It was just 7 pm and there was haunting silence around. My wife was busy preparing rotis for my journey. But this time she was neither talking about the gossips she had with the neighbor in the morning nor she was nagging the kids for not studying. My son sat in the corner of the sofa just staring my moments, while my little daughter was roaming behind me helping me pack.
"Papa, your water bottle" – Aditi handed me a water bottle. "Thank you dear" I said n lifted my head just to see her pale face. "When will you be back papa?" she had a pain in her voice. "Just a month and I will be back. Days fleet just like that and your papa will be home". "How far is Ajmer? Can’t you drop by weekend?" it was my son with a puzzle block in his hand. "Oh! No! Sunny! You know how far Ajmer is. Don’t you? And why are you all so sad? I will be calling you all every day. There is no reason for you to be sad".
There was a killing silence again. "And you Sunny. You are not a kid anymore. You need to be more responsible now. Take care of your sister while going to school and do not forget to take her back from school." He shook his head in consent. "Aditi, dear you should not go near the well in the backyard while playing with friends. Take care of yourself. Do not trouble your mom." I said to Aditi who was now leaning against the wall. "Yes Papa" she said in a low mild voice.
I did not want to leave my family like this for a month. This is the first time ever I was going to stay away from them for a month. All were very dependent on me and I feared how they would run their daily routine in my absence. My heart was very heavy. But I could not express it to them. I am the strongest in the family and I was supposed to fill confidence in their little hearts.
Shruti packed my dinner and kept it in my bag. It was 7:30 pm and I had to leave. I asked Shruti to take care of her and kids. "Lock the doors safely" I said "and walk careful while crossing the roads. Give me a call in case of any issues. I will keep calling you all often." "You too take good care of yourself" she said "I and kids will be fine. Do not worry." She did not sound very confident. "It was my fault", I thought. I did not teach them to live independently.
Reluctantly, I left the house and I could see them wave at me till I disappeared in the dark. My steps were heavy. My heart wanted to go back home and console my family and give them strength. "How can they live without me for a month?" I wondered. "I should visit them in the weekend no matter what it takes", I thought.
Suddenly, there were thunderstorms and it could rain any time. I had to walk fifteen minutes more to reach the bus stand and realized I did not carry an umbrella. "Let me go back home and get the umbrella" I thought and walked back towards home. I was happy to get some more minutes to spend with the family.
I rang the bell. I wanted to see the happiness on my wife’s and children’s face to see me back home. My heart was beating faster than ever. After few minutes, my wife opened the door. "What happened?" she asked and before I could reply she said, "Just hold on. Nirmala is on the line. I will be be back in a minute" and rushed towards the telephone. I stepped in and saw my son engrossed watching Machester United hit a goal. I could hear my daughters foot step for a song from the other room. Everything seemed to be so normal. I was stunned to see the change. Sorry, there was no change. It was the routine. My wife came to me with an umbrella. "Be careful and watch your steps in the rain" she said. "The roads get soggy and you might slip". I smiled and waved at her and left the house. I felt light.
It was that day I realized how my presence or absence has nothing to do with anyone’s life. It is human nature to think and worry of how life could be without us. When we get our daughter married, or when our son moves out to a different city to work, we keep bothering about their happiness, their safety and want to protect them just the way a sea shell does to a pearl. But in fact, they will run their family in a much better way than we can think of. We can just guide them and say there is thorns this way or flowers on the other. But ultimately it is left to them on what they want to explore.