Natasha had completed the work for the day. The designs had turned out to be great. She was more hopeful of getting the client’s approval , next week. She packed her bag and closed the office. It was a Friday, at last! She took out the keys, ran towards the car. She unlocked it while rushing , got into it. Natasha was heading to her weekend getaway- her second home. It was in the picturesque Pune.
She turned on the radio. It was an old melody , her mother’s favourite,’ ay Dil Hain mushkil Jeena yahan, Zara hatke , Zara bachke , yeh Hain Bombay MERI Jaan…’ (‘ Oh Heart, it is difficult to live here, move a bit, be a little careful, this is Bombay- my life…’ ) She laughed at the co- incidence. She was moving away from the busy city for somedays ! Then she remembered her late mother- her MAA. The lady had done Natasha’s upbringing, single handedly, with no support either from her in-laws or her parents. Her dear husband had disappeared from the home, one fine day. He had shifted to Australia, permanently. He left two parting letters – one for Natasha and the other one for Maa. He wanted to make a new beginning in a new land, with a new career. He didn’t want the family there…. Natasha was ten , then. Her Maa, a home maker, got herself a job- worked hard for a living. Natasha was given education in her desired field. Apart from that, Natasha had a peaceful, happy atmosphere at home. Her Maa ensured that. She loved her Maa so much. She remembered the sudden cardiac arrest, which her Maa suffered, two years ago. It took her away from Natasha, physically. But ,she remained fresh in her memories. Her father’s indifferent, self centered attitude and her mother’s responsible, loving, caring attitude- what a contradiction! Natasha missed the fatherly love, the complete family life .Her father’s behaviour had made Natasha lose faith in marriage. She had decided not to marry. But, deep down in her heart , she missed a family life- the life of togetherness and tantrums, pranks and partying, caring and romancing, arguing and adoring…. Natasha was tearful. Her vision was blurred. She took a wrong turn.
The unknown road was dark. There were hardly any streetlights. There were tall trees on both the sides of the road. There was not a vehicle in sight…Natasha wiped her tears with a tissue. The blur in vision was rectified. She could see the road now . She took a U turn. She decided to return to the main road. The main road was in sight now.. Natasha was relieved. All of a sudden, a man stood in front of the car. She managed to halt the car just in time ;she was shocked… The man walked towards her seat. She looked at him with with fear. Her fear soon reduced, with the entry of a woman and two children. All of them were well dressed. The lady was wearing beautiful gold ornaments and a green silk saree. The man was wearing a blue kurta and pyjama. They seemed to be in their forties. The children were twins- two girls wearing a pink’parkar polka’. ( long skirt and blouse , generally of the same cloth) All of them had beautiful , chiseled features . The woman said, ” We request you for a lift. We were returning from a wedding , when our car broke down. We stay nearby. We would have walked the distance, but for the jewellery….Please drop us….” Natasha, said, ” Yes, surely, do get in.’ They got in. The man sat next to the driver’s seat, the woman and children sat behind. Soon, it was very foggy. It was difficult to drive. Natasha’s vision was blurred again. But the man deftly instructed her. She drove well . She reached their house. The home was indeed nearby. A beautiful white bungalow was waiting for them. Natasha stopped the car in front of the gate. The man opened the gate door. The woman asked Natasha, ” Would you like to have some coffee? Please come to our place. ” Natasha refused politely. The woman asked her to wait. She returned with a box of hot samosas and a thermos flask of coffee. She gave them to Natasha. Both of them thanked profusely. The girls also thanked Natasha aunty. They waved her ‘bye’. Natasha, while taking a turn looked at the compound wall -‘ Atre House ‘ was engraved on it.
Natasha was happy. She, although for a short time, had been a part of a happy family.She was shown affection by them. She ate the spicy hot samosa, while driving and she loved it! She reached home . She immediately slept.
After her stay in Pune, she was on her way back to Mumbai. She filled the box , which Mrs.Atre had given with bread rolls, made by her. She also took the thermos flask. She also bought chocolates for the girls. She went to the ‘ Atre House ‘. She knocked the door. A woman opened the door. Natasha said, ” This is the Atres’ residence? I would like to meet Mr.and Mrs. Atre. ” The woman, who seemed to be a domestic help, courteously, welcomed Natasha and escorted her to the seating section of the spacious living room. Natasha sat on the sofa, the domestic help served water , tea and samosas to Natasha. Soon, a couple in their eighties with walking sticks in one hand and each other’s hand in hand, walked slowly towards Natasha. They were Mr and Mrs Atre. After exchanging pleasantries, Natasha asked about the Junior Atres. Natasha had concluded that the younger couple must be this couple’s son and daughter- in- law. Mrs Atre asked ,” Are you their school or college friend?” Natasha was puzzled. She said , ” No, I met them last Friday.” Mr. Atre said, ” How is that possible? Look at the wall behind you.” Natasha stood and looked behind. She saw the Junior Atres with their daughters framed and garlanded with fresh flowers….
Natasha was stumped. Natasha narrated the incident to the Atres. Mr. Atre said that his son was returning from a wedding , alongwith his wife and daughters. Unfortunately, the car broke down. They were asking for a lift. Noone stopped the car. Some wicked persons looted them and murdered them. They fled with the jewellery and cash. It was around ten years ago….
Natasha handed over the box, thermos flask and chocolates to Mrs. Atre.A tearful Mrs. Atre kept the things before the photo frame. She hugged Natasha.
Natasha left the place with sadness and a strange satisfaction of being instrumental in fulfilling the last wish of ‘getting a lift’ of the Atre family.
Natasha stopped writing further. She was interrupted by her granddaughter Aastha. ‘ Aaji ( Grandmother) , stop writing now. Your autobiography is near completion now. Take a coffee break. Guess what? I have made your favourite samosas. Have them before Aajoba ( grandfather ) comes, else he will not allow you to eat much! I have kept samosas aside for him, as well. ” Natasha – the grandma hugged her doting granddaughter.