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Today, I saw her, twenty years later. She was alone in a dimly lit room and it didn’t look like she had anything with her.
Growing up we make lots of friends, but there are very few we stay in touch with after changing schools, and college. And there is hardly anyone we are in touch with once we start working and rarely anyone after getting married.
Growing up I, too, had a large circle of friends, we went to the same school, lived in the same colony and most of our parents knew each other. Not everyone was close, but we were friends.
There was this girl I remember from almost 20 years ago, a shy introvert, who opened her heart once you got to know her. Everyday after school, all the kids from the colony would get together to play.
Our parents and sometimes our grandparents would be around to keep an eye on us. They were only there to ensure we didn’t get upto any mischief. I was maybe seven or eight years old back then.
As we grew, I saw her changing slowly, she talked less, rarely went to any birthday parties and stopped playing with everyone one day. By the time we were 13, she had stopped coming to play altogether.
When we asked her why, she simply said she didn’t want to waste her time playing since she was preparing for some exams, planning her future because that’s what her parents told her.
During the summer vacation, she would join us when we cycled in the morning or we saw her walking with her mom, but that was all. In 2005, we were all entering class 10, something every parent plans for since the child is born. It is the first hurdle in the never-ending race, after all. She toiled hard every day, solving old question papers, sample test papers and God knows what else!
She rarely spoke to anyone, was always quiet and worked hard planning at a great future. Her parents were very hard working too, whatever they earned was spent on their kids, always hoping for a bright future for their kids.
Fast forward to one year later, she got exactly 90.0 percent, which was good but she was disappointed. Anyway, her parents immediately admitted her for IIT coaching, which was the new trend. The next two years, it was regular school work, extra classes, IIT coaching and tuitions.
A number of times, after returning from tuitions, she would lie in bed and fall asleep. Her parents fed her because the next day, the same cycle had to start. They put everything they had into it, all their hopes resided on her. And while that scared her, she couldn’t speak out about it.
Anyway, the results came out and she did well in her 12th board exams. However, she did not qualify for IIT and not just IIT, she didn’t get a good rank in any of the other exams – IIT, or AIEEE.
What could they do? Her parents stood by her and asked her if she wanted to take a break and try again next year. However, her resolve to do something to achieve the rank was long gone.
Looking at her, her parents realised it was no use pushing her for it. So they settled for engineering in a private university. While it was expensive on their pockets, they broke their PF and her college started. Four years and some hard work later, she graduated with two call letters. And even before she got her college degree, she joined work.
Things were good, she could have done better, but it was a new experience. She was moving out of her house, being financially independent and working to earn money, things had changed.
Every time she returned home, people would come and talk to her, ask her for her suggestions, and praise her parents for raising their children well. She loved the appreciation when other parents pointed her out to her kids, especially daughters, saying, ‘Look at her.’
She was doing well at work, was getting early promotions and was soon sent abroad. Her parents couldn’t have been prouder. Their daughter, the apple of their eyes, had achieved what wanted all their lives! She was earning a decent amount of money and was planning to settle abroad.
However, the nagging soon began, the ones that come for every girl once she turns 22, ‘when are you planning to get her married?’ Marriage proposals started coming in, but once they mentioned her plan to work abroad, not too many families seemed interested. Her family, like any other, was getting worried about this and she came back to India.
A few months later, her wedding was finalised and everyone got the invites. The guy also worked in a similar field and their families had a similar financial background. Anyway, time passed, the day of the wedding arrived. Theirs wasn’t the big fat Indian wedding, but it wasn’t any less than that.
It had everything – the drama, the complaining, and the stunts, but they got married and went to his house. The initial days of the marriage were good, but soon things started to unravel.
It has been four years since then. Today, I saw her, red eyes, swollen, probably due to the lack of sleep or excessive crying or maybe a combination of both. The charm and sparkle in her eyes were both long gone. Her face was sunken and she appeared to have lost some weight.
The dreams she’d had, looks like they were long forgotten and her lips seemed to have forgotten how to smile. She was alone in a dimly lit room and it didn’t look like she had anything with her.
Today, I saw her in the mirror again…
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi
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