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After years of sleep-walking, Sannati finally felt awake. Alive. As if she had left the confines of her prison behind her. Somewhere below her. She lost all concept of time. She was hooked.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Natasha Sharma is one of the winners for the May 2021 Muse of the Month, and wins a Rs 750 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. The juror for this month, Trisha Das commented, “A well-written story about a woman finding personal fulfilment. I enjoyed the internal monologue. The end felt rushed and unfinished.”
Nothing. Nada. Not a blip on the radar.
The winner in the battle between the heart and the mind was the… heart. For years, it had been whispering to her. Every heartbeat reiterated the fact. She didn’t love her husband anymore.
Teerth wasn’t a bad husband. He was polite, loving, and helped in the household chores. But oh, god, he was so boring.
He had no interests outside his work and no inclination towards any hobbies. They had nothing in common. He wanted to come home after work, eat dinner, make love, or watch the television, in no particular order, and sleep. This was their life. Every. Single. Day.
She worked with an NGO, but it was more to pass the time. Begging super-rich people to develop a philanthropic bone got boring fast. Her daughter’s school kept her away for eight hours and in those eight hours, Sannati finished the chores and roamed around the house, aimlessly. Restless. In search of something, she didn’t know. Always flailing at the cusp of satisfaction. At times, the wanderlust drove her insane, and she lashed out at her husband, who took it in his stride. Gosh, she hated it when he did that. He was just so passive.
Sannati felt trapped in the daily ennui, yearning for excitement.
One school morning, running late, bedraggled, she clutched Sara’s hands tightly in hers and pulled her along. Desperate to reach the stop in time, she didn’t watch where she dragged them and ended up crashing into the stationary bus.
“Ouch!” she cried.
“Are you okay? Let me help Sara board the bus,” spoke a concerned voice.
Sannati’s eyes were closed in pain. She felt Sara’s grip loosened and heard her soft goodbyes and opened her eyes, panicked, to see Sara waving at her from the window. A man stood there, smiling at the children. And, at her.
Oh, God. It’s him. The new guy on the block. She ran a hand through her hair, spiking them further. Ugh, I look like such a mess. Smile back, you, moron.
She managed a half-smile at him. He approached her, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“That was some knockout blow. You feeling okay?” A deep… and sexy baritone.
“Um… yes. I’ll live. With a bruise the size of UP, but I’ll live.” Idiot. UP? Sheesh.
To her amazement, he laughed. Never had she heard a more delightful sound.
“I’m Ayank. My daughter, Ria is with Sara. Ria and I moved here a few months back.”
“Sannati. I live here forever.” Stop talking. I beg of you, please.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ayank asked, a quizzical look on his face.
Sannati touched her head gingerly, “Yeah. Been here, dashed that!” eliciting a chuckle from him.
“Shall we?” He pointed in their complex’s direction.
“Oh, yes. Sorry, I’m a little disoriented.”
“I know some mornings can be like that.”
“For us, it’s every morning,” she said, ruefully.
They covered the short distance quickly, conversation flowing fluidly. He got off at the fifth floor, while she continued to the ninth. He waited, waving, till the doors closed.
What was THAT? Sweet and good-looking.
Sannati, a spring in her step, couldn’t wait to message her BFF, Tanya. The duo had been gossiping about the new, attractive father in their complex, and she had loads to tell Tanya. She picked up her cell phone, skipping around the kitchen.
Mornings when they weren’t running late, they’d met Ayank and Ria in the elevator and walk to the stop, with the girls skipping ahead and the adults cementing their friendship. On some days, Ayank and she would meet at the stop, strolling back together.
“How come on certain days you’re relaxed and others, you’re in a rush?” she asked.
“Ha, I didn’t realise I do that. I run my company, Adventum, where a bunch of us, certified para-gliding instructors, take tourists jumping. We train other instructors.”
Sannati stared at him slack-mouthed. “You mean you jump off cliffs?”
He responded with his rumbling laughter. “With parachutes, of course”
Her eyes lit up. “How does it feel? Does your stomach plummet to the ground each time you do it? Or does the feeling phase out?”
“The adrenalin junkie in me thrives for the thrill of the jump. It never gets old. When you’re running towards the edge, and the moment you take off. That one instant when your feet leave the terra firma, your heart soars with the clouds. There’s fear, no doubt. But its presence heightens the other senses. The enjoyment is sharper, edgier.”
Ayank’s face was animated, his eyes sparkling, the joys of the remembered memory. Watching him, Sannati felt a twinge of jealously. Before she married Teerth, she was an outdoor girl. Trekking, water-sports, etc.; she tried everything. Then she got hitched. Teerth was a homebody. Though he didn’t prevent her from going out, Sannati wanted to experience the highs with him! She wanted him to love the same activities she did, so they could enjoy them together. But Teerth’s interests lay in pottering around. Despite his outward encouragement, she lost her will. Unspoken disapproval cut deeper than verbal displeasure.
And, just like that, Sannati became a reluctant recluse.
Watching Ayank describe the rush of emotions, she could almost taste the lost sense of adventure. Its flavour, regret. Its pull, magnetic.
“Why don’t you join me for a jump today? On the house?” He surprised her with his question.
“Oh, no. I have chores…”
“I thought you were the spur-of-the-moment person?” A teasing lilt.
“I was,” she sighed, “but tamed by household drudgery.”
Ayank gave her a pointed look, speaking volumes.
“I… What the hell, let’s try it. But, we’ll have to return before Sara’s school ends.” What?!! Wow, I’m going para-gliding.
“Cool. I don’t have any scheduled clients, so we can breeze in and breeze out.”
“Okay. What should I wear?”
“Anything works. The suit will cover it, anyway. Thirty minutes, yeah?”
“Err… yes.” What did I AGREE to?
“Relax, Sannati. It’s perfect flying weather. When I say so, fold your feet and lean back. Okay? While I’m running, don’t unfold them, it will slow us down,” he said, strapping the gear in.
“I want to go home.”
“Oh, you won’t regret it. Here we go. Swoosh!”
Ayank and Sannati ran to the edge, where the wind carried them away. Afloat.
Gravity pulled at her stomach, where fear gnawed holes. I’m going to die. I won’t see Sara again. Will she miss me?
Her heart lodged in her mouth, pounded at a thousand beats, and everything was a blur except the strong wind in her face that hummed in her ears. The helmet strap flapped furiously.
Her eyes were screwed shut, her fists balled around the straps. A hand tapped on her shoulder, startling her.
“Sannati, we’re flying. Open your eyes.”
She opened an eye to take in the surroundings. They were floating high, the mountains behind them and the trees below them. The red paraglider deftly kept them afloat. She released the breath with a whoosh. With eyes wide open, she gazed around, her heart slowing, breathing even. With Ayank as a pilot, she sat on a chair-like contraption, free to move within reason.
The river, fields, and people faded away, hanging low. After the rush of the take-off, the tranquillity around her was astounding. Peace settled upon her. Within her.
The openness around her; the feeling she was just a speck, adrift. At the mercy of the breeze that enveloped her in its bear hug. It was humbling. A fragile human against the sheer power of the wind. Yet, the fear was accompanied by exhilaration. A giddy laugh escaped her.
Ayank with the help of a few strings at his disposal navigated their flight. They were as light as a feather, as they sailed over the rooftops. She felt free, despite the trapping of the equipment.
After years of sleep-walking, Sannati finally felt awake. Alive. As if she had left the confines of her prison behind her. Somewhere below her. The only things that mattered were the musical whispers of the wind and the vista ahead. She lost all concept of time. She was hooked.
Ayank smiled at her rapt expression, he knew about the euphoric high.
“Again? This is the sixtieth time you’re going para-gliding. How about Sara and me?” asked Teerth, anger colouring his face red.
“I’m training to be an instructor, I’ve to go.”
“You’re neglecting us as you’re barely home.”
“Teerth, don’t exaggerate. I practice when Sara’s at school, except for the occasional weekends. Ayank’s gracious to adjust my classes.”
“What happened to you, Sannati? To us? We loved to laze around the house.”
“No, Teerth. YOU loved to laze around. If you remember, I was always inclined towards physical activity., but you weren’t interested. But I gave it up. For you.”
“I never asked you to give it up!”
He inhaled sharply, frustrated.
“But you neither encouraged nor supported me. You didn’t protest against it, but you sure were happy when I quit that life and settled at home.” A tear eked out of Sannati’s eye.
“So, is this revenge?”
“Not at all. This is about me doing something for myself. Something I wanted to do. In MY own time. It has nothing to do with you or us. I’m so good at it, Teerth. Ayank says I’m a natural–”
“Ayank! Ayank! That’s all I hear. Tell me, should I be suspicious about the two of you?” He ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the ends.
Sannati stared at him. “No. I’m shocked at your thoughts! He’s just my trainer, nothing more. Try to step off that pedestal of yours and see my point of view. I like change. I like risk and unpredictability. I don’t want to feel safe and comfortable all the time. I don’t want someone who simply loves and accepts me the way I am. I want someone who pushes me, challenges me, calls me out. Someone who excites my mind as well as my body. Someone fearless and fiery.”
“Someone like Ayank? Obviously, not me.” His icy tone froze her heart.
“In this aspect, yes. He pushes me to outdo myself. Each time, I cross a milestone, a new one’s ready for me to conquer. You love me, but we don’t want the same things from life. I ache to be in the open sky, to fly. To feel alive.”
“Do you find our life stifling?” Teerth’s eyes bored into hers.
Sannati shook her head, regret swimming in her eyes. She slumped down the wall, collapsing.
He won’t get it because he doesn’t want to get it. He can’t chaff out his emotions from mine. Marriage doesn’t always amalgamate our wishes, it’s possible to co-exist in a relationship with different needs. Teerth won’t accept the truth. I want something besides him, our life. I want something that gives me pleasure for ME.
I may not love him as much as I did before, but it’s not a terrible life. And when I go para-gliding, for those few precious minutes, I leave everything behind. Flying’s necessary to maintain the equilibrium where the two sides of my life are balanced. What I have to vs what I need to.
My first magical ride was addictive. I rediscovered myself in it I know I wanted to be an instructor as I want to influence more people in letting go of their inhibitions. Doing things for themselves. To re-love themselves, and find themselves. To be un-shackled.
An incoming message brought her back. She had to leave right now, else she’d be delayed for her instructor’s examinations.
“I’ve got to leave. I need to reach there early. Will you come with me?”
Teeth turned his face away, his countenance, sullen. Sannati sighed as she got her answer, picked her gear, and left the house.
It’s okay to be selfish occasionally. I owe it to myself.
Editor’s note: This month’s cue has been selected by Trisha Das, who is the author of Kama’s Last Sutra, Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas, The Mahabharata Re-imagined, The Art of the Television Interview and the internationally acclaimed How to write a Documentary Script. Trisha has written columns and short stories for Magical Women (Hachette India, 2019) and publications like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia India, Hindustan Times and Scroll. In her film-making career, Trisha has directed over 40 documentaries. She’s won an Indian National Film Award (2005) and was UGA’s International Artist of the year.
The cue is from her latest book The Misters Kuru: Return to the Mahabharata, which is a much awaited sequel to Ms Draupadi Kuru.
“Try to step off that pedestal of yours and see my point of view. I like change. I like risk and unpredictability. I don’t want to feel safe and comfortable all the time. I don’t want someone who simply loves and accepts me the way I am. I want someone who pushes me, challenges me, calls me out. Someone who excites my mind as well as my body. Someone fearless and fiery.“
Image source: a still from the short film Khamakha
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I watched a Tamil movie Kadaisi Vivasayi (The Last Farmer), recommended by my dad, on SonlyLiv, and many times over again since my first watch. If not for him, I’d have had no idea what I would have missed. What a piece of relevant and much needed art this movie is!
It is about an old farmer in a village (the only indigenous farmer left), who walks the path of trouble, quite unexpectedly, and tries to come out of it. I have tried my best to refrain from leaving spoilers, for I want the readers to certainly catch up on this masterpiece of director Manikandan (of Kakka Muttai fame).
The movie revolves around the farmer who goes about doing his everyday chores, sweeping his mud-house first thing in the morning, grazing the cows, etc and living a simple but contented life. He is happy doing his thing, until he invites trouble for himself out of the blue, primarily because he is illiterate and ignorant.