Broken [#ShortStory]

Posted: August 23, 2017

Is it possible? I had daydreamed about it but realized had never really believed I would do it. Yes, I was not in my conservative little hometown anymore. But still…

Here is the third winner of our August 2017 Muse of the Month contest, Manishi.

The cue for this month was from the movie Angry Indian Godessess. Indian women are policed and shamed for their choices, whether it is the kind of clothes they wear, or other things they do – woe betide the woman who smokes! And this is not just in their homes in middle class societies – it is everywhere, even in case of supposedly ’empowered women’. What women want is freedom from this and be able to make their choices without being judged.

Broken

The sun seemed to cast diamonds into the stream, that gleamed for moments, then sank deep. Tinkling sounds, soft and serene, breathed life into our diaphanous dreams. I, immersed in the beauty of the moment, inhaled deeply and adjusted my voluptuous frame leaning against the tree. My fingers absently caressed the mass of curls that was Titiksha’s, sprawled on the bed of dried leaves beneath me. Titiksha, savouring the feel of the delicate fingers weaving though her hair, turned around and smiled. For a moment, it was completely surreal.

Titiksha and I. In this moment. In this place. A hideaway we didn’t know existed. Off the beaten path.

I could not believe that we had known each other for less than three months. Well, technically nine. Though we worked together, I hardly knew her for the first six months. Titiksha was new. She smiled a beautiful smile but was very quiet. I had been there for sometime already – I had found my place and comfort within it. I wasn’t as quiet as her, but was far from being a social butterfly. I enjoyed what I did and it did not require me to know her more than a smile. But when once we found ourselves working and starving side by side, we decided to go find some food together. Initially her words were measured – I went on and on. But I was also intrigued by this person in front of me. As she warmed up, I found her glowing with passion and sensitivity. It was a strange but subtle mating of minds. That first engagement opened a small door into the cocoon where I would discover this beautiful person and build unshakable respect for, in the months to come.

One day at work, when I found myself stranded, Titiksha offered to drop me home, and we discovered we lived down the road from each other. We talked all the way and she could not resist the invitation to have tea when she dropped me off. We talked more. The togetherness was intoxicating. Dreams and longings, plans and frustrations all came tumbling out from both the kindred souls. Titiksha left, her spirits lifted, having found trust. I was filled with gratitude – I had always felt like a fish out of water, now I had found another like me. Maybe we were mermaids, not fishes.

We met a few times after, always having so much to share. The intimacy was so easy. The trust was never forced. Our lives were so different yet our aspirations were the same. Once we had both joked about our longing to go on a road trip. But when Titiksha sent a text asking what date would suit, it suddenly became real! Is it possible? I had daydreamed about it but realized had never really believed I would do it. Yes, I was not in my conservative little hometown anymore. But still…

Two weeks after my arranged marriage, I had left there to start a brand new life. And now a mom to two beautiful happy young kids. A stellar mom in the eyes of everyone (else but myself) it had been a long journey to find my way out of the claustrophobia of my home. It was in fact my husband, his presence, his trust when I lost myself that helped me rediscover my passion – my work – it helped me hold on to my sanity. And establish some sense of stability. There I found Titiksha. Now this.

It is what I had always longed for – no plans, no schedule, no structure, no list of things to do, no back up plans, no picking up and dropping off at school, no zipping across town running errands, no cooking and clearing messes, no meetings, no presentations, no reports! It promised that absolute sense of freedom that stems from your time being just your own. It was a tantalizing thought. The road trip.

But surely enough, with it came worries, would I be abandoning my kids if I took a few days off for myself? Am I being selfish? Would my mom have done something like this? Will I be safe? I knew my husband will only encourage me, he will take care of the kids and be happy for my time off. But it was my own myriad versions of guilt that led to many agonizing sleepless nights. The biggest one was about the lies that had to be told to everyone that I would be going on an “official” trip. I hated that, over and above my own anxiety at doing something new, I had to lie as well. For if not, the society will see a fallen woman who dared to take herself, her wishes and her needs seriously. I grieved the fact that had I continued to live back home, my dreams, if I dared to have them at all, would die a million deaths in the hands of the society. A society where my feminity completely obscured my humanity.

But this wasn’t “back home”. I could not allow my own demons to sabotage my Self. I decided to do what it takes to own my life!

But all that was a month ago during which time I made the bookings for the 3 day trip for the two of us. When my husband kissed me goodbye yesterday, I was elated. At once when the youngest child held onto my leg, I felt so weighted down. As he prised the child away, it was Titiksha’s calming company that untied the knots in my tummy while we drove away.

It felt like being back in my college days with the added allure of the freedom that comes with age and the confidence that comes with a decision well made. The busy bustling towns we drove past were rendered invisible by the giggles and tears and endless words that echoed in the car, our ears buzzing with each other’s voices.

It had finally brought us to this ‘tourist’ place now. But the ebullience gave way to quietude as we decided to walk off the road onto a path. We made our way crunching leaves underfoot, the brilliance of the sun playing with the cool breeze making mottled patches on our skin. It is then we came upon this place, a sliver of a stream, streaky sun, a tiny pool of crystal water in a clearing surrounded by trees.

The reality of the moment hit suddenly, stopping my aimless wandering fingers, giving me goosebumps. Just then Titiksha took hold of them and we stood up to go. We turned towards each other, our hearts content. Our smiling eyes met. And then the lips touched. Blood pulsing in tandem, flowing with the rhythm of the world surrounding us. It was deeply innocent – a poignant moment poised on the edge of infinity, far far away from the judgement of the well traveled road. Another barrier to experiencing the swell of humanity, broken. Most naturally.

Manishi wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2017. Congratulations! 

Image source: Flickr, for representational purposes only.

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Manishi. "Am I truly free, until am fully free? Can I really rest until am all, can ever be? I am a seeker, an idealist with a deep urge to experience and understand my SELF. And believe there is only one way to do it - simply by living life."
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