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It was her hobby, yes, but what was really wrong with turning a hobby into a business? Only her husband’s ego, which wanted her to be only a homemaker!
Rupa loved to look far away at the horizon from her perch at the 22nd floor of her home at a luxury apartment building, which was the tallest building in the area. She felt that, the point where the earth meets sky is the answer to everything. If you are tall enough to touch the sky you have everything in the world, she thought. It was not achievable in truth, but then from her vantage point she felt she was closest to sky.
She thought she was Rapunzel sometimes – any moment, a witch would call out to her to lower her hair. But she had short hair, so the witch would have to use the elevator. Besides there were no witches in her home; it was just her family and her dreams. She felt like she were two different individuals – one inhabited her in the evenings and early mornings when her husband of 15 years and children were around. And only once they had left for work and school, was she inhabited by her dreams.
“I want a homemaker to make my home happy.” She remembered, those were the first words that Amit had spoken to her, as she sat opposite him in her father’s home, her prospective groom and his family, for the first time. Rupa was an average student. She smiled at those words. Amit took it for an affirmative.
She did not imagine she would ever have a passion that would pursue her and engulf her to sickening degree. She thought that was all too well for her, to be a home maker. She liked the proposal, the guy, the family, everything. But just a small part of her, just one tiny bit of her, was revolted by this opening sentence of their first meeting! Are you looking for a ‘home maker’ or a ‘house maid’ who offers other personal services…? She forgave Amit for that mis-statement, understanding that men like Amit are brought up with limited vocabulary and limited desires.
She was limited too, in her choices. She had been brought up a chaste Indian girl, with just one objective, she had to marry one day and that’s that. She realised early in school that, she would not be one to carve a path for herself, by her academic feat… So she was fine with this arrangement. She did not consent, but she did not know how to answer to this direct insult, and yet save this proposed relationship, which she had no real problem with. She could not be picky, could she?
She looked back at her life… As she was growing up, her mother’s endless bantering over what she should and should not be doing in sasural (in-laws home), while she helped her mother in home and kitchen work… It acted as an internship, to prepare her for the inevitable appointment at sasural. And it was all very well. Rupa wanted nothing more than a life that her parents had conjured for her. But she did not understand this nagging desire in her… She shut it up and kept doing what she was doing…
Oh but there was more to her. She loved to stitch clothes. She loved to design her outfits. She loved to design outfits for her friends and neighbours. So much so, that the first gift that Amit ever gave to Rupa, was a sewing machine. For her first birthday after marriage.
Amit was a reasonable man and they almost had a relationship of love, trust, affection and understanding, just like any married couple does. After she became a mom, Rupa stitched clothes for her little ones and the little ones of her friends and neighbours. Everyone who wanted some help with an outfit, would come to Rupa for help. Her husband’s colleagues also knew about this unique skill and kept making requests for something stitched by her which, she proudly fulfilled.
It still came as a surprise to her, when her friend asked her why she did not think of starting a tailoring business.
“No,” she said, point blank, “where is the time?”
“But this is all you do…” reasoned her friend… “You could as well establish your own shop…”
“Yes,” thought Rupa, “this is all I do… Yes I can be an entrepreneur.”
“Establish a shop? Do you have any idea what setting up a shop takes? It won’t be possible for you to do it,” her husband was yelling at her… Rupa stood stunned listening to him. “No you will not do all this. I told you I wanted a home maker, and that has not changed.”
“But,” she wanted to say, “I never told you I wanted a lover… I never told you I wanted you to be able to listen to me… I never told you I wanted a partner not a manager of my life….”
This was all very confusing for Rupa. One part of her wanted to give it all up altogether. She was after all living a happy luxurious life. “What is luxury?” She had asked the property dealer when she called to check about this flat of hers, advertised as a luxury apartment, that was then under construction. They ended up buying the flat. Rupa still wondered, what is luxury?
One part of her wanted her dream to become a reality. She was imagining herself sitting in her own tailoring studio. She wanted it! She had even thought up a name… ‘Horizon’ because there she knew everything becomes one, two disparate people seem together and happy from a distance. It is only when you come up-close that you know the truth. Rupa knew how to phase out and look at her life at the horizon. Strung together and happy.
She had a close group of friends, who had started her off on tailoring assignments. Rupa had saved up all her earnings from this secret business of her’s. What pains she had taken to complete each assignment as fast as she could, so that she did not have large bundles of clothes at home, raising her husband’s suspicion. Sometimes even leaving the clothes, received for stitching, at friend’s homes, for safe keeping. “I don’t have enough storage space at home, it will get soiled,” she would say untruthfully, more for her own satisfaction. Her friends knew why… They knew it exactly, weren’t they her conduits?
And now a big opportunity was knocking at her door. A neighbour who was running a boutique, right next to her apartment complex, was moving from the city and wanted to offer the space to Rupa on rent. All of the boutique’s existing customers would be retained, provided Rupa did a good job! And there was no doubt she would.
But that one sentence, the very first that Amit ever spoke to her in private, held her feet like thick chains, like the ones that hold back the elephants! Many times she fantasized it was behind their back, she thought she had done enough for him to let him know she was more than just his fantasy of a wife.
She thought, the two children she was raising were proof enough to show to Amit that it was not just a contract anymore, their marriage was all about love, affection, intimacy, attachment and warmth. For him to realise that these emotions were much stronger than surrender, succumbing, sacrifice and all those other meeker cousins of love. But Amit in some ways was still held up in those first few minutes. He did not want Rupa to get into any business. No matter what. That was the contract he felt he was entitled to uphold! He had chosen her profile before he chose her. It was totally a job offer, no more than that!
Rupa could do it. She could rent the boutique. She had the money she had saved from her secret tailoring job…
Something gave Rupa a push, she was not herself anymore, not the way she had known herself to be, giving in to that constant chattering in her mind was not something she had imagine she would ever do. “Let me give it a try at-least,” she said to herself. She confirmed to the neighbour that she was taking the deal. She got into this secretive deal for the boutique without informing Amit. She already knew his answer in case she asked. And there she was, in her boutique, from the moment he left for work, to the time children returned from school, and then from the moment they went out to play to the point when they came back home. But this was not going to last long – Amit came home early one day and found her with a client in her boutique. Without a word, he went straight home, he waited for her to come back.
She decided to put as much time between them as possible. She chose to go back home very late. He was waiting for her. The moment she walked in, all hell broke loose.
Did she care that he had been at home for hours now and was hungry? Did she care for her children’s home-works? Did she care for what she meant to him? Did she care how he was hurt? She kept calm. She had made up her mind. She said, “I want a supportive husband’ did I tell you this when we met the first time? Well over the years this is what I have missed. You did not ask, I thought you understood. I will leave it to you to decide how you want to go about with this. Support me or take an amicable decision. I know I am not wrong.”
Would there be a rephrased contract in their lives… or would they finally dissolve the needlessly petty contract and dissolve their marriage, once and for all? It really does not matter, for there are just too many Rupas and Amits… any end is good enough, now that Rupa has herself by her side.
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock
I am a Chartered Accountant and a Mother of a 7 year old. Writing is
What a wonderful story! Hard hitting. And beautifully narrated.
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