As the sun emerged from the distant horizon, the fields too began changing colour. The rapidly strengthening sun rays turned brighter with every passing minute, turning the dark and dense looking crops into a lush green landscape. Tiny golden-yellow flowers on top of the crops looked as if each plant had been knighted with a golden crown by mother nature. All kinds of birds emerged from their deep slumber and filled the atmosphere with a burst of chirpy sounds. The entire village was soon bathed in different hues. Not to be left behind, the animals too began walking around their territories, marking, urinating on every pole, tree and bush.

The farmers too began making a beeline on the snake-like thin track to their respective fields. Their farming tools hung from their shoulders like weapons saddled on the shoulders of soldiers enroute to the battlefield. Nature in its full glory was like a beacon of peace, love and tranquility all round.

Gargling and spitting the water out, Ranjit Singh accepted from his wife an old piece of cloth that was once a garment, re-stitched to serve as a face napkin. While handing it back to Amrita, he looked at her inquiringly, “Where’s Gobind?”

“Oh, he has already left for the fields. Says he will come back in three hours and go to school afterwards,” she replied.

The cloth napkin slipped out of Ranjit’s hand and fell on the wet floor between them.

“Which fields?” he asked, his face filled with shock and surprise.

“To work in Bihari Lal’s field. Before leaving home, he told me that he wished to earn while he studied. I couldn’t stop him. He just left without discussing it further.”

Ranjit was speechless. His young, school-going teenage son had taken a decision to work part-time, without even consulting his father.

“I don’t know what to make of all this. Working part-time isn’t wrong. In fact, I am happy for this will inculcate discipline in him. But all of a sudden? I will ask Bihari ji what’s he up to.”

Amrita bent down to pick the cloth from the floor. Then, flapping it in the air repeatedly, she tried to remove the excess water it had absorbed from the wet floor and flung it on the clothesline to dry. She turned towards her husband and looked straight into his eyes. “Maybe we should leave him alone. Let him discover himself. He didn’t sleep well. He even sat up on the cot in the middle of night to say his prayers. He was unsettled last night after your stern talk. But he looked different this morning and very charged up when I met him, before he left quickly. There’s this visible change in him that I have never seen before. I am happy and worried.”

“Prayer? Gobind? And how do you know he has changed?” Ranjit’s face was now filled with confusion.

“Because I am his mother.”

Ranjit’s eyes followed Amrita as she went inside the room. Then, wiping his hands on the cloth napkin that Amrita had just hung, he turned his attention outside. He lifted himself up on his toes and looked in the direction of the large haveli with vast green fields where his son was supposed to be working. His eyes scanned the horizon but couldn’t see Gobind. Turning back, he walked inside to find Amrita standing at the entrance, watching her husband.

“Please stop worrying. You’ll get late for work. Get ready; I will get your breakfast. Your tiffin is also ready. Please don’t forget to take it along.”

Amrita’s affection-filled instructions relaxed Ranjit to some extent. Stepping into the room, he sat down on the floor while Amrita served him breakfast. It was the same food that he had eaten last night. He ate in silence. But his mind was racing in many directions while Amrita rotated the hand-held fan on its swivel. Before leaving home for work, he stood before the lord’s picture hung on the wall, joined his palms and murmured so softly that even his own ears couldn’t hear his own words. “With your permission, dear lord, I wish to go to work. It’s a new day, an amazing one at that. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Only you, dear Guru Gobind, can help my son, Gobind.”

Amrita stood watching her husband in admiration. She couldn’t hear what Ranjit was saying, yet she could very easily guess every word that he had uttered. Customarily, she also murmured the same prayer. While joyous to see her husband in a happy mood, she noticed a change in Ranjit’s prayers. Her lips stopped abruptly because they were not in sync with her husband’s. Ranjit had added more words to the prayer, she observed. It was longer than the one he said daily. She smiled to herself but decided to stay quiet and followed him to the veranda.

Seeing him off at the gate, she rushed back to where Ranjit had stood moments ago. She looked at the picture frame. “Dear lord, please grant my husband whatever he has asked for. Kindly take care of him and Gobind. They are all I have. Thank you for your mercy!” Tiny drops of tears appeared and settled beneath her eyelids. Wiping them quickly, she turned to find Ranjit standing at the door, watching her intently. Stepping forward, he hugged her warmly, picked up the tiffin box and went away without uttering a word. The tall, lanky old man tried his best, but couldn’t hide his emotions. The deity inside the frame looked pleased too, or so Amrita felt.

Excerpted with permission from Gobind, Harinder S Sikka, Penguin India.