The Gift

As the administrative head of a hospital,I get many invites to marriage functions and the like and often choose to ignore them. I know it sounds rude but it is just simple pure laziness and also something to do with the fact that I am not very comfortable in crowded areas,especially when the crowd comprises of half-drunk baraatis. But that is just me. I am a considerably social person but marriage parties are just not my thing. You get what I mean here,right?
Anyways, going through the affairs of the day as usual at work, a housekeeping employee came to my office,hesitating as she entered. She held a paper and a card in her hand.
I looked at her as she slipped me the paper. It was an application for advance salary asking for almost four times her monthly wages. I was shaking my head preparing to say,’Impossible!’ when she added,’Beti ki shaadi hai.’
I looked up at her and saw her expectant eyes and folded hands. This is what makes me feel awful,to see someone so desperate.
‘Don’t fold your hands. I will forward your application. Let’s see what can be done. Attach an invitation card to this if you have any.’
‘I have very few madam and this one is for you.’ she said and handed me the yellow card in her hand.
‘Please come.’
‘Will try.’ I said,knowing very well that I would not be going.
I forwarded the application to the Trust Chairman and it was approved. She returned to thank me, almost in tears.
‘Thank you madam! Please come….. with family.’
I smiled and nodded, not wanting to commit.
A couple of weeks passed and I forgot all about it. One evening,my daughter was fiddling with my laptop bag and said,’Mumma,can I take this?’ She was holding the bright yellow card in her hand.
I suddenly remembered and out of curiosity looked at it. The marriage ceremony was on that very day. Driven by some obscure impulse,I decided to attend the ceremony. I asked my husband and though surprised, he agreed to go along as well. We decided to drop in, hand over the shagun and leave.
When we reached the venue, my worst fears came true. The place was over-crowded. I was double-minded about going in when she saw me. The joy on her face was beyond measure.Leaving all the guests,she ran to receive me. There was no turning back now. I managed a smile and walked towards her.
She lead me inside the wedding palace to where the bride and groom were seated and asked me to bless the couple. I congratulated them and handed over the envelope.
My job done,I looked around for my husband and as soon as our eyes met, gestured him to come outside. As we were about to leave,the DJ started blaring out loud music and right at the door,she was standing again. I told her that I needed to leave. Her younger daughter standing by her side whispered something in her ear. She gave her a stern look. The girl persisted. Her mother held her arm and pressed it firmly,’No!’
I was curious.
‘What happened?’ I asked her.
‘Nothing madam.Forgive her,she is just a child. She is asking me whether she can dance with you. Sorry!’
I smiled,cupped my hands around the little girl’s face and was about to apologise… She said the magic word-Please! The innocence in her face won me over.
I looked up at my husband and he winked.
I took a deep breath and took the girl’s hand. As I walked with her towards the makeshift dance floor,she was beaming with joy and pride. I started dancing with her on a song very popular in Punjabi marriages ‘Gur naalon ishq mitha’. All the guests,many of them my hospital employees, were looking at us and were astonished. After a while, they all started joining in. For a couple of minutes,I forgot all my inhibitions and was actually enjoying myself. The little girl was ecstatic. My husband was standing at the end of the room,looking at me,smiling.
I found my way out of the crowd on the dance floor and we walked out together.
‘You were dancing,in the middle of a crowded dance floor.Wow!’ hubby said.
It made me realise that I had not only broken the inhibition of class and cadre but had also overcome the fear of crowds that evening. I thought I had given the family the gift of joy and happiness but actually, the gift they had given me back was bigger.
I have changed jobs since then,moved to a different city but that night was truly magical for all of us and remains as a fond memory in my heart.

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