Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Simple Heaven

Raju knew she was the one when he first glanced at Shantha. He was sitting in his Physics class when she walked in late. She was wearing a pale pink saree which was casually draped over her tall and lean frame. A thick strand of hair were taken from behind her ears and tied back in a small knot and the rest of her hair was left to sway on her shoulders ending in small curls.The lecturer gave her a hard time for stepping in late which she handled with ease. She came to sit next to Raju as he sat closer to the room entrance. After class was over she asked help from Raju to catch up with the lost time and Raju noticed her eyes. They were grey and specked with green and a true pleasure to behold.Soon Raju and Shantha became good friends. Raju had to move on to medical college while Shantha stayed back to get her bachelor’s degree. They stayed in touch and when Shantha wanted to do her post graduation, she moved to the city where Raju was studying for his medical degree.Every evening they met at a coffee shop near his campus. It was walking distance for him and Shantha had to catch a bus to get there. She did not mind as she was aware of the heavy work load Raju carried and this afforded them some close quality time. Their friendship blossomed into a caring and affectionate love and the need to see each other every evening.They were famous at the coffee shop as they spent more money and time than other customers and probably ate or drank next to nothing. Still the employees of the coffee shop welcomed the young couple and left them to their talks of sweet nothings.Both set of parents became aware of them and soon a wedding date was marked on their calendars.Raju debated a lot on his choice of residency. He wanted to become an eye surgeon but he knew the demands of his choice of profession. If he were to take internal medicine, the demands on his time would still be there but would be less compared to that of being a surgeon.Shantha made his choice for him. He completed post graduate studies as an eye surgeon before his wedding and the young couple found a good home relatively closer to Raju’s workplace to start their married life.Soon Shantha was busy with raising two small children and Raju was involved in building a private practice.Raju’s hard work and dedication paid off that he soon became a prominent surgeon in the city they lived in. This meant he was more at work and less at home.Shantha initially occupied her time with her children. Once the children went to school. She had more time on her hands.She became involved with the ladies clubs and soon got tired of their inherent politics. She then became involved with charity work and realized it helped her to some extent. But nothing could help cover the void that her husband’s absence created. She was extremely aware of the work he had to do and her husband’s dedication but she still longed for those years as a college student when they had each other for company and the thoughts of work and career a distant future.It was their 15th year wedding anniversary and Shantha was wondering what gift to get for her beloved husband. She decided to get a beautiful water fountain as she knew they all enjoyed to hear the sound of running water. It did cross her mind what gift her husband thought of but she knew she would be happy to get anything even if it were just wishes. Both Raju and Shantha did not place emphasis on material things so were happy to be recipients of each other’s love and affection which was their own special chord that connected and held them close through the trials of life.Before Raju left for work on the morning of their anniversary he told Shantha to be ready at 7 p.m and make arrangements for someone to take care of their children as they would be returning late in the evening.Shantha blushed a bright red when she heard this from Raju and eagerly anticipated the evening. She could not resist sharing this news with her close friends who insisted they meet for lunch to celebrate the anniversary.Shantha knew they were all meeting more to pick her brains and to try and guess where Raju was taking her and what gift she might get.Her friends decided that Raju was taking Shantha to the newly opened and high priced French restaurant and their assumptions of the gifts Shantha would get varied from a diamond necklace to expensive sarees to fancy vacations and even on a trip aborad.Shantha accepted their good natured banter and remained relaxed in anticipation of her special evening.She had a nanny come in to take charge of the children and had made arrangements for the nanny to sleep in if needed.7 p.m. saw Shantha step in to the car driven for her and she had decided to wear a simple pink saree with her hair tied back the way Raju liked it.As she sat back in the car and looked at the passing views she soon noticed they were entering the neighborhood of the medical university campus. And soon enough the car stopped outside the coffee shop that they used to frequent and Shantha stepped into the coffee shop her eager and surprised eyes darting in search of her husband.“Thank you for this wonderful gift”, she said after planting a moist lipstick laden kiss on Raju’s cheek.“What gift ?” asked Raju his eyes alight with pleasure and love for his wife shining through.Meanwhile coffee was served with an assortment of the delicacies that Raju had picked out for them.“This gift of meeting at the coffee shop”, said Shantha her teeth biting into a moist chocolate cake.“Oh that is not the real gift”, said Raju as he opened his leather attaché case and drew out an envelope.“This is your gift” he said as he handed over the letter to Shantha.Shantha wondered what could be inside this envelope as she opened it in amazement. The letter was addressed to Raju by his senior staff Kumar. In the letter Kumar stated his pleasure in accepting partnership of Raju’s private practice.Though it was good news that Raju was getting a partner, Shantha could not make the connection of how it was her gift for their wedding anniversary.“Once Kumar starts as full time partner, my working hours will be vastly reduced. As part of the arrangement I have decided to work only 10 – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. This would of course mean setback financially but well worth it.I miss not being there for you and the children but I had to work long hours to bring the practice to where it is today.Also as per the agreement, in 5 years I will become a consultant to my practice which would mean I can work the hours I choose to.For our 25th wedding anniversary, I have chosen to retire. By then our children would have grown up and would have finished studies.Then I would like to volunteer my time at the reputable eye center catering for the poor and the needy.Only if its o.k with you as well” said Raju as he ended his small speech.Shantha was speechless. Her eyes thanked Raju for his thoughtfulness and her mind fell in love with her husband allvover again for his unique qualities.She was well aware of the financial sacrifice he was making to compensate for his time away from practice.His philanthropic nature wanting to serve the poor was a fact that Shantha accepted and resonated with as well.Not trusting herself to speak she nodded her assent and blushed when her husband held her hand to place a warm kiss.What better way to look forward to retirement when they both would go back to old times, walking hand in hand and serving life’s purpose as a couple bonded in love and united before God.

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