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The rules for the daughter-in-law dated back to the 18th century. They were mere emotionless objects who had to ensure that the in-laws were well-fed and content.
A dew pure and pious, wobbling in the sea of unctuous;
Uncertain of its fate, will it lay?
I was dying the death of a thousand daggers. There was no hope, my body had already given up. My vision was blurry, a bright yellow light kept me company, but it was dimming fast.
Letting go, I closed my eyes, to say a final goodbye to my baby who was still attached to my womb. All this ruckus was caused by the little fella. Clocks ticked as the doctors operated on my body. The strong anaesthesia made me go into a rivulet of delusions.
Whether I was alive or dead, I had no idea.
Time passed at its own pace.
Somewhere far in the distant world, I heard a loud cry. A cry that made me very uncomfortable and apprehensive. I tried to search for the source but was met by empty walls. As the voice grew louder, so did my anxiety to get out of the miserable empty and lonely walls. I assured myself, “This is just a phase, I will get my life back. Resurrection will happen.”
A phase or a dream? Uncertain, I kept searching for the door that would lead to my escape. The crying continued.
Fighting the anaesthesia, I managed to regain my consciousness and weakly signalled to the nurse and enquired about the situation. She smiled and said, “It’s a healthy baby girl! Congratulations. Both of you are out of danger.”
I thanked God. It was my unconditional love for my unborn baby that kept our souls alive in the furnace of uncertainty. As I held her in my arms, the world faded away.
Nothing else mattered – my daughter was here now. Aishani. Yes that is what I will name her- after the Goddess Durga – the fighter.
Once out of danger, we were shifted to our ward. My husband was there waiting for us. Ours was a love marriage. But five years in it, I loathe him. But today was not the day for all of this. With the hope that Aishani might dissolve our differences, I handed her over to him.
After so many years, I saw that warm smile again, the one with the watery eyes. He kissed my forehead and looked me in the eye and said, “I love you.”
I literally heard the cosmic wheels shifting as my life was taking a re-birth with the arrival of my daughter. Happy and reassured that everything was fine now, I slept like a baby.
“Bonu! Bonu Bonu. My Bonu!” I woke up to an irritatingly familiar voice. My mother-in-law had arrived. To my utter disappointment, the moment I dozed off, Tarun spared no time to call his family members.
I kept my displeasure in control because today was my daughter’s day. “No, we will call her Deepa,” announced my father-in-law. “Ananya,” contributed my brother-in-law.
“Pandit Ji will have the final say, till then we will call her Bonu,” as always, my mother-in-law settled the matter. As usual, without bothering with my consent.
Ignoring the new names, I picked up the phone to inform my parents. Turned out my mother-in-law had already informed them and formally invited them to visit us after 21 days, post completion of some rituals.
Treating my family members as outsiders was not new for me. They were not even allowed at the time of delivery. I looked at Tarun. He seemed like a stranger now- all the warmth I felt just a few hours ago, vanished. And as always, he avoided my gaze.
“Did he actually say that he loved me or was that the anaesthesia?” I wondered. Not wanting to create a scene I gulped down the tears and went back to sleep. For as long as I was awake none of them once inquired about my health, pain or well-being. They were all too occupied with Aishani. ‘Anyway, it is her day. Let her enjoy the attention, I will have her tomorrow,’ thinking thus, I dozed off.
A week passed and we were home now, my body still healing. From head to toe, I looked like a mess. Without concealer, my dark circles prominently highlighted my past. Being financially depended on Tarun, the last time I’d waxed or pampered myself was 4 years ago, when our love still had some flavour left. Those were the days when he thought I was nothing but “Perfect.”
Then we shifted to his home town, a small village in Orissa. His father needed a helping hand in the family business, so Tarun left his job and decided to join his dad. A decision I regret till date.
From day one, my role in the house was made very clear to me, I was not allowed to sit on the chair with them, my place was on the floor. In this house, the rules for the daughter-in-law dated back to the 18th century. Daughters-in-law were mere emotionless objects who had nothing better to do than ensure that the in-laws were well-fed and content.
My life became so miserable and lonely that I lost the desire to live. But God had other plans. Nine months ago, I announced my pregnancy and since then, they all treated me a little bit like a human. It felt nice and gave me hope that with the birth of my child they all will accept me as their own.
I was wrong
From that moment in the hospital ward, my in-laws had not given me a single moment alone with my daughter. At home, Tarun shifted with his dad and I was stuck with his mom.
Feeding was the only time I was allowed to hold my daughter. That pleasure was soon taken away. Due to some complications, the doctor had asked to feed Aishani from the bottle. I was so pissed at each one of them that I wanted to snatch my baby and run away from them and start a new life.
“We always wanted a daughter, finally God heard our prayers and gave us Bonu.” My mother-in-law showed my daughter like a trophy to Tarun’s friend who had come for a visit. Thankfully, some part our society now welcomes the birth of a girl child, but shamefully acceptance for the same species after marriage is rare.
“Aishani” I murmured angrily, unaware my husband was standing right beside me. The look of hatred for me was back on his face “Go and fix your face. Put on some decent clothes and bring tea for everyone.”
With a heavy heart, I walked away ignoring the stream of blood oozing down my legs. After cleaning up and putting on fresh clothes, I opened my makeup box. My make-up box once flaunted brands like MAC, Lakme, L’Oreal and Maybelline, now had some local products.
I picked up the mascara and shuddered at the look in my eyes, they were mourning the pitiable state of my life. ‘Had I not left my job, my life would have been so much better,’ I thought ‘Sadly, the birth of my daughter, failed to revive their hearts.’
I wiped the black tears and reassured my heart, ‘If not today, then maybe tomorrow, someday they will definitely change and give back my life.’
“Ami, come out,” Tarun banged at the door. My daughter’s cry filled the room as I stepped out looking like a corpse. I entered the room with a plate of tea and snacks.
Aishani was still crying which made my heart ache, as I rushed toward her. A hand grabbed me from behind and signalled me to keep serving the tea. It was Tarun. In front of everyone, I had no other option but to comply. So, I served the tea and took the corner.
Aishani was in her grandmother’s arms. The crying continued as each one of them took turn to calm her down. As was my place, I was sitting on the floor with half a veil on my face. Suddenly one of the friends suggested, “Maybe Bonu is hungry. When did you feed her last?”
All eyes were on me now.
I knew the drill. So, limping like a wounded cow, I walked off to fill the feeding bottle.
Picture credits: YouTube
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