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Both were approaching thirty, were well settled in their professions, loved being with each other and hence they saw no reason to delay their wedding. And both intended to go for Mission Mount Everest soon. This time together.
Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “Where Your Dreams Take You”. The story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is, it should have at least two well crafted, named women characters (we differ here slightly from the classic Bechdel test, in that we require these characters to be named),
The fifth winner of our October 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Seema Taneja.
Eyes still shut, Nimisha yawned and stretched languorously.
It had been just two days to her wedding with Rajat and she was yet to recover from the fatigue of the never ending wedding rituals which often extend into late nights. Post wedding rituals and ceremonies with Rajat’s extended family elders had been equally taxing, leaving her no time to grab some rest. She had been longing for some quiet ‘me’ time but hadn’t had a moment to herself in the past one week. She realized Rajat was still asleep so she let herself just lie down for a while more, savor those few minutes of solitude and ponder over her forthcoming life in a new family. And her future plans.
As is quite common for young people these days, Rajat and she had met at a common friend’s party and had soon became quite pally. It was not love at first sight for either of them but within a few months they graduated from hanging around with their pals, to movie and dinner dates for just the two of them and some intimate conversations. Soon they found their common love for mountaineering. Both had often gone for trekking and had climbed quite a few mountains. Nimisha had, in fact, even been part of a Mount Everest mission but had had to return from the base camp due to torn ligaments.
Since then she had been restraining herself but when she came to know that Rajat was also an avid trekker her desire to go back to the mountains had become even more fierce.
Neither of them had ever expressed love in words but it was somehow understood and accepted by both, that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives. Both were approaching thirty, were well settled in their professions, loved being with each other and hence they saw no reason to delay their wedding. And both intended to go for Mission Mount Everest soon. This time together.
Rajat and Nimisha had already met each other’s families several times and they didn’t foresee any opposition to their marriage from them. Nimisha’s parents worked as professors and she had had an emotionally secure childhood and youth devoid of much acrimony at home. Rajat’s father was an industrialist who also owned large land holdings in their ancestral village. His mother Kaumudi, an interior designer and an affable lady, quite liked Nimisha.
But she didn’t know about Nimisha’s love for the mountains.
Like most young girls Nimisha had also been raised to images of a spectacular welcome to her marital home, the ma-in-law sliding thick ancestral bangles around her wrists and instructing her to always maintain the traditions and customs of the family with utmost care. Even though Nimisha was also fond of her ma-in-law yet she had certain apprehensions about living in a joint family, adjusting to their lifestyle and fulfilling their expectations from their only daughter-in-law. During the various wedding ceremonies Rajat’s aunts and uncles had often mentioned their illustrious lineage and how it was for Nimisha to now uphold and carry forward the family’s legacy. Some of them even suggested Nimisha to get a baby soon as she was already approaching thirty.
Would they be able to reconcile to her adventurous streak and support her? She doubted it. And feared it too.
Despite sharing a congenial relationship with Rajat’s parents Nimisha had begun to feel jittery about marriage, especially in such a large family. Though she didn’t mind staying with his parents, the thought of having to deal with the mountain of expectations from her new extended family had intimidated her so much that she hadn’t been able to enjoy her wedding at all. She yearned for some time away from it all and was eagerly looking forward to her honeymoon so that she could share her fears and dilemma with Rajat in peace. But the plethora of rituals didn’t seem to end soon.
Thankfully, most of the relatives and guests had left but today she had to formally enter the kitchen and cook a ceremonial dish. Wearily, she got up to have her bath and get ready.
An hour later, she served the ritualistic sooji ka halwa to her new family. ‘Waah waah! Halwa looks awesome with the garnishing of nuts and raisins, just like you adorned with a kilo of jewelry’, Rajat teased her. Nimisha glared at him with a sideways look. ‘Shut up Rajat! Don’t you dare irritate my Nimisha ever’, the ma-in-law chided him.
‘Come here, beta’, she gestured Nimisha to come sit beside her. ‘Here’s the moment every new bride dreams of and dreads at the same time’, Nimisha smirked inwardly as she eased herself into the plush chair. ‘Halwa is yum, Nimisha! Perfectly balanced just like you, a beautiful combination of modern outlook and traditional beauty’, she patted her back gently. ‘Thank you Ma!’ Nimisha feigned a small smile.
Kaumudi looked at her, a little puzzled at the lack of spark in the usually chirpy girl. At first she tried to ignore it as her shyness but Nimisha had been to their home several times so there wasn’t really a reason for her being uncomfortable. But her instinct told her that something was certainly troubling her. Didn’t she know the reason though!
Breakfast was over soon. Rajat hugged Nimisha and went out for some urgent work. Noticing the listless visage of Nimisha Kaumudi asked her, ‘Are you tired, beta? Go get some rest before Rajat returns’, she tried to put Nimisha at ease and lead her to her room.
‘No no, I am fine, Ma!’
‘If you say so, Nimisha. But it is your own home beta so never hesitate in sharing with me anything that troubles you. Now here’s something for you’, Kaumudi handed her a small velvet box.
‘But you have already given me so many gifts Ma’, Nimisha protested feebly.
‘Please open the box and see if you like the jewelry. If you don’t then we will get it changed’.
Nimisha opened the box slowly and was instantly dazzled by the sheer brilliance of the diamond bracelet. ‘It’s so lovely, Ma. And family heirlooms are meant to be treasured not exchanged, aren’t they Ma?’
‘Family heirloom? No Nimisha, this is not our ancestral jewelry. I have got it made specially for you, according to your choices. But tell me dear, have I disappointed you by not giving you an antique piece? Were you looking forward to getting a traditional piece of jewelry as your welcome gift?’
‘Not really Ma. You know I am not too fond of jewelry. But isn’t that the custom? To give the daughter-in-law a family heirloom and instruct her to carry forward the legacy of family traditions?’Nimisha tried to strike a small conversation with her ma-in-law hoping that it would help divert her perplexed mind. ‘I have heard so much about your illustrious family and the glorious past that I was feeling a bit intim…’ Nimisha checked herself from saying more lest she offend her mother-in-law.
‘…intimidated, are you?’ Kaumudi completed her sentence and smiled broadly. To Nimisha’s utter surprise.
‘Why do you think I haven’t given you a family heirloom? Because I didn’t want to part with a precious memory? No beta, it’s because when a ‘khandani zevar’ is given to a ‘nai bahu’ it comes with the baggage of family culture and traditions, the sanskar and parampara of the family and the daughter-in-law is expected to uphold them at all costs. You’ve always been so full of joy whenever I met you that when I saw you looking so dull and listless even during the engagement and wedding ceremonies I realized there was certainly something that was troubling the happy-go-lucky girl. I even asked Rajat if you both had quarreled but he assured me there was no such thing hence I decided to find out on my own’.
‘But I never let the bride’s smile wane let alone complain about anything, Ma! Nimisha flinched,
‘How did you know?’
‘You forget mothers can see even what the children don’t know about themselves! I had noticed how all the relatives and friends had been incessantly speaking of the illustrious lineage of your marital family without realizing how much pressure they were exerting upon you to conform to our ways of life. Beta, I didn’t want my daughter-in-law to enter her marital home with the burden of these expectations the way I had been. I didn’t want you to suppress your desires and wishes just because you got married into a family with somewhat old fashioned ideas. You belong to the new generation, you have fresh and novel ideas and I know you have many dreams, aspirations and ambitions.
Nimisha, never let yourself feel constrained because of your marriage. Treat me as your own mother and in fact as an ally who would always stand by you and support you in all your ventures. You are a mountaineer, naa? And Rajat and you’re planning to go for the Mount Everest summit, aren’t you?’
‘Yes but how do you know Ma? We never told you or anyone else’! Nimisha jumped up in consternation. ‘Does Daddy also know? He must be angry with me, no?’ she went on babbling.
‘Mothers are know-it-all, remember’? Kaumudi jested with Nimisha. ‘No, actually your mom had once mentioned how you had to abort your attempt to the Everest because of the injury to your leg and also your ardent desire to scale the peak. I didn’t ask you anything about it earlier because I didn’t wish to intrude into your privacy. I had thought you would confide in me when you felt sure you could trust me but when I noticed how jittery and distressed you were during the wedding I couldn’t hold myself back.
And no, your Daddy doesn’t have any issues with your ambitions. You have our blessings beta, fly high to wherever your dreams take you! This bracelet is just an adornment for your hand; it will never be an impediment to your dreams’, she handed Nimisha another box, ‘Here’s your real gift, my darling daughter-in-law!’
A pair of brand new sturdy trekking shoes were unboxed.
And Nimisha was unchained too. To climb high towards her dreams.
Seema Taneja wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations!
Image source: videoblocks
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