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Appearances can be deceptive, as I realised when I came to know the reason for a neighbour’s apparently strange behaviour. And now I applaud her courage!
There was this warm and friendly couple Rohit and Anjali residing in my building along with their 4 year old son. This couple defined and emulated what politeness was. They were always courteous and called everyone Maam or Sir. They never spoke ill of anyone. They were living in their beautifully decorated own home for a year now.
Their son Shashi was a true bundle of joy and energy. He would always be so happy and would talk to everyone. Rohit and Anjali both worked. I would see Shashi playing downstairs on weekends and only for meals he would go home. Sometimes it would get so hot, and Shashi would be still playing downstairs all alone. From morning 7 am till 10 pm Shashi would be seen downstairs playing alone or with friends. We felt bad, and the obvious instinct was to doubt the mother. We would think — how cold is Anjali that she can’t even spend some time with her son? And Rohit? He would be busy playing cricket or badminton with his friends.
Then one day, we heard Anjali quitting her job as she wanted to focus on her son’s health. We were happy. Shashi now seemed to cling to his mother more. He would come down less and spend more time with her. I saw Anjali taking her son out but never saw the parents together with their child. I had heard that Rohit’s parents resided in the same city along with his sisters. Sometimes his parents would come to visit them.
The couple always smiled and looked happy. Then after a few months, Anjali joined back work as she said she was getting bored at home. Now she would spend the evenings with her son. It all seemed going great. But alas! Appearances are deceptive.
A few days back we all noticed that we were not seeing Anjali or Shashi for quite a while. Someone said that Anjali had hurt her back. That she was staying with a relative and her mother had come down to take care of her. Shashi, everyone said had missed almost two weeks of school. I thought — why did the woman’s mother not come and stay with them in their house? It seemed odd.
Then two days back, we heard that Rohit was telling his friends that his wife had left him as she objected to him playing cricket and badminton. He said that apparently Anjali had called the police also one day in anger. Everyone seemed to mock and laugh at Anjali. They said it was foolish. I felt that something was wrong. I felt we were listening to one side of the story. I felt bad for Anjali. I also felt that maybe as a woman, I was being biased towards Anjali.
Then the next day afternoon, we saw a moving truck standing outside their building. We assumed someone was moving in. Then after a while, we were busy decorating downstairs for children’s day celebrations, next to the exit gate; when my friend asked me to look at the moving truck as she said she thought she saw Anjali sitting in the front. I turned and saw Anjali sitting in the front seat of the truck, next to the driver; and in her hand she was holding tightly a Goddess’s picture. Her face looked disturbed and yet calm. She seemed lost and somewhere in a far land.
It was a painful and heart breaking sight that I can never forget. It is stamped on my memory. I knew the dreadful truth at that moment. She had left her husband’s home.
One of her close friend later confided in me and told me how Rohit would never spend time with Anjali and Shashi. He would play sports and then go off to be with his mother and sisters on the weekends. Anjali would spend time alone with her son. In their previous place, Rohit’s mother would ask Shashi to leave the house so that she could conduct her Satsang (religious songs ceremony) events. Shashi would wander around in neighbours’ houses and people would say what a bad mother Anjali was. Anjali had said that she had to work as her husband would never pay a single rupee and would question a hundred times when she would ask for money. I was shocked. Anjali never showed her pain and that sweet smile hid all her pain.
Later that night, I heard Rohit calling his friends to come and play table tennis with him. Rohit had no care or concern that his wife and son had left him. I lost all respect for him. Anjali’s husband never bothered to be there by her. She had courage. It was not her fault that her husband was negligent.
But today she faces the pain for a crime she never committed. I know how Indian society will look down upon her; but I wish her all the best. She will raise her son to be a good human being unlike her husband. I cry as I know it will be painful for the son but he will understand the pain his mother had endured all these years.
All those good manners and smiles now seem a farce to the outside world. All I remember now is Anjali’s face sitting next to the truck driver; and holding her Goddess’s picture tightly, close to her heart. Her God will give her strength to rise up and face the world. We read stories everyday of women being strong but today I saw a strong woman. I don’t care what the world says as today Anjali stood up for what is right for her and her son. I am proud of Anjali.
Image source: pixabay