Nikki and Kiyan exchanged glances from time to time then shifted focus to the hospital floor. Their discomfort was visible in their eyes and body language. Both the kids tried hard not to look at Roshan. Roshan was observing them from the chair opposite to them. The OT waiting lounge was small with a handful of people around. The light on top of the operation theatre door was still glowing. It had been a long afternoon. Roshan stood up from his seat and stretched a bit.

“I m going to get a coffee, you two need anything?” Roshan tried to clear up the air.

Both the kids nodded in the negative without looking up from their close inspection of the hospital floor. They did not like the man. He was the one who was responsible for the state their mother was in now. At least that’s what they thought.

Roshan got his coffee and replaced his bulky self into his chair. He carried a couple of tetra packs of fruit juices in case the children changed their minds. He tried to reach out to the children but words failed him. He knew they thought he was a villain.

*****

Neelam was a happy upper-middle-class housewife. Her two children, Nikki and Kiyan, were studying in a good school. Her husband was well placed in an IT job. Life was good until a year back, things took a downfall when Kabir, her husband, had a massive stroke and was left paralysed on the left side. The savings started to dry up soon that is when Neelam had to take a decision. She had quit her marketing job after Nikki was born, more than a decade ago. Going back to the office and starting all over again was difficult for her. Besides, she needed flexi-time to look after her family’s needs. She knew driving and they had a car. Neelam decided to join one of the car rental services operating in the city. She also joined a driving school to teach female students in the mornings.

Neelam liked her new work. She was earning and was able to look after her family as well. Things were beginning to look up. The kids were also getting used to not having mom around them all the time. Nikki even took care of her dad and brother while Neelam was away on duty. She had grown up overnight.

Neelam faced a lot of curious glances and questions about her job from her neighbours and relatives. Her clients would be surprised to see a female driver when they came to board the cab. Some would even cancel the ride when they learned it was a female driver. Most clients talked to her and tried to find out how she got into this profession. Neelam took pride in what she was doing, that she was able to survive in a job that was considered safe only for the male drivers. However, she was cautious to keep herself safe while on her trips. She would not take trips that required travelling over deserted roads. She also had a knife with her always to protect her from physical assaults. It was hidden under her driving seat and could come in handy if ever the situation turned ugly. Her company knew of this but they did not discourage her from using her knife if needed. Having a knife gave a sense of control to Neelam when she went on her trips. So far in her trips, she had met mostly good clients who would share their concerns about her safety at night, they would praise her for taking a new path.

****

The light on top of the operation theatre went out. Roshan stood up and went near the door. Nikki and Kiyan saw him move and they reached the door as well. Just then the doctor came out and informed that all was well, they were able to take the bullet out from Neelam’s ribcage. But it had brushed the right lung and she would need some time to recover. Roshan gathered the kids and the three went to their places in the waiting lounge. Now that Neelam was better the tension between the two parties eased a bit. Kiyan picked up a juice pack and smiled a little at Roshan.

Roshan didn’t want to lose this chance to talk to the kids and clear the misunderstandings between them.

“Kids, your mother will be home soon. You need not worry.” Nikki and Kiyan looked up at Roshan.

“See, I didn’t harm your mother. Your mom’s car happened to be there when I was being chased by those goons.”

“But why were goons after you? You must have done something bad,” quipped Nikki. Kiyan nodded his little head in agreement while sipping on his juice.

“I have not done any wrong. I am a businessman. I deal in diamonds. There are many people who want to harm me and my business. It was an unfortunate incident.” Roshan hung his head and held it in his hand.

“How did you find her?” Nikki was curious.

“Well,” Roshan cleared his throat and began, “I was going to the sweet shop at the end of the road from my shop. As I walked I felt someone was following me. I checked but couldn’t understand who it was. So I thought it to be an illusion and kept walking. As I neared the shop I saw a man in the front walk towards me with a gun in his hand. I realized it was for me and started to cross the road. That’s when I banged into your mom’s car which was parked there. I was looking behind and walking, so didn’t realise there was a car parked there. I then turned and tried to cross the car from the rear end where your mom was unloading suitcases from the trunk. As I was crossing her, the miscreant took a shot and it hit your mom instead of me. The gunshot created a ruckus in the busy market street and the goons fled. Your mom took the shot and was about to fall when I managed to hold her. Then I laid her in the car and brought her here. And kids, that’s how I met your mother.” As he narrated the story, Roshan’s eyes captured an entire gamut of emotions which went from being scared to be horrified to being sad.

Nikki and Kiyan listened very attentively. They too were shocked and saddened at what happened. They realised that Roshan was not directly at fault for the pain their mother was in.

“I am sure the police would find them,” Nikki said hopefully.

“I hope so too.” Roshan responded, “I am so grateful to your mother, I could never thank your mother enough. The bullet was for me but she is the one fighting now. I am so sorry kids. Wish I could change everything.”

The atmosphere in the waiting lounge had changed. Now Nikki, Kiyan and Roshan together were waiting to meet Neelam once she came around.