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May it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, it was the men of the house who were served first, and we women had no choice had to wait.
It was a usual get-together at home. Nevertheless, the preparations to be made were many. The dishes, the decor, the drinks and the plates everything had to be set. The guests for the day were my husband’s boss and few other officials.
They arrived around 7 pm. A group of five men all dressed up in formal attire, walked through as true gentlemen.
The laughter and the talks increased in intensity with each passing hour. I went to the hall at frequent intervals just to make sure that they did not run out of snacks or drinks.
Suddenly Raghav gave a shrill call asking for water. I hurried to the hall with a jug filled with water, refilled their glasses and was about to leave when one of Raghav’s colleagues said, “Shobha, I think we must get going now. It is past 9, and it’s time for your dinner. I know that you won’t have it without Raghav.”
Before I could answer, Raghav said, “Oh! That’s alright. She can wait, as she usually does.”
These lines were followed by laughter. Not able to withstand that, I went back to my cozy place, the kitchen. A place, to which I retreat, to hide my tears, helplessness and vulnerabilities.
The lines rang in my head over and over again. Wasn’t it true? Haven’t I heard it before too?
I remembered a scene from my childhood; I was around six years old. Dad had bought a box of delicious ladoos. I could not resist and was about to open and relish the delicacy. As I laid my hands on the box, my grandma snatched the box from my hands and said, “Let’s wait for your brother and then we can all share it together.” I really wanted to have one but was made to wait. I did not know why, never did it strike me; all that I looked forward to was my brother so that, I could eat the ladoos.
Now that I look back, I remember it had been the same all the while. May it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, it was the men of the house who were served first, and we women had no choice had to wait.
I remember once I asked my sister to accompany me to the temple. She said she could not come and that she had to wait for seven days to make herself pure before entering the temple? I wondered… why do women have to wait and not men?
Things came to me gradually one after the other. When I came first in the 12th boards and told my mother that I wanted to study further, I remember my mom saying, “Wait for your father to come, then we can decide”. I remember how my sister eagerly waited for the groom’s reply each time a proposal for marriage came. I also saw my mother waiting late at night for my father to have dinner. Things weren’t told directly. I saw and followed them quietly.
Last week, I had rushed to Raghav to tell him that my plant had won the Best Plant Contest organized in our colony. However, as usual he was busy in his work and kept me waiting. The roar of laughter from the hall broke my line of thoughts.
My stomach groaned with hunger, the sounds of laughter echoed from each corner. The food was just in front of me, but my hands lay tied. The groans were irresistible and the echo unbearable.
About an hour later……
Raghav called out to me and said the guests are leaving. I went to the hall to bid them goodbye. His colleague said, “We are extremely sorry to keep you waiting. We are leaving now.
I replied, “Thanks for your concern, but I already had my dinner.”
This short story had been shortlisted from among a large number of entries for the October 2020 Muse of the Month short fiction contest.
Image source: a still from the Hindi short film Juice
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