“Eclectic, interesting…will fill you with hope and resolve!” – Pick up our new short story collection, Women.Mutiny
It was like a hidden vault had been opened. All those comments that had never hurt her then now came cascading out.
The first winner of our June 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Janani Balaji.
She stood at the edge, looking down at all the cars that zoomed down the road outside the building. Just one step and it would be all over, just one step and she’d be free, just one step and he’d be sorry. She knew she shouldn’t be doing this, that it’d be wrong, but how could she go on? Everything had spiralled downwards so rapidly that she could not piece anything together anymore. Everything seemed worthless.
Even her tears had abandoned her, and no matter how much despair she felt, nothing would fall. Yet her well-honed analytical engineering brain would not stop processing the issue. The last five years on an H4 Visa had been hard enough. Her entire academically brilliant records from her SSC Topper to her best employee award at the first job had haunted her every day as she wrung her hands at her inability to work and earn money, something she hadn’t even thought of in her life. But it was Rohit after all
Rohit, her childhood best friend, sweethearts forever. They had graduated at the same time and both had joined different software engineering firms. Even their parents had not objected but had resigned themselves to what was obvious for a while. They were just inseparable…they had the same childhood memories – from the neighbourhood dhobi’s annoying morning raga to the day they had bumped into the milkman while cycling – from accompanying her to her first dance recital to her first bungee jumping dare, Rohit was in every frame of her memories.
How could it have happened? She knew him so well. She knew how he fiddled with one lock of hair when he was thinking about a hard problem at work, she knew how his gaze grew stern when he saw wastage, exactly where he would chuckle when he watched Dumb and Dumber and exactly how he loved his dosa – soft and a light shade of brown. Then how could she have missed it? Where did she fail?
Did she get caught up in raising their dear Rohan? But Rohit had been hands-on from day one. He had insisted that she get some sleep and taken over night-time feeding. Not once had she felt burdened or troubled, and as always they had sailed through this time as well, she had thought. A perfect father, just as she would have expected him to be.
Just a month ago he had praised her for the Zumba classes she had begun, a great combination of her love for fitness and dance. She was doing it for free, but she had felt so alive and happy. Rohan was a blessing, an extremely easy-to-manage child. Then why…
When friends complimented her fit figure even after childbirth, that smile, was it not real? For how long had he been seeing her? She had absolutely no clue, she realized. He had just said it as if she should have known it anyway, that it was over, he was moving on. He and Hema planned to get married soon. He would take care of Rohan or support her with allowance, whatever she preferred. And then simply walked out, without another word.
What was she to do? She felt rejected, used, lost, hopeless…but most of all she didn’t know who she was anymore. She’d always been his…if she wasn’t Rohit’s sweetheart, who was she? Her entire life seemed to be swirling around her head, mocking her, that it was all a lie. She just had to jump and this pain, this confusion, this unbearable torture would be over.
“Go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.” A strange voice seemed to ring out in her ear. Yes, that Oprah interview on TV! Rohit had come in and laughed at her, saying ‘Don’t tell me you have started watching these stupid talk shows now’. She had hurriedly turned it off, almost sheepish.
Something clicked. “After all, you are home, you can start figuring out some dishes”, “White doesn’t suit your complexion”, “Make yourself useful and at least learn to do the taxes”, “She is always doing some free class or volunteer stuff, can’t be at home quietly…It was like a hidden vault had been opened. All those comments that had never hurt her then now came cascading out.
Did she really know this Rohit?
A strange calm washed over her. Why should she die? What had she done wrong? Why should she end her life when she could do so much more? She wasn’t the one that cheated, right? She turned around and walked back down the steps and entered her apartment. She booked two flight tickets to India for the next day evening. Sure, they were expensive, but Rohit could afford it after all he’d done.
Rohan’s grandparents would be delighted to live with him instead of screaming over the Zoom call, she thought. She then emailed her event coordinator and long-time friend asking her to organize a 3-day workshop for a special fusion-style Zumba workshop. Then she picked up the phone and ordered her favourite Thai green curry, something she had not eaten in the last 5 years since Rohit hated Thai food.
It was amazing how quickly her world had begun to change. She was the architect and from this perspective, all things old and new looked quite different.
Author’s Note: I am Janani Balaji. A grade 9 student, 14 years old and passionate about writing stories and poetry. I feel strongly about gender equality, body issues and mental wellness.
Editor’s note: Oprah Winfrey has seen all possible reasons to be underprivileged in her life. A black girl born to a single mother in rural Mississippi and raised in poverty in the inner city Milwaukee. Faced sexual abuse in childhood and early teens. Was pregnant at 14, her son born premature and dying in infancy. But she did not let all this drag her down once she decided to pick herself up and work to raise herself above all this.
She began as a co-anchor at the local radio at 19, and thereafter has risen to be known globally for her trademark style of talking and interviewing – an emotive, personal connect with those she speaks with, an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Oprah, has today become a household name.
The cue is this quote by her: “So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.”
Janani Balaji wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: shutterstock
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I am Janani Balaji. A grade 10 student, 15 years old and passionate about writing
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