Prishaa was in good hands. Chhaaya responded to Aarti's letters and kept her informed on her baby's development. Aarti's parents found her a groom and she was married but her letters to Chhaaya continued. Even though she had three more children from her marriage, she never forgot her first born and every year on the day of their dual birthday, Aarti celebrated it with special prayers and rituals at the temple. Daily she started her mornings with a prayer when she asked the wind to carry her blessings to the land where Prishaa lived and told the Gods to keep her safe. The world changed all around her with World Wars, countries dividing, space flights, a moon landing, computers, internet, her children's weddings, grandchildren, loss of her husband but the constant was the void. Letters with Chhaaya ended at her passing and Aarti had lost her only connection to her first born while the abyss grew deeper and darker. It haunted her wherever she went, shadowed her into her darkest corners, echoed in her dreams as if calling out, screaming.
On her 90th birthday, Aarti went to the temple early in the morning and prayed to see her daughter, Prishaa once in this lifetime. Later that day, gathered around her living room for her birthday party was her entire family. Her three children stood with their spouses while her grandchildren and great-grandchildren filled up the rest of the room. She looked at them with pride but her happiness was incomplete. The void deep inside her heart gnawed and tugged at her with renewed energy.
After blowing out the candles and cutting the cake she looked into her children's eyes and smiled. Taking in a deep breath, she reached into her pocket and took out a photograph. Her family looked quizzically at the tattered, yellowed picture of a beautiful young woman in her 20s with thick dark hair and sparkling eyes. They realized that if their mother's eyes sparkled, they would be exactly the same as the girl in the picture. Infact, all her features resembled their mother - her nose, the shape of her lips, the high cheek bones.
Aarti's only son stepped forward and asked about the girl. His mother smiled and turned her gaze to the photograph. He saw love in his mother's eyes as he had never seen before, for him or his siblings or even their father. He touched her hand and asked again. She set the picture on the table next to the cake, sat back in her chair, closed her eyes and began her story.
to be continued....