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He would try to meet her on her way to college. He tried his best to convince Sarla. Every time she saw him, her heart would beat faster. She would feel like getting close to him. She would dream about them together.
In 2019 our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for April 2019 is these lines from Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, considered the “feminist before all feminists” in India, from the poem I will meet you yet again (Main Tainu Phir Milangi), a translation of her original poem in Punjabi.
but the threads of memory
are woven of enduring atoms.
The fourth winner of our April 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Tanvi Sinha.
Arya and Juhi were playing at home that sunny afternoon, gently sipping the mango milkshake every few minutes. Summer vacation had started. The door bell rang. Few more friends from the neighborhood joined. The house was now buzzing with a bunch of noisy teenagers who decided to play Truth or Dare.
Do you have a crush on Rohan?
Have you ever kissed a guy?
Oooh! How many times!!
There was a loud giggle followed by a hush.
‘Shh!!!’ One of the girls motioned to the gang as an older woman entered the room with a tray. All the girls became silent immediately.
Sarla continued to walk towards them, pretending to be oblivious. ‘Saind-wich’, she said slowly and cautiously, with a shy smile.
‘Thank you, Dadi!’ The girls replied in a chorus and jumped to grab a piece of Dadi’s famous cheese potato sandwiches.
Sarla went back to her room. She heard one of the girls say, ‘Do you think she heard us?’
‘I don’t think so.. Anyway, Dadi does not speak much English.’ Arya replied much to their relief.
Sarla smirked. Why was it that every generation thought the older generation was dumb? The girls probably could not imagine that she could have ever been that young. The crushes! The attention from boys! The romance!
She had had her share. Well, almost…
Some 50 years back
Sarla had gone to watch the movie, Aradhana with her friends. ‘Mere sapno ki rani kab ayegi tu, ayi rut mastani kab ayegi tu, beeti jaaye zindagani kab ayegi tu, chali aa na tu chali aa!’
‘Main aa gayi!’ Jyotsna, Sarla’s best friend sang, turning towards her.
‘Hey! Rajesh Khanna is mine!!’
‘Achcha fine! If we ever meet him, we will share him!’
They both giggled. Studying in a girls’ college, romance was a dream. Something that happened in movies. Something they read about in books. But who has control over the thoughts? Sarla was imagining herself to be Sharmila Tagore. Until the song, Roop tera mastana came up. Both Sarla and Jyotsna closed their eyes. The men in the theatre started whistling. The girls became conscious. The song was so long! Thankfully, there were no more uncomfortable scenes. The girls bicycled their way back home, laughing and singing.
At home, Sarla’s father had some news for her. Prasad uncle’s son Subhash was coming to see her for marriage. Subhash was studying to become a doctor. He was a ‘brilliant boy’ according to her father. She had met him once as a kid. After that Subhash’s family had moved to Mumbai.
‘Can you show his photograph?’ Sarla asked her father.
“Why! He is coming tomorrow anyway! You can see him! Siddheshwar and Bhabhiji won’t be able to come, as Bhabhiji is not keeping well. See how modern they are! Sending the boy to see you! You will be very happy in that family. Now start the preparation. If you want, buy a new sari!”
And so, the preparations with utmost dedication. A halwai was called to prepare sweets. Sarla’s mother called her sister to dress up Sarla. The sister’s husband (a doctor) was also called for conducting a subtle assessment of Subhash’s technical skills!
Sarla was a very pretty woman, in the peak of her youth. But with the make-up, jewelry and sari she glowed as never before! ‘She is looking just like Waheeda Rehman!’ Sarla’s aunt said beaming, proud with her work.
The boy had arrived. Sarla could hear her father’s polite laughter and chatter. Her uncle seemed to interviewing Subhash. Sarla was taken to the living room by her aunt. She had to keep her head low.
‘This is my daughter!’ her father said proudly. ‘And this is Subhash! He has grown up to look just like Siddheshwar!!
‘Namaste!’ said the man.
Sarla was not sure if she was supposed to look up. But how else could she see him? Gently, she lifted her head up with utmost grace. There were two men! One looked very ordinary. The other one had hazel eyes. His skin was light. He had a mischievous smile. He was the most good-looking man Sarla had ever seen in real life. He looked like some movie star! Someone she had seen in an English movie.
Which one is Subhash?! She had no memory of him, or his father.
‘So, Asif also works at the same hospital with you?’
‘No no uncle. He is my school friend. He is studying at Oxford University. He was visiting me on vacation, so he came along!’
Sarla’s heart sank. Subhash was not the good-looking one.
Sarla’s mother kept serving food for the next half an hour, one delicacy after another. Sarla’s father kept asking Subhash questions on his career prospects. Sarla kept wishing the two men could be exchanged!
Rajesh Khannas happen in movies. In real life, Subhash happens! Sarla thought to herself.
For the next two days, Sarla’s father waited for a call from Siddheshwar. He went to the phone booth to call him but could not get connected. Subhash had mentioned that he was staying at a friend’s house but it would have been inappropriate to visit him there. All he could do was wait.
After three long days Subhash finally came over. Again, with Asif.
Sarla was asked to stay in her room until told otherwise.
Barely few minutes had passed, and she could heard her father screaming. ‘What do you think of yourself? This is what they teach you in big cities! People had warned me against a boy from Bombay but I thought you had Siddheshwar’s values! Please leave!’
Sarla ran outside, her heart beating fast as the two men got up to leave. Asif paused, seeing Sarla. Those eyes!! He gave her an embarrassed smile.
‘Sarla! Go back inside!’ her mother scolded her immediately.
What was going on?!
It took a couple of hours for Sarla’s father to cool down. Sarla’s mother was the one to tell her that Subhash had come to say that Sarla was a lovely girl. However, she was not the kind of girl he was looking for. But his friend, Asif liked her a lot and wanted to marry her!
Sarla’s aunt and uncle had also come home by now for extending moral support in this strange turn of events.
‘I am not angry with that Asif! I don’t know him! I am shocked that Siddheshwar’s son had the nerve to reject my daughter!’ – Sarla’s father.
‘I knew something was wrong with this boy! I am sure his medical qualifications are fake!’ – Sarla’ uncle.
‘Maybe Asif had seen Sarla’s photograph. That is why he came to see her. Who takes a friend along to see a girl for marriage!’ –Sarla’ aunt.
‘He was trying to fix his marriage himself! And take the girl to England! Must be having some other intention! Make my daughter a slave!!’– Sarla’s mother.
Nobody asked Sarla what she thought. She did not have the courage to say anything.
Asif stayed in Lucknow for the next two weeks. He would try to meet her on her way to college. He tried his best to convince Sarla. Every time she saw him, her heart would beat faster. She would feel like getting close to him. She would dream about them together. Holding hands. Hugging. And so much more…Just like in the song, Roop tera mastana. Jyotsna, the only person who knew about this, other than her family suggested that Sarla should elope.
But Sarla knew better. She knew her limits. How could she trust this man who lived far across the oceans? How could she go against her family? She knew that this was an impossible dream. But what a beautiful dream it was! Get married to a man who looked like a prince! Then move to England! The country she had read about in books. Then travel across the world! She knew what he wished was unthinkable. But in her heart, she wanted him to hold her and kiss her, just like in movies. What? Her life turning into a fairy-tale? Maybe she was not meant to live an ordinary, boring life. Maybe there was something much more exciting written in her destiny.
Finally, it was Asif’s last day in Lucknow. He had to catch a train to New Delhi. Sarla had to make a decision…
‘Dadi, can you give me some olives, please.’ Arya asked her grandmother.
Sarla got up hurriedly. The doorbell rang. How long had she been lost in her thoughts! Her husband was back from his walk. Arya quickly ran to hug her Dadaji. He had got a chocolate for her. Sarla watched affectionately.
What a great life they had together. Two children. Grandchildren. A happy, comfortable, home. A decent lifestyle. What else could she possibly ask God for!
But sometimes when Sarla is all alone, she wonders what if she had made another choice? What if she had not asked Asif to never contact her? What if she had stayed in touch with him? What if she had said:
Give me some time, but I promise, I will meet you yet again?!
Tanvi Sinha wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: a still from the movie Aradhana
I like to write about the problems that have plagued the Indian society. I feel
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