Her eyes, nose and smile, all of them seemed so familiar. What was this feeling that groped Karan’s heart. He had no idea who that girl was but he was pulled towards her. She was probably 15 years old. He could sense a strange mask on her face, a mask of gloom. Her smile was slightly suppressed. He could feel her unsaid pain.
Since last week Karan had been coming all the way to this school during lunch break which was 5 kilometers away from his office. He would sometimes get late during the return trip but he didn’t care. He would secretly peep at her from the gate, she would be playing badminton with her friends or chatting while having something to munch on. He didn’t even miss a single day. The girl’s friends had also noticed him watching them in silence, standing outside the gate every other day, smiling like a madman. Poornima had also noticed his absence during a few Saturdays when it was a working day at the school. He had explained to her why he was doing this. Why he was mad about that girl. Why he would keep watch over her during every lunch break.
He had had his lunch and the break was about to end he hurriedly twisted the key and his bike grumbled. He reached his office 15 minutes late. Poornima was worried about him. He had been acting increasingly strange now. Being late after lunch break was a common routine now. She had to confront him today.
‘What is this?’ asked Poornima with slight sign of annoyance in her eyes
‘What are you talking about?’ Karan blankly asked her back
‘This! You getting late every single day. Boss suggests that i take you to a psychiatrist. He says you must be having some problem in your life. He scolded me today too. Baby, this has to stop. Why are you circling that girl? She just might not be her!’ she said putting her palms on his cheeks holding his face lovingly.
‘Poornima, i told you already. It is her! She is Pihu! I know it. She looks exactly like Manoj mama! She is her. You have to trust me baby! This is not my madness.’
‘Karan, it just might be her. Or it might not. You are spending too much time on this. It’s not like I don’t trust you baby, i am just being rational.’
‘Alright i’ll get it confirmed then. You come with me too. I’ll talk to her. Enough stalking now.’
‘Not buts, you are coming with me tomorrow during their dispersal.’
‘And bunk office?’
‘Yes. It’s just one day’
‘Ok fine. At least you’ll clear your misunderstanding’
‘Misunderstanding? You’ll see’
Their conversation ended. Karan sat in his cubicle typing letters. Although he was still thinking about Pihu. Pihu, his sister. She was born when he was 15, he had never been a big brother until she was born. Manoj mama had lied about his marriage to the family. Pihu’s birth was also a secret. But it had to be exposed someday. Manoj mama couldn’t provide for his family. Pihu loved her father the most. But her father didn’t lover her equally. Hence he had had the chance to let his wife and daughter go, and he lunged at that chance. They got divorced and Pihu’s mother, she didn’t accept her anymore. Karan’s mother had offered to adopt Pihu, but his father disagreed. Pihu was sent to an orphanage. She was old enough to survive without a mother, but she was still a little baby, unknown to the world’s cruelty and coldness.
Pihu was then forgotten. Her name was never uttered again. She was like a chapter of a book, that was torn and burnt, completely forgotten and forbidden. Ever since then the family disintegrated. The 5 siblings, they were now strangers. The family was completely shattered. Karan had been thinking only about one thing, the family’s repair. Pihu could have brought them back. Everyone’s heart except Manoj mama’s would melt, or might as well his heart too. Pihu was the only chance the family had.
The next day Karan and Poornima were ready at 1:30 pm standing outside the school gate with other parents anxiously waiting for the girl to come, Karan had his eyes fixed. Then she came, strolling slowly with her friends, she noticed Karan and recognized him. She tried ignoring him, even her friends recognized him, they all decided to walk by without reacting. Karan was surprised at how easily she ignored him, but then she didn’t know who he was, and of course it wasn’t really proved if she really was Pihu.
‘Pihu!’ Karan called out to the girl. But she didn’t react, however she did feel uncomfortable. ‘Pihu!’ he called out again louder. Still no response.
‘That must not be her name. She must have been adopted remember?’ Poornima reminded Karan.
‘Yes right’ he said and took wide steps and reached her, he held her shoulder and stopped her.
She turned around and looked at him.
‘May i help you?’ she said
‘We need to talk to you, could you spare some time? It’s really important’ he pointed to Poornima indicating she was with him. His voice was breaking and hands were shaking. He had touched her, after such a long time. The girl glanced at Poornima examined her and looked back at Karan.
‘You’ll have to drop me home then’ she said. With an extremely suspicious look on her face, probably thinking they were kidnappers.
‘Sure we’ll drop you home’
‘Alright so let’s go to that KFC just outside.’ he said
She looked at him. Giving him a suspicious look. She was being extremely cautious. ‘Please trust us. We won’t harm you. I really need to talk to you. You have noticed that I’ve been coming here right? I really need to confirm something. Trust us please’
She nodded. Still a bit suspicious.
They were now in the KFC which was extremely close to the school. Poornima had been looking at her and smiling the whole time, to assure her that they aren’t bad people. They took their seats, and Karan ordered some random stuff. Karan looked at the girl and then at Poornima and back at the girl, he took a deep breath.
‘Pihu’ he said and took a small pause ‘does this name ring a bell in your mind?’
‘No’ she said without any feeling.
‘What’s your name’ asked Poornima.
‘Your name’s Pihu Maheshwari’ Karan said
‘What?’ she said surprised.
‘Yes that’s your real name’
The girl was really confused and surprised by this. Karan mustered up all his might and asked her.
‘Do you know you are adopted?’
‘Yes i do. My foster parents told me i’m adopted when i accidentally found my adoption papers’
‘What do you know then? From where were you adopted?’
‘Nand Kishan Orphanage’
The name brought both fear and joy to Karan. That was exactly where she was given up.
‘That’s where your real parents left you’
Her face had turned pale. She was Pihu. Karan was right. The princess was finally found. She didn’t know what to feel, she was angry, scared, terrified, happy, sad. She felt all this at once. She was extremely overwhelmed. Poornima was surprised and happy at the same time. She held Karan’s hand and smiled at him, he smiled back.
‘Why was i given up for adoption?’
The question crushed Karan’s heart. He was flying high and now he fell on the ground hard. He didn’t have a proper answer to this. Poornima’s smile faded away.
‘Why was I given up for adoption!?’ louder than before
‘Financial crisis and some other problems’
‘If my father couldn’t afford it then why did he let me come into this world’
‘Its not like that Pihu.’
‘Don’t call me Pihu! I am Shreya. I was Pihu, i am no more. I don’t even know if you’re speaking the truth.’
‘Why are you saying this? I am saying the truth. It was a crisis—’
‘Don’t lie! Tell me the truth. Why was I given up for adoption!?’ she said firmly with tears in her eyes.
Karan looked down at his feet.
‘Because your father didn’t want you.’ Karan said, fighting back tears himself.
Pihu couldn’t take it anymore. She burst into tears.
Poornima comforted her. She didn’t say anything because she had nothing to say. She tried her best to keep the situation calm and cool.
‘Come back Pihu’
‘Why should i go back to where no one wants me? At least they love me here’
‘We all loved you Pihu! We still love you’
‘Then why did you let me go’
Karan couldn’t say anything. They had done the mistake of letting her go. They were guilty.
‘We had no choice’
‘You always have a choice’
‘We need you Pihu.’
‘Exactly. People only keep what they need’
Pihu didn’t reply. She had went silent. Only after 10 minutes of silence she decided to say something.
‘Who are you?’
Karan looked at her.
‘Your cousin brother. Karan’
‘And she must be your….’ she pointed at Poornima
‘Yes…. She is Poornima, my wife’
‘I never had a brother, nor a bhabi’ she finally smiled after a long time.
Karan and Poornima smiled too seeing her smile.
‘I don’t know. I can’t decide. Maybe i could meet them. But i need time to think.’ she said
‘The family is shattered Pihu. Only you can bring them all together. We have always loved you. We tried finding you but then we thought that you must be having a nice life now. But now it’s all finished…the family is broken and apart. Your parents are divorced. They need you Pihu. Only you can repair it’
Pihu looked down. She had no idea of what was happening. It happened all of a sudden. So abruptly. She needed time to take it all in and digest all the reality she had been unknown to.
‘What are their names?’
‘Your father’s name is Manoj and you mother’s is Sarita’
She nodded and mumbled those names to herself.
‘I should go now.’
‘oh yes, right’ Karan said looking at his watch. They had been there for 45 minutes now. They paid the bill of the food which had to be packed because no one ate it. They walked out and boarded a cab. Poornima and Pihu sat at the back, while Karan sat in the front. Poornima thought of talking to Pihu and telling her how much Karan cared for her, and that he had been going mad since the past week.
‘Pihu’ she whispered
‘I know you will find this annoying but, I wanna tell you something.’
‘Sure go on tell me’
‘Your brother, he really loves you. The day he saw you, he recognized you. He believed that it was you from the beginning. He has been bunking office and missing lunch plans with me ever since he saw you, simply to look at you. He really wants you back Pihu’
Pihu nodded indicating she understood. But still she couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
‘What about my foster parents?’ Pihu asked
‘Karan and i’ll talk to them. We are your real family after all.’
Pihu gave a weak smile.
Pihu’s mind was crowded with millions of thoughts and questions now. All of those questions unanswered. She would get the answers of those questions only if she goes back to where she belonged. Her true home. But she couldn’t decide if she really wanted to go back. She still thought that she would be unwanted there. But then she remembered how Karan had followed her and looked over her for the past week. They might still love her. She might find the missing peace there. She might finally laugh a mirthful laugh, smile a carefree smile, and sleep a peaceful sleep in a house were her true family would be.
They got off the cab just outside Pihu’s mansion. The mansion was big. Really big. It seemed that Pihu’s foster parents were rich, very rich in fact. Karan and Poornima were baffled by the looks. The garden looked so majestic. There were 4 cars parked closely. Karan felt discouraged, there was no way Pihu would leave all this royalty to come back to the miserable conditions. This was a challenge now. Poornima held his hand tightly and they exchanged looks. What will happen?
‘You live here?’ asked Karan
‘Its…. extravagantly big’
‘A bit!?’ Karan said surprised
‘No one’s home, you can come in if you want’
‘No we’ll just go’
‘Ok.’ she stood there with them waiting for them to leave.
‘We aren’t so rich. Our family is middle-class. Clearly you wouldn’t leave all this royalty.’ Karan said gloomily ‘We should leave.’
They turned around and walked away and when they were close to the gate Pihu said something unexpected.
‘Bhaiya! Karan bhaiya!’ she called out loud almost screaming.
Karan was confused if it was really Pihu calling him. He was so happy. They both turned around.
‘I’ll leave everything for my family. All this royalty, everything!’ she said her eyes shimmering, a wide smile on her face. ‘I wanna meet my real family bhaiya.’
‘You’ll meet them’
‘Promise’ he said and smiled, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Pihu waved a goodbye and ran back into the mansion, glancing back at them. Both Poornima and Karan waved back. Poornima looked at Karan’s face with tears in her own eyes. He seemed so happy.
‘I finally found what was lost’ he said
‘Everything will be alright now’ Poornima said and hugged him.