“Your love has spoilt our only daughter Tina!” Mrs. Gupta often used to shout at her husband.
“She will always be the cynosure of my eye,” Mr. Gupta would reply every time.
Tina was her father’s indulged daughter; everyone knew that: all in the family, her acquaintances. Why not? She was the only daughter of a middle aged couple having enough means to maintain more than a decent living.
Nothing stopped her father from pampering her. So chocolates, dolls, comics and story books –all gifts were brought to her even before they were asked for. On any family outing, invariably, she would be the one sitting next to her father, her hair being run down by his caring hands as the family would be travelling in the car they owned. Every night, before going to sleep, he would lucidly say fables to her until she was lulled to sleep: some fables were well-known, some were made-up. They would water the plants together; play together and read story books and hum a song or two together.
When she had just crossed ten, her Uncle- her father’s younger brother- suddenly passed away to a heart attack. His wife had passed away two years prior to that. Her family had decided to bring up his now parentless girl.
“Your sister will come to live with us soon,” her grieving father told her holding her tight. Consoling her pained father, she wiped away the tears from his eyes with her tiny fingers.
And so, soon along came Riddhi into the family. The family whole-heartedly welcomed her and ushered her into love, trust and care. Tina was also happy for she now had a sister.
“Papa, thanks for bringing me a younger sister,” she said enthusiastically.
Her father held both the little girls tight to him.
“From now on, both of you are my life,” he said looking at his smiling wife.
Things were indeed hunky-dory for a few days, but then soon it was not. Once when Tina came back from shopping along with her mother, she found Riddhi holding and reading an Enid Blyton’s story book along with her father. That was the first story book that had been gifted to Tina by her father and was special to her.
A furious Tina snatched away the book and shouted: “Don’t ever dare to take any of my story books or things.”
The little, scared Riddhi looked at Tina in awe and broke into tears.
“This is not done; she is your younger sister!” both Mr. and Mrs. Gupta said in unison.
“Nothing is going right for me since she came into this house,” Tina said firmly holding the book close to her.
At this, Mrs. Gupta picked up her hand to slap Tina. Eventually managing to hold back though, but followed that with a vicious look at her.
Tina ran away from the room breaking into a shrilling cry. The couple looked at each other in disbelief, probably the first time that the couple had accosted such an unpleasant situation. Mr. Gupta, embracing and consoling Riddhi, himself broke into tears.
An uncomfortable thought kept creeping to Tina’s mind: “I am no longer the only one for whom Papa pines for, I am not the only one now for whom he brings gifts, and I am not the only one to whom he tells stories at night.”
She told herself, “I have never been asked to share my chocolates before.”
So gradually Tina came to preserve an intense malice for Riddhi and soon the rift broadened between the two sisters.
The girls soon grew up to teenagers, and Mr and Mrs. Gupta became accustomed to seeing sibling rivalry. But most often, as the couple remorsefully noticed, it was Tina who used to be the perpetrator of those ugly spats.
“When will better sense prevail upon Tina,” the couple would often rue.
Soon both the girls were eligible for marriage. The Gupta’s bought an expensive necklace for Tina because being the elder of the two, the couple was planning to get her married first: this after Tina’s marriage was fixed and she had expressed her extreme fascination for that particular piece of Jewellery. As fate had it, the marriage never materialized-the engagement was broken.
It had so occurred that Riddhi found a match for her own (before Tina’s marriage could be finalized) and with parents’ consent was planning to get married soon.
It was with extreme anxiety that a few nights before Riddhi’s engagement, the Gupta couple solemnly asked Tina to come to their bedroom after dinner.
“What is the matter? What made you call me here?” asked Tina.
She found her parents very anxious, looking at each other, and unable to speak.
“Speak up…Papa…Maa,” she said unable to wait further.
“It’s about the necklace Tina,” the mother spoke eventually.
“What about the necklace?” a confused Tina asked.
“Actually,” continued the father now, “Riddhi has expressed her wish to be given the same necklace that we had bought for you; she is your younger sister, so you might kindly…”
Hardly had her Father finished, a furious Tina yelled at the top her voice, “From the very day that she entered our house, she has always set her eyes on my things. She has snatched away everything from me, and she wants this necklace also.”
Tina briefly looked at her horrified parents, before continuing: “She will never have it! She will never have it!”
The aging couple looked at each other in dismay as their daughter left in a huff.
The next morning, about more than an hour after Mr. Gupta had left for work, Mrs. Gupta received a call.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Gupta?” –a lady was heard on the other side of the call.
“Yes,” she replied inquisitively, sensing an unknown voice.
“Can you please come down to the City Hospital? Your husband has met with an accident this morning,” said the voice gravely.
“What!” replied Mrs. Gupta, shell-shocked, “how is he doing know? …..Is it serious?” her voice quivering with nervousness.
She was not sure what to speak and kept mumbling.
“Madam, please calm down, everything will be clear once you come down here,” came the consoling reply.
“Tina! Riddhi!” she shouted at the top of her voice. And when both came to her, she barely managed to convey the message and was at the verge of fainting. The three gathered themselves together to leave for hospital.
“He would need blood, immediately!” the doctor told a panic-ridden family immediately on arriving. “He has lost a lot of blood in the accident. Before we can manage to get blood from the blood-bank, if at all it is available, we would like to check yours for compatibility,” the Doctor said looking at two young ladies of the family.
“Take my blood Doctor, I am his daughter,” Tina told confidently.
“I suggest we better collect the blood sample of both of you,” the Doctor said looking at both Tina and Riddhi in turns. “We are running out of time, so in case anyone of two samples matches, we can use it.”
The Doctor asked the nurse who was standing nearby to collect the blood samples of both.
“He has never been even slightly ill his whole life and today he is suddenly fighting for life,” Mrs. Gupta said sobbing, as both the girls held her together, consoling her.
In a few minutes, the Doctor came back. “We can use your blood. Can you please follow the nurse, she will take your blood,” the Doctor said looking at Riddhi.
As Riddhi left with the nurse, Tina suddenly accosted the Doctor, “Was my blood tested, Doctor?”
“Why, did I not take the blood samples of you both? Your blood is not found to be compatible, hers is,” the Doctor said quickly and left.
Tina was crestfallen. Looking at her mother she said, “Papa can have the blood of Riddhi, but not that of his own daughter’s.”
“Is this the time to bother yourselves with those thoughts?” her mother replied exasperated, “just pray for your Father, Tina!”
“Now my own Papa will have Riddhi’s blood flowing in him!” Tina silently repented.
Suddenly then the Doctor arrived,” Can you please get the report of his medical history quickly? Also his last whole-body check-up report?”
Mrs. Gupta checked her purse fervently, and then handed over a key to Tina.
“Your Papa’s entire medical reports are in that trunk in our bedroom below the bed, get it quickly,’ she said.
Tina rushed back to her house and checked the trunk. For some reason she never happened to- or might not have been allowed to-look at the contents of the trunk. But today she was searching crazily everything inside it to search for her father’s medical history reports which might be relevant for the treatment. Suddenly, her roving eye fell on a certificate- “Certificate of Adoption”. In the certificate it was written: “This is to certify that Tina has been formally adopted into the Gupta family by Mr. Deepak Gupta on so-and-so date mentioned and then duly signed underneath.”
And then another letter written on a piece of paper fell on her hands; it read:
“Dear Mr. Gupta,
It was so nice of you sharing Tina’s photo with us. She indeed looks happy and healthy. I know she would lead a much better life with your family than she would have here. Also, thanking you for the fact that you still have retained her name post adoption as was the wish of her deceased biological parents.
Wishing you all the very best,
President, Happy Child Organisation”
Tina sat on the floor wide-eyed, tears rolling down her cheeks. How long she kept looking at the Certificate and letter is difficult to guess, but she was only restored to senses by the ringing of her mobile phone.
“Tina, how long will you take to pick up the phone? Come here quickly, it’s really urgent, your father wants to see you now, he is serious,” her mother said, panicking.
As if in trance, she picked up whatever paper she could get hold of from the trunk, and while leaving she remembered something and searched her almirah.
On reaching the hospital, Tina found her mother and Riddhi seating beside her Father. He was too weak to speak, but however he managed a smile on seeing Tina. Tina sat beside her father and tears rolled down her cheek uncontrollably. Then from her bag she took out her necklace that was bought for her marriage, and tied that across Riddhi’s neck.
“Everything that is mine, will now be Riddhi’s, Papa,” she said holding Riddhi in her arms. Her father had tears in his eyes and so did her mother.
He passed away silently, but with a smile in his face….