Saturday, December 16, 2017

Twilight years

              Read the previous part HERE      

                         It was their first child. Rajeev left no stone unturned to make Meera comfortable. They even hired a maid to look after the house, much to the annoyance of his parents. Meera had a rough first trimester, staying in bed most days as she felt weak with the frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting. The thought of her child and Rajeev's tender care kept her going through the difficult days. They had so many dreams for their child and often kept talking about their new family.
                        She had hardly been into her second trimester when she had to be rushed to the hospital. She had gone pale, her body shivering and holding her abdomen as the sharp pain rose. Rajeev was heartbroken when he was told that Meera had miscarried. He could not even bare to look at her. She was inconsolable. She refused to talk or eat. Rajeev's parents found fault with all that she had done in four months that could have led to this. Rajeev thought it best to send her to her parent's house for some days.
                        There were speculations that Rajeev had left her. Meera's parents were worried for their daughter, who had become uninterested in life. She stood in her balcony all day, looking at nothing in particular. She blamed herself for the loss, of her child and Rajeev. Her thoughts killed her everyday, what could she have done better?
                        It took time for Rajeev to come to terms with the harsh truth. He had not yet revealed to Meera that they might never be able to have a child of their own. The doctor had told that her chances of conceiving again were slim and even if she did, it could endanger both her and the child. Before he could bring Meera back, he had to make his parents understand the situation. When he told them of Meera's medical condition, they straight away asked him to separate and marry another. What was the point of staying with her if she couldn't bear him a child. His mother tried to reason with him but he would not listen to any of their logic. As a last resort, he stopped talking to them and threatened to separate from them if they ever asked him to separate from Meera or taunt Meera. At last they relented and Rajeev could go to bring Meera back.
                        For months, Meera couldn't smile without feeling guilty. She worked extra hard at the house to occupy herself. Her in-laws hardly spoke to her. Even though she did her best to care for them, within the same year both her in-laws passed away. Her father-in-law passed away in sleep and shortly her mother-in-law had a massive heart attack while she was praying. Rajeev was a broken person. Within a year, he lost his unborn child and both his parents. It was now Meera's turn to care and make him happy again.

                       After a year of mourning, life was back on track for both of them. Rajeev soon got promoted and transferred to another city. They both moved to Assam for his posting. It was then that they discovered the joy of travelling. Once wanderlust bit them, there was no turning back. They saved up all year and went travelling during the summer. Meera started to write about her experiences. Rajeev encouraged her to perceive her hobbies now that she had lot of time on her hand. She taught kids in their locality to read. It brought her immense satisfaction to contribute into the lives of these kids. Taking her interests a little further, she asked Rajeev if she could teach underprivileged children for free. Rajeev was more than happy to let her do that. They saved up more to help in the education of children who belonged to poor families.

                    Meera had known it all along, when she lost her first child, that she wouldn't be able to have a child of her own again. It was maternal instinct for her. When Rajeev told her three years after that incident, she was prepared mentally. Maybe her purpose in life had always been to touch more lives. For years, they travelled in distant villages of India, discovering new people and traditions and always giving back to the betterment of the people. When they could afford, they took an international holiday, once in five years. It was rare in those day for middle class people to travel abroad, but they could manage it with their savings and investments. Her albums were full of photographs from their travelling. The next few decades of their life went about the same, with lots of adventures and new experiences. With time, both her parents passed away. The circle of relatives she was close to became smaller. It was just the two of them now. Rajeev had grown in his designation, and with every raise in the salary they had increased the money they kept aside to help the children Meera taught. Some children often turned to them for monetary help for higher education, and Meera would invest in their education, always keeping a check on their grades and counselling them if they needed any guidance.

                   When Rajeev retired, they decided to slow down, keeping in mind their deteriorating physical fitness. They now had all the time together. Since then, every morning she would snuggle close to him to wake him up and then get to the kitchen to get the tea ready. Then they would go for a stroll in the nearby park, meeting people and then going to their laughing club. Once back, she would set to make their breakfast and lunch. They would watch movies, keep talking about their life. On some days, students that she had once taught would come to meet her. She would feel proud of what they had become and insist that they stay for lunch or dinner. They were living a content life. And then one day, Rajeev too left for his heavenly abode.

                  It was just like any other day. They had their dinner early and lay in bed talking until they fell asleep. She was just not prepared to deal with her life alone the next day. Sometimes she wondered if it would have been any different had she had children. Would her house be filled with more laughter? Would she by now had grandchildren coming to meet her? Then she thought of the numerous friends in laughing club who had children who never came to visit and lived a life similar to hers, only they still worried about their children and felt sad.

                 She realised that in the twilight years, the only true company that we have is that of the spouse. With Rajeev's demise, that was taken away from her. A lone tear trickled down her eyes as she thought of him. Just then, the door bell rang. She opened the door to find one of her student. It has been long since someone had visited her. This student was a girl she had taught during her early years in Assam. She had got a job in Mumbai and had tracked Meera. Now in her forties, Meera could hardly recognize the girl until she called her Meera Mai. In her life, there was only one girl who had called her that, Ishita. Ishita was shocked to learn about Rajeev's death. She had corresponded with him over facebook some months back. Rajeev had known about her intention to move to Mumbai and meet them. Rajeev had kept it a secret from her.

                 Ishita had worked her way up the corporate and was now a businesswoman. She had lived for some years in the US where she had met another man who was once taught by Meera. It was then that she had the idea of setting up a trust for kids who were deprived of education because of financial condition. From Rajeev she had taken details of several students benefited by Meera and him. One of them had a plot in an area not more than a few kilometers from the main city. Another one offered to build make-shift classrooms. The idea kept increasing and soon they had the blue print of a school with residential facility. Many of the students Meera had taught, could make it to higher education or were themselves into teaching and volunteered to help in the trust. All they needed now was a principal. When she had told this to Rajeev, he had suggested that Meera would take it up. It was all to be kept under wraps until Meera's birthday that year, which happened to be the same day.

                Meera had forgotten all about her birthday. Ishita asked Meera to check her postbox. It was something Rajeev had planned long back. They hardly got any letters and Meera never checked it. It was Rajeev who would clear it. When she opened the mailbox, she saw an envelope. It had a letter in Rajeev's writing.

              "To the headmistress,

                Life is not about how many children you bring into the world, it is about about many children in the world you bring to life. Today, the children whose life you touched have come together to keep your work alive. Who said our names continued with our progeny? It continues with the deeds we do. Here's to the second innings! I know you will do a great job as a headmistress, bringing light to even more lives. I will always be with you in whatever you do.


                Meera could make out Rajeev had written this before he left her, but somehow he knew that she needed something to continue living. How right he was! He was always there with her, giving her hope when she lost all, making her smile when she did not see a reason to and now giving a purpose to her life when she had no will to live. She realised that in twilight years, all that you have is the love that you shared.

                              Image result for old age love
   Image courtesy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Twilight years

                  Can anyone die of a heart break? Can you feel your soul leaving your body, the pain that you harbour in your heart turning into a physical one until it strangles your very being? Perhaps, the greatest test in life is not living but dying. As she went from one day to another, Meera waited for nothing but death. The burden of living was no longer bearable, not since she was left all alone.

                  She woke up each morning at 6, as she had done for 50 years of her life. Every morning, she opened her eyes, straining to adjust herself to the darkness around her. Involuntarily she reached to the other side of the bed, the one that was no longer warm with the person she loved. She hugged the pillow and curled for a few minutes, taking strength to live another day. Her knee ached as she climbed out of bed, another reminder of her age. She opened the drapes to let the sunlight in, set the tea for boiling on a slow flame and went to freshen herself. Once the tea was ready, she poured it into the single cup that was left from the porcelain set that had been her anniversary gift. The rest from the set had been broken by the man who insisted on washing the cups every morning. For some reason, after he was gone, Meera thought that this lone cup represented her. She was the last one left from the set of people who had once formed her family.
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                  She had all the time in the world now. Time stopped being a factor for anything in her life. As always, she made the breakfast and ate in silence. She put on her glasses and read the newspaper from page to page, folded it neatly back in place, went about getting her meal ready. By 9 am her chores for the day were done and all she did was waiting. Sometimes she sat in the balcony and dreamed of gone days. Some days when it was too sunny, she reread some of her favourite books. Some afternoons she opened the huge suitcase of albums that was now kept below her bed and spent all day reliving those moments. Once it was dark, she closed the windows, had an early supper and retired for the day, hoping that the next day she would be somewhere with her husband.

                It had been 3 months since Rajeev died peacefully in his sleep, with his beloved wife at his side. His wife, Meera, was blissfully unaware of the departure of her dear husband until the next morning when she snuggled close to him to wake him up and found his body cold. He sure was one lucky man to have died such a death. For her part, Meera had nothing against her life as well. Meera had lived a full life with her husband. Sometimes she thought she had nothing to blame except for being alive.

               Their life had been nothing but an endless love story that began with an arranged marriage. Meera was married off to Rajeev when she was all of 20 which, according to the times then, was quite late. Girls in her times were married by 16 and had a couple of kids by the time they hit 20. Meera had been quite fierce and put up a fight to complete her graduation. To her advantage, her father respected her wishes and let his only daughter do as she wished. When she finally completed her graduation, her father brought an alliance which she could not deny.

 There was nothing wrong with the guy. He was employed in a bank, which was a rarity and had a stable family. Meera, who read voraciously, had other ideas about the man of her dreams. She expected sparks to fly when she first met her husband, her heart to beat wildly at his smile and to fall head over heels in love with him at first sight. But alas! Nothing of that sort happened when he first came to see her. 

Dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, his hair parted neatly in the centre, Rajeev looked more like he was having a job interview! Meera was dressed in a white sari having a design of red roses, a long red blouse of her mother fitted to her size for the occasion and her hair done in a bun with a red rose tucked at the side. Her wheatish complexion was lightened with powder and her big, expressive eyes lined with kajal at the insistence of her over enthusiastic aunts. She looked nothing short of a diva, but Rajeev was not a fan of made up ladies. He wondered if he could spend a lifetime with a woman like that. Meera saw her dreams shatter when she glanced at Rajeev. Their horoscopes were matched and wedding dates were being discussed when Rajeev insisted on talking to Meera. It was unheard of in any marriage of that time; a man asking to talk to his to-be wife was seen as a sign of trouble. Once again, Meera's father took it upon him to break the norm and let the two of them talk. 

               Sitting in the veranda of Meera's house, Rajeev waited patiently as they were served a second cup of tea that was a pretext of the relatives to eavesdrop into the conversation. Once all of them were out of sight, Rajeev asked Meera directly if she was happy with the match. Meera was taken by surprise. She did not expect him to be so straight forward and ask about her wishes. It was for the elders to decide. Women had no say in these matters. No matter how liberally she was brought up, it was still thought that parents knew and did the best for their children when it came to matrimony. Because Rajeev had considered her wishes, he won her respect if not love. She had kept her gaze lowered all the while, unaccustomed to deal with such situation, but when he asked she looked into his eyes. In his eyes, she saw nothing but honest concern. A gentleness that she did not see while he was with others. Maybe this man was more than he let on. The thought made her feel better about her future. And what a day it had been! From despair to hope, she smiled and nodded. Rajeev, who was preoccupied with the layers on her skin, was dazzled by her smile. In her smile he found what he was looking for-genuineness. Maybe she was not all that she was letting on!

              They had a short courtship of 15 days from the time their wedding date was fixed. Unknown to their parents, they met every day. Every evening, after his bank closed, Rajeev would take the train to her stop and they would spend time together. There were no roses or love letters nor chocolates when he met her. But he would charm her with the little things that he remembered about her. Like he would know what kind of tea she preferred at her favourite shop, that she liked peanuts plain and not salted and her favourite colour was purple and not pink (although he found it all the same). She did not know how love felt, but she knew it was one of the things that made a man travel the other way after a hard day at work just to spend half an hour with someone. 

             Once they were married, she found herself struggling to adjust with the domestic responsibilities. Her in-laws were old and demanding. Her day started at 6 and she toiled all day with the household work. Making breakfast, getting Rajeev's tiffin ready, attending to her in laws who expected her to hand them whatever they wanted at their beck and call, getting lunch and dinner ready and making sure that the house was always spic and span was stressful. But with Rajeev's support she did it all. In the morning, before his parents woke up, Rajeev helped her clean the house. They quickly stole kisses when he left for work. During the day, the thought of him coming back to her would keep her happy. Every evening when he returned from work, he would take her out for a walk. They would stroll the neighbourhood garden talking about their day, sometimes having chaat at the nearby stall, or go for an ice cream when it was hot. She would feel refreshed when with him. Every Sunday he took her out. Sometimes it would be a matinee show, sometimes a dance program, some days he would take her to the bookstore and indulge her as she would be confused on what to buy and some rainy afternoons they would just laze in their room watching the rain. Rajeev's parents never disturbed them on Sundays and it was the best day of the week for Meera.

                                                                Image credit
            They were sailing the boat of marriage smoothly, until Meera got pregnant.

To be continued...

Read the next part HERE

Monday, June 5, 2017

All the time in this world

The child that stopped you on the stairs,
wanting to play catch with you,
you left hurriedly with a smile
making a promise for another day
Because you have all the time in this world

The drizzle in the evening and a hot cup of tea,
A moment to yourself all alone in the balcony
You put it aside, engrossed in networking,
You glance outside, wishing it rains tomorrow
Because you have all the time in this world

A phone call you have been putting away
Too busy to spare a few memories
A pleasant surprise in someone’s rather dull day
you could to it today, but you put it off yet again
Because you have all the time in this world

One day to another, you pass by
Letting go of things that make you happy
In hopes of a better chance at life
You let the one you have slip by
Because you have all the time in this world

Unsaid words, incomplete dreams
a whole world of emotions unexplored
You live the same day over and over
Keeping happiness at bay, just because you believe
You have all the time in this world!

Image result for time running out

P.S: Just some abstract thoughts I had today. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Kid me not

                She closed the door quietly behind her, tip toeing her way into the house and into the washroom. In her bag she hid the small kit that she had purchased on her way back from work. Although the instruction was to wait until early morning, she couldn't hold on and broke open the kit. She prayed hard before she saw it. Two lines, one faint against the dark one. It had to be the dreaded line. She was pregnant!

                She disposed the kit before she heard the door click. Her husband had turned home unexpectedly early. She looked like she had seen a ghost. Her pale face and fatigued body at once concerned him. He had been telling her to slow down at work. After all, she was just 26. She did not have to burn herself to achieve anything. Together, they could manage the house conveniently and she did not have to strive so hard for a promotion. But for her, it was not about the "have", it was about "want". She wanted to excel at her work, to be looked up to by her coworkers, to be acknowledged in the corporate world and more than anything, she wanted to feel accomplished. Setting up a house and bring up a child was not her idea of accomplishment. She never put down women who gave up full time jobs to look after their kids, but she was not made for that. She couldn't hold a conversation involving recipes, vegetables or child behavior. She was the kind who could grab attention with her knowledge of world affairs, something which amused male relatives from their family and was beyond comprehension of the women she knew. She gelled up better with males as she found it easy to talk to them and on par with the topics they discussed.

              She went up to him to give him a quick hug. She knew he would realize that something was off with her. She did not want to hide the news from him, but she knew very well what his reaction would be. He would be delighted! He would want her to continue this pregnancy and focus all his attention on their family. He had no issues with her working, but she feared the equation would change once a baby would come into picture. For this reason, she had always been cautious, never giving in to moments. But who was she kidding, nothing is 100% safe. She went into the kitchen and started to get the meal ready. She would think about the situation when she the time to herself.

             She lay next to her husband as he watched TV after dinner, not really focusing on anything but simply trying to acknowledge the fact that she was not alone. She could never be alone to make this decision, there was a life already inside her, sitting snugly without judging her. She turned over, quietly calculating how long it had been. Long after her husband dozed off, she kept staring at the ceiling, afraid that the life inside her would give out the secret she was holding on to.

              The next morning, she called in sick to work. Her husband insisted they go to a doctor but she made him go off to work. She just needed some rest and promised him to go to doctor if she didn't feel any better. Once she was sure he reached his office, she got ready to visit the clinic.

             Even though she had made up her mind the last night, she was constantly battling her conscience. It was tough being a woman! She was not ready to commit herself completely to another person who would depend on her. On the other hand, a feeling of unease tucked at her, almost making her question the rationale of her action. Did she really want to give up a part of herself? No, no she was not falling into this trap. She had to be more practical than that. It was a life long responsibility which, no matter how much she shared with her husband, would weigh 24X7 on her.

             She went through the procedure in a detached manner. The doctor confirmed that she was 5 weeks into pregnancy, tried to counsel her into keeping it, told her the options she could have and she patiently sat through the entire thing. At the end of it, she booked her abortion for the day after. Once outside the clinic, she felt the  moistness in her eyes. The maternal instincts had kicked in and she considered going back and cancelling the appointment, but she walked on.

             She coiled on her bed, unknowingly keeping a hand on her belly. She cried to herself. If she told her husband about it, he would see a murderer in her. A woman incapable of loving her own child. Why was it so difficult to understand a woman who did not want a child? It wasn't her choice to be born as a woman but it was her choice to not bear a child right now. Why was it unacceptable to people when a woman chose not to carry on her biological role? Was she just a womb? What about her ambitions and dreams?

            That evening while she was sorting her laundry, she had a terrible ache at the bottom of her stomach. She shouted out in pain. Her husband who was busy on the phone, came rushing to find her unable to move. It was only later that he saw the blood. They rushed to the nearby hospital where they were told that she had miscarried. It took a while for her husband to take in this fact. She was inconsolable. She did not know what was more heartbreaking, the disappointment on her husband's face or the fate of her unborn child.

            The kid she did not want, was perhaps aware of his destiny. Maybe, he too was not ready for the kind of end that his mother had planned for him or maybe he was the one who understood the plight of his mother. He decided to leave, like an unwanted guest who had made a brief entry into his mother's life. She felt guilty of keeping her husband in the dark, who was trying his best to console her, unaware of what her intentions had been. Maybe, it was best for them to keep the facade on. Her kid had carried the secret with him.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Silent Cry

             The clouds had cast a dark shadow since morning. A calm had taken over the village. The markets were not bustling with people, the schools were closed and only a few shops had opened reluctantly. The heavy rains for last 4 days had brought the village to a standstill. He made his way to the lone house. The flood in the fields had made it difficult to access the house. The power was off and telephones weren't working. He wondered what the matter was.

             After a few knocks on the door, he heard the tinkle of the anklets fast approaching. His heart skipped a beat. She was in the house!

            She opened the door and stared at him for a few seconds.
            "You? I did not call you." she said coldly.
            "I came to check if you are ok"
            "What would happen to me?" she said with a smirk. He was shivering slightly. His face had turned pink with exertion.
            "Come in." she said and he followed her.

           She brought a cup of tea. As he sipped, she let her eyes hover over him. His sharp jaw line with stubble, his neck,his strong muscles, his perfectly sculpted body.. She felt a quiver. He looked at her and smiled. He stretched his legs lazily. She got up to clear the cup. He pulled her into his lap.

          The next moment, he was all over her. Once again, she was consumed by her attraction to his body. She wanted to devour him. Wild and passionate, he took her to peaks that were insatiable before. It was getting cold, the rain had started again. They lay entwined in the dark room. Sweaty and exhausted.

          When he woke up, she was not beside him. She was already dressed and setting the room in order. It irked him, the way she went about cleaning everything. When they were done, she would change the sheets without delay. She would air the room. She would once again resume her cold composure and behave as if nothing happened between the two of them.
         "You must leave before it becomes impossible to cross the fields."
         She always became impatient to have him out after she was done with him.

        "You are so selfish. You don't care how I would go out in such situation." he accused her.
        "I did not call you. Lata would be waiting for you."
        "When did you start caring about Lata?" he mocked her.
        "I m not as cruel as you think."
        He laughed at her words.
        "You are nothing but a witch. You lured me and now you behave like the pious one."
        He dressed and left without another word.

        She curled on the bed and stifled her cries. Not because she loved him. She did not love him. She only lusted for him. It was true that she had lured him. It was true that he was once a loyal husband.

       She had changed it all when she had gone to visit her cousin Lata. It was another monsoon. She was staying with Lata's family for a few days as her house was getting repaired. She stayed in a small room next to theirs. The giggles, the whispers and the moans from the adjoining room had made her curious. She could only imagine what was going on inside. It had made her jealous. She was deprived of this romance while Lata was basking in it. Without thinking of the mess that would be created, she went on to bewitch and seduce him.
      When he had come to drop her home, she had chanced on the opportunity and got him into her bed. It was addictive. The more she thought of breaking the ties, the more she found it difficult to get rid of him. It only added to her woes that he foolishly fell in love with her. She did not foresee this.

      She had not even planned to carry this any further than that encounter but she could not control herself when he visited her again. No matter how discreet she was, she worried about the helpers in the field. It would not take one much to add two and two together. In a small town like hers, she would be ousted from the community. A woman living alone, is never actually alone. It infuriated her that he did not understand her situation. He seemed to want her more fervently than before. She had tried to limit him and asked him to come over only when she called but he seemed unable to adhere to any rules. The fact that he scurried back to her the first moment he could after the rains was proof that he knew no bounds. It overwhelmed her when she thought of how irresponsible he had become towards his family. But then, was it actually her place to talk about responsibility?

      It rained incessantly since he left. She broke her reverie and sat by the small fire she had started to boil the rice. The rain lashed on the windows violently, the whistling sound of the wind made her shiver. She sat in the darkness of her kitchen watching over the rice. Then she thought of him again. Even though she had a hundred reasons to shove him away, for once she wanted company. Just another human to share the dark fear that clouded her mind. Oh, she would just keep him with her until the weather returned to normal. She even regretted that she had sent him away in such a harsh weather.
                                            Image result for rainy field
                                                                   Image credit

There was a knock on the door. She walked towards the door, wondering if he had returned back. There was slight bounce to her step as she thought of him. She opened the door to see two dark faces. She recognized them to be men who worked in neighboring fields. They were soaked to the bone but their expression was grim.

"There is a man lying in the field, we think he is your relative" one of them said.
It took her a moment to take in their words. Her throat was dry.
"What happened to him?" she asked fearfully.
She did not wait for the answer. She ran through the muddy fields, braved the water logged low lands and reached the place where people had started gathering. She pushed them apart to see him lying on his back. She dropped to the ground beside him, wailing. She felt widowed again.

            She placed a hand on her child's forehead. He was running a fever. The doctor from the neighboring village had not visited in four days. The child slept peacefully, unaware of the catastrophe that was to befall on the family. She placed another damp cloth on his forehead. It would all be over. Her marriage, her life as a married woman, her life as a woman cheated. He had not known her. For him, she was the woman who cared and raised his family, who knew nothing of the world and his meandering ways. But a wife always knows. She knew it for a long time and suffered in silence. But she lost her mind when he had told her he was going out today. She knew he was going to her. She was not the kind of woman who would forgive him for his adulteration. Only if he knew how much she was capable of doing! She eyed the vial that she had emptied into the milk he had before he left and a lone tear escaped her tired eyes.