Learn to believe in yourself and move-on, you’re perfect just the way you are!
‘Shrey, are you home?’ Akanksha spoke into thin air, and opened the door of her room.
Her room was neatly organized. Bed-sheets were perfectly ironed. Cushions of the couch were on it’s place. The TV was not on and even the AC was switched off this time. No clothes or socks were lying around, and Shrey’s shoes were also not tossed like trash. That meant, Shrey was still not home.
Akanksha let out a sigh of relief as she saw the neat and clean bedroom. In nineteen years of her marriage, this was the first time that her room was spotless-clean. But she wondered where that man has been after all? She stared at the huge cuckoo clock that they had bought from Black Forest, Germany. It was 7 pm, and Shrey is never so late from office. He always returns at 5. As the clock struck seven, a chirpy cuckoo bird came out and chirped seven times, and went back in. She was reminded of that vacation clearly. Her memory of that vacation was fresher than anything else, as it was only last year that they went there, for Akshan and Nirvaan’s sweet-sixteenth birthdays! The boys had turned seventeen this year, and they both strongly disagreed on celebrating their most special day, out of the country. Besides, they were both young now, and had their own social circle.
Akshan was basketball champion, while Nirvaan excelled in chess. Akshan was stud of the school, while Nirvaan was a geek. Shrey always had a soft corner for Nirvaan, for being innocent and submissive, while Akshan was the one who witnessed a stricter side of his father for being the mischievous one! Nirvaan, who was loved more, was usually more afraid of Shrey, so he shared his little secrets with his darling mother, while Akshan was the bossy one who spat out everything in front of Shrey, fearlessly! Akshan was the one who took Shrey’s Audi at the age of fourteen on the highway in the middle of the night, while Nirvaan took car-lessons to overcome his fears of traffic and driving.
It was merely a month-ago affair that Nirvaan told Akanksha about a girl whom he liked from his maths class. She was the topper and a very smart girl, who in Akshan’s eyes was a total nerd! In the same week, Akshan also announced about his girlfriend to Shrey and even told him that he kissed her on her lips, which was an achievement for Akshan and a matter of disgust for Nirvaan. For Nirvaan, love was a matter of purity and a feeling of soul, while Akshan was more like Shrey who always had a nudge in his pants every time he saw a girl! Both the boys were twins, but strikingly different! Their likes, dislikes, habits, interests, everything was so different. Nirvaan was always called a carbon copy of Akanksha, while Akshan was the typical junior Shrey.
Shrey liked Nirvaan more, for he was his mother’s replica and the flawless one, but he always scolded Akshan for being like him. Although Shrey was perfect in Akanksha’s eyes, but he saw himself to be a flawed and full-of-mistakes-personality, and he didn’t want his son to turn like him. That was the reason of Akshan being the target of Shrey’s anger every time.
Akanksha was thinking about Shrey that she immediately got a call from him. She picked up the phone in an elated tone and said a cheerful ‘Hello’.
‘Hi…’ Shrey sounded low and depressed.
‘God! Shrey! Where are you? I was so worried!’
‘I’m coming home…’
‘Hey, what happened? Are you alright?’ Akanksha knew Shrey wasn’t okay. Neither did he call her ‘sweetheart’, nor he talked about making out, there was definitely something wrong with him.
‘Yeah, kind of…’
‘Tell me where are you?’
‘I’m coming home, I’ll be right back.’
‘Shrey, I’m asking something.’ Akanksha knew something was not right.
‘I told you I’ll be back soon.’
‘Shrey, you can’t avoid me. What’s wrong sweetheart? Why are you sounding so low?’
‘Akanksha…I’m a bad husband…I’m a criminal, I don’t deserve this life…’ Shrey broke down.
Akanksha couldn’t believe her ears. It was the first time in her entire life with him, that she witnessed the strong-Shrey breaking down in front of her. He had always supported him in her tough times, and this was the first time that Shrey felt so helpless and weak.
‘Where are you darling? I’m coming right now…’
‘I’m at the cliff, Akanksha. Right at the edge, I’m sitting there…’
‘Oh-my-God, Shrey don’t do anything stupid, I’m coming right over…’ Akanksha rushed to the door and signaled the driver to start the car, ‘I’m on my way, Shrey, remember I love you very much, don’t do something stupid Shrey, I beg you!’
Within fifteen minutes the driver rushed Akanksha to the cliff. Shrey’s car was parked at a distance. It was dark night, with no moon in the sky, only tiny stars twinkling and not giving enough light to see the surroundings. Akanksha switched on her mobile phone and stepped up. She spotted Shrey sitting at a corner. She walked and sat beside him.
‘Hey sweetheart…’ Shrey smiled at her. Akanksha hugged him tight, without uttering a word. Sometimes, words become superfluous and all you need is a tight hug from a loved one. As Akanksha’s arms wrapped around Shrey’s neck, the dam of emotions broke from his eyes and he started crying.
‘Shh…brave boys don’t cry like this…’ Akanksha hugged him tighter without asking the reason for his depression.
‘It’s about Akshan, I’m so worried about him. I can’t sleep at nights thinking about the mistakes I committed and Akshan is treading on the same path, the same bloody path! I love him too much to lose him…’
‘Shrey, Shrey…come’on, baby…get up, look at me…’
Shrey looked at her with teary eyes. This was the first time in twenty years that he had literally cried. It was the first time that he seek Akanksha’s support, otherwise it was always Shrey who spread his arms for Akanksha.
‘Akshan is fine and he will turn out fine, why do you worry? Look at you. You’re the most successful business-man of this country and who says you’re flawed? You’re perfect baby, perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to cry for anything…’
‘You don’t know me, Akanksha. There are some secrets, that I’ve kept from you, from everyone, and some things that I’ve kept to myself, locked inside my heart, so deep that even I’m not able to recognize them anymore, but what Akshan is doing, all those things are coming to the surface one after the other, and I can’t handle myself. He’s turning out to be me, a second Shrey Chauhan, something I can’t see.’
‘Shrey Chauhan is the most perfect human being alive, you should be proud of Akshan who’s turning out to be you!’ Akanksha consoled him.
‘You know nothing, Akanksha. I never told you anything, I never told you about my college, did I? There is a dark-phase of my life that I’ve concealed from everyone, not even my mother knew it, she also died thinking that she had the most perfect son of the world, only my father knew everything, and that’s why he always saw me as a criminal, but I can’t see it happening with Akshan…’
‘What is it baby? If you feel comfortable, share it with me, I won’t force you.’
Akanksha respected his choice of keeping his bad memories to himself. She respected the man for he respected their relationship and never let anything spoil it. But today, even Akanksha was afraid of the things which were making Shrey cry, what could they do to her relationship with him or his children? Would she be able to see him the same way? She badly wanted to know what was it that was bugging Shrey so badly, what was it that he wasn’t able to forgive himself or move on. Something really dark might be associated with him that he was crying even after decades of that happening.
‘It’s a matter of thirty years ago. I had entered into college. I was a stud, girls were madly after me, just like they’re after Akshan now. But I loved none of them. My passion was cars, bikes, alcohol and anything that was fast. I loved speed, that’s why I had more breakups than hookups. I made out with girls, flaunted about it and pretended cool, but inside I always searched for that one girl with whom I could fall in love with. I always had limits to my drinking habits, dad had imposed the limits. But one night, it was Hitesh’s birthday, my best friend from school. We were five. One car, his Honda. Shekhar was totally out of his senses and driving like maniacs. Everyone was too drunk to notice, but suddenly the car halted from 120 kmph to zero within a minute and we crashed into an empty field. Shekhar had accidentally hit a woman on the road. We rushed to see her but she was lying there unconscious. We all were so drunk but seeing her body lying in the pool of blood, everyone was kicked out of hangover. Some of the boys started arguing about hiding the body, while some wanted to take her to the hospital. If she would have died, we all would be in jail, so we dropped the idea of taking her to hospital. I pressed her nerve to see if she was alive, and yes she was. Never did I feel so horrible and helpless. I petitioned on taking her to the hospital, but Hitesh and Shekhar argued that she should be killed. I felt really bad, I was helpless, couldn’t do anything to save her. I was the stronger one so everyone asked me to pick her up and bury her in the fields – alive.’
Akanksha gaped at him blankly. She couldn’t believe she spent her entire life with a murderer. She felt like slapping her husband right there, but she controlled her anger and disgust and listened to him.
‘I picked her up. Her head rested at my shoulders, and she whispered in my ear – please save my baby…’ Shrey broke down again.
This time Akanksha didn’t console her. She didn’t see Shrey the same way anymore.
‘The woman was pregnant and we five moronic bastards had almost killed her and her baby. At that moment, I felt disgusted about myself, my passion of speed and cars and racing had claimed a life, I felt horrible. Everyone was asking me to dump her right there so we could walk off like nothing happened, but her words changed my mind. I rushed her to the car. The keys were still inside. I placed her in the back-seat and drove her to the hospital. The doctors couldn’t save her or her baby. They both died, and I confessed to killing her while four of my college friends had fled from the crime scene. I took the blame upon myself and was thrown into jail. It was my father’s reputation and heaps of money that saved me. My mother had no hint about anything, and till the moment she died, she thought that I was at a friend’s place that entire week, she couldn’t know why I left college after that and why I went into depression for two years.’
‘Shrey…’ Akanksha felt nasty about herself, for thinking about slapping him a moment ago. She knew her husband could never do wrong. He didn’t crash the car into a woman, and neither did he kill her. He took the blame despite trying to save her and her baby, he wasn’t wrong.
‘I spent two years of my life in one room. Father told mother that I had bad-drinking problems, so I had to attend rehabilitation, but mother didn’t know about the murder that night. I am a criminal. I’m a murderer, and that night still haunts me. I cut myself so much that the scars were visible on my fore-arm, where I got a tattoo before I married you. I cried so much in those two years that my father thought I would turn mad. He saw me as a criminal everyday he lived, and I couldn’t gather the courage to spit out the truth to him. You’re the only one who knows the truth, apart from the Police commissioner of the city, who was an ally to me at that time. He tried rounding up those four guys, especially Shekhar, but they all had fled the city and the woman was a poor one. Nobody petitioned for justice from her home, hell nobody turned up to even burn her body. I performed the last rituals with my father and he slapped me tight in front of her burning pyre. I can’t take those memories out of my head, no matter how much I try.’
‘It’s over, Shrey…it’s over. You tried your best, you didn’t kill her but still you took the blame, you behaved like a sensible mature man, while those guys behaved like cowards and ran off. You are the real man, Shrey, you have to move on from that time. It’s been thirty years now. It’s over baby, it’s alright, everything is alright…’ Akanksha kissed his forehead.
‘I’m worried about Akshan…’
‘He’ll be okay too. You’re worrying too much. He will be alright. We both are there with him, and we both have raised him flawlessly. He also has a brother like Nirvaan, who has always kept him out of bad company. Akshan will turn out like you, Shrey, and you’re perfect…’ Akanksha hugged him and he rested his head on her shoulders, ‘You have two handsome sons, a loving wife, what else do you need? And you say you don’t deserve this life? Shrey, you deserve it and you fully deserve it! You tried your best in saving that woman’s life, but it was her destiny that she died. You took the blame upon yourself despite being innocent. You spoiled two years in depression, cut yourself, blamed yourself, abused yourself, but you weren’t wrong. Baby, God sees everything and he is aware of what you did. That’s why he blessed you with all the happiness in the world. Akshan is a fine lad, you are worrying unnecessarily. He will turn out perfect, just like you, and you are perfect Shrey, just the way you are…’
Sometimes, it takes us too long to let go of the past memories which keep on haunting us. Sometimes, we keep on blaming ourselves for mistakes we didn’t even commit. Sometimes, we do the right thing, and still are termed as criminals. We shouldn’t worry or hate ourselves. We should move on, learn from the mistake and mature. Life is a series of lessons, every lesson teaches us something, and sometimes the teachings are more like punishments, but we shouldn’t be afraid. Everything is meant for a reason. We should always try to be just and do the right thing, no matter how hard it is to make the decision, and no matter what the result is. Doing the right thing will give us a satisfaction that at least we tried. Doing nothing is next to participating in a crime, and we mustn’t do it at any cost. We should raise our voice against the wrong and do what should be done, no matter what the outcome is. After all, the biggest judge is God, and he will never wrong you!