Manohar sat on the edge of the ragged cliff looking at the imposing Himalayan mountains far away. The spongy clouds had just parted company with them to sail across the cerulean sky along with the little gusts of wind that stubbornly pushed them around.

“Why are you so sullen today?” he asked them. “Oh! So, you want a shower, is it?” he asked and giggled.

“Ok, I want to ask you something this time……”

This had been his daily routine for the past week he came with his wife Sonia to Mussoorie, the Queen of Hills. He spoke for hours on end to the mountains. Sometimes the light breeze that ruffled his hair answered his queries otherwise it was in the form of the sudden shower that drenched his words. He looked forward to this tete-a-tete longingly, every time they visited.

He made it a point to come to Mussoorie at least twice a year. He had bought a tiny cottage there, having a spectacular view of the giant ranges, just enough for four to six members. It was furnished sparsely and had a little kitchenette which allowed Sonia or him to churn out basic meals whenever they wished to.

This is supreme bliss! But there was a time when I thought otherwise!



After two daughters, Manohar Lalchand Sharma was born to Lalchand Pawanchand Sharma in Bijli village, near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

There was nothing great about his lineage. His father owned a small provision store in the village. His mother was a homemaker for most of her life. His sisters were married off when they were sixteen or seventeen. He was eight when they left their maternal home and rarely visited, so he couldn’t recollect much about the time he spent with them.

Being a son, he was educated until he was a graduate and capable enough to stand on his legs and, more importantly, get a fat dowry.

They were just above the poverty line but his Nana(father) and Mai(mother) never deprived him of the essentials in life.

He, in turn, worked with his father and expanded their grocery store. It became the first supermarket in Bijli village.

Sonia came into his life when he was twenty-two. She was seventeen and was on the verge of completing her senior secondary education. She wasn’t very good-looking yet her vibrant smile that reached her eyes made Manohar blush in love.

Starting from tender looks exchanged at the grocery store, their breezy love story wafted to little hide-outs in farmlands on moonlit nights till it turned into a storm that harshly threw them back to reality at the Village Panchayat.

“Sarpanch, how can we Brahmins take a girl from the Prajapati caste as our ‘bahu’?” boomed Lalchand before the gathered crowd.

“Sarpanch, I admit it is Sonia’s mistake but his son is not a cow. He lured Sonia with his songs and words of love. See, I have the proof,” Sonia’s father flung the cards and letters Manohar had sent her. They pierced his father’s bloated ego, who retreated painfully.

Manohar looked at Sonia, standing behind a mango tree, her kohl-rimmed beautiful eyes watching this drama unfold and maybe, wishing he would swing into action like a true hero.

Until then, he wasn’t sure what he could do to manage the situation but her expectations were nothing short of a command.

He went quietly up to his father who was still in a heated argument and told him, “Nana, don’t waste your time. I will marry only Sonia. I need your and Mai’s approval. What this panchayat says doesn’t matter to me. You both must call Sonia and her family home before you decide.”

Lalchand fell silent. After the Panchayat dispersed, they both walked silently home. But the storm didn’t pass smoothly. Turbulences in the form of social status, caste, education, dowry, etc. kept shaking the family’s stability.

It is indeed difficult for my conservative family to accept our relationship.

But Manohar had made his point, and the seat belt of truth and relief protected him from being hurt. He went about his daily life but saw less of Sonia, which was understandable.

Three months later, they got married in a simple ceremony in the ‘Jai Bhawani’ temple on the outskirts of Bijli village but with the blessings of their parents.



“Papa…..” Twelve-year-old Brijesh rushed in with his trophy. “I came first in the Math Wiz competition. Not only that my teacher told me that I am the youngest contestant to win it this year.” His face, glistening with sweat and happiness, lit up their little home.

“Look Sonia, didn’t I tell you that our son will achieve great heights of excellence?” Manohar said, hugging Brijesh. “He will rule the roost.” His laughter echoed through the neighbourhood.

Manohar had set up a small clothing store ‘Lalchand & Son’ in Meerut. They had moved in there a year after marriage. Sonia was not comfortable living in a joint family. She also felt that she could not remain a homemaker in the village as she had learned tailoring and dress designing after high school and wanted to put it to some use.

Sonia customized the clothes that ladies bought at their shop. She quickly learned the latest trends in dress design and was smart enough to increase the sales volume. Manohar’s business grew. He soon opened another outlet as a designer store, which Sonia managed with the help of two attendants.

Manohar’s earnings were handsome. But the going was tough. They had to supervise multiple aspects of the business, hence hardly spent time together as a family. However, they never let Brijesh feel the pinch. They spent time with him and encouraged him to excel in academics and other activities.

Manohar never lost his genes. Like his father, he cut corners to give his son the best of everything, in fact more. He could send Brijesh to a good school and was happy to see his sapling bloom as he desired.

“Sonia, I wish to send Brijesh abroad for higher studies. Even though he is our only son, I wish he could taste a full platter before choosing what he wants to do. I have saved enough for that. And he is a smart chap. I am sure he will make it to the top universities. We must let him fly.”

A wave, a mixture of joy and sadness, washed over Sonia. She fell in love with Manohar all over again.



Brijesh completed his Masters in Business Studies from Delhi University and went to London for further studies as Manohar intended.

Meanwhile, Manohar expanded his business and opened new stores at three more locations- Delhi, Murshidabad, and Lucknow. His sister’s sons took over the management of those stores. Sonia handled tailoring and customization online, with a dedicated team’s help.

“Brijesh, when are you coming back to India?” Manohar finally asked after a lot of deliberation.

“In six months, Papa. I will do some research here on how to start and manage a business before I land there.”

“But son, I am here to help you. Our business is doing fairly well. My entire team is waiting for you. We can learn and unlearn so many aspects of business together. Your knowledge and my experience can take our business to unimaginable lengths and heights.” Manohar couldn’t control his excitement.

“Oh, Papa! PLEASE!” Brijesh sounded exasperated. “Your old-fashioned methods are not for me. And I am looking to start my own business and market designer clothing under my label. It will be exclusive and for the crème of society, not for commoners. I have spoken to my friend, who is in this business. He is ready to partner with me. I will further diversify into other products, like accessories people look to pair with their clothing, etc. I hope you understand.”

“But beta, we have a name and market exclusively for our existing business. We cannot disappoint our long-standing customers. You should take care of that. Anything new can only be developed as an extension of this. I cannot break the trust people have placed in us. And your mother is taking care of the customization very well. She even caters to online buyers.” Manohar sounded concerned.

But things didn’t move as he desired. Brijesh wanted to connect with the high-end society in the name of business. Even though he came back, his goals were money and fame. He did everything possible to set up a large showroom that sold exclusive stuff at exorbitant prices. He took loans to fund his project from established names in the industry. He was ready to pay lakhs to actors and other personalities to get them as brand ambassadors.

Manohar’s vision crumbled and fell like a pack of cards. Though he admired his son’s capability to dream big, he could not find himself in the scene that unfolded before his eyes. Even Sonia was at a loss for words when it was her turn to make Brijesh see some sense and understand what Manohar wanted.

One day, Manohar broke his long silence on the matter, “Sonia, I think our dreams have failed us. Brijesh wants easy money. He doesn’t think business to be a long-standing relationship. His partnerships and associations will continue till his brand generates good margins and profits. They will fall once he loses out to competitors and is left behind in the race. I can’t risk my established business by waiting for him to take over or shut it to support his whimsical fancies. We have thousands of people who believe in us and will help us run the show as we grow older. The strong foundation we have set can take care of the structure, with or without Brijesh or us. Hence, I wish to rename it ‘Lalchand Fashions’. It will no longer be called Lalchand & Son.”

Sonia held his hands tightly, tears wetting their palms, to show her support as he continued, “My dear, my only regret is when I think about the sacrifices we made to educate Brijesh and give him the best in the hope…..” His voice broke. “I do not wish to do that anymore dear. We have deprived ourselves of so many good things in life. Let us enjoy life to the fullest now.”

Manohar smiled seductively at a surprised Sonia. She was happy that he had not lost himself in gloom and desperation.

Years rolled on. Their business went on as usual. They now took time off to go out on five-star dinners and didn’t bother to calculate their expenses over and over again.

Manohar took Sonia on long vacations. Sonia started enjoying this leisure time. Fond memories of their time spent at Bijli village came rushing back.


Manohar bought a cottage in Mussoorie as a surprise for Sonia’s fifty-fifth birthday. They went there for a week. Even Brijesh took time off from his work to please his mother.

The cottage was lit up and a grand evening in the hills with a concert and dinner was planned for the occasion. Manohar’s sisters and their families, Sonia’s mother and a few of her friends were the invitees. Manohar’s parents and Sonia’s father had passed away sometime back.

The families stayed over for a few days after the celebrations and time passed quickly in merry-making and sightseeing.

At the end of it all, Brijesh spoke to Manohar and Sonia, “Papa, I want to wind up and go back to UK. There is no satisfaction in this business. I am unable to cope with the idiosyncrasies of rich clients. I have got job offers from some good corporates. Looks like I will get more money with less effort than in my present business. And I will have to shoulder fewer responsibilities which is a relief.”

They were calm as they had known the course of the storm much before.

“Son,” Manohar spoke after a while. “I knew that you would enter this point in your life when you started this venture. I am sorry it came too soon. An enterprise cannot be built in a day. You were not interested in my business and neither do you wish to learn about it now. I fully understand your stance. Also, if you need any advice in the future, we are there for you. But, please remember that we cannot bear your monetary losses. Not now and never in the future. My earnings and savings are for both of us and philanthropic purposes. I cannot cut corners in my life anymore. It’s your responsibility to pay all the debts and loans before you shut down. Wish you the best.”

Manohar walked away without waiting to see Brijesh’s reaction. Sonia did not stop him.

He walked on till he came to the edge of a cliff. The twinkling lights of the little cottages at the foot of the giant mountains smiled at him. The cold breeze hugged him. But he felt warm as a sense of righteousness washed over him.

“I am right, yes?”

His words echoed in the silence. It was as if nature agreed with him.

And thus, his conversation with the mountains began and went on….





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