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But what caught her attention was a the small girl sitting in shadows at bottom most corner of the page. Her hands were tied with handcuffs as paints lay all around her…
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 fourth winner of our October 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Soumya Bharathi.
Ila looked at the watch again. Two hours had passed. What could they be talking about? She fidgeted with the magazine in hand. She had walked in and out of her best friend’s clinic waiting for her innumerable times before, but today it seemed different to her somehow. The white walls and sparse furnishing gave the room a claustrophobic effect. The staff seemed to eye her suspiciously. Or maybe she was feeling this way because today she had come not to meet Bhavana, her best friend since childhood but to meet Dr. Bhavana, the famous psychiatrist. What made it even more difficult for her was the fact that it was Natasha, her daughter in the counselling room for the first time. She glanced at the watch again as worry lines began to appear in her forehead.
Last night had been the most traumatic night of her life. She had been calling Natasha for more than twenty minutes for dinner but there had been no answer. Alarmed, she went up to her room to find Natasha lying unconscious on the bed. An empty strip of sleeping pills lay by her bedside. She had quickly called the ambulance and taken her to the nearby hospital. Because not much time had elapsed, the doctors could perform a gastric lavage and get her daughter out of danger. But it took a while for Ila to even process what she had witnessed. It was only then the harshness of the reality hit her. It was as if someone had stabbed her with a knife. Her only daughter had attempted to end her life with her own hands…
Ila came back to reality as she heard the door creaking open. Natasha’s face was sullen and her eyes were red. Tears streaked across her cheeks… She swiftly crossed Ila without meeting her eyes and sat in the opposite side of the room. Ila stared inside towards Bhavana who was signalling her to come in. She went inside with great hesitation….
“Is she alright, Bhavana?”
Bhavana could feel the concern and worry in her friend’s voice. She nodded and said, “It all depends on you, Ila.”
“What do you mean?” Ila’s tone was of deep anguish.
“You are her everything , Ila. You have been the most important person in her life and you still are. You know it as much as all of us. So she doesn’t want to disappoint you. She also doesn’t want to walk along the path that you want her to take….”
Now the truth dawned slowly as Ila recalled the events one by one. How could she not have seen this coming? The dissent against joining MBBS. The silent protests- not filling the application form , not showing any interest in getting a seat, Refusing to attend the counseling. She literally had to drag Natasha through all the proceedings. She knew given a choice Natasha would never choose Medicine as a career but it had been Akash’s dream to see his daughter graduating as a doctor. Now that he was no more she had an obligation to fulfill his dream…
“You know why I led her in that path, don’t you Bhavana? I never knew it would lead her to taking her own life…. What do I do now?” tears welled up in her eyes.
“Ila, put yourself in Natasha’s place. On one hand you want to go where your dreams take you. On the other, you feel obligated to your parents who have their own dreams about your future. So you put your dreams in the backseat and try to fulfill theirs. This takes enormous effort, every single day. And then you realize that it is getting harder. That you can’t sustain this lies that you are telling yourself everyday. When your dreams end, nightmares begin…” Bhavana looked at her friend who was too stunned to react.
A long silence followed…
“So she doesn’t want to pursue Medicine? Why can’t she learn from you? Look at how successful you are. Why is she refusing to see how wonderful this profession is. Someday it will lead her towards happiness and then she won’t regret her decision anymore” Ila persisted.
Bhavana looked at her friend and nodded disapprovingly. Why was her level-headed friend refusing to see such an evident reality? Maybe this is what happens when emotions hold rein of a person’s reasoning…
“How long will you push her away from her dreams Ila? Your daughter wants to be a painter. She might have discussed this with you before but today I want to show you her work. The one that she hasn’t shown you yet but I had a rare privilege of witnessing, right here. Just a few minutes before…”
Bhavana led Ila to another small room where there were toys, books and art supplies for child patients. There, on the sheet of paper was the most beautiful portrait of Akash that she had ever seen. But what caught her attention was a the small girl sitting in shadows at bottom most corner of the page. Her hands were tied with handcuffs as paints lay all around her….
Natasha had said all that she had to say through her art..
Ila picked up the painting and stared at it for the longest time. Finally Bhavana placed her hands on her friend’s shoulder and said
“My dear Ila, What Natasha needs now are wings, not handcuffs. Can you give them to her?”
Ila turned towards her friend, tears streaming down her face , but nodding approvingly…
“I hope Akash will understand,” her face turned towards the sky for approval.
“If he were alive, I am sure he would have been proud of his daughter’s talent. But now it is all in your hands Ila, make the right choice.”
“Bhavana, thanks for opening my eyes. I am too tired of carrying Akash’s dream on my shoulders. Now I will rest. Let Natasha not be burdened by it’s weight. Her young shoulders are too delicate for it. The last thing I want is my daughter paying a price with her life, trying to fulfill our expectations. Her life is her own now, so are her dreams…”
As she turned around she saw Natasha standing at the door, smiling through her tears…
“I am sorry Ma…” she said as she hugged her mother.
“Me too, my child!” The mother and daughter embraced each other for the longest time…
Soumya Bharathi 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: shutterstock
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