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I thought of the time my parents and I weren’t talking with each other. It made me think of how there are so many children who do not really have parents to reconcile with.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Manisha Sahoo is one of the winners of the October 2020 Muse of the Month.
Maya brushed the back of a finger across the tips of her fringes, over the eyebrows, the fringes again, and continued the rotation several times over. Two minutes went by too slowly when needed. The second’s hand had turned into a bulky bag of rice dragging itself at a snail’s pace from one marker of the wall clock to another.
Even fifteen minutes did not seem as long when the order was getting ready in a restaurant. With good company, time went by like a bullet train on adrenaline rush. Completely opposite to right now.
Maya heard a crash in the other room, but before she could react, a firm voice assured her, “I’m okay!”
She smiled and looked at the clock again. The bag of rice had progressed quite a bit. Fifteen more seconds down.
If only it had taken that long for her parents’ disappointment in her to dissipate when the results in eighth class came out. They had not been amused to find their only daughter was the only one in the class to get a remedial in social studies. That had been a long summer!
But it was still far better than when she fidgeted about finding the right time to tell them about herself. The online forums had not helped quieten her palpitating heart – not many cases had a positive outcome or reaction. In fact, a lot of them lost contact with their loved ones over this.
As had she when she did tell them right before leaving for college. The radio silence had been unbearable. She could not return home for holidays, any form of communication on her part went unanswered. It had been the most miserable years of her life.
Until things turned around one day.
Maya snapped to the present and stared at the stick in her hand. A silhouette appeared in the doorway. When she closed her fingers around the single line on display, the shadowed figure strode in big steps towards her and arms wrapped around her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Maya.”
It had been okay when the scabs took their time forming and falling off each time the kids on the block found it gratifying to push the chubby little girl to the pavement. It had also been okay when all the subsequent scrapes and cuts happened in her life – accidentally or deliberately inflicted.
They were nothing compared to the wounds deep within, which did not begin to heal until well into her adulthood, when she realized her acceptance of who she was drove her forward instead of bringing her down. That, as she slowly came to hold her head high of her own accord, it began to fix the some of the fractures in her life, including the supposedly lost line of communication.
Her mother and father took it upon themselves one day to sit and research. About the community. Back when the awareness about them was less than flattering in the country, when the relations were not within legal boundaries. It overwhelmed them, what they learned – not the knowledge of the community, but how much the members of the community suffered at the hands of the ones who did not find it in them to let them be. Maya’s parents were worried what would happen to their daughter.
“We didn’t want for you to suffer at home as well. I’m sorry. Your mother is too. We can’t get back the years that have gone by, but … do you think we can work past it from now on?”
By the end of that phone-call, her father, her mother in the background, and she too, were sobbing from reasons they did not interpret then or after. It had been a long wait to this moment.
Maya raised her head and looked at Amrita. They had been together for ages, posing as roommates and flatmates for the world. Even now, for a lot of people.
They had anticipated that when the law would amend, so would the view of the people around them. But that was not how the world worked. While the changed law could not alter the mindset at large, it was still a good start.
“How are you feeling?” asked Amrita, her fingers interlocked where they met around Maya’s shoulders.
“Not as bad as the last three times.” Maya tried to smile but her lips were tired.
Amrita leaned her head against hers and did not speak for a long while. Then she said slowly, “Is it a bad time to tell you we’ll have to retile the kitchen floor?”
“I … kind of dropped the grindstone. Well, it slipped from my hands, and …”
“What? Are you okay? Hands, feet, all okay? Did it hit anywhere? The tile pieces pierced anywhere?”
Amrita laughed while Maya frantically made sure none of her exposed skin hosted a wound.
“Really, nothing’s wrong. Don’t worry.”
Later in the evening, with Amrita resting her head on Maya’s lap while scrolling through her phone, she began in as casual a manner as she could, “You know …”
“I told our parents the IVF did not work this time either,” Maya interrupted her, turning the page on her magazine.
Amrita slapped her arm. “Let me finish talking, you idiot.”
Maya closed the magazine and raised an eyebrow at her. “You want us to take a break from trying? We’ll have to anyway. We don’t have one lakh rupees on us, plus the consultation fees. We’ll have to save the money again, repeat the hormone treatment, and –”
That earned her a slap on the arm again. “And stop reading my mind. What I’m saying is,” Amrita pressed on before she could be pulled to a full stop again, “we could try for adoption again.”
Maya did not say anything. She chewed on her lower lip.
“I know, I know. We were rejected far too vehemently the few times that we did try before, but come on, that was some time ago. What are the chances we won’t find at least one channel that will work for us?”
“Actually … I had been thinking the same. Just this morning, in fact.”
Amrita sat up in surprise, her hair tangled up on one side. Maya brushed through it with her fingers as she continued.
“I thought of the time my parents and I weren’t talking with each other. It made me think of how there are so many children who do not really have parents to reconcile with. They’re waiting for some parents to arrive, to bring them home, to call their own. Maybe … there’s a child waiting for us.”
Amrita smiled. She could see her face reflected in Maya’s eyes. She reached over and pecked her lips. “Let’s not make them wait any longer than they have to.”
Editor’s note: Shashi Deshpande is a multiple award winner, the most notable of which is the Sahitya Akademi Award. While she has been widely published in English, much of her writing has also made its mark in Kannada and Marathi literature, the languages she speaks in her personal life.
Daughter of a Sanskrit scholar, she has read most of our mythologies, and, as she says here, ‘which she reads “against the grain”, from her own, feminist position.’ Her short stories, books, and essays are all ‘woven from Indian women’s lives, their day-to-day living deeply impregnated by religious, social, and political traditions, and gender relations determined by male power structures.’
The cue is this quote by her: “But for women the waiting game starts in childhood.”
Manisha Sahoo wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: blankita_ua on pixabay
Clumsy. Awkward. Straight-forward. A writer, in progress. A pencil sketch artist by hobby.
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