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How did she misjudge her parents? Why did she take so long to return home, where she belonged? A wonderful short story that will bring tears to your eyes.
This year, we bring you again the Muse of the Month contest. We have received some wonderful entries for the February Muse of the Month, and had a hard time picking just 5 winners. Congratulations to all of them!
The cue for February 2016 was:
“Normal is something I can never take for granted again.”– Andaleeb Wajid, When She Went Away.
The fourth winning entry is by Kasturi Patra.
In this vast ocean of mediocrity, Jini was on the lookout for a special shore. Being brought up by middle-class parents, studying with middle-class friends, the term middle-class simply pushed the frustration button inside her head. All she felt like was screaming at people who wanted to shove her into the same mold they’d been used to for generations.
Her mom would always point out that her salwar was too transparent or her choli too low cut for a middle-class girl. Her aspirations to become a flight attendant was looked down upon by family and relatives.
“You know the pilots sleep with those girls, right?”
“How will we tell our neighbors that you serve drinks to old businessmen on a plane?”
“Why can’t you take up a job in teaching or in some 9 to 5 office? These are the jobs middle-class girls do. Not decking up to serve people as a sophisticated waitress!”
Jini crushed her teeth when she heard such things, maybe that acted as a buffer to prevent her ambitious soul from being crushed by those words.
“Enough is enough,” Jini thought. “I need an escape from this cursed village where everyone is afflicted by the epidemic of mediocrity, of normality. I need to spread my wings and fly. I need to see the world and yes, I need to make my life so different from what these people consider ‘normal’ that they wouldn’t again think of me as one of them.”
That was the driving force in Jini’s life. Not being ‘normal’, not being identified by her roots but by her wings and wherever they carried her.
When she was a little girl, Jini would sneak a look into the women’s magazines her mother bought. The girls she saw there, modelling in the most coveted clothes, looking like a million bucks–those were the girls that inspired her.
With her looks and figure, she could have tried her luck in modelling too, but somehow the craze to fly, visit different cities and then maybe countries was something she always wanted. Hence, even after graduating with flying colours, when she opted to be trained as a flight attendant, her parents were aghast. Finally, she could soften them by showing how much she could earn.
They swallowed a bitter pill and came to a compromise.
“Okay, you can work in some domestic airlines for a few years, but as soon as you turn twenty-five, we’re going to marry you off. After that you need to settle down.”
“Yeah right!” Thought Jini. She agreed to those conditions because she needed the funding for her training course. Deep down she knew what she wanted. First domestic, and then international flights–Dubai, Paris, New York, Singapore…there’d be nothing to stop her.
Her drive led her closer to success and farther from her near ones. Twenty-five came and went by, and she still remained single, living in a plush apartment in Abu Dhabi, working for one of the top airlines in the world.
Also, once she started sending more cash back home, somehow, her parents grudgingly accepted her the way she was. Gradually, that same ‘not-normal’ girl became their pride! Not only her parents, but her neighbours, relatives, and everyone started respecting the position she had attained. Money talks!
Jini didn’t have anything against marriage but she simply refused to be betrothed to someone her parents chose. She knew the kind of boy they’d find for her. Those Bongs with their regular office jobs, whose idea of a fulfilling life were two children and a domesticated wife. She had nothing against such men but the thought of being married to one of them literally churned her insides and made her want to gag.
She wanted the thrill, the money, the lifestyle that she saw on those fashion magazines of her childhood. And she wanted to keep flying. She had attained it all and she wanted someone who was as unfettered and ambitious like her. Loads of love, laughter, sex, travel, luxury, and going wild.
It was not like she didn’t come across such people. She belonged to a glamorous industry and she also travelled extensively. A couple of relationships taught her that every person comes with some caveats. Though those men were similar to her when it came to aspirations, deep down, things weren’t how she wanted them. Like the guy who was her ex-colleague. They went out for a year and then Jini discovered that he was cheating on her. The other guy who earned way more than her and didn’t forget to mention that once they were married she needn’t earn because she’d get more than her salary as pocket money from him. All Jini could do was congratulate him on his success and say that still she cared more about her own independence.
Years passed by.
Jini started to feel a void somewhere deep down. She had a few friends from the industry but they all belonged to the category of fair-weather friends.
She now realized how her parents, childhood friends, and people who really mattered were left far behind in her quest for a different life. In her hurry to not being one of them, she’d lost her own identity. She didn’t know where she belonged. Finally, the roots that she discarded made her wings feel heavy. She wanted some solace. And yes, she wanted to get back to the normality she erstwhile took for granted.
But was there a way back, really? She didn’t want to give up on the life she had created for herself. She was proud of her achievements but she also wanted the genuine love and compassion that only near and dear ones could offer.
How was she supposed to bridge the gap between her glammed up life and her ordinary past?
One year later.
“Dear God! Please, please make everything go well today!” Jini fervently prayed.
The yellow and black taxi halted in front of her home in South Kolkata. She stepped out clutching her Prada handbag tight to her chest.
“You stay here for five minutes, then I’ll call you.” She whispered to someone inside the cab.
Jini rang the bell.
Her father opened the door. In his starched kurta pyjama, holding a nylon bag in hand, it was clear to Jini that just like the olden times, her dad was on his way to the fish market. She portrayed a stark contrast beside him, in her Armani jeans and Mango Top.
His jaw hung open. “Mamoni!” That name sounded to her like a glass of cool water on a hot summer day. How long has it been since someone called her by that name? She hugged him tight. “Baba, how are you? Where is ma?”
“What a surprise, you naughty girl! You didn’t even mention about your visit in our weekly calls.”
“How would it have been a surprise otherwise, baba?”
Her mother stepped out from inside the kitchen, after hearing all the commotion.
“My Mamoni!” She shrieked.
There were tears in Meera’s eyes as she hugged her dear daughter. “It has been what, almost two years since you visited us? Your baba and I have decided not to ask our busy daughter lest she stops calling us even once a week. “
“Come on, Meera, stop giving the poor child a guilt trip even before she enters the house!” Her father chided her mom.
Her all forgiving, sweet baba. And her emotional ma. How she had missed these people for so long. She took a deep breath and then decided to spill the beans.
“I have someone else waiting for you.”
“Aah at last you’ve decided to marry!” Her mother’s face was aglow.
“Wait ma, I’ll just come.” Instead of offering further explanation, Jini went ahead and opened the door of the taxi and took the little bundle from Shamina into her own lap.
“Baba can you please help Shamina unload the luggage?”
Her mom and dad stood still like two statues.
Jini gave them her warmest smile while her eyes threatened to spill tears. “Ma, Baba, I’ve adopted Sara a couple of months back. I’ve taken a sabbatical from work and had been in India since the last four months completing all the paperwork. You know how difficult it is for a single parent to adopt a child? I’ve hired Shamina as a help and brought her along, from Abu Dhabi. Come now, both of you, bless your granddaughter.” Jini’s serene smile reminded Meera how grown up her daughter has become.
There were tears in Meera’s eyes, as she took little Sara on her lap.
“She is so beautiful, Jini, just like a tinier version of you. I’m so proud of you my child. But what about your life, baby? Don’t you feel alone without a companion?”
Jini’s words got stuck in her throat.
How wrong was she in gauging her parents? How did she distance herself so much from them, both geographically and within her soul, to not even realize that what they felt for her was genuine concern? Why did she take so long to come back?
She was trying to play it cool because she thought they might be agitated about the adoption. But they seemed to be the most understanding parents in the world. Her baba hugged her and started bawling like a child.
Sara too started crying in all the commotion. “Please Baba let’s take out the luggage and we can finish the rest of the discussion inside.” Jini kissed her parents and went along with her dad to get the luggage and Shamina into her childhood home.
“I’d taken the decision to adopt Sara after contemplating for a long time.” Jini made herself comfortable in the divan, and took a sip of her masala chai before continuing.
“I love my job. I love my life. But there was something missing. For a long time, I thought it was a man’s presence but then I realized that no one makes me complete other than myself. Still, what I was missing was unconditional love.”
“And hence this child. Why can’t I give my love to a child who really needed it? Why can’t I form a tie with a daughter who’d love me like a mother in return? I know how much you love me and I wanted to share that with another human. I wanted a family of my own. Just like you guys brought me up so beautifully, turning me into this independent woman, I want the same for Sara. I want a normal family. Normal is something I can never take for granted again. And yes, my family might not be strictly conventional, so what? I know I’m strong enough to be a single parent plus Sara is blessed with such awesome grandparents.” She smiled at her parents.
“Like you were asking Ma, yes, I am open to marriage but ONLY IF I meet the right person who will also look at Sara as his own daughter. But till that happens, why should my life stop for the sake of a man?”
“I will be staying with you for two more months and then I will resume working in Abu Dhabi but I will keep visiting you more often and yes, I will make arrangements so that you too can keep visiting us whenever you want. I’m sorry for distancing myself and for taking so long to understand my parents.”
Her mascara got smudged with her tears and with the hug from her parents.
“You can’t imagine how proud we are today, Mamoni.” Her father uttered.
“Yes, we’ve raised a truly beautiful human being and we’re so happy to have you back, baby.” Her mother sobbed.
“Anyway, what are you waiting for?” Her mother chided her father through sniffles. “Go get her favourite hilsa fish. Let the homecoming celebration begin!”
Kasturi Patra wins a Rs 250 Flipkart voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the 10 top winners at the end of 2016. Congratulations!
Image source: freedom concept by Shutterstock.
Kasturi’s debut novel, forthcoming in early 2021, had won the novel pitch competition by Half Baked Beans Publishers.
She won the Runner Up Position in the Orange Flower Awards 2021 for Short Fiction.
Her read more...
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I wanted to scream with excitement that my daughter chose to write about her ambition and aspirations over everything else first. To me, this was one of those parenting 'win' moments.
My daughter turned eight years old in January, and among the various gifts she received from friends and family was an absolutely beautiful personal journal for self-growth. A few days ago, she was exploring the pages when she found a section for writing a letter to her future self. She found this intriguing and began jotting down her thoughts animatedly.
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I glanced at her words, expecting to see a mention of her parents in the first sentence. But, to my utter delight, the first thing she had written about was her AMBITION. Yes, the caps here are intentional because I want to scream with excitement that my daughter chose to write about her ambition and aspirations over everything else first. To me, this was one of those parenting ‘win’ moments.
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