The next morning, I got up and there was this usual cheerful face smiling and wishing me, ‘Good morning dear! Hope you slept well? Get up and brush your teeth. I’ll make you some Bournvita.’
After the morning drink, I got ready to go home and leave for college when she asked me ‘Is it possible for you to bunk college today?’ I was shocked and stupefied because she was someone who never encourages bunking and other things like that. I stood there speechless when she asked me again, ‘Hello, madam! I’m talking to you. Can you bunk today? “. I was always too happy to spend time with her, but what will I tell my parents? I told her I will have to ask my parents.’
She told me that she will tell my parents of her not keeping well and since her parents were out of the station, she would prefer me to be with her for one day. She was sure my parents would agree. I liked the idea and also knew my parents would agree since they like her a lot. But I said, ‘Amma will ask you why you can’t come over?’
She remarked with a smile, ‘Buddhu! I will manage and convince aunty! You freshen up and come over soon.’
True, I was a buddhu. It didn’t occur to me till then, but I asked her out of the blue, ‘But why are you asking me to bunk college?’
She laughed and said, ‘And now you realized that you should ask me? One day if you miss college, nothing will happen. Anyway, syllabus is already taught. It’s gonna be fine!’
I looked more puzzled and said, ‘But why?
She brushed aside the question and remarked in her usual calm style, ‘Chill dear!’ And then, she urged me to go home so she can call home and talk to my mother.
Well obviously, everything worked as per her plan and by 10.30AM I was back at her place. My mom had sent food for both of us and so we had no worries on that front. It was not usual in those days for children to have pocket money to buy lunches. We studied for a while and around 12.30PM, sat down to have the lunch sent by my mother.
Post lunch, when I went back to the room to start my studies, she followed me, snatched the book, looked straight into my eyes and remarked, “Today, I will get the truth out of you. You think I made you bunk college to spend time with you? After today, both of us will get busy and will not have much time to talk until the exams are over. Which means for another one month or so, we can’t really speak much. So today, I need to know everything.’
I asked her “What is it that you want to know? You know me more than myself. What else is there to know?
She said ‘If what you said is true, why do I feel as if you aren’t this person I see? Is something wrong with my thinking? You are friendly, but whenever, there’s any event in your family, you do not want to take part. You have so many friends, yet you never want to go around with them. You love your mother so much, yet, are always in a duel with her even for the slightest matters. You are talented and intelligent, but never miss an opportunity to condemn yourself in front of everyone. You do not look at boys, though is natural for any girl of your age to do so. But you do not. Not because you do not want to, but it’s another false portrayal. You never attempt to showcase your talents. You seem to be in the world, yet cut off and lost. I know you like to get dressed like other girls but yet show no interest in it at all. Why all this double face Rams? Why? You are so helpful to others even after knowing that you’re in for a ride. Why? How long will you be running away from your actual self and why do you actually have to run? The girl who portrays herself as bold outside is such a coward on the inside. What is it that is stopping you my dear?’ All I did was stare at her as she continued.
‘Even your so-called good friends in college think of you as this strange, unpredictable, childlike person some times. You do not have a choice today. I need to know the truth. Come on. Tell me…”
Silence engulfed me as I looked helplessly at her with tears rolling down my eyes. While anyone would expect to be consoled at this point, she surprised me and with tons of anger in her eyes ,gave a tight slap on my cheek. It was too much for me to take. She then screamed. ‘Look! What do you think of yourself? I am asking you such an important question and you began crying as usual. How long should I take this nonsense.? I order you to stop your tears right now. You got my words…’
“Amma, amma!” Ananya stopped her midway again. “I am sorry, but perima slapped you,? I cannot believe it. She does not even raise her hands on Arjun and Ankita, however naughty they may be. And you are saying she slapped you. I am surprised!”
“Yes, Anu. But the reason why she acted so was so bring me out of my cocoon, and not that she was pissed off with me.”
“Ohh! I get it now. I am too excited to hear further. Now please continue…’
For some reasons unknown, my tears stopped and I looked up to her. She spoke firmly, ‘What are you staring at me for? Give me the answers.’
I told her I was ready to give answers, but wanted to know what side-effects it was going to have. She laughed and said, ‘Are you mad? You are not taking any medicines. What side-effects are you talking about?’
I told her to stop making fun and clarified that by side effects, I meant that I didn’t want her to change her attitude and love towards me. That I didn’t want her to show any pity on me but only remain her usual self.
These words changed her expression and she became worried. She came closer and sat next to me and holding my hand remarked, ‘listen! Whatever you tell me, will only be between you and me forever. I will never show pity based on what you’re gonna tell me I will always be the same Shruthi for you. But please don’t hide anything, however trivial it may be. Because I don’t know whether we will get another chance to sit like this and talk.’
I nodded my head positively, and began telling her about the darkest secrets.
‘Shruthi! I have been waiting not days but years, for such an opportunity. In fact, I was yearning deeply for someone to sit and understand me while I talked. It never materialized until now and I am actually glad that god has answered my prayers through you.’
She responded, ‘Rams, dear! I want you to talk your heart out so I can help you. You need to be heard out and I want to help you in the best way I can So, please speak out.’
Meanwhile, the phone rang and Shruthi rushed out to attend it. She comes back, sits next to me and says ‘OK let’s begin!’
‘Who was it on the phone?’ I asked. She told me it was her college friend Meghna and was asking her why she did not attend the college that day. She then nudged me, ‘Yaar! Forget all this. Let us not delve to any other topic. You tell me right now.
And thus, started my life changing conversation with Shruthi…
Shruthi! We know each other only for two and half years now, but no one has ever understood me the way the way you did, till now. In fact, you have gone a step ahead. You know me more than what I know about myself. You know what I am thinking at a point of time. This can happen only if there is a soul-to-soul connection. You are that Shruthi in me, the one whom god has sent to be tuned with my soul.’
‘Come on… enough with the praise. You aren’t getting to the point.’
‘I am getting there only.’ I paused. ‘I know that by God’s grace, I have everything which not a lot of people are blessed with – parents, money, education, sibling, etc. But what is the use? I have a family, yet I feel like an orphan.
‘What are you blabbering?’ Shruthi remarked! ‘You have such lovely parents and you are calling yourself an orphan. Have you lost your mind? Do you know what you are talking?’
‘Yes! I know what I am talking,’ I screamed. She was taken aback. ‘They are nice people for sure. But not for me. They are good at heart, but they do not connect with my heart beat. All my friends like them. I also love them, especially my mother, but the reality is different. Do you understand what I am saying?’ I broke down again.
Shruthi was stunned to hear my words. She came down and wiped my tears. She then asked me to continue and assured that she wouldn’t judge me again.
I collected my strength and continued…
‘Shruthi! Is it my mistake that I am wheatish in complexion and my brother is fair? My parents and in fact, the entire family miss no opportunity to discriminate and make fun of my complexion. I feel like as if my skin is on fire. I have told my parents not to talk so, but they do not seem to get this out of their system. And when I am ridiculed in front of my relatives, I simply smile and walk away. You know how painful it is? In fact, on one occasion, when we were going through our childhood photos, you remember the albums I showed you?’
‘Yes!’ remarked Shruthi.
‘I had asked my mother why there were no photos of mine as a toddler whereas they had a full album of my brother’s. She retorted, ‘you were always a diseased corpse. Where could we take your picture? We only had time to keep going to the doctor.’ That word “diseased corpse” affected me so much that I stopped looking at the albums. Tell me, is it again, my fault I was born as a sick child? I can understand if one spoils their health over time, but what can a new born do if she does not have good health? Where is the child’s fault in that? Yes. They took care of me, but it was more on the grounds of duty, rather than love. Otherwise, why would such words come out of my mother’s mouth? You tell me, how will you feel if your mother had said the same?’
Shruthi was speechless. She looked at me in bewilderment. “I am not able to believe my ears, Rams!’
‘But you have to, I said. Every word I said is true.’
‘Shruthi! I admire my brother. He is talented and very intelligent. But just because my scores are not as high as him doesn’t mean I am dull-headed. I dislike maths. But I am good in other subjects. I am only an average in maths. But that is not what they see. They always mock me for my performance in maths, even today. They never miss an opportunity for that. In fact, they keep telling me that I don’t know even addition. It is not any way to tease; they say it in such a way I feel like I am a mentally-challenged person. What is the use of me scoring 80% in my 10th and 93% in my 12th when I am portrayed as a dud in front of others anyway. In fact, I got school first in English in my 10th boards. But what is the use? I wanted to prove that I am good at co-curricular activities, but my health prevented me from joining so in my school days. That makes them feel as if I am useless. In fact, my parents do not even know that I had won an inter-house group competitions in badminton and that I can play it quite well.
‘Wow! Hey, you did not tell me either!’ sighed Shruthi.
Ananya interrupts again… “Amma! You play badminton? I didn’t even know.”
“Oh, come on Anu! We can talk about it later. Let me continue…”
So, where was I?
‘In fact, there was an elocution competition, and I stood first in the state for it. The matter was prepared by my father and I was so thrilled to come and let them know about the result. When I ran home and told my parents about it, my mother remarked, “So? What is great about it? Do your work now.’ I felt shattered. In fact, since then whenever I had a tiff with my mother, she used to always put me down saying, “Just because you got state first in the elocution competition, does not mean you are someone great.”
It was then that I started regretting having gotten a prize at all. I could not even relish my achievements. Shruthi! You know how orthodox my family is. And I was always put down in front of my brother and was told that boys are the best. This was another feather added to the cap of partiality which I had adorned. I got first in the accounts paper and this was the first test conducted at school after I chose a commerce stream. When I came and told my mother, the same episode repeated itself. “What is so great about it?”
Children are more attached to grandparents than their own parents. In my case, both my grandmothers never liked me much and I think it was not their fault either. When someone has always been ridiculed and shown low, it gets into the system of the others who is also a witness to it.
I’ve always felt closer to my mother than my dad because he was not around when I grew up. But my mother loved my brother the most, and that was clear every time I was ridiculed. Shruthi! I remember you telling me how you and your parents used to go to the movies and all. I was always sent with my cousins as my parents had no time to take me. In case my mother accompanied me, again, I was made fun of in front of everyone.
In fact, one day, a family friend of ours had come home. She asked my mother if she could send me for a Hindi film along with her daughter? I do not remember the title now, but it was a very popular film. My mother asked me and I refused because I was never comfortable going with people whom I was not familiar with. The aunty was fine, and she said that my mother could accompany me. I was thrilled to hear it, but my happiness was short lived. Right in front of her, my mother said, “I am not interested in seeing movies with her in theatres and all.” I just smiled and left the place with a bleeding heart.
Shruthi! Everyone, including you, knows me as a short tempered person. Yes, I am. But that is not my inborn attribute. I have become like that. Facing ridicules and partiality at every step, I have hated everything. And that is the reason I flare up for even petty issues. I love my mother a lot, but the way she treats me, I have no other choice than to scream and fight, which is why everyone feels I am always revolting against my mother.’
“I can never imagine grandma was so bad and cruel to you Amma!” Ananya remarked, all of a sudden.
“Listen Anu! You have promised me in the beginning itself that you’d have no harsh feelings and won’t dislike anyone. Keep up your word!”
“No buts! Just listen.”
All the while Shruthi was listening to me in utter shock. Now the scene had changed. There were tears in her eyes as well. She could barely talk and her voice was choking when she asked ‘Why did you not attempt to explain all this to your father? Maybe he would have understood you better.’
I gave a smile and replied, ‘Shruthi! Appa was so busy with his own work that he got no time to be with me and I have no regrets on that. And you think I didn’t try? I did, but he always wanted to impress my mother and so, it was natural he took her side, even if I complained to him. I had written all these thoughts on paper so many times and have shown them. But every time they read it, the situation only worsened. They blamed me further, tore my letters and said I was exaggerating. Why would any kid exaggerate if everything was fine? They just did not want to accept their fault.
I have always read and heard that mothers are the personification of compassion. But the days I have a tiff with my mother, she wouldn’t bother if I had my food or slept on time. But that was not the scenario with my brother. He too used to fight with them. But they listened to him, heard him and my mother would even pacify him and make sure he never skips food. It was at those times that I used to wonder why she even gave birth if she did not want me. I had in fact, contemplated ending my life whenever I saw the boric powder box in my house, but never got the guts to proceed.’
Hearing this Shruthi was astonished, and she shouted, ‘Were you mad? Do you even know how precious human life is?’
I screamed back, ‘What is so precious about it when I cannot even breathe easy? Me, being here doesn’t make a difference to anyone, anyway.’
‘It makes a big difference, get it?’ she screamed. ‘And you dare not think along those lines, ever again.
I looked at her and continued, ‘I got all the comforts in life, but what is the use if I cannot be loved unconditionally by my own family? See, everyone has a different taste and interest in life. I’ve never enjoyed decking myself up with jewellery or costly dresses and makeup. It has never interested me and that gave my mother another chance to put me down, saying I was useless, to even be presentable. What can I do when I don’t like them, yaar? I only like getting dressed up in a comfortable attire. The concept of getting dressed for the occasion never got to me and I can never do something which I am not comfortable with. I had always wished to be a friend to my mother, but she will never ever understand me in this lifetime.
Not that I never gave a benefit of doubt to my parents, especially to my mother. I used to wonder, maybe because I kept becoming sick often and been a victim of every possible disease was why she was irritated with me. I mean, she is also a human being after all. But, what is my fault in that? Isn’t a mother supposed to be full of love for their child and if not her, who else do I have to take care of me?
Shruthi! You were right! I smile and laugh, but that is not something I do happily. I am forcing myself to pretend that I am happy . Otherwise, that will give them another chance to put me down, saying I am selfish, that I do not care for others and all that nonsense.
Whenever I am put down, I run to my room, close the door and cry a lot. I talk to the walls as if I were talking to my parents and that they are listening. I had to wash my face and come out as if I was alright because if I my face showed that I cried, another drama would start. My house walls have been my best friends to me all this while and now, you.
With tears in my eyes, suddenly I countered Shruthi , “ How do you celebrate your birthdays?”
She looked puzzled and spoke, “ Why are you asking about birthday all of a sudden?”
“Tell me no , please! I pleaded.
“ I wear new dress, distribute chocolates, take the blessings of my parents and… I screamed. “Stop! Come again?” What did you say in the end? Shruthi felt I was weird and said “ I take the blessings of my parents!”. “So, that is what happens in all the houses whether they are poor or rich, taking the blessings of parents? Yes, or no, tell me? Shruthi still feeling weird, nodded her head in agreement.
“ Do you know Shruthi, how many birthdays, I have got scolded like hell for some small mistake. They won’t even think twice that it is my birthday. One of the birthdays, do you know what blessings I got from my mother?” The weird feeling in Shruthi got changed into inquisitive expression on the face. “What?” she asked. My mother told me, “No one here cried or wanted that you be born. Do not know what sin we have committed to get you as our child!” All these words merely for some small mistake I did on that day. Whatever concern you see from my parents are only when you are around, otherwise nothing changes. None of my friends believe me if I say all this because they are very different in front of them. But I hope you will believe me and trust me. I can go on and on with this, but I have given you a major picture of what has been happening in my life and what I am actually. Now it is for you to decide further whether to remain my friend…’
A serene silence reigned the room for almost half an hour. Shruthi kept looking at me without even a blink and I was worried as to what will happen next. She came towards me, kept looking into my eyes and planted a kiss on my right cheek. She pulled me towards her, hugged me and whispered in my ears, ‘I trust you, Rams. I trust you completely. I have always thought that something is bothering you, but never knew you were suffering so much on the inside, silently. She kissed my other cheek, looked at me and continued, ‘I cannot imagine myself even for a second in your place, you are great! I will not allow you to be in this state anymore,’ she said. After a moment, she continued, ‘you love me as a friend and sister right?’
‘Hmm,’ I replied.
She made me sit facing her and the conversation that followed changed everything for me.
This was it…
‘Rams! It is easy to advise others, but very difficult to even put ourselves in their shoes for even a second. I cannot expect you to forget the past so easily, but I want you to know whatever love you have been searching for, I will give you. I love you so much. You are special. You are not useless. You are a talented girl. I am not saying all this out of pity. I mean it, and expect you to respect it as well. You have amazing qualities. You have a fantastic sense of humour and you can win over anyone easily with your talent of speech. I cannot be physically around you throughout your life, but I will always be with you at all times. You have to close your eyes and visualize me and I am there to guide you and listen to you, whether you are happy or sad. From now on, I will try my best to help you out in every way I can. We will have to travel our paths separately someday, but please do not think you are alone, I will always be there with you, no matter what.’
I did not know what prompted me to ask this question. But I asked her, ‘Shruthi! I have confided the most important part of my life to you. Please do not share this with anyone. I hope you also won’t think about me as a dud or a fool, in case we end up in some misunderstanding?’
She flipped out and said “Is this what you think of me, Rams? You feel I have such low values? Why should I even think you are a dud? What should I do to make you trust me?
She got up and left to the balcony. I was cursing myself for having asked like that. Here, at last, I have got someone who loves me unconditionally, who accepts me just as I am and I doubt her? What a mistake have I done! I got up and tried to talk to her, but she moved away from me. There was no conversation between us for the next two hours and it was around 8.00PM that she prepared Some Upma and called me for dinner.
We sat for dinner but she did not even look at me. I could not take it anymore. I went near her, knelt down with my hands on her thighs, looked at her but could speak nothing except the tears that rolled own my eyes, which conveyed everything. We finished our silent dinner and studied for some time (though I pretended to study) and she went to bed.
I could not sleep and when I turned around, I noticed that she was in deep sleep. I did not want to disturb her with my movements on the bed and so, I went out of the room and stood in the balcony. I re-wound the incidents of the day and realized that I was actually calm and at peace with myself for the first time in my life.
The next day, I got up early, had my morning drink, bade goodbye to her and left for home. We had no conversation since the evening before and I was feeling restless. I had to leave for college. I unpacked the bag which had the books I had taken for the so-called studies, and found a small chit in it. I opened it and found these words written on it.
My dear darling Rams!,
I know what you would be going through now, but let me clarify. I am not angry with you. I was myself in state of shock after hearing the dreadful secrets of yours. I needed some time to come in terms with normalcy before I could talk to you. You were getting late to college in the morning and so I pen down all my sincere and truthful thoughts, for you to read it leisurely. Not a request but an order not to even doubt these thoughts in the wildest of your dreams. I love you a lot and you mean a lot to me. I am immensely proud of you. I will always be with you, no matter what the situation is. I want you to trust me. I have no bad feelings about you.
But I want one promise from you. I want you to promise yourself that you will never condemn or feel low about yourself. Love yourself first. Ignore the world and do what your conscience says. Try forgetting the past even if the same instances surface again. Most important of all, forgive all those who have hurt you; not because they deserve it, but because you deserve not to get hurt. Walk boldly along the path you have chosen for yourself.
There will come a day when you will feel blessed for having made a mark for yourself on this planet. Trust me! Remember those golden days are not far off either.
That day was the turning point in my life, and I have never looked back again. People around me had not changed; nor the instances. But I had changed. I became more confident and began facing situations with more maturity. I forgave people who had hurt me in the past. All this, just for the promise I had made to my soulmate Shruthi, and the promise I made to myself that I should prove others wrong. If not for anyone, at least, for my Shruthi.
We both finished our education and both of us emerged with flying colours. I learnt a lot from her. She brought out the hidden talents in me to such an extent that even she could not believe that I could do so well. She taught me to draw rangoli, encouraged me to learn to drive, which was a passion for me. And I excelled in that too. She convinced my parents in allowing me to do psychology, and I came out with flying colours. She supported me and proved my parents wrong whenever they condemned me, thus becoming a true guardian angel protecting me all the time.
We both got engaged at the same time. She made this special effort of talking to my would-be husband about my past life and it is because of her that we became a happy couple.
One day she reminded me of the mark, I needed to make in my life and asked me to join the counselling centre and help those who were in the same state I was in. That is how, I am here today.
Now, she had settled in Europe, is a happy mom of the adorable Arjun and Ankita. But she never forgets to wish me for my birthday, wedding anniversary and other festivals.
Whenever she comes down to India, she makes it a point to visit and stay with me for at least two days. We relive all those beautiful moments spent together as soul mates. She expected nothing from me till date, except that I walk the path of life with confidence.
My dear sweetheart! I lack words to acknowledge what you have done for me. But one thing I would like to say is that, it is not in this birth alone, but in the births to come, please be my soul mate. Because when you are with me, I can conquer the entire world.
These beautiful and motivational words of yours will always ring in my mind:
Appreciate those who love you
Help those who need you
Forgive those who hurt you
Forget those who leave you.
Ramya closed the book, finally saying the words. ‘The end’.
Ananya comes running to her mother with tears and tells her, “Amma! Who else, if not you, can be the best soul mate of my life also?”
What follows is a beautiful exchange of happiness and love with warm hugs and kisses between the mother and daughter. This narration in an accidental manner had made Ananya too, realize the worth of her mother . She also realized the essence of true relationships which need not be blood bound.
Amma – Mother
Perima – Mother’s elder sister (could be own or cousin)
Yaar- A slang used to address close friends
Upma – It is a dish from the Indian sub continent either for a snack or a breakfast.
It is cooked as a thick porridge from dry roasted semolina or coarse rice flour.
Anarkali suit- It is a form of women’s dress originating from the Lahore city of Pakistan. It consists of a long frock style top and features a slim fitted bottom similar to leggings. The word Anarkali literally means the ‘ the delicate bud of the pomegranate seed or tree’
Buddhu- It is essentially a Hindi word meaning fool. It is usually used to tease someone for fun.
Rangoli – It is a traditional Indian decoration in which patterns are made using colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals particularly during festivals.
Ramapriya is a homemaker ,aged 38 and loves writing stories based on real life incidents. She is placed at Bangalore, India and has the opportunity to witness different heart breaking life incidents . She had been writing stories in school and just recently rekindled her interest and has submitted her first story which is very close to her heart.