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Lover's Courage

By Vijay K Kerji

Copyright 2018 by Vijay K Kerji

Smashwords Edition

Table of Contents

Chapter 01

Chapter 02

Chapter 03

Chapter 04

Chapter 05

Chapter 06

Chapter 07

Chapter 08

Chapter 09

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

About the Author

Chapter 01

When Vivek said good bye to his project manager over the intercom and switched off his computer, he was alarmed to see his uncle’s name flashing on his phone’s screen. His uncle, Pankaj, usually spoke to him after office hours and late in the evening. Why has he called at this time?

Vivek swiped the screen. “Hello, Uncle.”

“Vivek, are you at home?” His uncle, Pankaj’s voice sounded shaky.

“I’m at my office,” Vivek said. “Ready to leave.”

“You need to come to Hubli tonight.”

Vivek leaned forward on his chair. “Why? Did anything happen there?” His heart raced. “Is Mom okay?”

“Your Mom-” his uncle mumbled for words. “She is admitted in the City Hospital.”

“Mom is admitted?” Vivek’s voice trembled. “What has happened?”

“She suffered a heart attack.”

Heart attack! Vivek’s breath caught in his chest, and everything around him twirled. He paused for a few moments, composing himself. “How is she now?” Vivek waited for his uncle to answer.

“Doctor has said-”

“Yes, tell me, uncle. What did the doctor say?” Vivek tightened his grip on the phone.

“She is out of danger, but she needs a bypass surgery.”

Vivek’s legs grew weak. “Oh my God.” He paused and then said, “I travel tonight, and will be there early in the morning.” Tears touched his lashes.

“Make sure you travel safely. I’m with her in the hospital, you don’t worry.” Pankaj ended the call.

Vivek placed the phone on the table and sighed.

He should have lived with his mother instead of working as a software engineer in Bangalore. It was his mother who insisted he work there. She wanted him to concentrate on his career instead of staying with her at Hubli. His mother was insistent even after Vivek’s father died in an accident.

Guilt crossed Vivek’s mind. “Damn it.” He muttered to himself. He had visited Hubli a couple of months ago and his mother seemed healthy and cheerful. But she did mention an occasional chest pain to him. Vivek had insisted he would take her to the hospital to check for the heart disease, but she had refused. He hadn’t expected things would go so wrong in just two months.

He needed to speak with his manager, Madhav, about a minimum of two weeks’ time off. He turned off his cubicle lights, took his backpack and hurried to his manager’s office.

He carefully crossed the wet floor, and passed the caution boards. The smell of disinfectant permeated in the air.

Madhav was seated on his chair with his eyes glued to the computer screen.

“Hi, Madhav,” Vivek said.

Madhav twirled his chair towards him. “Hey, Vivek. What’s up?”

Vivek held the edge of the cubicle. “My uncle spoke to me a while ago. I have to go to Hubli tonight.”

“Why? What happened?” Madhav knotted his brows.

Vivek collapsed on a chair beside Madhav. “My mother has been hospitalized.”

Madhav stared down for a moment then looked back at Vivek. “Hospitalized? What for? How is she now?”

Vivek paused then said, “She had a heart attack, and needs a bypass surgery.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Madhav lowered his gaze and scratched his cheek.

Vivek’s heart raced while Madhav remained silent. Vivek’s presence in the office was essential because an interim product release was due next month.

“How many days are you planning to go?” Madhav said.

“It depends on how soon she recovers.” Vivek paused. He wasn’t sure how many days it would take for his mother to become all right. “Maybe a couple of weeks.”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Vivek’s stomach fluttered.

“All right. Try to return soon as your presence is vital for us.”

Vivek gasped. At last, his manager was kind enough to grant him the time-off.

“I will return soon after she recovers,” Vivek said. “I hope everything will be all right very soon.”

Vivek left the office. His wrist watch showed the time six o’clock. It was usual practice for him to go home late.

The sky was overcast, and the moon shone in between the cotton white clouds. Vivek shivered as winter cold breeze swept down the premises. He zipped his jacket, and crossed his arms across his chest to feel warm.

Vivek approached his motorbike and dusted it off. He could board the seven o’clock bus to Hubli if he packed his luggage and left his residence early. He kick started his motorbike and headed down the main street.

The Bangalore Street was crowded with two-wheelers, buses and cars. The traffic police struggled to clear the traffic.

Vivek arrived at his small single bedroom house, located on the first floor. The poster of Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Kapil Dev greeted him. The room that he had tidied on the weekend appeared still clean.

A hot bath comforted him. He put on his beige pants and white striped shirt, and stuffed his bag with a few pieces of formal wears. He hastened to leave home at quarter to eight.

The taxi driver stopped near the bus station. Vivek paid the meter charges, and entered the bus stand premises. The place was crowded with passengers and filled with the sound of buses entering and leaving.

After he waited for a few minutes, a yellow-red bus approached and stopped in its slot. Vivek spoke with the conductor and made sure it went to Hubli before boarding it.

It was a twelve hour journey and Vivek was eager to meet his loved ones.

His mind was filled with memories of his time spent with his parents. Vivek was in Bangalore when his father met with an accident. He didn’t want to leave his mother alone at home, and Vivek requested her to stay at Bangalore with him. He was disappointed when she preferred staying at Hubli, alone. His mother didn’t even listen to his uncle’s suggestion. She was more concerned about Vivek’s career and his future than her self interest.

It was just before dawn when the bus arrived at his hometown. Vivek was awake throughout the journey with the images of his mother on the hospital bed assaulting his mind.

The shrill of parrots and mynas from the nearby tree filled the surroundings. A few people had their early morning tea and puffed on their cigarettes, standing near a tin pan shop.

After a taxi ride, Vivek arrived at the hospital. The hospital had an open area with a car parking space nestled within it. The security, seated on a wooden stool, still dozed with his head covered with a muffler. Vivek climbed the stairs and entered the main hall.

A few people slept on the floor under blankets. A man in a white uniform was seated at the front desk. Smell of disinfectant and medicines filled in the air.

“I would like to meet-”

Before Vivek finished, someone touched his back.

He looked over his shoulder. His uncle forced a smile, and hugged him.

Vivek heaved a heavy sigh. He failed to stop his flood of tears.

“Don’t worry.” Pankaj held him by his shoulders. “Everything will be all right.”

“How is Mom feeling?”

“She is all right. The doctor said bypass surgery is required.”

Vivek held his uncle’s hand. “Let’s go and meet her. She may feel comfortable after seeing me.”

Pankaj paused then said, “Okay, but she was asleep when I left the room.” He walked Vivek to the special room.

His mother was sleeping on the bed with both hands on her chest. Vivek’s chest congested. Her face had lost its gleam. She wouldn’t have faced this situation had I lived with her.

An attending doctor in a white apron and a stethoscope hung from his neck entered. He checked Prabha’s pulse and blood pressure, and scribbled the details on the pad hanging on the bed frame.

“So what have you decided?” His eyes darted between Vivek and Pankaj. “Are you ready to go for CABG that we have suggested?”

Vivek remembered reading about the coronary artery bypass surgery. “Will she be all right after the operation?”

“Yes, that’s the suggested treatment for her under the current circumstances.”

Vivek shifted his gaze to his uncle.

His uncle nodded, agreeing to the operation.

“Doctor, we will go as you suggested.” He looked at his uncle and then back to the doctor.

“You can discuss the details with the main doctor. He will be here around nine o’clock.” The doctor held his stethoscope. “He will see the patients until noon.” He went outside.

Vivek’s uncle turned to him. “Let’s go with their advise. I spoke with my friends, and they suggested I agree with the doctor.” He studied at Vivek and then said, “I think you are too tired. You go home and freshen up. I will be here until you return.”

Vivek was worn out and exhausted by the overnight journey. “All right. I will come back soon.” He looked at his mother. She was in deep slumber. He wanted her to relax as much as possible.

Vivek hired a taxi and arrived at his home. Inside the bedroom, he threw the backpack on the floor, and collapsed on the bed, contemplating.

His uncle would lend money if he fell short of paying the hospital charges. However, he needed to know the cost involved for the surgery.

A framed photograph of his parents held his attention. Vivek loved his parents. His father had been a well known professor in the central university and awarded best mentor.

Being an only son, his parents loved him. Vivek suffered a loss when his father met with an accident. Even though Vivek’s mother hoped he would take care of her the rest of her life, the loss still haunted her. She fell into depression. And now, she suffered a heart attack.

Had she allowed me to stay with her, she wouldn’t have faced these difficulties.

Prabha often insisted Vivek should get married. Vivek wanted to gain more work experience. He wanted to go to America for a short time assignment that his manager had promised.

Now he needed to sacrifice his goals. Should he move to Hubli? Or should he insist his mother join him in Bangalore? It’s imperative now that they resolved this matter in consultation with his paternal uncle.

Vivek’s friend and classmate, Arjun, lived in Hubli. Vivek needed to seek his help in staying at the hospital overnight to relieve his uncle.

When he called Arjun, he answered after a few rings.“Hello, Vivek. Where are you calling from?”

“I am in Hubli,” Vivek said.

“When did you come?”

“This morning.” Vivek paused for a moment. “Shall we meet? I have something urgent to discuss.”

“What is it? You can talk over the phone.”

“My mother has been admitted in the City nursing home. She suffered a heart attack.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear it,” Arjun said.

“Arjun, I need your help.”

“Sure. Tell me.”

“My mother may stay at the hospital for a week. Can you join me at night until she gets discharged? It’s better if I have your company.”

“Sure, why not?”

“Thank you, Arjun.”

“It’s all right. Call me anytime you like, and I’ll come to your place.”

Arjun had been Vivek’s best friend; they have grown up and studied together until their graduation. Arjun hailed from a business family background. Even though he wished to work at Bangalore as a software Engineer, his parents and elders insisted he remain with them and look after their family industries – rice mills and clothes business.

Arjun had been humble and friendly with Vivek. Vivek never forget his contagious smile. Arjun got married too early - while they studied the third year of their engineering, and was forced by his parents. He always came to Vivek’s attention whenever he was needed.

A hot bath relieved Vivek from the fatigue. He put on a pale blue T-shirt and grey pants, and walked out to go to the hospital. He dusted off his scooter; kick started and then went down the main street.

The hospital lobby was abuzz with customers, and people’s muffled conversations filled the surroundings.

Vivek went past the queue and entered his mother’s section. His uncle was seated on a metallic chair near the bed, reading a newspaper. His glance shifted to Vivek, and he placed the paper on the table.

Vivek went to his mother. She was draped with a shawl and her eyes were half opened. He sat beside her, and held her palm. “Mom, I have spoken to the doctor.” He paused, composing himself. “Everything is going to be all right. Don’t worry.”

His mother pressed his hands. She raised her palm, gesturing: when did you come?

“I came in the morning,” Vivek said, his voice soft. “Going to be with you, don’t worry.”

His uncle gestured for him not to strain her more.

“Can we meet the main doctor?” Vivek asked.

His uncle rose. “Yes, we should.”

Chapter 2

Snehal flopped on a chair in the living room. She furrowed her brow. “Why are you in such a hurry about my wedding, Mom?”

“You already turned twenty four. When will you get married?” Her mother, Deepali, continued knitting a sweater. “Ranjit is a good boy, and you won’t find such a handsomer groom than him.”

Snehal wanted to grow her career and work for a few more years. She needed to study for her master’s before she got married.

She started going to an educational centre a year ago and hadn’t gained enough experience in teaching. Most of her classmates went to Bangalore to work as software engineers, but Snehal preferred to stay in Hubli. She was passionate about her profession.

“Mom, I prefer to wait.”

“You can study even after you got married to Ranjit, correct?” Deepali grimaced. “Your dad’s relationship with Ranjit’s father will be spoiled. Their pharmaceutical business has been improving these days. Your dad doesn’t want that to disrupt because of your refusal to the alliance.”

Snehal didn’t want to argue over the matter. She remained silent. Her father, Kailas, had given her Ranjit’s bio-data and a photograph.

Ranjit stood tall – perhaps, six feet in the snapshot with a deep dark eyes and black hair. He owned a garments factory in Belgaum district, his native place. He had expressed his willingness to meet Snehal.

“You have seen Ranjit’s photograph, correct?” Deepali said. “He is quite handsome, isn’t he? He is a perfect match for you.”

Snehal remained silent. Ranjit appeared fair, but she couldn’t conclude about it unless she saw him in person. But she wanted to postpone her marriage for her career sake.

“Your dad told me Ranjit and his parents are coming here this evening. Get ready to see them.”

Snehal’s heart raced. “But Mom-”

Before Snehal could complete her words, her mother said, “Snehal, you must meet Ranjit today. Your father will get angry otherwise.” Deepali demanded.

Snehal hated her parents for putting restrictions on her freedom. After graduation, when she wanted to mentor students in a computer education centre, they told her not to work. When she had secured an engineering seat, her father had told her to take a commerce course. He had said studying engineering would be difficult for her. Snehal had proven him wrong and passed the course with distinction.

The clock chimed, alerting Snehal. She wouldn’t want to disappoint her parents by refusing to see Ranjit. At times, her mother supported her decision, and Snehal hoped she would help her this time, too. “At what time are they coming?”

“Around seven o’clock.” Deepali smiled. The doorbell rang. “It must be your father.”

Snehal opened the door. It was indeed her father. “Dad, you are early.”

In his navy blue safari suit, Kailas looked executive and handsome. His black, high arched brows above his black eyes were well trimmed and appeared prominent on his fair face. His neatly cut moustache stood out under his button nose.

Snehal was taller than him; she inherited her mother’s height. She sat back on her chair.

“Yes, the meeting got extended.” Her father sat beside Deepali. “Ranjit is coming here along with his parents.”

Snehal liked to avoid the get together. But her father was hard nut to crack. Snehal wouldn’t want to remain silent either.

“Dad, can we postpone the get-together?”

“Why? Aren’t you feeling well?” Kailas asked with a pensive expression.

“I have an appointment with my boss,” Snehal couldn’t help but lie.

“Cancel your appointment,” Kailas said, his voice demanding. “We are meeting Ranjit and his parents this evening.”

“Snehal,” Deepali said. “You must listen to your dad.”

Snehal nodded, not wanting to disappoint her parents. “Alright.”

“That’s my daughter,” Kailas said.

“I’m sure you will like Ranjit,” Snehal’s mother said.

Snehal stared down at the floor. It was a tough decision for her to make. I’ll postpone my wedding for two years until I studied M Tech. I hope Mom will help me in this matter.

Snehal picked a grey pants and a light pink shirt. She remembered her mother telling her not to wear pants on important occasions. She ran her hand over a set of saris hung on the bar, and picked a green colored one. Everyone will surely like me in this sari.

She stood in front of the large oval mirror. Her oblong face appeared not that cheerful. Her large black eyes missed their usual gleam.

She gently applied lip gloss and mascara. Her face became fair when she rubbed the talcum powder on it. She tucked a small jasmine string in her hair, not to disappoint her mother.

The bells of her bedroom door jingled. Snehal shifted her gaze. Her mother in her cream sari approached, smiling. Her neck was adorned with gold jewelry.

“Snehal, aren’t you yet ready?” Deepali’s eyes sparkled. “Ranjit is already here.”

Snehal shrugged, half heartedly. “Mom, please make sure my dress is alright.” She often failed to fit the sari properly.

Her mother adjusted the sari at Snehal’s waist. She corrected the frills to make them more appealing.

“Thanks Mum.” Snehal forced a smile.

“Let’s go now. They’re waiting.” Her mother walked her to the living room.

Ranjit, in his green suit, was seated beside his parents. Snehal was taken aback as he was quite dark, unlike in the photograph. He is no way a good match for me.

Snehal sat on a chair and ran her eyes over Ranjit’s parents. His mother wore an expensive Mysore silk sari and her neck was adorned with gold jewelry. And his father wore a blue suit and his glasses were encased in a black frame.

“Snehal,” Kailas said. “This is Ranjit.”

Snehal smiled at Ranjit.

Ranjit’s long and dark face was lit with a broad smile. His thick arched brows appeared rather prominent under his not so wide forehead. His long and pointed nose stood above his short moustache.

“Can you tell us about yourself?” Ranjit asked.

Snehal’s pulse quickened. It was customary for the boy’s parents to ask questions, but Ranjit defied the rule. He behaved dominant.

“I’m Snehal. I’ve studied computer science engineering.” Snehal stressed on her degree because her mother had told Ranjit had studied commerce course. It would make him not overlook her.

Ranjit and his parents asked a few more details and Snehal answered with patience. She wanted their get-together to end in a cordial manner.

Snehal somehow disliked Ranjit’s manly voice and his dark complexion. His height was more than an average, above six feet.

The housemaid served them the snacks and tea.

After they finished eating, Ranjit said, “Snehal, can we spend some good time in private?” His glance shifted to Snehal’s parents. “I want to take her outside for a few minutes if you don’t mind.”

Snehal bit her lip. She took a quick breath. Did Ranjit already like me?How can he behave like we’re close after only one meeting? What if Ranjit gave his consent to marry me?

Snehal needed to distance herself from him.

“Snehal,” Deepali said, “You can go with Ranjit.”

Snehal controlled her urge to refuse. Everyone would think she wasn’t interested in Ranjit, otherwise. She eventually decided to join Ranjit.

Ranjit came from a rich background. She would be taken care well if she married him. But his complexion made her think twice. Also, Snehal hated someone who dominated her.

“Ranjit, come back soon,” his mother said.

He nodded. “We will be back in a few minutes.”

Snehal walked alongside Ranjit towards his car.

Ranjit opened his car door for her.

She sat, heaving a sigh. She hadn’t expected Ranjit would offer her a ride so soon. She was even surprised when her mother supported his interest.

Ranjit started the engine and headed down the main street. “We will spend some time in a nearby community park.” He looked at her for a moment before fixing his gaze back on the road.

Snehal directed him towards the nearby community park, contemplating. How should she handle the dilemma of her marriage? Should she tell Ranjit she was not interested? Or should she remain quiet and see how things would unfold?

Her father might arrange her marriage without her consent. Snehal needed her mother’s support to avoid or postpone her wedding. If Snehal told Ranjit she was not interested, her parents might act against her and force her to get married. Her father controlled the family matters, and Snehal would lose her mother’s support, too.

Ranjit parked his car in the available parking place in front of the garden.

The place was abuzz with people’s muffled conversation. A few kids played on the swings and some were playing basketball. A train, with children inside, circled around the park premises. Ranjit located a wooden bench and sat. Snehal took her seat beside him.

“You know,” Ranjit said. “My parents have been talking about you for two months. I was busy and couldn’t join them earlier.”

Snehal remained silent; she didn’t want to flirt with him; she needed to discourage his appeasement, at least for now.

“So, how is your teaching going?”

“Going well,” Snehal replied, staring down.

“Do you like mentoring youngsters?” Ranjit asked.

Snehal’s lips quivered into a grin. She looked into his eyes. “Yes. I’m passionate about it. I would like to impart my knowledge to teenagers.”

“I admire you for having such an attitude. Everyone these days aspires to become a software engineer,” Ranjit said.

“What kind of business you do?” Snehal asked.

“I own a garments factory.” Ranjit pulled in a deep breath. “We supply the items to retail customers. I have a few warehouses, too.”

“Did you start the business on your own, or did your dad start them?”

“Well, Dad had begun it, and I have grown it in the last few years to a considerable extent. Now, we have several retail customers from whom we earn a major profit.” Ranjit paused for a while. “You said you have a degree in computer science?”

“Yes,” Snehal said. “I passed with distinction.”

“You are wise.” Ranjit smiled.

Snehal wanted to ask about her intention to work and study even after the marriage. But it was quite unlikely that she would marry Ranjit; he was not suitable for her fair skin. I don’t want to get married to him just because Dad wanted to please his business partner.

They exchanged a few more small talk before they went back home.

She found Ranjit rather romantic, but boasted much about his family status. His enquiring style of speaking annoyed her a bit.


After Ranjit and her parents left, Snehal pondered about how to avoid and postpone the alliance that her parents were interested in. She wished to call her friend, Priya. Priya would surely help her in solving the difficulties and would advise her about what she must do.

Snehal took her phone and tapped on Priya’s name.

“Hello, Snehal. How are you?” Priya answered.

“I’m doing well. What’s going on?”

“Everything is going well,” Priya said. “A bit hectic because of internal assessment and annual exams.”

Priya was no doubt busy. She worked in an engineering college as an Assistant Professor. She had earned a degree in Master of Technology an year before.

“I know you will be busy,” Snehal said. “How about we meet some place?”

“Now?” Priya asked.


“Okay, but can’t you say it over the phone?”

“Um....it’s somewhat personal,” Snehal said.

“It’s okay. Tell me what it is?” Priya asked.

“Well, my parents are insisting I marry this year.”

“Oh, that’s good to know,” Priya said.

“But I’m not interested.” Snehal leaned back on her seat.

“Why? It would be better if you settle down with a loving husband.”

“I have recently started a teaching job, and would like to work for some more months, Priya. Is it not too early for me to get married?”

“I agree, but your parents want it, right?”

“Yes, and they are not listening to me.”

“You can somehow convince them and tell them you want to become independent with your own coaching centre or until you earned a considerable salary.”

“They have selected a groom,” Snehal said. “The boy visited us along with his parents this evening.”

“Why don’t you talk to the boy?” Priya said. “I would say go with your feelings.”

Snehal controlled her urge to tell Priya Ranjit was dark complexioned. Snehal would convince her parents instead of pleading with Ranjit.

“All right, Priya. Thanks for your suggestions.” Snehal sighed in relief. “How is your fiancé, Deepak, doing?”

Priya got engaged to Deepak a couple of months ago and her marriage date hadn’t fixed yet.

“He is doing well,” Priya said. “We had been to a movie yesterday.”

“That’s good to hear,” Snehal said. “Okay, I’ll speak with my parents about my marriage.”

“That’s better.” Priya ended the call.

Priya had been Snehal’s close friend during their studies. They worked on their college assignments together and prepared for the examination.

I should follow the path that Priya has treaded. I need to grow my career before I settle down with a husband.

Chapter 3

Vivek, seated in the living room on a couch, heaved a sigh.“It’s all right, Mom,” he said, holding his mother’s hand. “Try to control your emotions. I’m with you.”

His mother wiped a teardrop from her cheek. She remained silent.

It had been four weeks since she was discharged after undergoing bypass surgery. Vivek was glad she was responding to the medication and was recuperating. She was able to walk and sit in the living room even though her health remained delicate. Her doctor had advised her to get complete rest for at least two months. Vivek tried to remain at home, and care for her.

“I never expected I would have heart disease,” his mother, Prabha said. “It happened even with your father’s incident still fresh in my mind.”

“It’s all in the Almighty’s hands,” Vivek’s uncle said. “Whatever happened has happened. You need to move on. You have our support.”

“Uncle is correct, Mom,” Vivek added. “You need to move on.”

Her lips were dry. Vivek went to the kitchen and poured two glasses of water. He gave the water to his mother and his uncle.

“You haven’t eaten anything in two days,” Vivek said. “I’ll prepare something for you.”

“You don’t need to,” his mother said. “I’m not hungry.”

“Mom, you need to be strong. Otherwise whatever treatment you underwent will go to waste,” Vivek said. “You must eat something.”

Vivek’s uncle rose from his chair and placed the glass on the table. He held Prabha’s hand and helped her to stand up. “You go and freshen up. Vivek will prepare something to eat quickly.” He shifted his gaze to Vivek. “Go to the kitchen and see anything is there.”

Vivek sauntered to the kitchen.

His mother went to the bathroom, reluctantly, and closed the door behind her.

Vivek heaved a sigh with relief. He opened the kitchen cabinets and looked for something to prepare quickly. An upma packet caught his attention, and he grabbed it. After making sure it hadn’t expired, he put the contents in the boiled water along with oil and frozen vegetables.

When the food was ready, Vivek brought the dish to the dining room, and sat beside his mother. His uncle sat across from him.

Vivek served the food to everyone. The smell of masala and boiled green-chilies wafted in the air. “It’s too early for me to leave for Bangalore.” Vivek looked at his mother. “But I’m worried about leaving you alone here.”

Pankaj stopped eating. “Vivek, you must stay with her. She needs someone’s support.”

“I know,” Vivek said. “And I’ve planned to shift my stay here for Mum’s sake.”

“How can you leave your job?” Prabha frowned. “You need to work on, don’t you?”

“Can you live here alone?” Pankaj furrowed his brows.

Prabha stared down at her plate. She remained silent.

Vivek wanted to take his parents to Bangalore. But they disagreed about living in the city. His mother complained about the Bangalore weather - cold and sick.

“Mum, you must come with me to Bangalore. You shouldn’t live alone here.”

Prabha narrowed her eyes. “I’m more comfortable living at Hubli than at Bangalore, Vivek.” She looked into Vivek’s eyes. “I can manage without you.”

“Mom,” Vivek said. “I don’t think you will manage by yourself. My presence is needed; the primary priority now will be to look after you. It’s of no use for me to work in Bangalore.” He paused then turned his gaze at his uncle. “Tell me why I’m working in Bangalore? Money? I have enough property to look after. If I’m really interested in working, I can do it here. ”

“But you can’t work as a software engineer here, right?” Prabha asked. “There are no software companies in this town.”

Vivek composed himself and pondered over the matter. Developing software projects would be impossible because of the lack of infrastructure. The only other option to use his knowledge was to mentor the students and young graduates; making them industry ready by providing the necessary training.

“Don’t you think I can make use of my knowledge by teaching young graduates?” Vivek asked. “What if we start an educational institution? I’m sure many fresh graduates will benefit from it.”

Pankaj’s eyes sparkled. He finished eating and said, “It’s a great idea. And the teaching profession is a noble profession. Your vast knowledge will help many youngsters to work in the industry.”

“What do you suggest, Mom?”

“It’s up to you. I will be glad to have you living with me and working here. I want you to keep yourself busy instead of being idle.”

“Are you familiar with teaching students?” Pankaj asked. “You don’t have any previous experience to begin such a venture.” He paused. “Go ahead only if you feel confident.”

“I have given some presentations in my company,” Vivek said. “I’m confident I can do well. But as far as setting up the infrastructure, we need to survey the existing centers in the town. I hope a civil engineer will provide us with a proper plan.”

“I too think so,” his uncle added.

“What about the financial part?” Vivek asked. “We have to estimate how much it would cost.”

“You have enough property in the form of plots and a farm,” his mother said.

“I know,” Vivek said. “I also have some savings. If we need more money, we will sell some of our investments.”

“I will also help you if needed,” his uncle said.

“All right, uncle. Thank you for your support.” Vivek washed his hands and retreated to the living room.

“I’m glad you agreed to live and care for Prabha,” Pankaj said.

“I have never thought of leaving Mom alone, uncle.” Vivek straightened in his seat. “What I wanted was to take her with me. You know she hates Bangalore weather.” He paused. “Like dad did.”

“Maybe, she would be interested to join you if you got married.”

Vivek remained silent. He had told his parents many times that he would need some time before he married.

“Let’s not talk about it now,” Vivek’s mother approached, wiping her hands with a napkin. “Let’s focus on what you want to work on.”

Vivek let out a huge breath. “I will tell my manager I am going to resign. I may need to visit Bangalore for one day to wind up from there.”

“I hope your manager relieves you without troubles,” Pankaj said.

“He may protest, but I will try to convince him about the situation.” He would be disappointed to lose me.

Later in the evening, Vivek wanted to speak with Madhav. Madhav would still be at his office. He called him. They exchanged a few pleasantries for a moment before Vivek got to the point.

“You know my mother is alone at my home. She needs someone to take care of her.” He paused for a few moments and then said, “I have planned to shift to Hubli.”

“You are living at Hubli?”

“Yes, Madhav” Vivek said, his voice low. “It’s better if I support her in her old age instead of working in Bangalore.”

“I agree with you, but you have a job here.” Madhav sounded grimaced. “And we need you, right?”

Vivek was an expert programmer. He always finished his work on time. No manager would be interested in losing an engineer like Vivek. He was quite approachable and maintained a good relationship with everyone.

Vivek also wanted a long time commitment with his company. He liked his colleagues. He was passionate about his company vision and its policies. His company management too took care of its employees well.

Vivek was rewarded for his hard work without bias. It was a three sixty degrees performance appraisal. All his team members gave a good feedback about Vivek to Madhav in order to make him successful every year.

“Madhav, my mother is more important to me than my job.”

Madhav paused and said, “Alright, you need to come and submit your resignation. I’ll forward it to the management and complete the formalities.”

“Thank you so much, Madhav.” Vivek stretched out his legs. “I’m glad that you’re ready to accept my resignation.”

“Your departure hurts as you have been helpful to me. The product releases were successful because of your technical support.”

“Thanks for the compliments.”

“You are welcome.”

“What are your next plans?” Madhav sounded curious. “Do you have anything to work on at Hubli?”

“I am planning to start a coaching centre.”

“It’s a really good thought. I admire your vision to impart your knowledge to youngsters.”


“Let me know if you need my help in your venture,” Madhav sounded elated. “I wish you good luck.”

“I will surely let you know. Thank you.”

In the evening, Vivek sat on the bed, contemplating. He needed to know how many educational centers existed in his town and he should try to meet their owners. He wasn’t sure if anyone seriously tried to start up such centers. He wondered how they were performing. If nobody else had begun such a business, he should do so and make a difference. He should make his trade standout.

He rose and took his laptop. He opened the Just -Dial web site and entered the keywords to search for the available institutions. It listed a few names with their contact numbers. Vivek grabbed a notepad and a pen then scribbled down the information. He wished to call them. But he controlled his urge. He would call his friend Arjun first and ask his opinion before he contacted the coaching centers. Arjun should know about the existing centers and how they performed. Arjun might share his thoughts with him. Vivek should also speak with his uncle before he surveyed the available educational institutions.

He checked for their websites, but no institutions had one. He assumed they operated with a low profile. It would be a good opportunity for Vivek to start a unique one and stand out from the rest. If none of them taught the advanced courses, Vivek would introduce such subjects and attract more students.

Vivek called Arjun, and waited for him to answer.

“Hello, Vivek.”

“Arjun, where are you now?”

“I am at home,” Arjun said. “What did you want to talk about?”

“It’s about the computer skills coaching centers in Hubli. I noted some of them from the just dial web site. I would like to visit them with you.”

“Why? Are you starting one?”

“Yes. And My mother is insisting I stay with her instead of returning to Bangalore.”

“That’s a good decision. You must care for her as she is aged and needs someone’s support,” Arjun said.

“I appreciate your agreeing with my decision.” Vivek paused. “Do you know how many computer education centers are operating in Hubli?”

“A few, but none has the advanced courses in them.”

“That’s what I too anticipated. I introduce the advanced courses and try to attract more youngsters to make them industry ready.”

“You have a good vision, Vivek.”

“Why don’t you visit my home tomorrow?” Vivek leaned forward. “ We can plan what needs to be done next.”

“Sure, I’ll meet you tomorrow.”

Vivek was content as he took some initiatives in starting his venture. Arjun and his uncle should help him in making his plan a success. He made a correct decision to care for his mother. She was in dire need of someone to look after in her old age.

Chapter 4

Vivek freshened up and chose to wear an informal short sleeved blue shirt and cream-colored pants.

Arjun would arrive, and Vivek needed to take him to the coaching centers. He wanted to understand how the existing institutions were performing; he wished to know the courses offered and the fee structure.

He stood in front of the large square mirror; his face appeared cheerful. He buttoned his shirt sleeves and combed his hair before he retreated to the living room.

He had come out of his mother’s hospitalization blues, and things had settled down. His mother was in the kitchen. She wore a light purple cotton sari with a gold border. Her grey hair was well combed and tied into a small braid. The whirring sound of an exhaust fan and the whistle of the pressure cooker filled the air.

The previous day, Vivek took his mother to the hospital for a weekly checkup. The doctor had told him she had recovered well. He admired Vivek for his decision to settle in Hubli and care for his mother.

Even though Vivek’s mother appeared happy, perhaps her mind was still filled with the memories of Vivek’s father.

His chest lightened seeing his mother active in the house as before. She had recovered from her depression in two weeks, and Vivek’s presence had made a difference in her life.

Arjun had been his best friend. They both prepared for the examination studying overnight, and competed for the highest grades. Vivek and Arjun considered studying together as a win-win situation. They helped each other out if they had trouble in the subject matter.

The door bell rang. It must be Arjun. Vivek opened the door.

In his white checkered shirt and a beige pants, Arjun looked handsome. His fair and wide forehead was prominent under his black close-cut hair. His shirt matched his fair skin and his button nose contrasted with his flat and fair cheeks.

“Hi, Arjun. Come in,” Vivek stepped back.

“Hi.” Arjun adjusted his glasses with the golden frame. He removed his footwear. “How are you? How is aunty?” His glance shifted to the dining hall.

“We both are doing well.”

Arjun had been concerned about Vivek’s mother after Vivek’s father died. He had helped him in arranging the rituals along with the relatives. I’m lucky to have a friend like Arjun.

Vivek ushered him to a sofa and they both sat.

“Are you sure about shifting your stay to Hubli?” Arjun turned to him.

“Yes,” Vivek nodded curtly. “I can’t leave my Mum alone. She doesn’t want to come to Bangalore, either.”

Vivek’s mother stepped into the living room; her eyes ran over Vivek and Arjun; she gave them a faint smile.

“Hello, aunty,” Arjun smiled. “How are you?”

“I’m doing well. It’s good to see you,” She sat beside Vivek. “Vivek told me you were coming.”

“I’m glad Vivek decided to live with you,” Arjun said, his tone soft.

“I wanted him to return to Bangalore,” Prabha said. “But he doesn’t want to leave me alone here.”

An unusual silence hung in the air.

“Mum, we’re going to visit some coaching centers,” Vivek said. “What do you suggest, Arjun?” He looked into Arjun’s eyes.

“It’s a good idea.” Arjun crossed his arms. “You’ll get useful information out of your visit. I know about a couple of them.”

“Shall we meet their owners?” Vivek asked.

“Yes, we can.”

“I’m sure owning a coaching center would give me enough work.” Vivek looked at Arjun. “What do you think?”

Arjun nodded. “I too think so. But we get a clear picture only when we survey the existing ones.”

Vivek nodded.

Hir mother went to the kitchen and came back with two cups of coffee. She gave the drinks to them.

“How is your wife doing, Arjun?” Prabha raised her eyebrows.

“Doing well, Aunty.”

“Which month is she carrying? Seventh?”

“That’s right.” Arjun sipped the drink.

“I’m sure you’re going to have a baby boy this time.” Her face lit with a smile.

“I am also hopeful, Aunty.” Arjun grinned. “All are waiting for the D-day.”

Arjun didn’t want to pursue his career in engineering; he wanted the engineering degree for the prestige of it.

“It’s good that you have settled well with your family,” Prabha said. She looked at Vivek, seemingly expecting him to speak.

Vivek’s chest tightened. He took a sip and then said, “Mom, Arjun had his business set up by his ancestors. I needed to stand on my own before I see the girls.” He turned to Arjun. “I studied hard, you know. How can I get married without a job?”

Arjun put the empty cup on the table. “Your father has left you with enough real estate. You can settle down here without worries.”

Vivek leaned back. “But my knowledge in computer science will be wasted.”

“You can continue working with a married life, can’t you?” his mother said, smiling. “I don’t’ think you need to postpone the marriage just because you haven’t settled. You have been working in Bangalore for two years and you’re earning well to support your family.”

“I agree with you, Mum,” Vivek said, his voice flat. “But the software jobs are challenging. I wanted to gain enough work experience.”

“Don’t you think two years were enough?” Arjun asked.

“Yes, but Dad’s incident made me not to think of my marriage. And now, I’m planning a new venture and I need to make it a success before I tie a nuptial knot.”

“It’s okay,” Prabha said. “Let’s not talk about it. Your father wanted to see you happily married to a beautiful girl.”

She was disappointed over the matter. Vivek needed to convince her and win her heart. She had been recovering from the depression in last two weeks. She should recover fully and become cheerful as she used to be.

“Mum, I need some time. Let me make my current undertaking a success. We’ll think over the marital matter after I settle with my business.” Vivek held her hand and smiled.

Prabha nodded crisply. “That’s a good vision, Beta. I know you won’t disappoint your father’s departed soul.”

“Vivek,” Arjun said. “I’ll help you to whatever extent you need. I am glad that you have set two goals this year – starting the coaching center and getting married.”

“How about starting a software development centre here?” Arjun asked, his eyes glowing.

“I think that’s a good idea,” Vivek grinned. “But our town lacks the required infrastructure. We need a high speed internet and an uninterrupted power supply. The working atmosphere should be on par with that of Bangalore.”

“You’re correct,” Arjun said, his voice lowered. “I heard that the government is planning to set up a software technology park in the outskirts of the town. We can think of the software startup company when they really make it ready.”

“Vivek, I suggest you work as a mentor and educate youngsters,” Vivek’s mother said. “As your uncle said, teaching is a noble profession. Young students will benefit from your knowledge gained in the industry.”

At times, his Mum spoke philosophically. She came from an orthodox family, and believed in good deeds. She told him he’d teach youngsters.

“You’re right, Mum,” Vivek said.

“So, what’s our next plan?” Arjun asked.

“We’re going to my uncle’s place. We will take him with us. He will share his experience and gives us useful suggestions.”

“That makes sense,” Prabha said. “He will be of much help, being an elder. Let him discuss the details with you guys even though he doesn’t have much technical knowledge.”

Vivek nodded. He walked Arjun outside.

He removed the car cover and wiped the dust off the vehicle. It had been a while since he had used it. He had mostly used his motorbike when he went out alone. He sat in the driver’s seat and opened the door for Arjun.

The street was crowded with motorbikes, cars and a couple of green city buses. A hoard of buffaloes obstructed the traffic. They soiled the road and made the street a mess. A few pedestrians crossed the road amidst the still traffic.

Vivek struggled to drive through an unmanned intersection. Motorbikes slid through the spaces between the cars, and loud honks of the vehicles fell on Vivek’s ears.

He waited for the traffic to ease up and raised his car windows to avoid the pungent smoke.After a few minutes, a policeman arrived and eased the flow.

Vivek parked his car outside his uncle’s house, just before the iron gate.

“How is your aunt doing?” Arjun asked as Vivek turned the engine off.

“Not bad, but dementia is still an issue with her.”

“Is she under medication?”

“Yes, she is under his care. My uncle has consulted a few doctors outside Hubli to treat her.”

They stepped out of the car and walked towards the gate of Pankaj’s house.

The verandah had beautiful blooming jasmines and daffodils. The red and white roses, grown near the porch caught Vivek’s attention. Two coconut trees stood tall at the corners of the building, and a blooming bougainvillea draped the top of the wrought iron gate. The smell of flowers and wet soil permeated the air.

Vivek looked forward to taking his uncle to the training centers.

Chapter 5

Snehal stepped out of her institution and arrived at the parking lot. She pressed the ignition button of her scooter. The vehicle puttered and let out a bluish–black smoke. She heaved sigh of relief. It had been a hectic workday for her, and she’d handled four sessions since morning. Wednesday would be tiresome with three more periods to teach.

Before she raced her vehicle, a couple of students approached her from behind. “Madam, we’ve a few questions.” Snehal drew in a heavy breath. She needed to behave politely and address their concerns. She shut the engine off and parked the vehicle.

“Tell me what is it?” Snehal asked.

One of the girls opened a C++ language book and pointed at a page. “Madam, we didn’t get the concept of abstract classes.”

Snehal took the book and explained the solution in detail. She described everything until everyone understood.

“I taught all this in class,” Snehal gave a dismissive glance. “Why didn’t you get it then?”

They looked at each other, perhaps, feeling guilty.

“I know the subject is a bit tough,” Snehal said. “It seems like you don’t pay enough attention in the class.” Snehal gave the book back to the student. “Do you have any other questions?”

“No, Madam. Thank you for your time.

“You’re welcome.”

Snehal sat back on her vehicle and drove off the premises.

The traffic was heavy with motorbikes and a few cars. Snehal struggled to cross an intersection while a loud and deafening honk from the bus hurt her ears.

She entered her house, opening a wrought iron gate. The main door was open. She stepped into the living room. Her mother, dressed in a pale purple sari, sat on a couch, watching a TV series.

“Hi, Mum.” Snehal put her hands on her shoulders and kissed on her cheek.

“Aren’t you late today?” Deepali asked.

“Yes, Mum. I had to teach a few extra classes to cover the remaining syllabus.”

“You look so tired,” her mother said. “I told you not to work there. The teaching job is stressful for you.”

“But I need to do something, right?” Snehal avoided her eye contact.

“You can look after the house and help me.”

“Mum, I’m a computer science engineer.” Snehal furrowed her brows. “How can you tell me to do that?”

“But can you handle the stress you’re undergoing?” Deepali asked.

“It won’t be stressful every day,” Snehal said with her voice defiant. “I like teaching and I don’t feel tired at all.”

“I won’t prevent you from doing whatever you like. But you need to see if the job is right for you.” She paused.“Did Ranjit call you after you met him last week?”

Snehal’s’ breath caught in her chest. She had never expected her mother would talk about the matter. Ranjit did call her that morning but Snehal was busy teaching. She hadn’t called him back. “No, Mom. He hadn’t called me.” Snehal couldn’t stop lying.

“Why don’t you call him?”Her mother said. “You should be in touch with him. It’s the time you need to develop the relationship. If you remain silent, Ranjit might misunderstand you. We don’t want to miss the alliance. Ranjit is a good boy.”

Snehal let out a long but a low sigh. She didn’t want to continue her relationship with Ranjit. She still disliked his skin complexion. And marrying someone who came from a more affluent family than her own would be a risk. She didn’t want to become a puppet of her would-be-in-laws.

“Mum, I‘ve something important to talk about,” She jittered her foot against the floor.

“Tell me.”

“Is Ranjit suitable for me?” Snehal paused, studying her mother’s expressions. “Don’t you think he is very dark?”

Her mother remained silent for a moment. “But-” She mumbled.

“Try to be honest with me, Mum,” Snehal raised her voice.

“I agree with you, Beta. Bur your father doesn’t want to disappoint Ranjit’s father.”

“So, to please dad’s business partner, I need to marry Ranjit, correct?”

Deepali became silent, staring down.

Snehal loved her parents. Her heart sank as her mother continued staring at the floor. Snehal went and hugged her. “I’m sorry, Mum. I’m not sure if Ranjit would allow me to study and work further.”

Her mother seemed to be pondering over the matter that Snehal spoke about. “Didn’t you ask Ranjit?”

Snehal swallowed a lump in her throat. Should she reveal the truth that she hadn’t asked him? “No, Mom. I haven’t.”

“Snehal, you must agree at least for your dad’s sake. I know you are correct, but your father will be disappointed. You’ll never get married if you go against his wishes. It’s wise for you to accept the alliance and start loving Ranjit.”

Snehal’s mother supported her father. Snehal didn’t have any option but to agree what she said.

“Okay, Mom. I’ll call Ranjit tonight and talk to him about the matter.” She rose and looked at the wall clock. It was already quarter past seven. Why hasn’t Dad come yet?

She went to her room and put on a polka dotted yellow and blue night dress and then freshened up. She stood in front of a large mirror, encased in the dresser. Her face, oblong and fair, looked fresh after she washed it. Her prominent long nose stood out from the rest of her facial features.

She grabbed some lip gloss and smeared it over her full and open lips. She gently applied the mascara to her black and deep set eyes. She combed her hair and tied them into a pony tail.

She craved some coffee and went to the kitchen. Her mother was still watching the TV series. Snehal quickly prepared two cups of coffee and then went to her mother. She sat beside her after she gave her a cup.

They exchanged a few words, sipping their drinks until the door bell rang. Snehal went and opened the door.

Her father, Kailas, in his green suit smiled and entered.

“Why are you so late, Dad?” Snehal asked.

Her father removed his shoes. “I had to convene a meeting with my colleagues. It took more time than I had anticipated.” He breathed heavy.

Snehal went back and sat beside her mother. Her father sat on a smaller couch.

“It has been a more than a month since you arrived late,” Snehal’s mother placed the half empty cup on the table.

“I know, but I need to look after my work as well, right?” Snehal’s father grimaced. “Being a co-founder, I’ve a lot of responsibilities.” He looked at Snehal. “And this quarter is a financial year ending. I need my colleagues to work overtime and finish their pending job.”

Snehal wished to clear the air. “It’s all right, Dad. Her loneliness made her question you like that.”

“I just wanted you to be at home after office hours.” Snehal’s mother rose. “Let me get you a cup of coffee.” She went to the kitchen.

Kailas took the AC remote and decreased the temperature.He placed it back on the table. “How is your work going?”

Snehal squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. Usually, her father opposed her going to work.

“Going good.” She put her curls behind her ears.

“Did you talk to Ranjit?” Kailas asked.

Snehal’s stomach clenched.She hadn’t expected her father would bring that topic up as well.

“Um..I didn’t-” Snehal stumbled for words.

“So, you haven’t spoken to each other since you met last,” her father said with his voice raised.

Snehal remained silent. She didn’t want to argue. She didn’t want to reveal anything about Ranjit’s call during her teaching sessions. Her father would surely ask why she hadn’t called him back. He might insist she call him now.

Snehal’s mother arrived with a tray containing a cup and gave Kailas the coffee.

He sipped the drink. “Ranjit’s Dad called me today.”

Snehal’s heart raced. Her father would definitely agree to the early marriage. She should speak her mind.

“What did he say?” Deepali asked.

“Ranjit is interested in Snehal.” Snehal’s father smiled. He ran his eyes over Snehal and her mother. “They’re interested in arranging the engagement.”

Snehal gritted her teeth. Should I voice my concern? Or should I remain silent and speak with Ranjit later?

She hated disappointing her parents. She would rather talk to Ranjit and postpone the engagement.

“When are they going to plan it?” Deepali asked.

“They want to hear from Snehal before they fix the date.” Kailas looked at Snehal. “Are you all right with the alliance, Snehal?”

Snehal didn’t want to remain silent. “I need some time to think it over, Dad. Please don’t insist on it.”

“When are you going to tell us?” Her father furrowed his brows.

Snehal remembered her mother’s words. If she didn’t marry Ranjit, she would never marry in her life. Her Dad would never support for any other alliance.

“I just started working and would like to gain more confidence in my profession,” Snehal said. “Don’t you both think I should progress my career?” She darted her eyes between her parents.

“How does your career affect your marriage?” Her mother asked. She looked at Snehal’s father. “She is quite reluctant to agree to the alliance.”

Snehal sensed a threat as her mother also supported her father. She wanted to be wise about avoiding any arguments.

“Mum, try to understand.” Snehal bit her lips. “What I ask is to postpone the wedding for another a year or so. We can have the engagement now and the wedding next year.”

“We will lose the alliance if we do so.” Kailas rubbed the back of his neck..

Snehal preferred to remain silent instead of forcing her stand. She would better meet Ranjit and talk to him about the matter.

The prolonged silence created anxiety in Snehal’s mind. She rose. “Mum, I need to prepare for tomorrow’s class. Bye, Dad.” She forced a smile. She went to her bedroom.

“Call Ranjit tonight,” Snehal’s mother said, her voice high.

I have never seen my parents so insisting. They are quite stubborn, and they disappointed me. Dad doesn’t want to betray his friend. He acted so selfish.

Priya would be irked if she spoke to her about her engagement matter again. Snehal would better consult Ranjit and tell him she needed some time to decide about their wedding.

She collapsed on the bed, and grabbed her phone. She pressed on Ranjit’s name and listened to the ringtone until he answered. “Hello, Snehal. How are you?”

“I’m doing well.”

“I called you in the morning. Were you busy?”

“Yes.” Snehal paused. “Can we talk now?”

“Sure.” Ranjit sounded elated.

Snehal pondered about how to talk about the matter of their upcoming engagement. Should I somehow get him to speak about it? Or should I explicitly tell him she want to postpone the wedding?

“Ranjit, did you speak with my father?” She wanted to know if anything had transpired between them. If they’d talked about their engagement, Ranjit would mention it now.

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