Alia came face to face with the greatest lie of her life which surrounded her for seventeen long years. She didn’t have a father, although Mr. Roy considered her the oasis in his deserted life. Alia had often seen the picture of a man in the unused corners and drawers of her mother’s cupboard. Some even had her mother and the man together. Her innocent heart didn’t suspect anything for she was very fond of her family. She and her brother had an exceptional bond with their father, whom they considered their hero. Alia turned to him whenever she wanted something for she knew her father would make the earth and the sky meet to bring her what she wanted. He held every word ever spoken by her delicately and fulfilled every wish however, wild they may seem. Since the day she came across the pictures, the man never left her mind. He seemed vaguely familiar to her. Her brother, Aditya didn’t know him. She had asked her mother whether she knew the man only to get an unsatisfactory answer.
“Oh, a distant relative,Alia. Leave it” she had said.
But Alia didn’t acquiesce her defeat as she hunted down old photo albums, her parents’ mobile phones and tried to remember every distant relative on boring house parties to satiate her curious mind. But she couldn’t find any trace of that man except the few photographs, which her mother had already kept aside after she had asked her. After those futile efforts, the man took a backseat in her mind as more important works started catching her attention.
* * * * * *
A few days passed and one day while taking out her mother’s scarf for her, from the top most rack of the cupboard, a paper flew out. It was her birth certificate and she realised she had never actually seen it by herself. She sat on the floor reading it, the day of her birth, time and the names of her parents, when suddenly her breath got caught in her lungs. Her eyes almost bulged out at what she read. She blinked a few times to adjust her focus and read again. Feeling numb, she kept the paper where it was and walked back to her room and locked it. Staring at the ceiling, she sighed as if she was holding her breath all along. She couldn’t believe it as her heart beat fast and tears accumulated in her eyes. The truth hit her hard. Her father was not her father!
“You are not my father?” Alia’s voice shook and finally broke at the weight of her emotions.
Rajiv looked at his daughter, spellbound. “No..” He finally uttered a word in what seemed like a lifetime.
Alia was already crying, looking at her feet, which she always thought were as big as her father’s. Rajiv, not knowing what to do next advanced to embrace her when Alia looked up.
He stopped, anxious. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Her voice was calm, just like the sea before the storm.
“I thought.. it didn’t.. you know, didn’t matter..” his voice trembled as he looked around to f ind his wife for help.
” Didn’t matter?” Alia half screamed ” You mean, my existence doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who is my creator ? It doesn’t matter how I came to earth? It is my right to know.
What benevolence did it result in hiding the creator from his creation? It … ” She gasped for breath. ” It does matter to me and you” she paused before saying the next line which virtually killed Rajiv ” are not my father” Alia ran outside.
Her father stood there with his numb feet and took deep breaths as his heart throbbed with pain. He didn’t know, Alia would react like this. He always felt Alia was his daughter. He didn’t know that blood was really thicker, that blood only counted. Alia on the other hand, felt that her parents betrayed her, kept her in dark about the truth of her existence. Sitting on the last bench of the public park, hidden from view, she burnt the love, the memories of the seventeen long years in her tears. She didn’t have a father.
“He is a good man, Alia. He loves us. It doesn’t matter if we are not connected by blood..” explained Aditya.
“He might be anything, but not my father” Alia said before she hung up and switched her phone off.
She still was finding it difficult to accept the truth. Her world fell apart in a day. Reena found her husband in a terrible state when she reached home from work. Broken, he was crying profusely. She was shocked that Alia had found out as she kept on her futile effort to comfort her husband. Alia came home late.
“Where were you?” Reena asked.
“Where is my father?” Alia demanded, completely ignoring her mother’s question “Who is my father?”
Reena sighed. She had long forgotten her past, moved on. She didn’t want to dig the graves. “He is your father” she said softly, pointing towards his husband.
Alia looked away. “My real father! I want to know!” She screamed “I want to know what happened to him? Why are we not staying with him? Why did you marry again? Is he dead?..”
“He is” Reena intersected.
Aditya sat by his father who was looking sick.
“He is dead for me” Reena continued, her words pricked her own heart as she walked by the memory lane ” You are shameless” her voice quivered with anger.
“I just want to know the truth” Alia said coldly. ” He left me” Alia stared at her mother who was crying.
” When Adi was only two, Alia, when you were in my womb, he left me”
All eyes on Reena, she sat on the chair and continued with her quivering voice. Alia felt numb the second time in that day. She felt her head spinning. “He left me for a wretched woman, left me handicapped. It was devastating for me, Alia. My pain and my difficulties increased as I singlehandedly was raising you both. I wanted to die but I couldn’t kill you and leave your brother to die. Alok had died for me the day he left me” Reena paused. “Rajiv is my college friend. He came as the ray of hope in my life. He married me, accepted me with both of you. How can you say that he is not your father? After he raised you for seventeen years, loved you, fulfilled your every little wish ..?” Reena was crying like anything, her heart broken from the dark memories. She was breathing heavily.
Alia didn’t know what to say and walked straight towards her room and locked the door.
* * * * *
The next morning, the sun did shine but not so bright for Alia and her father. She still couldn’t accept the truth of her life and her father waited with bated breath for the day his daughter would call him her father. Their bond was questioned, the bond Rajiv had grown with utmost care and love. He was in love with Reena from their college days. When he had found out about her misery, he rushed to help, only to fall in love again with two more persons. Aditya knew about this but he was told by his mother not to disclose the truth to Alia. Reena didn’t know that her one mistake could cost her happiness for she should have told Alia.
* * * * * *
Years passed by and Alia changed into a gorgeous lady, who was ready to enter the most youthful phase of her life – her college life. She was enjoying the perks of staying at the hostel: more freedom and more friends. Whenever she got skype calls from her family, she ignored her stepfather and only responded to her blood relations. Rajiv helplessly witnessed the situation and felt like an invisible ghost.
Despite being amidst many friends, gossips and love proposals, Alia did well in her studies. Her only problem was that the thought of her real father came to her mind, especially during the dead of the night, disturbing her from a good sleep. Anu, Alia’s roommate and best friend with the brown-eyes and long black hairs, sacrificed her sleep to comfort Alia.
Anu said, “should you waste your time thinking about the man who created you and left you and the rest of your family?”
“It is easy for you to say this Anu. I can’t accept anyone else other than my creator as my father,” replied Alia
Anu said, “I am sorry. I am just trying to comfort you. Worrying won’t change neither the past nor the future.”
“That is right,” thought Alia and tried to sleep.
* * * * * *
Alia’s family often came to visit her. Some of her hostel mates used to ask her who the man in the car was and Alia used to reply that the man was a driver. Rajiv never got a chance to talk to her at the hostel and could only look at her from a distance.
After the first semester exams, Alia packed her things to go home for a month. Anu had already finished packing her things and was looking at Alia.
Alia, “Lucky you! A real loving father awaits you at your home. I have to survive a month at my home, facing that fake father.”
Anu, “shut up Alia. You are luckier than me.”
Alia, “I am jealous of your fortunate life. I really am, Anu. You will be getting a myriad of gifts from your real father when you reach your home. You will be getting the real affection of your real father when u are home.”
Tears began to drop from Anu’s shiny eyes like white pearl beads. Surprised by the sudden change of emotion, Alia asked, “what happened?”
Anu closed their hostel room and then reluctantly revealed the scars on her tender body.
“Omg!!! What is this?” Alia was perturbed.
“One of the myriads of ‘gifts’ from my real father,” shouted Anu and threw a pillow at Alia in anger. Anu then concealed her scars with her clothes and went outside with her own bag.
Alia tried to stop her but Anu didn’t stop. Anu walked towards the bus stop and caught a bus.
Anu sat on the side seat and looked at Alia who was standing outside. Anu said, “Hope to see you after the holidays. Goodbye.”
Alia could not forget the scars on Anu’s body. Anu’s helpless face, when she bid goodbye, haunted Alia for long. She went back to her hostel room and finished packing her things.
The familiar sound of the car horn reached her ears and she walked outside her room with her bag. She went downstairs and approached her car. Reena and Alia’s brother Aditya were standing outside the car, waiting for Alia. Rajiv was also standing near the car, looking at Alia. He knew that he could not earn Alia’s trust and love. Like a humble servant, he walked towards Alia to carry her bag.
Alia freed her soft hands from the heavy bag and ran forward. Reena and Aditya knew that they were going to get a warm hug from Alia. But Alia ran towards Rajiv and hugged him tightly. Warm tears flowed incessantly from her eyes and she said, “I love you, daddy!”
Aditya tried to stop his sister from crying in front of the hostel but Reena stopped him and said, “let the remorse of many years flow as tears and cleanse her mind.”
Rajiv also had an emotional moment and he said, “I love you too, my princess.”
Whole hostel witnessed a heart warming family moment and some of them cheered in joy. Alia and her family headed towards their home, following the joyful sun which was cheering at them from the horizon.
(Thanks to Ramyani (click here for her blog) for this collaboration)