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She had lost her mom, and though she kept re-living that summer day in her mind, she knew that she had to live with the loss. #GoodwynTea contest winning entry.
This month, we invited you, our readers, to participate in the writing contest sponsored by Goodwyn Tea. You had to write a story either fiction/real, in response to the cue: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.” A quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Here is the first winning entry, by Deboshree Bhattacharjee. Deboshree wins a gift hamper from Goodwyn Tea. For the taste of a perfect steep, visit www.goodwyntea.com and try out one of their high quality tea bag collections.
It was an early summer day in Delhi, but the sun was high up in the sky, relentless and furious. Deepa tied her hair back with a rubber-band. She had just emerged from the Metro Station at Hauz Khas, and the shift from the air-conditioning was rather too drastic.
Two summers ago, she had cut her hair short. Just like her mom. Their bobs looked super cool when paired with cute kurtis and churidaars. Mom would always be at the Metro Exit Gate and the two of them would order a Chinese takeaway from the shop right outside.
“You don’t need to come pick me up every day, you know. I can manage.” Deepa said as she eyed her mom’s thin arms – thinner every day.
“Of course, you can. But I like to.”
When Deepa didn’t have to go to work, they would often go for a stroll in the park. Her mom especially loved the walks that involved stopping to pet the neighbourhood dogs and cats. They would visit bookstores and the Bengali street-food market. They would shop at the mall and go to the cinema – always Deepa’s choice. They were two young girls, best friends with a zest for life who didn’t need anyone but each other.
Deepa sometimes thought mom forgot, though she never could. Mom had cancer.
And Deepa had a world of ‘well-meaning’ relatives and friends to ward off. There would always be a few, offering unwanted suggestions, oblivious to the pain mom was going through and doing nothing to help except buzz around like bees. Take bed-rest. Stop eating this, that and those. You can do without all those pets in the house. Why don’t you get a wig for your head?
She remembered that afternoon. Deepa and her Dad drove Mom to a popular hair cosmetology centre. This was in the initial days of her hair loss, and whenever she looked in the mirror, Deepa could see her flinch for a second. Dad bought her a fine, human-hair wig that fit her head perfectly. She sat there in the lobby, feeling random stares from strangers, and clutched on to Deepa’s hand. Two days later, she packed and kept the wig away in the loft. “It’s too hot! And anyway, my hair has started to grow again!”
It’s now a different summer, of smoky skies and dying leaves. Mom doesn’t arrive to pick her up at the Metro Station anymore. Deepa gets off, struggling through the scores of people and their handbags, and takes the flight of stairs. “Doesn’t that escalator ever work? Our Chinese is turning cold!” This too, she doesn’t hear anymore.
In fact, it has been several million moments since she had a conversation with her Mom. It amazes her, just how expertly she manages to get through her days, even laughing and making merry once in a while. She no longer cries over a bruise on her knee, or when she turns over the last page of a much-loved novel. She works hard at her job. Around her, people talk about loss – through divorce, separation and death. Some of the conversations are so matter-of-fact that she listens to them intently, trying to appreciate how loss doesn’t seem to have debilitated these people. She also tries to inculcate the technique in her manner of speaking.
Over time, Deepa has found, living with loss is possible. She had thought she wouldn’t be able to get through a single day without Mom. Years had now passed. She cried less often. She could look at the photo-frames from happier times without having her eyes well over. In an increasingly rare, defenseless moment, she is told she needs to let bygones be bygones.
There are new people in her life now – people she needs to talk to, people who have no perception about the gigantic void in her life, people she wishes she could tell stories to about Mom. Except that they aren’t interested. It makes sense. When time passes, sorrows are supposed to pass as well. It doesn’t do for young women to constantly grieve personal losses and use that as an excuse for their detachment. Not even when the loss wasn’t really a loss. Not even when it was the end of life as she knew it.
Deepa had reached home. She quickly freshened up and started fixing dinner. Yes, there wouldn’t be anyone who’d call up to ask whether she had eaten. But she could tell her nevertheless, couldn’t she? She could grieve her mom throughout her life and allow one fragment of her heart to forever be charred. It was a personal secret she had found she was strong enough to keep. After all, a woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.
Congratulations from the Women’s Web team, Deboshree Bhattacharjee. You win a gift hamper from Goodwyn Tea.
Image source: sad woman looking at the sunset by Shutterstock.
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