Susheela got down from the local train and dragged her feet to the over bridge. Getting at the other side, she did not know whether to take a bus or walk. But no, she did not have the energy to walk today, just then a taxi screeched to a halt in front of her and different people got in. She realized with a start that it was a Tuesday and share taxis would be available today to go to Siddhivinayak temple. She could get down near her building.
She got into the next taxi. Sitting in the corner she barely noticed her co-passengers. Getting down near her building, she dragged her feet. Normally she would have gone to the temple and then walked her way back but no not today. There was a small temple at the open ground of their building. She looked at the deity and then she could not control herself. Tears welled in her eyes and she sat down and cried.
The past 22 years rolled in front of her eyes. Self-pity, hatred, envy all played a medley on her thoughts.
The birth of Susheela had been celebrated. Her father a great weaver and an advocator of human rights had rejoiced at the birth of his daughter. She was treated like a princess. But times do change, don’t they. Fighting for his and his co-workers rights finally took a toll on her father’s life and he slowly lost his mental equilibrium. Her mother was already working as a help in many houses. Slowly Susheela followed suit. After all there was a huge family to look after.
She managed to do her degree by attending evening classes. No she did not get exceptional marks. How could she; after maintaining their house, cooking at two houses, hemming and sewing hooks at a tailor shop.
But she did get a ‘office ‘ job after her degree. It was nothing much but she was happy to escape the routine drudgery.
It was then Chogule saheb a friend of her father approached her mother for her hand. There had been no reason to say no. The boy was working as a clerk earning reasonably, the family was known and what’s more they had a house of their own. ‘House’, Susheela grimaced. Yes they lived near Dadar which is centrally located in Mumbai but is a one room house really a ‘house’/flat?
That too when five members lived in it. She and her husband slept in the kitchen. Her in-laws slept in the only room of the house. Her brother-in-law usually worked nights.
She had never envisaged a prince marrying her but yes she had at least wanted a room of her own. But life did no allow her to have that happiness too.
She checked her watch it was 8 p.m. She had to prepare dinner. Preparing dinner was her responsibility. Breakfast and lunch were her mil’s. She reached home to find dinner already prepared.
‘Why Aayi? I would have prepared’, she said.
‘Its alright’, her mil replied. You are always tired nowadays, so thought of giving you some free time today’.
Her sweet and gentle reply shook Susheela and she again broke into tears.
What happened ?’ Asked Meera, her mil.
‘Why do we have to compromise on everything, don’t we deserve a little happiness, a little space, little comforts’, said Susheela.
‘But why all these questions now, what happened’, asked Meera.
‘Because I am pregnant that is why’, said Susheela.
‘I had understood that you were carrying. But that is something to be happy about. Why cry?’
‘Is there any place in this house to bring in a sixth member’, said Susheela bitterly,’ this place is like a pigeon hole. Where will my child move about’.
Meera and Chogule saheb were shocked. Was this the reason of Susheela’s agony?
Days passed and a decision was made. Chogule saheb and Meera volunteered to go and stay in an old age home at Dahisar. Her brother-in-law was moving to a new job at Nagpur.
Susheela stood near the window mulling. The city looked beautiful with all the lights but why was she not happy.She did not mind her brother-in-law moving to Nagpur. He was getting a good job. But her in-laws did not want to move with him. They had stayed in this city and they wanted to live here till their death. So she would be getting her own home. but why was this arrangement not making her happy.
Could any other arrangement be made? What could she do to change their lives? (to be continued)
What do you think, Susheela should do?