There is a garlanded portrait on the wall. It is Varun’s portrait. His parents seem to have aged more and are sitting forlorn, listlessly in home clothes. Suddenly the bell rings and they look surprised, not expecting any guests.
Varun’s mother opens the door to find Neha, his fiancé. She smiles at Neha while pushing the door open and once the door is wide open, the mother’s smile freezes as she spots a small baby nestled in the other arm of Neha. Neha is looking more sober than her usual vivacious self; she gives a smile and introduces the baby as ‘Varun’.
Varun’s mother appears at a loss and takes some time to absorb the information and then invites Neha in.
Varun’s mother tells, “Neha beta, I am so happy to see that in this one year, you got married.
While eyeing the child she says to Neha, ‘Now even you have a Varun”.
Neha still standing at the door, says, “He is your Varun too” and pauses meaningfully.
As Neha sidesteps and introduces one by one the motley crowd that has been standing behind her, ‘This is also Varun” as she looks at a middle aged heavy built lady, a cross necklace is hanging around her neck.
The lady with the cross-necklace steps closer and smiles warmly. Then Neha introduces a skinny teen girl as Varun.
Neha gestures at a couple to step forward and introduces them as the parents of the baby Varun she’s holding in her arms.
An old man wearing a skull-cap is introduced as Varun.
A set of twins (girl and a boy) are introduced by Neha as Varun.
Meanwhile from inside the house, Varun’s father has also inched closer to the door as he wheels his wheelchair closer to the door which is ajar. And he looks as stunned as his wife at this diverse collection of people from different age groups, creed, community smiling so generously at them and cannot understand why Neha is addressing them all as Varun.
Neha holds Varun’s mother and father’s hand lightly and tells them, “Varun had signed up as an organ donor at my hospital. When he died, his body was brought to my hospital and each of these people have got a new lease of life. The little baby (a burnt victim) received Varun’s skin; the Christian lady got his kidney; the Muslim man got his heart as did the rest of them…”
With tears in their eyes, of pride this time and not sorrow, Varun’s parents embrace all of these people into whose lives he dispelled their darkness and ushered in light.