Shalini started sweeping the house. It was past 11 and Kamala, her maid was not to be seen. ‘It is the limit’, she thought to herself, ‘this is the tenth day in this month that she has taken leave. I will pay her dues and ask her to leave’.
Just then Kamala entered. She had covered her head with her sari pallu. ‘Oh, so her husband beat her again, but no, today no sympathies’, she thought and said out aloud, ‘Kamalamma, Wait a second, I will pay your dues, you need not work here anymore’.
‘Amma, don’t say like that, where will I go?’, cried Kamala
‘No Kamala, I am fed up of waiting for you and then doing the job myself’, said Shalini.
And then she saw, Kamala’s eyelids were swollen and her left eye could not be seen at all, ‘That animal beat you again’, said she referring to Kamala’s husband.
‘Why don’t you leave him. Why do you have to take his oppression?’, said she.
‘Where will go Amma?’, said Kamala and what will happen to my girls.
‘You can come and stay here’, said Shalini.
‘Here? and what about master’, said Kamala
Shalini thought for a while. Mukesh was a very narrow-minded person. He was afraid of society and ‘what will people say’. All these years she had tried hard to change him, but had failed miserably. So what could she do?
And then she remembered meeting a young lady, Kalyani in a local bus once who worked for an NGO. She had told that their NGO worked for women abused in marriages.
‘Wait’, she said to Kamala and ran to the place where she kept all her visiting cards. Out of that bundle she took out Kalyani’s phone number and called her.
In half an hour Kalyani was there with her team. they took Kamala with them to the police station and lodged a complaint against Kamala’s husband. Later they went to Kamala’s house and took her children with them and took all to their office. In no time, Kamala was staying in a house belonging to a well wisher of the NGO.
Shalini liked the work done by the NGO. And she often visited their place. Kalyani invited her to help the uneducated women and their children and she gladly took that offer.
‘Where are you going every day’, it was Mukesh who had come in early one day.
Shalini took a deep breath. Knowing his nature, Shalini had never told him of what she was doing and where she was going. But the time had come now.
She told him
Are you mad. Why do you have to meddle with other people’s lives? You take care of yourself, isn’t that enough?’, said he.
‘What is wrong in helping others? As it is I am free in the afternoon’, said she.
‘No, from tomorrow, you are not going anywhere’, he declared.
Shalini for the first time in their thirty years of marital life boldly got up and declared, ‘No, I like going there and I will go. See I have not ignored doing my duty, so I suppose you should not worry’.
Mukesh looked at her with blazing eyes.
It was some days later that while chatting to Shikha on Skype, she noticed that her eyes were red.
Shikha was her daughter, an engineer who was now married and lived in the US.
‘What happened Shikha, aren’t you well?’, she asked.
‘No ma, I am fine’, she said and then added’ Alright ma, I will log off now, have to go to office’.
Shalini was not at peace, she sensed something was wrong. And so she called up when she knew that Shikha would be in office.
Shikha just kept on brushing off her inquiries.
‘Look Shikha, I am your mother, I know something is wrong. Look girl you are an educated girl. Yes you have to respect your husband and his family, you have to take care fo them. but if they hurt you, you don’t have to suffer silently. You have your education to support you and then we are there, aren’t we’
In addition she told about Kamala.
‘Ma, you really did that, I mean didn’t dad say anything’. said Shikha.
Shalini looked up. Mukesh was glaring at her. Obviously he was angry at her advice to Shikha.
‘Shikha one has to stand up on one’s feet and do what is right. Sometimes you are pushed because you allow yourself to be pushed’, she said and then after sometime disconnected the call.
‘Very nice advise you are giving to your daughter. Instead of asking her to follow what her husband and in-laws say, you are asking her to revolt’, said Mukesh.
‘No, I am not doing anything of that sort. I just asked her to stand up for herself’, and then she walked away.
‘And what will happen if she walks out of the marriage. what will people say?’, he screamed.
‘We will think of that if such a situation arises, why worry now?’, said she.
Mukesn looked on with surprise at his wife who till recently had been very docile.
Some days later
Mukesh and Shalini had been out for shopping and he had been surprised when they had met a bunch of women who had surrounded Shalini. It seems she was teaching them on afternoons and their respect and awe for her surprised him. He was shocked to see how she spoke to them with confidence. Her inner strength shone through her words.
The phone was ringing when they stepped inside the house.
Shalini picked it up, it was Shikha.
‘Ma where have you been, even your mobile was inaccessible’, said Shikha.
‘Oh that, we were in the Mall maybe no signal there’, said Shalini.
They talked on for sometime. Shikha was happy. Neither of them mentioned about the conversation they had had sometime back
Mukesh was hovering around. ‘What happened?, is she ok’.
‘Yes, she is’, said Shalini.
‘She didn’t complain? I thought she had called to say that she was leaving her husband’, said he.
‘A lot many problems can be solved if you are submissively assertive and do not take any nonsense’, said Shalini.
Mukesh looked on in surprise.
It is the 7th and last day of Festival of Words at Writetribe. The prompt for today: International Women’s Day, inspiring change