|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||Railway platform OR Inside Train|
Family Short Story – Deep into the Sky
Madhu was in dilemma. A part of her was too scared to face the world, alone. That part was coaxing her to run back like a little girl to the security of the place she called her home. And a part of her, was meekly pleading her to stay firm on her decision. That part was making a sincere effort to give her the courage to move ahead in life and live it with dignity.
She was just eighteen when she entered a new horizon of her life. All decked up in her bridal attire, she took a train to start her journey. A strange fear was there, but excitement overruled it. Inside the train there were unfamiliar faces with her. But she knew that they were her own, her new relations that her marriage with Amit has given her. Outside on the platform, she could see all the familiar faces, faces with whom she has grown up, all with moist eyes. They all will soon be left behind and she will move ahead. Her new life was waiting to welcome her with open arms.
Today in her early fifties, she is again waiting to board a train that will take her to a strange land. But today there is no one on the platform to bid her tearful farewell. No one will be there inside the train by her side, stealing the moments to squeeze her hand and pushing himself against her body taking advantage of the moving train.
She was there sitting on the platform amid the jungle of strangers, filled with fear and only fear.
How will she live alone?
She felt very lonely. Her heart was sinking. She wanted to run away from it…but where? What to do? Shall I go back again to my secure world that I call my home? Have I taken the right step? How will everyone react? My absence, will it really affect anyone? Will Amit even notice my absence?
She closed her eyes in search for answer to many questions disturbing her. But there was only darkness. All the good old memories from the old days when Amit madly loved her had long faded away. It didn’t surprise her when she could only recall all the bitter memories, rebuke, insults and taunts, which had all become a part of her life.
The flash of the memories gave her the jitters. She opened her eyes in shock but can’t stop her mind from wandering into that dark lane of her life again. It was replaying again and again.
Once upon a time… she was loved for what she was and not for what she should be? She had tried hard to keep pace with Amit, but somewhere along the way she missed the turn, and he moved ahead. She didn’t realize when every enviable moments of her life slipped from her hand and she sat there gazing the emptiness.
It was yet another day of her life. She had finished packing for Amit. He would be out for a week. She was feeling relaxed and happy. Was it because he will be out for a week or because she will be free to be her natural self for a whole week? She was not sure.
After finishing with her chores, she went to her little recluse. She finds solace in her studio. She can paint her emotions here with all the colors that were missing from her life.
She had wished to continue her studies after marriage. But Amit had lovingly embraced her and had told, “I don’t want you to work. You will be the queen of my house, taking care of me and our children.” He was that same man when he often said to our daughters, “Your mother has the best life, sitting comfortably at home with nothing much to do. Study hard you both. Not everyone is lucky like her to find a husband to feed for life.”
It pierced her heart and it bled profusely.
Amit was swiftly climbing the ladder of success in his career. But behind him Madhu was standing for his support, he didn’t see. He could devote lots of time to his work because she was there to take care of their home, his aging parents, visiting relatives and their kids. He didn’t acknowledge it.
She seldom received appreciation but often ridiculed if anything went wrong. She was often rebuked in front of relatives, friends, colleagues, their daughters and even the servants for small or no mistakes. To avert any unwelcoming situation, she accepted everything he said quietly without uttering a word in her defense, whether it was right or wrong.
When all the abuses became a part of her life, she didn’t realize. Her confidence and self-esteem slowly got wiped out. Yet she was alive and living under the same roof with the same man who was responsible for it.
Her day would have remained so if she had not received that call from her daughter in her new branded cell phone, a gift from her status conscious husband.
She heard her daughter Shruti crying bitterly on the other side.
“Shruti. What happened beta?”
Her heart was sinking.
“Ma, everything is over between Rahul and me. I have walked out of my marriage.” Her daughter sounded devastated.
Madhu’s world crashed before her. Lifelessly she dropped on the floor. No! Not even her own crumbling world could give more pain to a mother than her daughter’s failed marriage. She was in a daze to speak anything.
“I can’t take it anymore Ma or else I’ll die…” Shruti was pouring her heart between her sobs.
Madhu was dumbstruck. But the words hardly mattered. Silence could be heard. They both could feel each other’s pain. Her mother’s silence was speaking a thousand words for Shruti. It was rendering the solace she needed.
She struggled to compose herself. Her daughter needed her. She can understand her ordeal. She had felt the pain in her trembling voice. She could make out that her daughter needed her shoulder to cry. But she was too far to lend it.
“Shruti, do not take any decision in haste. Sometimes differences pops up between husband and wife. You will feel like ending everything. But eventually problems get settled. Give time to your relationship. You will have to work for it. You simply cannot walk out of your marriage.” Madhu was trying to be as persuasive as she could be.
“Many a times you will have to compromise and …above all don’t forget that you are not alone. You will have to think about your daughter. She needs the love of both of her parents.”
“Why only I have to compromise and try for things to work? Why not Rahul? Ma I need a husband, not a dictator.” Shruti reacted sharply. “He is just like Papa- an abusive one. But I’m not like you to suffer in silence. I’m financially independent. I don’t need a man to feed me or take care of my daughter.” There was a tinge of pride in Shruti’s voice.
The meek, fragile Shruti suddenly disappeared. A confident, young, independent, working woman took over from there.
And she had said a lot. Madhu was stunned.
Shruti’s words have opened that chapter of her life which she believed she had hidden from the world. She felt like standing naked before the crowd with nothing to hide. For all of these years she was satisfied that the dark shadow of her marriage has not touched her children. Amit is right. She is really “good for nothing.”
Amit abused her and then justified it. He made her realized that she deserved all this. And she believed him. How stupid she was to keep on believing all these years that she had hidden those rebuke and mistreatment from her daughters when it all had happened in their presence? She remembered requesting Amit not to be rude in front of them. But then he did it again and again. While doing so he even challenged, “And you tell me not to be rude to you before them. You forget that you deserve it.”
And he never did regret or showed any remorse for his behavior.
He named her self-respect to be her ego and she accepted it. He pointed out that she doesn’t have the manner to talk and conduct herself properly and she tried to improve it. She doesn’t have a dressing sense and she only wore what he bought for her. She often wondered how to talk to ones husband in a formal scripted way. But she did because he liked it that way. She changed herself completely and to do so she even took professional help. Still he felt disgusting to move with her in his social circle. She was clueless how to make herself desirable.
As time passed by she shrunk herself in her shell. She talked to him only when necessary. She was not her natural self in his presence, though her real self struggled to set it free.
It was a shock for her to see the same man transforming into a passionate lover whenever he needed the urge to satisfy his sexual desire. She had her own apprehensions. Where do the Madhu whom he hated so much in the brightness of the day disappears in the darkness of night? For her it was difficult to make love with the man whom she dread to talk, be original in front of him and share her feelings without any hesitation? For him it hardly mattered. He just needed a body. It hardly mattered for him whether the soul is still alive or not in that body.
Today also she had sent a message to Amit from her cell-phone before leaving their house. She was hoping that he will immediately call her back and will try to persuade her and cajole her to abort her emotional decision taken in haste.
She checked the time. “Amit must have left for the airport by now after taking his suitcase from home. Didn’t he notice that I’m not at home?” She again took out her phone from her purse. Maybe a hundredth time now. No missed call or any message. She badly wanted it to ring.
She was asking herself. ‘Was it because of her “simple housewife” status that she could not dare to take an extreme step like Shruti? Had she been “financially independent” she would have walked out of her loveless marriage long time ago, or would she still have cling to it?
No she could not have done it. She belonged to the generation in which divorce was a taboo. Living alone without husband with two daughters, she cannot even think about it.
But do the financial independence fills the woman with so much courage?
“Financially independent or nor, I will now live my life with dignity. If he doesn’t have a place for me in his life, let it be. I’ll find a place for me in this world.”
The guard blew the final whistle. Driver reciprocated his call for departure. Train slowly started crawling. She got up and with confident steps moved towards the train to board it.
Standing there near the gate, she was looking ahead. She will not look back. Not anymore. She has to overcome her fear and she will. Like a caged bird, she too has forgotten to fly. She will learn it.
She had no idea where her journey will take her. But she was sure she will find the path.
At last, she gained freedom from her fear that held her all these years from spreading her wings wide and fly deep into the sky.