“To laughter that can awake the dead.”
Afternoons seem unbearably long these days. As I proceeded to fill today’s with cajoling the living room bookshelf out of its antique torpor buried in a cosy quilt of dust, I chanced upon an equally antique, long-forgotten copy of The Second Sex . Mites have devoured the ‘w’ and both the ‘d’s, nibbling on a few ‘t’s and the ‘n’. The 1988 you beyond that faded scrawl on the first blank page is still remarkably clearly visible.
Or so I felt.
It was our third show of “Orange Nights” in the HDCM auditorium. When you met me backstage I was sipping a cup of hastily made tea – every cell in my body craving energy as my heart brimmed with the exhilaration of having delivered another successful show to the campus community.
I don’t remember if I’ve ever told you how thoroughly you bored me that evening with your hackneyed suggestions of how I should stop studying Statistics and become a professional scriptwriter or stage actress instead – until you pulled out that book, wrapped in matt-finished handmade brown paper with lyrical scribbles all over for garnish.
Since then I’ve lead my life as away as I could from this exquisite bunch of dangerous thoughts which you – in hindsight so ironically – planted in my heart. Never looking back, never regretting anything.
I ran into it though – a year and three months ago, to be precise.
I was somewhere in between half-real delirious dreams and consciousness as I lay in that alien white berth with metal railings reeking of delicately preserved hygiene. My jangled senses racked with bits and pieces of the world around me – whiff of disinfectants, the prick of needles, Sonu’s bawls, hushed whispers in known, unknown, half-known voices, “suicide”, “jumped off”, “crazy”, “God’s miracle” … and in the middle of all this were the unspectacled lanky ruffle-haired you of that faraway night – smiling at me holding a small oblong package wrapped in brown paper.
But poor Sonu had not seen that night – our first night. When my innocent little baby came sobbing to me, showing me those messages from your mobile you’d exchanged with that lady over the last two years, he hardly knew how selfishly I loved you.
“I’m sorry Mona,” you’d pleaded. “You changed.”
“I’d fallen in love with a talented independent free-thinking unique woman. An embodiment of life whose laughter could awake the dead. Not a mentally middle-aged quintessential housewife who can’t think beyond her husband’s lunch and her son’s impending Board exams.”
Somewhere I’d got it all wrong.
I wanted to be the perfect wife for you. I’d loved you with my everything. I wanted you to think I was the best decision of your life.
Remember how you used to marvel at my stoic refusal to complain about your mum’s never-ending rant against me and my “uncouth” family, day after weary day?
“My love for you is not ordinary. I vow not to force you to choose between the two most beloved people of your life,” the ideal wife had explained to you. Do you think the “independent free-thinking” me would’ve survived those days with her love for you intact?
I was a star performer in my company – as long as the family needed the money more than the time, before the priorities reversed and I didn’t bat an eyelid before kissing the job market goodbye. What do you think the “talented, unique” me would have done, Arnab?
As you spent your evenings slogging your way to becoming one of the most respected sales leaders of the industry, I put more of my focus into Sonu’s deadlines than I’ve ever put into my own.
No, I’m not the “independent free-thinking unique embodiment of life” anymore, Arnab, I’m the ordinary quintessential eternal foundation of life. I’ve made a sacrifice countless women all across history and geographies have made so that you could see this day.
So that my son could see this day.
The perfect mother and wife in me never bothered about the exquisite imperfect real woman that she’d so carefully put to sleep so long back.
Until she became a useless burden to you.
Until she greeted death face-to-face and came back.
No, I have neither shame nor regret to have given my everything to the people I love.
What I do regret though is the fact that in the process I’ve forgotten to be myself, love myself, celebrate myself.
No I don’t consider my life over.
I’m 45 years young. The adult years that lie ahead of me are as many in number as the ones that lie behind – only wiser and richer in experience.
You and Sonu remain as focal to my existence today as you were yesterday. Only one more character has been promoted from the sidelines to the lead in this final act – myself.
Let me once again remind you of what you’d told me that extraordinary night – I had it in me to be a writer. You know what? I’ve decided to take that seriously – twenty-six long years after you said it.
What you’re reading is my first attempt at proving it.
An entry to the Indusladies 4th Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest 2013.