Another foggy morning , she whispered as she shook her head in despair. How am I going to complete my orders of papads this week? Few more lines added to her already wrinkled face. It was the fourth straight day of it. There was fog all around covering everything in its vast white blanket and swallowing up everything that came on its way, one by one. It was not just stretched outside but the white phantom was inside her too, grabbing and strangling her to death. A mixed feeling of irritation and worry reflected her soul on her face. The wretched steam, the lines became denser on her forehead as her lips uttered the words.
“Maa hates fog”, Durgi overheard her younger daughter Saloni telling her elder daughter, Satya.
And she froze that very moment. Hate fog? Since when? She had always been crazy about the fog.
The fog. The mysterious, magnificent and silent fog that would paint every object in its path with smoky gray shade. She was obsessed with it. Every morning, she would get up early just to feel the fog cuddling with her. She would spend hours wrapped in the white blanket until the sun rays come and melt the fog in her arms.
“Durgi come on in. You would catch cold”, her mother would warn her but the words seemed to disappear into the dense smoke. She would get lost in her own paradise with the fog rolling above her head and beneath her foot.
And yes, she was the angel of that paradise. She was the most beautiful girl of the village. Her beautiful large blue eyes were deeper than the depth of the ocean. Her milky complexion was enough to light a hundred moons together. Her long golden hair would roll down her shoulders to her waist and finally reach up to her knees. Her rosy smile would tinkle a hundred bells in the ears of the listeners. With her perfect curves and tall structure, she seemed to be the nymph from The Lord Indra’s court who had lost her way and had landed on the earth accidentally. She was the talk of the town and the most coveted bride from her village as well as from a hundred others villages.
Durgi knew this all very well. So, she would wait for her prince charming who would come riding on the white horse, making the way to her through the fog and would carry her with him to his majestic palace. The perfect entry!! But every rose comes with a lot of thorns in it. Her superiority complex had borne arrogance and unacceptable attitude into her. She had grown more ruthless, inconsiderate and inhuman with each passing year.
“Physical beauty is temporary my child. You should be more concerned about you inner beauty”, her father would teach her at times.
Ridiculous. Who cares about the inner you? The first impression is the last impression after all. Who would like to take his eyes off me? As long as people long for me, why do I bother about my inner beauty? She would neglect him thoroughly.
“Time will teach you my child and may you pass every exam of life with the flying colors”, her learned father would react at her immaturity.
And then the day came when she met with her prince charming. Her parents had finalized him for her. If Durgi was the angel from heaven, Jai, her prince charming, was no less than the Greek God. Tall, fair and handsome. Nobody else could make a better match for Durgi.
The fog felt so romantic those days to Durgi.
“I..I have heard rumours about Jai.”, her best friend Tara told her, hesitatingly.
“What rumours?”, inquired Durgi casually.
“I..I..well..people say that he is..he..is a womanizer and a die hard drunkard”, Tara’s red face clearly reflected the embarrassment she felt to say such words to her best friend about her fiance.
“Bulls**t. These are all rumours. How dare you say such ill things about Jai”, She was on fire..
“But Durgi what’s the harm in checking his background. After all it is the matter of your life. God forbid, what if the rumors come true?”, Tara tried to convince her out of concern.
“Shut up Tara. What do you think? Did I not notice the green in your eyes? You were always jealous of my beauty and the attention I used to get. I know you were eyeing on Jai yourself since the very first day we had got engaged.”, Durgi blasted.
“Durgi..watch your words. I am your childhood friend.”, words struggled to come out of Tara’s throat as tears rolled down Tara’s eyes. She had been painfully hurt.
“Stay away from Jai and me. Jai is perfect. Just look at your self. It’s your sick mind, which is cooking the stories up behind his back. Do you think you deserve to get groom like Jai with such an ordinary face? Don’t you dare speak to me ever again.”, said Durgi.
“You have gone blind, blind with pride and arrogance. You would have to repent for this Durgi. Learn to respect people until it is too late”.
And the conversation ended the twenty years friendship in twenty minutes.
After one month, she bade farewell to her parents too. She got a magnificent welcome at Jai’s grand Haveli. Jai’s father was one of the richest landlords of the village.
So, this is ‘The Palace’, her new address. She surveyed the Haveli lifting the corner of her veil. She had become the daughter-in-law of the richest man of the village. The relatives and the villagers were stunned to see her beauty. Every mouth was praising the beautiful choice of the landlord.
Next few months they had been in total bliss. Jai would never leave her alone. He was madly in love with her. He would present her with expensive dresses and jewellery every second day. She had become the undeclared queen of the palace with lots of servants ready to serve her in just one clap.
And then the bliss ended. Soon, Jai scraped her. Jai would get disappear for days and whenever he returned back home, he would come fully drunk. The number of expensive gifts decreased day-by-day and finally stopped.
“We had received a number of high profile proposals for him but we chose you because we thought your beauty would keep a check on him. It is your fault if he is going out. You should know, how to control your husband”, her mother-in-law would taunt her.
What should I do? She had tried persuading him with every weapon she had, love, tantrums and anger, but all was in vein. She was losing her value in the eyes of Jai and her in laws with every passing day. Jai had always been a spoilt brat of the rich parents. He had shown his true colors. He became bored of Durgi and wanted a new toy to play with every night. Tara was right! How ashamed was she of her behavior with Tara. Please forgive me my friend. You were so true, I had become blind of pride.
Things deteriorated after the death of her father- in- law and then mother-in-law. Jai was good for nothing. He drowned all his father’s hard earned money in sowing wild oats. First the lands, then the valuables from the Haveli and then the Haveli itself were all sold out one by one. Jai, too, had lost his lever due to excessive drinking. Durgi had the sole responsibility to feed her family, Jai and their two little daughters. She started running small business of papad and homemade pickle to support her family. Her world had totally turned upside down.
People always hated her because of her arrogant and rude behavior. She had never helped anyone in her lifetime. She could feel the mocking smile in their eyes. Time had taught her a lesson. She was so ashamed of herself. The once most beautiful girl had just become a shadow of herself .The deep blue eyes were replaced with a dark hollow, the rosy lips dried up and the long hair lost their shine and length. Her face filled up with the time-wrecked webs of line. “..concern about your inner beauty..” She taught her daughters like the way her father had tried to teach her.
She had lost everything but had known the true essence of life. Respect everyone. Be humble. Be confident but not overconfident.
“Maa..look the fog is gone.”, cried her younger daughter Saloni excitedly.
The Sun had made its way through the fog, clearing it up.
“Yes, the fog is gone. Everything is clear now, bright and visible.” She kissed Satya’s and Saloni’s forehead affectionately.
Thanks baba for clearing up the fog inside me. She looked up and offered her tribute to her father. See, I have passed my exams with flying colors.