Author’s Note: If you haven‘t read Part 1 yet, catch it here
Arundhati eagerly made her way into Balraj’s office. As soon as she stepped in, every single member of staff got up from their seat and clapped for her, to her surprise and astonishment. Soon, Balraj came and stood in front of her, he looked so proud! She could see some of them wiping tears away from their face. What was supposed to be an administrative formality had suddenly turned into an emotionally charged moment and she was renderred speechless by all the appreciation and recognition they showered on her.
She turned her attention back to Balraj who said, “Aunty, you are the most inspiring person I have ever had the honour to meet or teach. I know I am the guru and you are the shishya. But in these last few months, I feel I have learnt much more from your determination to succeed than what you would have learnt from me. I have taught you a skill Aunty, but you have taught me how to live. Please allow me to take your blessings.”
In a split second, Balraj prostrated himself before Arundhati and touched her feet. She was so moved by this show of respect that the tears flowed freely from her eyes. “Balraj, you always have my blessings beta, please get up now. You are making me feel very old!” she said, attempting to lighten the moment.
At this, Balraj and his colleagues joined in the laughter and happiness. Eagerly, they asked Arundhati to accompany them into a meeting room. As she stepped into the room, someone turned on the lights, and she saw what pains they had all gone to. The meeting room was decorated with balloons and streamers and a big banner proclaimed, “Happy Birthday Aunty! Congratulations on your Achievement! We are all so proud of you!” And on the conference table, they had arranged a variety of sweet and savory treats including a small cake.
Aware of the efforts put into this celebration, Arundhati participated joyfully. She cut the cake while they all sang for her and fed Balraj a piece of the cake, with one hand on his head in blessing. Soon the entire staff wanted to be fed cake and be blessed by her! Arundhati felt young and rejuvenated by the time everyone had enjoyed the treats, and she finally had the certified paperwork in her possession.
Balraj offered to drive her back home, but she said she would take an auto and go back. Balraj couldn’t help but ask, “Aunty, do your family members know about this achievement?” With a twinkle in her eyes, she replied, “No beta, but I fully intend to shock them all this evening!” He laughed heartily, wondering how her family would react. After all, his initial reaction had also been one of shock and disbelief. But as each day passed, it was replaced by respect and admiration. Yes, Arundhati had unwittingly turned into an inspiration for his entire office. And he knew each one of them would carry this unforgettable moment forward to their own families and friends.
Arundhati got into an auto and waved to Balraj, smiling and unable to hide her excitement and glee. She got back home to a full house. Her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren had all arrived. Her eldest son Srini came forward with his wife and handed over a bag to her. “Amma, we have arranged a party to celebrate your birthday in your favourite restaurant. Here’s a new saree we all bought for you. Hope you like it.” She accepted the gift with a big smile, as her son and daughter-in-law sought her blessings. “Thank you, my children, I’ll get ready soon and join you all. Why don’t you all get ready too?”
The entire clan took a couple of hours to sort themselves out and get ready, just in time for the party. It was around five in the evening when they all set out to their respective vehicles. The grandchildren clamoured for their Paati to join them in their car. Her eldest grandson had recently learnt to drive and enjoyed taking his Paati out to different places. The other grandchildren also wanted to spend time with her and she happily agreed to go with them.
After all, it was time to show them just what she had been doing all these months, Arundhati thought. And proceeded to execute her plans to shock her family.
Her grandson walked her to the car when suddenly Arundhati changed direction and firmly walked towards the driver’s side of the car and pulled opened the door with a clear intent to settle herself in. Her grandson was alarmed by this change of direction and gently reminded her, “Paati, not this side! That’s the side for the driver; please sit next to me on the other side.”
Arundhati climbed into the driver’s seat, ignoring him. She closed the door, wore her seatbelt and checked the rear and side mirrors. The car was already running, as her grandson had switched on the air conditioning in advance for her convenience. It had saved her from finding an excuse to get the car keys in her hand!
Meanwhile, her other grandchildren who were already settled at the back went quiet, wondering if their Paati had finally gone senile. Her driver grandson kept tapping at the window, having worked himself into a panic. She slowly brought the window down and looked at him warmly. “Paati, what are you doing?” he asked, unable to understand her behaviour. Wordlessly she handed him a card.
Her grandson looked down at the card in his hands and then at her. After alternating between her and the card a few times he gave a whoop of joy! “Oh my God Paati, you learnt to drive? When, where, how?”
By this time her children had also gathered outside the house, wondering what the commotion was all about. Looking at their mother in the driver’s seat, each of them had a different emotional expression on their face. Until her grandson turned out and yelled, “Paati‘s got a license to drive!”
And while her children still processed this information, he quickly got into the passenger’s seat by his Paati‘s side and said, “Happy Birthday Paati. Let’s go!” while the rest of the family cheered her on. Bursting with pride and joy, Arundhati cruised off into the sunset, grandchildren in tow.
And that is how Arundhati fulfilled her dream of driving a car.
Illustrated By: Dr. Anisha Kumar (Catch her work at ignitingmypassion.wordpress.com)
Author’s Note: I wasn’t sure when writing this story whether a 75-year old woman would even be considered for a driving license in India. But a quick Google search revealed that while the Indian Government is thinking about it, it is not yet a law to stop senior citizens from driving. Besides, this is a fictional story, and I have taken the liberty to take some creative license. 🙂