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This was the best gift that I could ever give you, Sharad. But I don’t know why I waited for 25 years. I should have slapped you the very first day when you started disrespecting me.
Here is the fourth winner of our September 2017 Muse of the Month contest, Priya Sharma.
The cue for this month was from the movie Neerja. When Neerja is a married woman facing domestic violence, she calls up her father, who tells her to believe in herself and never lose hope. That tolerating injustice is as bad as committing it, and that one has to know where to draw a line, when to say, “No more!”
Today is Nirmala and Sharad’s 25th wedding anniversary. Sharad has arranged for a lavish evening celebration with family and friends. However for Sharad, the celebration is merely an opportunity to showcase his opulence and Nirmala’s culinary skills. Nirmala is an excellent cook and Sharad always used her skill to his advantage.
The entrance of their big ancestral house with spacious rooms is adorned with beautiful floral arrangements and colourful lightings. Every room of the house is filled with guests today. But Nirmala didn’t find this unusual because having visitors had become a daily routine since 25 years and she would barely emerge from the kitchen.
The anniversary celebration had gained full momentum since afternoon. Gauri, their daughter, was also equally excited about the evening. Nirmala, Gauri and the other female members of the family were busy concocting a huge sumptuous dinner for the guests that are to arrive in the evening.
Later after Gauri’s persistent requests, Nirmala agreed to dress up like a bride for that evening. Nirmala wore an intricately woven Kanjivaram silk sari with temple jewellery and gold kamarband. Her hair was tied into a long braid with white and orange flowers. She looked mesmerizingly beautiful; just the way she looked 25 years ago.
The celebration began and the guests were enjoying the music, gossip and delicious starters prepared by Nirmala. As Nirmala entered the grandeur living room of the house, all the guests couldn’t resist complimenting her. However, Sharad remained oblivious to all the efforts that Nirmala had taken to make the celebration special. He didn’t even notice how beautiful she looked.
“Congratulations Sharad bhaiya and Nirmala bhabhi” said Deepak; Sharad’s childhood friend. Deepak always appreciated and admired the way Nirmala had filled warmth and love in Sharad’s home and life.
But as usual Sharad taunted, “Why are you congratulating your bhabhi. I’m the one who has been tolerating her for 25 years.”
Sharad continued, “Do you know how lucky she is to have me as a husband. Chirag lekar dhundne nikalti toh bhi mujh jaisa pati use nahi milta. She lived in a small village in extreme poverty. It was me who brought her from rags to riches and gave her such a lavish life. She’s got more than she deserved. Shouldn’t she be grateful to me?” Sharad started laughing mockingly and always took pride in insulting Nirmala. Deepak looked sympathetically at Nirmala while she lowered her gaze in embarrassment.
Before Gauri could sternly retaliate to her father’s sarcastic comment, Nirmala squeezed her hand and signalled her not to do it. Gauri bluntly said, “Appa, let’s get on with the celebration.” “Sure, darling”, replied Sharad.
All of them proceeded towards the dining table with a huge anniversary cake placed in the centre of the table. All the guests gathered around them while Sharad and Nirmala held the knife together to cut the cake. Amidst the “Congratulations and Celebrations” chorus, Sharad and Nirmala cut the cake, feeding each other a small piece of it.
Sharad pulled out a small red box from his pocket and gave it to Nirmala, “This is your anniversary surprise, Nirmala”. Before she could open it, Sharad snatched it from her hand and opened the box. It was a beautiful diamond solitaire ring.
“It’s very expensive.” he said arrogantly and showed off the solitaire to the crowd. All guests looked at each other and applauded to break the awkward silence.
“Where’s my gift?” Sharad enquired.
“Yes, I have something for you” replied Nirmala. “Please close your eyes, Sharad”, she insisted.
Sharad obliged and stood with his eyes closed in the middle of the crowd.
With all the strength that her lean body could provide, Nirmala darted a tight slap across Sharad’s face. Before he could realize what happened to him, she slapped him again across the other cheek. All the guests stood there dumbfounded not believing their eyes. Sharad froze in shock.
“This was the best gift that I could ever give you, Sharad. But I don’t know why I waited for 25 years. I should have slapped you the very first day when you started disrespecting me. You never loved me for who I am. I did not fit your social circle because you were embarrassed of a village girl like me.”
With tearful eyes Nirmala continued, “I always loved you from the bottom of my heart and expected the same from you. But to you, I was nothing more than a maid during the day and a mistress at night. Every day I would wake in a hope that you will change.”
“But now I’ve had enough. I cannot tolerate it anymore.” cried Nirmala in a trembling voice. Sharad stood there in embarrassment.
“I’m so proud of you, Amma. You finally did it!!” said Gauri as she clapped for her mother. The guests in the room too began applauding. Gauri ran towards her mother and for the first time saw a sense of contentment and freedom in her mother’s eyes. Both the women hugged each other tightly and cried in tears of joy.
Priya Sharma 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: pixabay