Little Anju and Anuj were excited. They clapped when Ranjit, their Baba, who worked as the security guard at a mall, got down from the ladder after hanging the swing in the front room of their house in the chawl. While Ranjit took the ladder away, Sangeeta, his wife stood absorbing the happy moments with much satisfaction.
Anju and Anuj rushed to the swing and were fighting to climb on to it.
“Both of you can sit together. Don’t fight lest the swing will come down”, advised Ranjit.
“Wish Aai was here to witness this joy”, he said with his eyes turning moist.
“Yes. She would have loved to sit and relax in it”, said Sangeeta.
“I couldn’t fulfill her desire to have one when she was alive”, regretted Ranjit.
“She knew that your hands were tied. With you as the only earning member and 5 mouths to feed, buying a swing was a luxury”, said Sangeeta in order to fetch some solace for her husband’s troubled soul.
Watching the children enjoy the swing, Ranjit’s eyes twinkled as an idea dawned to him, the brightness of which turned the gloom away from his heart.
Before going to bed, he placed his Aai’s photo on the swing.
“Aai, I couldn’t buy the swing when you were with us. But now that the swing is here, I want you to enjoy it”, he muttered.
“Watching us from up above, she sure will be happy to see the swing in the house”, assured Sangeeta who had followed him when she saw him going towards the front room.
As the night cast its long shadow, Ranjit went to bed in the kitchen as-usual, for he had morning shift to attend. He soon was snoring deeply. He was awakened by the sound of a lullaby that his mother used to sing for him. He got up from the bed and tried to make sense of it. The sweet sound came from the front room. He thought it to be Sangeeta as Anuj had the habit of getting up in the middle of the night and she then had to put him to sleep singing the lullaby. He turned to his side and saw Sangeeta sleeping peacefully.
He decided to check it out. He walked towards the front room. Adjusting his vision to the darkness of the room, Ranjit found Anju and Anuj sleeping quietly on the sofa cum bed. Swing in the corner, however froze him instantly…
… it was gliding gently, back and forth, not ever once gaining or losing the momentum …cutting through the eternity of time and space around. The slanting rays from the street light, seeping through the window were stroking the photo placed on the swing.
Shell shocked that he was, he couldn’t believe what he witnessed. Beads of cold sweat gathered on his forehead. Regaining compos mentis, in a matter of seconds, he turned the light on. His gaze at the swing was met with another shock.
Swing stood steady, so did it’s twisted shadow on the wall and the floor, as if it had never moved. The lullaby too dissolved in the thin air. The silence of the dead of the night filled the room making him question whether he heard the lullaby or it was just the figment of his imagination. Failing to get an upper hand over the emotions, a faint scream escaped Ranjit’s lips.
“Aai…”, said he with a shaky voice, “Come back …only once…once again… please” as he knelt down with tears cascading his eyes.