I stood stunned. For a moment Pia’s reply didn’t even register in my head.
My mum reacted before me.
“Pia!” She cried and started to run behind her. I put my hand on her shoulder and stopped her.
“Let her go ma..”
My mum tried to make excuses for Pia’s reaction, “Let me explain to her Khushi. Maybe she just misunderstood you. I’m sure about it.”
I smiled. I was hurt by Pia’ answer, but not surprised. Last night I had asked myself the same question. I had tried to put myself in Pia’s shoes and tried to think about it from her point of view. Each time, I had come up with the same answer.
“I don’t want to press her. Its her decision, and I’m going to respect that.”
“And what are you going to do Khushi?” My dad asked. Both my parents had a hopeful look on their face.
I had thought about this question too last night. About what I would do, if Pia refused to come with me. Would I leave everything that I loved, that I had worked so hard for? It had been a difficult decision. Obviously, the right thing to do would have been to give up everything and stay with Pia.. But I wasn’t a saint, my life meant something to me. Call it selfish, call it whatever. But ten years down the line, I didn’t want to blame Pia, if my life didn’t turn out the way I had wanted it to be.
Of course, I would try and come visit her as often as possible, but apart from that, there was nothing much I could do to help Pia. As for my own demons, I would have to find another way to get rid of them. But I could not, for anyone’s sake, throw away everything I had.
“I’m going home..” I knew I was inviting my parents wrath. But they had to understand, they had to! I wasn’t ready to give up everything I cherished. I felt horrible about it, but why was I expected to sacrifice my job, my freedom, my ambitions??
My father surprised me, “Its ok Khushi.. Whatever you decide, we’ll always support you and love you.” He squeezed my shoulder.
“Oh, dad.. I didn’t know how you’d react..” I was so grateful that they were okay with my decision.
“Khushi.. ” He cupped my face in his hands like he used to when I was a little child, “We are not going to judge you based on your decision.”
My eyes welled up.. I covered my face with my hands trying to hide the tears from my parents. My father gently pulled my hands apart and wiped my tears away.
“Promise me, you’ll visit us often..” My dad’s grave eyes looked deep into mine. I think, he wanted me to visit more often to ensure that I was ok, rather than the other way around.
I laughed a little, I had come here to help my family out and all I had done was adding to their problems.
“I promise.. ” I flashed a quick smile at my mum..
“Well.. I guess there’s nothing more I can do here.. ” I started walking away.
“Khushi…” My mum interrupted.. “If possible, talk to Pia before you go..” It was a request that I could not refuse.
I nodded and went to look for Pia.. She wasn’t anywhere in the house. I stepped outside into the garden, there I found her on the guava tree. Perched on a branch, holding a book.. That used to be my hiding place when I was younger. The branch was a place where I could sit for hours and not have anyone disturb me.. I walked towards the tree.
“Pia.. Come down Pia..” I called.
Pia looked at me with troubled eyes. “I’m not mad at you Pia..” I reassured her. Pia didn’t look at me. She shifted ever so slightly, such that there was little place for me beside her on the branch.
I didn’t know whether the branch would take my weight now. Regardless, I started climbing and made my way to the branch.
“You mind?” I asked her before sitting next to her.
She shook her head in response. We sat there in silence.
Finally I broke the silence, “I have to go now Pia..” Pia didn’t react.
“You’ll call me?” No reaction. Pia was giving me the silent treatment. I didn’t know how to deal with her. I pecked her on her forehead and got off the tree. I walked back briskly to the house. I had to get out now, otherwise I would never leave. I dumped all my stuff in a bag, bade farewell to my parents promising to return as soon as possible.
As I approached the gate, I turned back to take one last look at the house. I saw something move and for a moment I thought it was Pia.. But I was mistaken, it was just a shadow. I smiled at my foolishness and without a second glance, walked away.