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A wonderful short-story that talks about patriarchy, toxic masculanity and of making amends before life runs out. Read on!
Manav was sitting in the gloomy hospital room, waiting for the news to sink in.
The doctor had given him three months to live. He said that his longevity could stretch to six months at the maximum.
The news came like a thunderbolt at this stage of his life.
He was 57 years old and there was still so much of life to look forward to.
Talking of life, the coffee that he had ordered at the in-hospital Starbucks was delivered to him. As the caffeine flowed through his veins, his mind started to think clearly after the news befuddled his senses.
By the time he took the last sip, he mentally chalked three things-to-do before he breathes his last.
With a renewed vigor and a queer excitement, he rose from the chair and headed home.
On his way back home in the cab, he recollected his life till date.
“Third time lucky”, said everyone to his beaming parents when he was born.
When Manav was born, his home was lit up as if there was a grand wedding. His parents were finally relieved that they could end their tiresome baby-making efforts and prying questions from society for good.
After the birth of Pushpa and Rupali, their two daughters, they persisted and hoped that they would get lucky the third time. Fortunately, they did!
Manav was the center of all attention in his household. His parents shamelessly deflected all their love and attention solely to him. His sisters were seen as ´Paraya Dhan´ from birth anyway.
However, Manav adored and admired his gritty sisters and wanted to be just like them. He spent most of his time with them and rooted for them as long as he was living with his parents. They got the elder two sisters married at the ripe tender age of 21, with no share in the property.
Manav was seventeen when he finally left home for higher studies. He never lived with his parents after that and occasionally visited them. It was better this way. Their tall expectations would bog him down further. However, his parents still made the major decisions in his life and like an obedient son, he obliged.
After his parents´ demise, Manav was the legal heir to the entire ancestral property much to his guilt.
Weren’t his sisters equally entitled to the ancestral property?
However, Shakti, Manav’s wife insisted that they keep the entire share for the sake of their children.
Now that the doctor confirmed his death, Manav decided to do the right thing. It would make his soul rest in peace.
The very first thing that he was going to do was to change the will and give an equal share of the family property to both his sisters.
The second thing on his checklist was to play the Good Samaritan for Shakti. It was time to hit the final nail in the coffin. They both knew that their divorce was inevitable, some day or the other. They put up with the sham initially for their old parent´s sake, then for their growing children, then for society. And now that their children were close to the marriageable age, neither of them wanted to rock the boat and spoil the chances´ of their children getting lucrative matrimonial matches.
Yet, it was very hard for Manav to pull this marriage so far.
Someone wise said that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
The best time in their lives came fifteen years ago when Manav caught Shakti in their bedroom with another man. He wanted to file a divorce right away. But Shakti came clean with her side of the story and Manav had to honest to himself that he was not the perfect husband material either. Besides, Shakti urged him to think of the long-term implications of them as a family and their standing in society. Since then, neither of them asked each others´ whereabouts. Their marriage was a shattered glass but one that was quietly swept under the rug.
But all that didn´t matter now that his days were numbered. He was going to file for divorce and let Shakti go. The children were adults now and free to make informed choices of their own. He detested the word ‘Sacrifice’ and didn’t want to thrust that burden on their young shoulders anyway.
A month passed by. Manav had called his entire family for a private gathering at his home.
“I thank everyone for coming at such a short notice! I have an announcement to make which I have been postponing for the last one month. The doctors have declared that I have only 3-6 months left to live. Oh! Give thanks to my brain tumor! Hahaha!”
Collective gasps and faint cries
“Don’t worry! I’m fine now. I have decided that I would like to live the remaining days of my life in authenticity, freedom, and serenity. I don´t want your sympathy but I need your understanding and space to let me be in these last few months.
Pushpa and Rupali, my beloved sisters and partners-in-crime, I thank you for the precious memories of childhood and for always being my inspiration. As a token of love, appreciation, and justice, I am transferring half of our ancestral property in equal share to you. As it rightly should!
Shakti, my beautiful ex-wife who has truly been the pillar of our wonderful family for twenty-five long years needs all the awards in the world for putting up with a man like me. Any other woman in her place would have walked out on me within the first month of marriage. But, she stood like a rock beside me and our family. As a mother, words would fail to do her justice. Shourya and Khushboo, our dear children are the perfect testimony. Before I breathe my last, I want you to sacrifice and pretend no more. And hence, I am filing for divorce. Thank you for all your love and support. I´m sure our family will still be loved and looked after as long as they have you walk on this earth.
Finally, there is one last thing to tick off my bucket list! I should have done this a long time ago!
I am going into a sex-operation change later in the evening today. This is a secret that I swore would go to my grave. But, I cannot take it anymore!
My whole life has been a continual role-play. I never felt male all my life. I am a female in the soul. Have always been!
But, I couldn´t come clean and break my parents´ heart. I was the answer to their prayers, not a sinful curse. I felt at ease with Pushpa and Rupali but couldn´t open up to them either. I pitied Shakti for marrying a guy like me blindly.
All my life, I have placed others´ happiness in front of mine and ran away from my true self. I thought if I hid, the truth would finally give up on me and vanish somehow. I´ve been a woman trapped in a man´s body all my life. I don´t want to die like this. At least, I will have the joy and satisfaction of knowing what it is to live life as a woman in the remaining few days of my life.”
There was an awkward silence in the room followed by thunderous claps lead by his children.
Later that evening, Manav become Menaka. Menaka got third time lucky as she crossed the third and last item in the ´before death´ bucket list.
The happiness didn´t just stop there. Menaka received a windfall which came in the form of the below SMS right after her operation:
“Hi, Manav! This is Dr. Shishir Gupta. Due to a mix-up in the medical reports, we erroneously informed you that you have a brain tumor and you will not live for more than 3-6 months. Your reports are normal. I take full responsibility and am sorry for the terrible lapse on our part. Goodnight!”
Image Source: Pexels
Tina Sequeira is an award-winning writer and marketer. Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in association with the Government of Telangana, Orange Flower Award by Women’s Web, India's leading website for women, read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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