#CelebrateingtheRainbow at the workplace – share your stories of Pride!
She had demanded a divorce immediately, but his family had been reluctant, what if people came to know? They had tried all tricks in the book, to keep her from leaving.
They sat beside each other, she and her husband, on the wooden bench, waiting. They were called out soon, and there, before the office bearer, they signed the document and sealed their fate.
Back home, as she cut vegetables for dinner, her mother subtly commented, “Jyoti will be coming to stay here, starting next month. Just two months to her delivery you see. Her husband too might stay for a few weeks. Her in-laws feel, you know, there wouldn’t be enough space with all of us here. But Jyoti insists she wants to be with us for the childbirth and six months post that…”
“Ma!” She cut her mother short, “I don’t intend to burden you. I’m sorry, but I’m just divorced, so please grant me a week’s time to hunt for an apartment for rent. Jyoti is my younger sister, I wouldn’t stand in the way of her comfort.”
She stomped off to the room which she had shared with her sister since childhood, but now felt unwelcome into. She was done explaining the fact to everyone, especially her parents, that her husband had a different sexual orientation, he preferred men over her. She had wondered why he avoided physical intimacy and it took him two years in their three-year marriage, to confess. She had demanded a divorce immediately, but his family had been reluctant, what if people came to know? They had tried all tricks in the book, to keep her from leaving.
“Adjust, bring him around. Try to have a baby somehow, then it’ll all be sorted.” Seemed to be the most offered elderly advice.
Really? Somehow? And a baby into a loveless, fruitless relationship? She had firmly put her foot down and sought separation, much to the disdain of her in-laws, and she had paid the price too. The family rumour mills were churning overtime, labelling her ‘Baanjh’ (infertile). But she maintained the decency to keep her ex-husband’s sexuality a secret from outsiders, she was done with all ego hassles, she had no wish to tarnish anyone.
“Phew! Finally, the shifting is done and I really like this little apartment. Can’t believe it took so long to get a flat for rent close to you.” She chatted with her mother one evening.
“Thank that uncle for this, he knows our family well and was willing to rent it to you. Who else would let out their flat to a single woman?” Her mother spoke matter-of-factly.
“Twenty first century, and it’s still a crime for a woman to live alone.” She thought to herself.
“Beti, please let’s start looking for a suitable alliance for you. You are talented, independent, and issueless. We could find good proposals from the internet.” Her mother implored.
“Can’t this wait till later Ma?” She put it off as usual.
But there were sleepless nights when she did fret, about her current situation. She wasn’t getting any younger and her so-called biological clock was ticking. Jyoti was a couple of years younger to her, but well settled, financially secure, with a loving husband and a little daughter now.
And here she was, all alone, toiling hard, with half her salary going off as rent. She could ask her parents for help, but her father’s business wasn’t doing too well lately. They were old, they needed to save.
Her mirror now showed signs of grey hair and dark circles. Would any man find her attractive anymore? Thanks to the growing age and the ever- spreading gossip about her being responsible for her divorce, she was running into some weird men on those marriage websites, who would chat for long and later dismiss her saying their parents found someone else.
She had to admit, she too would enjoy feeling loved by a good man, she yearned for a family, to have kids of her own. She enjoyed having people around, but she was by herself for a few months now. But she wasn’t prepared for an arranged marriage yet again, the memory of those three years gave her goosebumps.
One of those days, her parents paid her a visit late in the evening. Oh, she knew, they would have found some suitor, who would find like to connect initially and later succumb to his parents’ choice.
“Beti, you would perhaps know that my business is crumbling, thanks to the pandemic and all. We are in a poor shape actually, just wished to know if you could loan some money, if you have any savings…” Her father spoke with his head lowered, she couldn’t fathom why.
“We wouldn’t have ever asked you, in fact, we requested Jyoti. Her husband is earning well, so she could lend some of her salary to us just for some time till we could get back on track. He was okay, but her in-laws didn’t permit. They say, her income is theirs now, their house needs renovation, plus, Jyoti would need the money, as they are planning for a second child.” Her mother made it sound like she was guilty of some crime.
“A second child, so soon?” She was genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, her in-laws want a grandson now. And you know how good a son her husband is, he would never disobey his parents. Jyoti’s jewellery too is in their locker, they wouldn’t let her withdraw.” Her mother sighed.
“Good son, sure he was, her sister’s spineless husband. But then why blame him, if Jyoti couldn’t stand up to such people. A smart woman, a bread winner, but still being compelled to seek permission from her in-laws to provide financial assistance to her own parents who nurtured her all this time. And yet, we hope for women empowerment.” She laughed to herself.
But why scoff at Jyoti, in the few years she was married, she remembered waiting for her husband’s approval for matters as trivial as visiting her parents for just more than a day. She particularly recalled that time, when she had talked of divorce for the very first time, when her husband had finally come out. Back then, he had stated, he was fine with her walking out, but wouldn’t know if his parents would let them proceed with separation. She had lost all respect for the man, at that very instant. She had struggled to break off the relationship.
“Beti. I understand, you are alone. I feel bad about pleading to a daughter, but…” Her father’s gentle voice jolted her back from her thoughts.
“You know Papa.” She smiled at them. “Perhaps there is an advantage in being alone,” she remarked. “One is spared the worry. I need worry only about myself.” She shook her head. “And I have learnt not to worry overly about myself. What is the worst that can happen, after all?” She looked up.
Her parents exchanged surprised glances as she moved forward and took their hands in hers.
“You don’t have to be look so mortified to ask something from your daughter. I do have some savings and those ornaments you gifted me, in the bank. All of mine is yours, you can count on me. So go ahead, win your race, I’m with you, all the time. You supported me when I left my marriage behind, what good is a child if she couldn’t reciprocate your love? And nothing bad will ever come over me. If something does, do I not have you?” She winked.
“You are not our Beti, you are our Beta.” Her mother’s eyes welled up with joy.
“Come on Ma, take pride in me being your Beti, wouldn’t you prefer me to those coward Betas, you got as sons-in-law?” She smiled between tears.
Baanjh– A term used for women who can’t conceive.
This story was shortlisted for our August 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. Our juror for the month Madhulika Liddle says “- A story about a woman who dares to go against patriarchy on different levels, and triumphs.”
Image source: Still from Tum Hi Hamaare/KumKum Bhagya, YouTube(for representational purpose only)
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