Who Is The Happiest Of Them All?

Posted: July 21, 2019

“You want the truth, then let’s have it. Tell everyone the truth behind your rock-sized diamonds. That these diamonds and jewellery are just your husband’s way of compensating for his cheating.”

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 July 2019 is these lines from The Marvelous Women, a true portrayal of sisterhood, by Syrian-American poet Dr Mohja Kahf, who is a founding member of RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Arkansas.
“All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.”

The first winner of our July 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Anshu Bhojnagarwala.

Who Is The Happiest Of Them All?

The four women hooted and whistled when they saw each other in the hotel foyer, and then hugged each other like long lost sisters. A few guests made a face. They didn’t find it in good taste that ladies of respectable families were making a spectacle of themselves in a public place. Some foreign tourists laughed; Indians were indeed loud, though Indian women were usually shy and quiet.

The objects of their acute observation couldn’t care less. They were meeting after 25 years. A bit of shouting and whistling was justified.

Pooja, Meera, Khushboo and Sonali had made a pact on the last day of boarding school that they would meet each other when they turned 40. They had turned 40 earlier this year. And true to their promise, they met in Goa. Even Pooja who hardly ever called or messaged made it to this 25-year union.

They had a beautiful day catching up with each other, talking about their husband and kids (except Meera who wasn’t married) and their achievements.

In the evening, before dinner, they gathered at the sea facing lounge for a round of drinks. After a couple of drinks, their tongues loosened up and their minds relaxed.

They realized they had talked enough about themselves the entire day and it was time they knew about Meera.

“Meeru, why didn’t you marry?” asked Pooja.

“Yes, with your looks and figure, not to say brains, you could have caught a big fish,” Sonali joked.

“I decided very early that marriage was not for me. I was not cut out for it. I have neither the patience nor the subservience to make a marriage last,” Meera replied.

“But what about marital bliss – you will never taste it. You will never know what heaven motherhood is,” argued Khushboo.

“Maybe, but I have seen enough marital bliss disintegrating into misery and children fighting their parents for what they think is rightfully theirs in the family court. No thank you, I can survive without marital bliss and motherly love.”

“But you will die a lonely spinster,” Sonali smirked. Meera got the jab but thought it wise to let it pass.

The girls ordered one more round of drinks, though Meera felt that Sonali was already a little tipsy.

“Sonali, those are some rocks!” Khushboo commented on the unusually large solitaire diamond earrings and a ring that Sonali was wearing.

Sonali visibly beamed. “Hubby gifted it for my 40th,” she crooned. “He is very fond of gifting me jewellery; he doesn’t let any occasion pass without buying me some jewellery.”

“That’s something!” Pooja acknowledged.

“Isn’t it? Oh, he is a darling, I tell you. Pooja, you should also ask your hubby to replace those mustard seed-sized diamonds with some big ones. After all, the last I heard, he was doing extremely well at the stock exchange.” Everyone gasped at the insensitivity of Sonali’s remark, but Sonali didn’t find anything amiss. She didn’t realize that she had let her tongue get carried away.

Pooja’s lips quivered slightly. Meera placed a sympathetic hand on Pooja’s hand and squeezed it gently. Pooja looked up at Meera and smiled.

Meera asked Khushboo how her kids were doing. Khushboo was the first one to get married. Not only did she marry early but also within a year delivered twin boys.

“Rohan is pursuing Humanities at Bangalore, while Keshav is in IIT Roorkee. Both my sons are very career focused,” she replied with a genuine smile on her face.

“And do they have girlfriends?” Sonali asked. It was a simple enough question, but Meera wasn’t so sure.

“Keshav has,” and she fished out her mobile phone from her purse and showed some cute pictures of her son Keshav with his girlfriend. Pooja and Meera oohed and aahed at the loving couple.

“And what about the other one?” Sonali asked.

Khushboo’s smile faltered for a while and then resurfaced. “Oh, he is a shy child. He never tells me what’s going on in his life – love or otherwise. He has a girlfriend, I am sure, but he is just hesitant about it,” Khushboo answered.

“Are you sure?” Sonali persisted.

“What do you mean?” Khushboo asked defiantly.

“I mean are you sure he has a girlfriend and not a boyfriend. Given that his father too bats for the other team,” Sonali announced with a sly wink. She looked satisfied now, just like the cat who had got the cream. She had been meaning to say this the whole evening and finally it was out.

The next instant, there was a sound of a slap followed by the crash of a glass.

“How dare you, you vixen. You haven’t changed one bit. You were this bitter even when you were small; time hasn’t made you into a better person,” Khushboo sputtered with rage.

“I have only told the truth,” Sonali said defensively, her hand on her cheek which was smarting after a heavy slap.

“You want the truth, then let’s have it. Tell everyone the truth behind your rock-sized diamonds. That these diamonds and jewellery are just your husband’s way of compensating for his cheating. That he has more mistresses than the flavours his ice cream company launches every year.”

Pooja and Meera were shocked to learn the truth, while Sonali left the lounge in a hurry. Other girls were in no mood to continue the party and left without having dinner.

The next morning, the four friends met over breakfast. Their faces were haggard and there were huge bags under their eyes, a silent declaration that neither of them had slept in the night. Though they sat at the same table, they chose to eat quietly.

Meera who could tolerate this uncomfortable silence no more asked, “If neither of you is happy in your marriage, then why choose to stay in it?”

“But I am happy,” Pooja protested.

“Oh, come on, enough with the lies, Pooji. Do you think I haven’t noticed the purple bruises at your wrists and at your neck, which you have been trying to hide with your full sleeves and high collared kurtas?”

“I mean why the show of being happy when you are apparently not. Here are three beautiful and intelligent women before me who have been humiliated in their marriage; one’s husband cheats on her, another’s husband married her under false pretences and the third’s husband hits her. But they pretend to be blissfully happy. Why don’t you separate?”

Their eyes widened and their mouths opened as if Meera had asked them to commit blasphemy.

“How will I survive without him?” Sonali was the first one to recover and demand.

“You mean survive without his diamonds,” Meera wasn’t proud of it, but she couldn’t resist that dig.

“We have known no other life. Being married is what we are best at,” Khushboo uttered.

“You are a successful businesswoman. You have always been on your own, Meera. But we have no identity without our husband’s,” Pooja said.

“That’s the whole point. You can create your own identity and you don’t need your husbands for that,” Meera argued.

“We are already 40, what we can do at our age? We are over the hill, let’s accept the fact and sit back,” Khushboo replied.

Meera was surprised at their diffident nature. These women were happy being tortured; they didn’t want freedom. Instead of quitting, they were happy staying with the enemy.

“And I think you should marry too, Meera. It’s not too late. Everyone needs a companion in life,” Pooja suggested.

“But what about your companions. Neither of you is happy with your life companion,” Meera argued.

“We are, we find happiness in whatever little we get,” Khushboo replied.

“Yes, the trick is to keep your hubby happy, and you are showered with money and in my case, diamonds. Give him whatever he demands whenever he demands,” Sonali winked suggestively.

Meera felt she was imagining all of this. How could women in today’s age be indifferent to personal suffering?

She remembered the lines she had read in a book some while ago.

“All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.

While she didn’t understand her friends anymore, she was happy that she was speaking the third language.

Anshu Bhojnagarwala wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations! 

Image source: unsplash

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Anshu Bhojnagarwala, is a popular parenting blogger. She likes sharing her thoughts on health and

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