A Family Decision

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A few miles beyond Vasai Creek, the outermost boundary of Mumbai, Samanea trees had taken roots on a twenty acre, unclaimed, unoccupied plot of land. This place, near Kanjari village, was simply called the Woods.

Rohit Mathur, a sixty eight years old, retired civil engineer, was a resident of this village. He had built a bungalow in its immediate vicinity. He had moved here from the city ten years ago, with his wife Sita, their son Suresh, and daughter, Priya. Rohit, then, was working on Kangan Bridge project, being built on the Kangan river, about fifteen miles North of the Woods. A few years later, Suresh married his childhood friend Simi, who was now, a mother of a two year old Chiranjeev; Chintu for short. They all lived in Nirvaan as one family.

Rohit was briskly walking along the road leading to the Woods this warm, October morning, with much loved family pet, Jasper, a long eared, short legged, Basset hound dog. Jasper was a year and a half, full of energy. The road to the Woods was narrow; so, Jasper was on a leash; much against his wish and even Rohit’s wish. Out of the house and on the road, Jasper loved to run, but Rohit was not ready to allow that as yet. As they were walking, Jasper was pulling on the leash.

They went up to the Woods. Jasper ran, as soon as he was off the leash; while Rohit kept a watchful eye. Strolling in the woods, Rohit started reminiscing; of his relentless work schedules, first time when he came to the Woods with Suresh and Priya. How the family had grown, from two to four and then, to the present; six, living together as a close knit family.

Normally, Rohit would have strolled here for a while longer. He would have relaxed under a tree, played with Jasper, before going back; but today, he was late. Sita, Suresh, Simi, Priya, all would keep waiting for him for their Sunday breakfast, if he were to be late. Chintu, would wait for no one.

Thinking about his loved ones, he smiled, as he turned back to walk home. He called out “C’mon Jasper, let’s go”. He also smiled because on his return trip, he would be pulling Jasper’s leash. Jasper loved longer walks and runs, and did not like to go back. Whenever out on the road, the bond between them remained tight; one of them, pulling the other. This, he found amusing.

Reaching home, in another twenty minutes or so, a soon as Jasper was off the leash. he ran to his corner in the dining room. Nirvaan dining room was the ideal place for the family to meet and discuss the day’s program at breakfast, and the day’s events at dinner time.

After taking an early retirement as a Senior Engineer, Rohit was home most of the time, relaxing, reading, or working on his laptop. He kept himself busy translating documents from French to English. He was an expert translator. His hobby, and his flair for languages, had made his second career too, a success.

Occasionally, he would visit Mumbai, hitching a ride with Priya, Suresh and Simi. Sita would rarely accompany them. Chintu needed to be looked after. Suresh's SUV was big enough to accommodate them all, even Jasper.

They all had visited a newly built apartment complex, Panorama, in Andheri, a fast developing Mumbai suburb on its Western side, on three Sundays in the last month. Today’s visit was planned as their final visit to Panorama to decide, where the family should live; in Mumbai city at Panorama, or in Kanjari village at Nirvaan?

Rohit was a little sentimental about Nirvaan, which he had built with much love and care. His family had lived happily here for close to a decade. He would not like to move from Kanjari village. But as the head of the family, he would take such an important decision, only with the consensus of the whole family; even though, he was aware that none of his family members would disagree with his view. Each one of them wanted to live with the others of the family, together, not in two different homes. Everyone was keen to share the warmth and support that only a joint family gives.

Rohit had suggested that shifting to Panorama from Nirvaan would be a unanimous decision of the family. Everyone’s view counted. Rohit, at the same time, had found an intending lessee who was ready to pay a good lease rental and was waiting to close the deal.

No one said so, but everyone was in two minds; only the degree of -more on this side or that side- differed. They were keen to live in the modern apartment building, but when they thought again, Nirvaan had its own charm. The decision, where to stay, was a difficult one. On one hand, was a newly constructed building with amenities like gym, swimming pool, children’s play area; on the other hand, was a spacious bungalow, garden, trees, the Woods, peace and quiet.

Sita, had confidence in her husband’s practical wisdom and love for the family. Suresh and Simi were somewhat keen on Panorama because their work places were close by. Panorama was a modern building too. No doubt, the lane leading to it was narrow and the locality was a bit noisy, not up market, but then, there is always some give and take. Priya did not have much to decide. She was getting married early next year and would leave for Florida soon after, with her would be husband, Pramesh. In fact, though no one was saying so, everyone knew, shifting was a practical decision; but at the same time, everyone loved Nirvaan too.

Preparations for today’s anticipated visit were under way since morning. A few kitchen items, baby food, pet food and clothes, were already packed. They were to spend a whole day there and return late or they may even stay there overnight. Rohit had opted for the sample flat on the seventh floor. It was a furnished apartment, ready for use; well maintained by the builder as a showcase flat to be shown to the prospective buyers of apartments.

They had all visited Panorama; twice before. Even Jasper had been taken there to give him the feel of the place. Mumbai apartment dwellers, not used to pets in their buildings, did not easily welcome the prospect of a dog in their elevator. Jasper was even hushed up by the lift man, when he barked. Large, compound in front of the building was used as car parking area. Jasper could not run around there.

At the Nirvaan dining table, once everyone finished breakfast, Rohit said, "Let us decide about shifting to Panorama, Are we deciding to move to the city? Yes, or no?"
It was yes, and no, again no and yes, but finally, the consensus stopped at the expected, Yes. Rohit announced, "Well, yes, it is". Adding, “ Then, let’s get going.” Suresh brought the bags, Simi, water jug and food basket. Sita collected some yellow flowers from the garden for décor and good omen. It was time to go. At the last minute, Priya remembered Jasper’s food bowl. She rushed in, got it, put it in the basket. Rohit called out “C’mon Jasper, let’s go”.

This, always to be obeyed command, was not obeyed today. Jasper did not budge. By now, he had got the sense of what was happening. He refused to get into the car, ran back to the house and stood on the steps. He was watching everyone, and barking. He refused to heed to Priya's call or even Rohit's command. Priya went up to pick him up, but Jasper ran inside. He just would not come out. Now what?

Rohit said “Let’s wait for a minute and reconsider. What about Jasper’s wish? Is he a family member? Do we ignore him?" No one said a word. Everyone understood. They understood the same thing the same way. Jasper was one of them. His wish mattered. And perhaps, he spoke for all.

The silence ended when Suresh said, “Daddy, ring up Sigma Leasing, otherwise, we may lose a good deal”. Simi quickly brought Rohit’s cell phone left by him in the car. Priya had tears in her eyes. Sita started unpacking. She first kept back Jasper’s food bowl in its place.