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She hid the money and gave it to her daughter-in-law. She loved her son more but she knew her daughter-in-law deserved it more!
Trigger warning: This post contains mentions incidents of domestic abuse which may be triggering to survivors.
As she was kneading the dough
Her mother in law pulled her hair
Don’t make the dough too tight,
If it wasn’t for the dowry
She muttered under her breath
The sisters-in-law tittered
And dough became black
Ma where did you get this kali kaluti from
Said the sisters-in-law.
She made the dough into small balls,
And continued making rotis
As she tasted the salted water on her lips
She had won a scholarship in class six
She knew all her tables so well
But she got married when she was in the eighth class
She was kali, not Uma
Kali shorn of all power but with her colour
She hid four rotis in the saltbox
She was always hungry
Maa had told her never come back
Stay in your sasural
The thoughts were jumbled in her mind
As she clenched her muscles
He looked at her
Kali he said
It was over
Kali he said and spat.
In the hospital room
Old and cancer-ridden
Her son held her gnarled hand
And she saw he had tattooed her name on his arm
And she felt the salt on her lips again.
She was sixteen,
Round and fat,
With laughter that would boom
In the whole house.
And then came the partition
She was married to a
To protect her, her mother said
Protect her or to revile her no one knew,
Six kids later
When she was forty
She was still round and fat
With gusty laughter,
She always looked for validation,
Lying on her death bed she giggled,
The shopkeeper next door said
My eyes are very nasheeli.
Are they she asked
You are beautiful I told her,
Did your husband never tell you that?
I don’t remember,
I just remember he was old
And used to hit me every day
He thought I was making eyes
at the next-door neighbour.
Were you I asked,
Yes that was the only rainbow
In my life
She died an hour later.
Lali Malik loved her son
Her only child
No one was like him
If he drank too much
It was fine
If he misbehaved with his wife
It was fine
And then partition happened
Lali Malik got 7000 rupees
From the government
For the haveli she left behind,
She hid the money ,
And gave it to her daughter-in-law
She loved her son more,
But she knew her
Daughter in law was needier
And much more deserving.
Picture credits: Still from TVF’s web series Yeh Meri Family
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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