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She couldn’t for the life of her see the goodness around because she had shut her heart to the bright sun and enveloped herself in a dark veil of despair.
The fourth winner of our May 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Meha Sharma.
Bam…the grocery bags fell and big red tomatoes toppled through the floor.
“Shit, shit. This day just seems to be getting worse”, Rachna growled as she stood outside her flat fuming with fury. Slowly she stood up and got hold of the veggies which seemed to be playing truant as a lone tomato lay almost as far as the elevator door.
Taking dreary steps, Rachna stepped inside her two bedroom flat. The insides were immaculate and though sparsely decorated it looked decent. It was a vast expanse of area considering the pigeon holed houses of Mumbai. Rachna sat down on the discoloured grey couch and sighed. She stared out of the window on a whim. It was overcast and the clouds had turned menacingly vile-or so it seemed to her.
“It must rain soon. I have to get the clothes from the balcony or they will get wet”, she mumbled to herself.
Forty five year old Rachna Dubey was grumpy and she knew it. For her things were either black or white. There were no shades of grey or for that matter any hues which might brighten her otherwise timetabled existence. She was ‘the glass is always half empty’ kind of person and she had over the years surrendered to this grim vein in her persona.
But, she wasn’t born a cynic. Once upon a time, she too had laughed uproariously till her stomach hurt, she too had run behind the butterflies and she too had loved as if she could love no more.
But, five years ago when her husband Varun passed away in a freak accident, she ceased to exist. Life must go on and so she went on living but she was embittered. She couldn’t for the life of her see the goodness around because she had shut her heart to the bright sun and enveloped herself in a dark veil of despair.
She and Varun did not have any children. So, when he departed, she was alone- well almost. She did have a mother, but Rachna never really got along with her mom. She was close to her dad and after her dad’s demise there was a rift between the mom and daughter which could not be bridged.
She did call her mother once a week, like a duty-bound child, but she never really warmed up to her. She found her mother Sulochna frivolous and a hundred other things which she didn’t want to talk about.
Evenings bestowed Rachna with warmth and each day she looked forward to the time when the clock would strike five, with anticipation. It was at five when a group of kids would throng her home and make it alive with their scuffles and mischief. Rachna enjoyed tutoring these kids in the evenings and it was something that helped her stay sane amidst her mundane existence.
Today, just when she was about to commence her lessons, her mobile rang. Who would call me at this hour, she bemused. As she stared at the screen she grimaced. It was her mother.
“Hello ma. All well?” Rachna said attempting to conceal her annoyance.
“No dear. I took a fall and broke my ankle. Could you stay with me for a few days?”
Rachna stared agape and managed to blurt out, “Don’t worry ma, you take care. I will try to come…”
“Try to come? What do you mean, you will try. You have to come. I am dying”.
“Alright, I will come for sure. I will reach tomorrow evening.”
Rachna quickly called off the class and soon the house was back to its quiet and sullen self.
Rachna was lost in thoughts her brows furrowed with anxiety.
Her mother was quite an independent woman who though in late sixties was fit as a fiddle. She stayed in Pune in a small housing society and had an active social life. When Varun passed away, she had coaxed Rachna to come and stay with her. But, Rachna had never been close to her. She had moulded herself so well in this structured way of living that the mere thought of leaving these familiar turfs made her writhe with discomfort.
Rachna reached Pune earlier than she had anticipated.
‘I will nurse her back to health and go back in a week or fifteen days tops’, she kept telling herself as the door opened and her mom stood grinning from ear to ear.
“Racho, you are here”.
Rachna smiled and hugged her clumsily.
Her mom looked fine. She did not have a plastered ankle and she seemed- what’s that phrase that she used often- ‘fit and fine, I am alive it’s a sign’.
“Ma, your leg looks fine.”
“Oh. We will talk about it later. Come on in. See there are people here to meet you. They said we have to meet Sulochna’s daughter”.
Rachna had not gotten over one shock when she was pushed into another as a group of chirpy women welcomed her quite warmly.
“So, you lied to me, right? Rachna glared at her mom, who sprawled comfortably on a yellow bean bag.
“Yes I did. You would never have come otherwise. Answer me if I am wrong”.
Rachna sipped her tea with an air of nonchalance and looked sideways.
“Anyway, what’s done is done. I have fun things planned for us.”
Rachna was not happy at this announcement.
“Ma you are fine. It means I can leave now. What makes you think I will be staying here?”
“Racho, stay for a week. We will have a good time. Who knows when I am gone?”
Rachna smiled, “Don’t start with your drama. You are what’s that phrase again…I am…”
“Fit and fine and alive, it’s a sign.”
And they both broke into laughter.
The next few days turned out to be fun and eventful. Though Rachna didn’t want to admit, she was enjoying her stay with her mom. They watched plays, went to parks and stayed up late binge watching shows on Netflix.
Initially Rachna acted like a snob. She would say things like, “I don’t want to go, I sleep early.” When her mom made sudden plans she would be a bundle of frayed nerves- “How can we just stand up and go? We didn’t plan on going today”.
But, slowly she let loose. Unwittingly she began to bask in the unhurried and languid pace of these days.
On one of the evenings her mother made her eat ‘golgappas’ from the nearby street shop. Rachna snorted with disgust looking at the unsavoury surroundings. But, as the crunchy ‘golgappa’ melted in her mouth, the tangy flavor gave her a head rush of sorts. The spicy snack made her eyes water, but her heart fluttered with joy.
A week flew by in a jiffy and it was supposedly her last night at her mom’s.
Rachna finished packing her clothes and as soon she was done, she felt a sense of sadness pervade through her. Was she not happy going back?
With sluggish steps she went to her mom’s room. There she was- sitting near the window staring outside. Rachna sat near her and said, “Ma, I will be leaving tomorrow. I…I had a good time with you”.
“You did. I knew you would. You deserve to be happy Racho. You have built this impenetrable wall around you for the last five years. It is time you let it crumble beta. I am not going to be around for long to spoonfeed you and push you towards happiness. I am not getting any younger”.
“Are you ok ma? Why are you talking like this? Are you dying?” Rachna spoke with a sense of urgency.
“No…No. You have watched too many Bollywood movies with me it seems. Nobody is dying. And I won’t pester you to stay here because both of us have different lives. But, I cannot see you turn into this disgruntled old woman who refuses to be happy. So, promise me you will start living up. Promise me Racho”.
Rachna looked at her mother who still had a glint of mischief in her eyes. Her mother was one of the strangest and craziest persons she knew. And that’s what made her special, she realized.
She smiled and said, “I had forgotten what happiness felt like ma. But, this past week, you showed me what it felt like to be happy and guess what, I am liking it. I will come and see you again. But, please do take care”.
“You don’t worry about me Racho. I am…”
“I know I know…fit and fine and alive, it’s a sign”.
And just then Rachna embraced her mom in a big tight hug because today, after so many years, she felt alive too.
Editor’s note: French author Marguerite Duras (4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996) was one of a kind, and one of France’s early feminist women writers – a French novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker. Her script for the film Hiroshima mon amour earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards.
A rebel, she disowned her family name of Donnadieu when her first book, which was considered “too risqué” by her family, was published, and took the name of Duras, from her “village of her father’s origins, distancing herself from her family, and binding herself to the emanations of that place name, which is pronounced with a regionally southern French preference for a sibilant ‘S.’”
Much of her publishing career was a struggle against the hardwired misogyny and sexism, even more so in her career as a filmmaker, where she nevertheless came up with some extraordinary, cutting edge ideas. In the 1950s, male critics called her talent “masculine,” “hardball,” and “virile”—and they meant these as insults! As a ‘meek and feeble’ female, she was supposed to have no right to her air of aloofness and outspokenness, or even her confidence that was considered ‘outrageous’ in a woman.
Here are some of her books available in an English version.
The cue, perfect for a month that has Mother’s Day, is this quote by her: “Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”
Meha Sharma wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
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