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Ayesha waited with anxiousness..would she or wouldn't she, that was the question.
Every Sunday evening, her Chachu, Chachi and their son Paarth went out for dinner. This norm had become a routine with them. With them, the little Ayesha had also developed a routine. Every Sunday she waited..she waited for an invitation for her.. to join them.
Ayesha was a foodie. She loved eating out. Life at the age of eight, was all about having fun for her. Playful, extrovert, loving...she was adored by everyone in the family. Her Chachi was quite fond of her and since Ayesha wasn't much of a trouble monger, she often went along. But there were times when Paarth wanted to spend some lone time with his parents or at times, even Tripti, Ayesha's mom refused to send her with them. Tripti would judge the scene primarily and explain the situation beautifully to Ayesha. And Ayesha always understood. Though small, Ayesha knew when she was wanted and when not.
Came Sunday. Again. The dinner plan was made. Paarth wanted to go to Radisson for dinner. Tripti and Ayesha had just come back after fifteen days from their Nani house. Nothing was said about Ayesha. It just never crossed anyone's mind actually. The normal household chores were being carried about.
Around eight thirty, Tripti offered dinner to Ayesha. Ayesha refused, "Mummy, I am not hungry yet. Please, can you wait for sometime?" Tripti found it a little strange since Ayesha had not even munched anything since their evening milk. Anyways, she just shrugged and went away. Half an hour went by. Paarth and his mother went to their room to get ready. Food was offered again to Ayesha and came the same plea," Abhi bhi bhookh nahi hai." Tripti felt concerned.."Uuff, Kahi yeh bimar to nahi padhney wali? Phir sunna padhega Nani house se bimar hokey aayi. Huh, and they say zamana badal raha hai..haha." Her in-laws were good people but still, even jokingly, never missed a chance to comment otherwise.
Engrossed in her own chain of thoughts, she observed that Ayesha was behaving weird too. She was hovering up and down around her Chachi's room. But why, Tripti just wondered. Then a sudden flash hit her. She called Ayesha in her room. "Beta, are you feeling ok? bhookh kyu nahi lagi, Chanda?" "Mom, abhi nahi lagi, sachi" replied Ayesha.
Tripti saw the anxiety in her daughter's eyes. She was prompt ,"Dinner pe jana tha aapne Chachi saath? But she didn't say anything beta. Maybe next time. You,be a good girl and have your food." Tripti's heart cringed as she saw two big tears rolling down her daughter's cheeks. "But Mom, Paarth only said in the evening that he wanted me to go with them. But no-one told me to get ready. I have been moving around their room," cried Ayesha. Tripti tried hard to pacify the young child. But Ayesha was certain that Chachi would suddenly remember and tell her to get ready.
Tripti felt bad for her child. Parenting poses difficult situations and predicaments each day. Tripti didn't know how to demarcate ego from self respect for a child. Even the lil Ayesha maintained her ego. Convincing a child that ego doesn't come in the way of relationships...well, thats easier said than done. Ayesha wouldn't tell Chachi she wanted to go. She wouldn't even let her mother ask her Chachi. Tripti knew she could tell Chandani about her predicament. It was after all no big issue. But even her self respect stopped her. She somewhere wanted to teach Ayesha that self respect was more important than the joy of eating out. A last minute invite was not respectable enough. Maybe, today Chandani really didn't want to take Ayesha, so why should she thrust her child on them? Joint family and it's do's and dont's can be taxing at times. To explain ego n self respect to an eight year old was not her cup of tea. All she could do was, let her daughter go through her lil trauma.
Finally almost after an hour of the "getting ready ritual", they all left for the dinner. Tripti's heart cried in pain for Ayesha. She knew a lil heart full of hope had been tattered to pieces. What bothered her more was the fact that Ayesha hid her pain, her emotions behind a facade. Eyes all wet but voice all normal..the eight year old managed a smile and asked Tripti," Mom, can I just have a glass of milk? Am not hungry today."
Tripti hugged her daughter tight. Ayesha clinged to her mom," But why Mom, did Paarth tell me I was wanted when I wasn't? I never said anything about my wish. How could they? Next time, even if they tell me I won't go. " "Beta, Chachi might have forgotten to ask you. Don't hold it against her please" Tripti explained. How do you tell a child that elders are prone to mistakes too. And that ill feelings are not nurtured forever. Unintentionally, a heart got broken. We, elders at times don't even realise that our thoughtlessness can cause our kids soo much pain.
Tripti realised that inspite of the strain in her marriage, they both needed to get above their differences and take Ayesha out. Kids shouldn't really face the brunt of the marital strain. Ayesha hugged her mother and without food, went off to sleep... sobbing still. Tripti cried herself, failing at her helplessness and wondering what impact this small heart-shattering dinner would have on the child's heart and upbringing???